Moderation Is In The Eye Of The Beholder

I really loved the introduction to Eugene Robinson’s July 2d column.

Never-Trump Republicans and independents may be shocked to hear this, but the Democratic Party is likely to nominate a Democrat for president. That means they’re not going to nominate someone who thinks exactly like a Never-Trump Republican….

I, for one, have pretty much had it with the chorus of center-right voices braying that the Democrats are heading for certain doom — and the nation for four more years of President Donald Trump — if the party picks a nominee who actually embraces the party’s ideals. Elections are choices.

As Robinson notes, these Never Trumpers will have to decide whether to vote for the eventual nominee, “in the interest of ending our long national nightmare,” or “stick with a president who kowtows to Vladimir Putin and Kim Jong Un.” (To which I would add: And is manifestly unfit for any public office.)

A recent, more academic version of Robinson’s argument was made by Jeffrey Isaacs in Public Seminar. Isaacs notes that a number of conservatives have strongly opposed Trump, “distancing or even divorcing themselves from the Trumpist Republican Party” and promoting a centrist politics of “moderation.”

He then goes on to make a very important point:

While they are “against Trump,” and indeed sincere in their basic commitment to constitutional democracy, they do not go very far in their critique of Trumpism, laying too much responsibility at the feet of Trump himself, and not enough at the feet of a political-economic system in need of substantial reform, and even less at the feet of the Republican Party, and its long-term rightward shift, which has brought us to our current crisis.

Isaacs points to the punditry decrying Democrats’ supposed lurch to the left, and its insistence that only “moderation” will defeat Trump.

progressives do not need to be “schooled” about this by conservatives who have been cast adrift by Trumpist barbarism and are now seeking a politically safe harbor….

There is something very self-righteous, and indeed immoderate, about the way that some “Never Trump” conservatives have been writing about these challenges.

Isaacs particularly takes David Brooks to task for one of his recent, self-important columns.

What Brooks fails to note is that this polarization has a very long history and that, as most serious political analysts have long observed, it is a history of asymmetrical polarization. The Republican Party, in short, has moved much farther to the right than the Democratic Party has moved to the left… Trump is an exceptional and exceptionally terrible and dangerous President. But Trump became President by bending the Republican Party to his will, rather easily bringing its own deeply racist, sexist, and inegalitarian tendencies out into the open, and then exulting in and intensifying them. There is a clear line linking Goldwater, Nixon, Reagan, the Bushes, Palin, eight years of rather vicious anti-Obama obstructionism, and Trumpism. And conservative and neoconservative writers who often offered aid and comfort to these forces, working for Republican leaders and editing pro-Republican journals, thus played an important role in the rise of Trump, even as they quickly became horrified by the monster they had helped to create.

Isaacs emphasizes the reality that Republicans have moved much farther to the right than Democrats have moved left. (The reality is that–despite hysterical accusations from the GOP and Fox News– America doesn’t have an actual Left, at least not as Europeans define that term. We have at most a center-Left.)

Because the partisan polarization has been so markedly asymmetrical, and because the Republican move to the right has involved so many especially egregious assaults on democracy— from a deliberate political strategy of voting rights abridgment to immigration restriction to assaults on reproductive freedom to support for the militarization of policing to the gutting of environmental regulation and social citizenship — and because all of these things came together in a perfect storm to bring us Trumpism, a strong and passionate resistance has emerged on the left.

This resistance is an explicable reaction to the manifestly reactionary nature of Trumpism. It is a political mobilization that is necessary in order to defeat Trumpism, which will require not median-voter centrism but the energizing of activist campaigns across the country capable of contesting abridgements of voting rights and mobilizing millions of new voters. And it is an ethically exemplary form of democratic civic activism and political empowerment. This does not make it perfect or above criticism. Indeed, this resistance contains a multiplicity of tendencies and is characterized by sometimes serious divisions and debates. But it is a resistance nonetheless, and one fueled by broadly progressive impulses and commitments to greater political, social, and economic democracy.

You really need to read the whole thing.

22 thoughts on “Moderation Is In The Eye Of The Beholder

  1. “As Robinson notes, these Never Trumpers will have to decide whether to vote for the eventual nominee, “in the interest of ending our long national nightmare,” or “stick with a president who kowtows to Vladimir Putin and Kim Jong Un.”

    “Moderation Is In The Eye Of The Beholder” But so is the meaning and viewpoint of “Never Trumpers”. Call it a partisan war if you believe that is what is going on; the opposing camps may use the title Democratic or Republican but this is a war to return to democracy and humanity against the lengthening list of Trump’s repeal of those values. There are no rules guiding the right; there are Trump’s Tweets, Pence’s self-styled religion and McConnell’s snake-handler control over it all.

    “Isaacs emphasizes the reality that Republicans have moved much farther to the right than Democrats have moved left.”

    Regarding the current “Republican” party, I will repeat the quote I posted yesterday; “Have you (they) moved away by standing still?” I believe Trump was the GOP presidential nominee due to his retreat to the early-mid 20th Century lack of values, rationality and humanitarian morals this country was founded on. Moderation is indeed in the eye of the beholder and the Trump supporters behold him as their moderate supporting their racist fears of loss of some nameless position in the pecking order of American life.

    Those Republican “Never Trumpers” offer only lip service; just as the few in Congress who speak against his issues then vote them into the record. Who WILL they be voting for…WILL they be voting?

  2. Bravo Sheila, bravo!!!!!! I will!! This aspect of this campaign is truly fascinating to me. What helps too is that I’m old enough to remember this progression in regard to the Republican Party. They have done this to themselves and they only have themselves to blame. My late Mom, an Indiana Republican “blueblood” given her family’s political connections, sort of gave up the ghost beginning with Barry Goldwater and by the time Ronald Reagan came on the scene had basically pulled the plug given how far the party had strayed from it’s long held “Lincolnian” ideals. I felt very sad for her since doing so was moving away from her family’s heritage but she had principles and they had been violated big time. She moved on.

  3. The point not made by Jeffrey Issacs is that while the Republican party has moved farther to the right than the Democrats have moved to the left, the differences that the entire Republican party has made that move, en masse, whereas the Democrats are much more diverse, with a group of progressives to the left of the centrists. Ironically, the Democrats represent the kind of “big tent” party that the Republicans used to talk about but never quite managed to develop.

  4. Why wouldn’t the independents embrace Joe Biden – he walks and talks like a Republican?

    Bernie Sanders is a New Dealer as described by Noam Chomsky. Noam also has pointed out that while the GOP has moved to the far right, the DNC has followed them. The DNC would fall into the center/right if the old political spectrum had any credibility.

    Both parties have become money-grubbing parasites and serve the interests of their masters vs serving their constituents.

    I’m not sure Americans can handle 4 more years of the status quo.

  5. Excellent analysis. Everyone commenting so far, has contributed value to this blog today. The common factor, I think, that caused the shifting to the right of both parties – with the Republicans virtually falling off the right end of their flat Earth – is money. It’s the money allowed into the system by the egregious Citizens United v. FEC “decision” by SCOTUS. I can’t remember who wrote the dissent to this monstrosity, but he predicted the current state of our politics. Even Teddy Roosevelt saw it coming and warned the nation about money in politics.

    Corporate/Banking America WANTS government to get the hell out of the way while they destroy the planet for the sake of the quarterly report. They DO NOT give a single crap about labor or the working classes. If they had their way, there wouldn’t be any labor laws, social security, Medicare, minimum wage or labor unions. That’s money they could give to their stockholders, also rich white boys. To these rich white boys, bribing the Congress and local politicians is just part of the cost of doing business.

    Trump, as has been mentioned many times before and in many ways, is the result of Citizens United, and the political system of bribery. Democrats, in this scenario, have to follow the money too, or there would be NO Democratic party. Think of that scenario after eating too much pizza.

  6. I would bet a not insignificant sum of money that 95+ percent of “never Trumpers” will be voting for Trump when the election comes.

    A raving, man-child who will occasionally give you what you want will be the easy choice for them. Even if the very center-right Biden is the democratic nominee, he will be far too “liberal” and they’ll have “no choice” but to “hold their nose” and vote for Trump. That’s a lock solid guarantee. I’m quite confident that if the democrats count on Never Trumpers ™ crossing the aisle to put them over the top, they will lose.

  7. We at CommonGoodGoverning saw many of the House candidates we worked with in 2018 win or beat the DEM votes in their district from both 2014 and 2016. And virtually all of them won without much support from corporate PACs or the DNC. And…they were post-partisan and post-ideological – that is, appealing the to 40-60% of voters who are neither right nor left and just want governing DONE.

  8. @ Vernon Turner:
    ” Democrats, in this scenario, have to follow the money too, or there would be NO Democratic party. Think of that scenario after eating too much pizza.”

    Well —– maybe not.
    Warren and Bernie are lighting the way out of the quandary you depict.

    Now, I’m decidedly not a Bernie fan, these days. I was — but no more. Not since he tarred and feathered Clinton after losing the nomination to her. Went so far as to use the words, “unfit to be president.”
    He did his best to get his followers to stay home in 2016 and, to a great extent, he succeeded. We can thank him for Trump as much as any other single individual out there.

    That said, he and Warren have both eschewed Big Money in their campaigns and it looks as if it’s a winning strategy. Only Biden and Buttigieg are ahead of them in the funds department — and, assuming the donations continue to come in at the rate they’ve been, they both look like they will have more than enough money to make it to the finish line.

    For one thing, as the talking heads never tire of pointing out, they can both go back to their donors again and again and again. [I, for one, have given to Warren 4 times, so far — and plan to keep it up till she is either out of the primary or president.]

    For another, they’re not spending their time in back rooms dialing for dollars. They’re out on the stump TALKING TO THEIR DONORS about their ideas for making things better for THEM — not for the people whose money they’re not taking.

    Hell, it might even work.
    And, if it does, more will use the strategy next time around.

  9. The Political Spectrum is being graded on the curve. What was once rock hard Republicanism, i.e., deregulating and Neo-liberal economics became centrist Democratic Politics under Bill Clinton. Since Clinton the Democratic Party has followed the curve to the Right.

    FDR would today be viewed as extreme Left by the DNC-Biden-Pelosi Wing of the Democratic Party.

    Biden told CNN that what can’t be done includes Medicare for All, tuition-free public college and student debt cancelation. Bernie Sanders quickly responded with a tweet calling Medicare for All, debt-free college and a Green New Deal “the agenda American needs — and that will energize voters to defeat Donald Trump.”

    Elizabeth Warren, who told the California Democratic Party convention five weeks ago: “Some Democrats in Washington believe the only changes we can get are tweaks and nudges. If they dream, they dream small. Some say if we all just calm down, the Republicans will come to their senses.” She added: “When a candidate tells you about all the things that aren’t possible, about how political calculations come first . . . they’re telling you something very important — they are telling you that they will not fight for you.”
    https://www.truthdig.com/articles/will-corporate-democrats-team-up-to-block-warren-and-sanders/

    Biden it should be obvious by now is not the one to follow. He is a Disco Ball, that is all glitter and belongs back in the 1980’s.

  10. The blog today (with different quotes) resembles one Sheila recently gave us, where I noted that the Democratic Party has not moved to the “left,” whatever that is, but rather that the Republican Party has moved so far to the right that our party appears to have moved “left” by contrast, and that we as a party are still essentially FDR New Dealers. I repeat that observation here, further noting the insightful Robinson comment that Never Trumper Republicans have a choice, i.e, that they can either vote for Democrats or a worshiper of dictators who wants to become one.

    In this latter connection, Trump has had considerable success, having captured the legislative branch with the help of such as McConnell (who refuses to bring House-passed legislation up for a vote but schedules a quick vote for Trump’s judicial choices) and is en route to capture of the judicial branch with right wing judicial appointments with the assistance of Barr, McConnell and the Federalist Society. Since the Constitution only provides for three branches of government, supposedly coordinate, separate and co-equal, and one has already been subsumed into the executive branch and the other is headed in the same direction, we may be seeing all power come to rest in the executive branch – a dictatorship formed in plain view – while our attention is diverted to border, sex, abortion and other matters which, though in need of our attention, are not in themselves destructive of constitutional government though their treatment may involve such attempts of destruction by Trump.

    Our urgent task is to walk and chew gum at the same time, i.e., aggressively take control of and treat these diversionary matters and aggressively resist the wannabe’s power grab of our constitutional democracy simultaneously. It’s Bunker Hill time. We have no time to squabble among ourselves in resisting this gathering coup; we can enjoy that luxury later, when our three branches of government once again are truly coordinate, separate and co-equal, since nothing is more important than the preservation of our democracy, without which we have no country and may effectively morph into a Chinese province or worse, so let’s get our priorities in line, and mine start with the removal of the King George of our time from office. To reiterate > It’s Bunker Hill time.

  11. Reviewing the bidding:

    There are many Americans who are totally consumed by making money. That’s their religion as demonstrated by observing that their only measure of success at life is to afford to display family status trappings. They confuse that with accomplishment. One of the reasons is that we have been sold on living immersed in advertising/propaganda/fake news/brainwashing – a screen programming us in every room, pocket, purse and moment.

    They are easily convinced, because they’ve been taught branding, that Republicans represents winners and Democrats losers at the only game that they know. They even have been taught to confuse making money with making wealth which of course is what workers and machines do.

    Their party of winners was merged with Trump Family Businesses in 2015 in a hostile takeover won by him solely because people have seen his celebrity trappings of wealth for decades and when there’s only one rule in their game, the person who dies with the most toys wins, their resistant was muted.

    It is absolutely true that he has led the country further astray and that the fabric of the nation probably cannot stand more than one term of that. So, never again Trump, is a very reasoned mission.

    But now on top of that we have the requirement to add lead us into the inevitable future which we will not create but adapt to. We have been led into the swamp of status as the only measure of our worth and now we not only have to get out of the swamp but restore progress towards the world we live in. That is a huge order so no wonder we attach such great importance to who can do both.

    Obvously I need no push towards never again Trump but the second task is still under consideration. I need to hear much more from the diverse stable of possibilities before I decide who is best at both tasks but I know that we cannot risk never again Trump.

  12. “Biden told CNN that what can’t be done includes Medicare for All, tuition-free public college and student debt cancelation.”

    Joe is a realist in his comments; those have become the “American dream” of today but are based on thin air and will be failed promises if elected. Consider the economics for this government and to the insurance corporations, colleges and student debt sources should the government attempt a takeover to accomplish these “solutions”. Those corporations, and they are corporations, are not going to give up their profits willingly. The possibility of true “Medicare for all” died with Nixon’s repeal of the law against health care being a “for profit” business and has been buried by the huge billion dollar insurance corporations. Tuition-free colleges, even public colleges, will cut the quality of education and, as a mutual friend of Sheila and I (Bob C.) loved to remind us, “There is no free lunch.” Would the government be required to increase funds to cover costs? Renegotiating current student debts could lower the interest rates to reasonable levels but those are debts already incurred and owed. TINFL! These are all campaign promises made with no viable solutions as to how to accomplish any of them and with no moderation in sight. They are on the level of promises Trump made to his supporters and continues failing (thank God) to deliver.

    As Gerald Stinson repeated in his earlier statement, “…the Democratic Party has not moved to the “left,” whatever that is, but rather that the Republican Party has moved so far to the right that our party appears to have moved “left” by contrast, and that we as a party are still essentially FDR New Dealers.” Let us not consider our possible successes by comparing them to the current Republican failures.

    “Never-Trump Republicans and independents may be shocked to hear this, but the Democratic Party is likely to nominate a Democrat for president. That means they’re not going to nominate someone who thinks exactly like a Never-Trump Republican….”

  13. Calls for moderation during an emergency, always make me think of William Lloyd Garrison writing in his abolitionist newspaper, “The Liberator”:

    “I am aware, that many object to the severity of my language; but is there not cause for severity? I will be as harsh as truth, and as un-compromising as justice. On this subject, I do not wish to think, or speak, or write, with moderation. No! no! Tell a man whose house is on fire, to give a moderate alarm; tell him to moderately rescue his wife from the hands of the ravisher; tell the mother to gradually extricate her babe from the fire into which it has fallen; – but urge me not to use moderation in a cause like the present. I am in earnest- I will not equivocate- I will not excuse- I will not retreat a single inch- AND I WILL BE HEARD.”

    —William Lloyd Garrison, January 1, 1831.

  14. JoAnn Green:
    “Tuition-free colleges, even public colleges, will cut the quality of education and, as a mutual friend of Sheila and I (Bob C.) loved to remind us, “There is no free lunch.” Would the government be required to increase funds to cover costs? ”

    You’re exactly right. We need to keep in mind how compulsory education has sucked in this country since its inception. We now know why! You’ve hit the nail on the head! By allowing everyone access to compulsory education, this access has the negative effect of cutting the quality of that very education. This is brilliant! I cannot understand why we have not arrived to this summary before 2019!! The answer and proof was in front of us for decades.

    College has ALWAYS been an exorbitant luxury. Especially before the days of St Reagan. Universal healthcare cannot happen. Most industrialized countries are utopias and America cannot accomplish such a goal. Besides,Insurance Executives would lose those millions upon millions in salaries. That would be sad. Very sad. As with commenter Kurt Weigand, I’d rather have millions of Americans without healthcare than have one insurance exec go without a membership to a very exclusive—and very Caucasian– country-club.

    We need to spend our monies on less exorbitant ambitions,humble endeavors and attainable goals….Such as the remaking/reconstructing of the ME!

  15. Come to think of it,those using medical services provided through Medicare and Medicaid are cutting the quality of healthcare in the United States! Obviously,Medicare and Medicaid MUST be CUT!!

  16. “…you can’t remake the world in a day. Anyone who promises to change everything for you all at once is either a fool or a rogue!” Emile Zola

    We are living with a rogue and his personal issues; let us not turn to a fool and expect everything to change for all of us in a day. Those who promise much usually delivers little. The list of Trumpian ill advised issues keeps growing; the list of candidates is too long for any one of them to provide solutions in the debates, even in moderation. We are overburdened with problems and with candidates; most of whom are too inexperienced to understand the massive undertaking of the presidency.

    Another quote from Gerald Stinson: “We have no time to squabble among ourselves in resisting this gathering coup; we can enjoy that luxury later, when our three branches of government once again are truly coordinate, separate and co-equal, since nothing is more important than the preservation of our democracy, without which we have no country…”

  17. Thanks Doug! My Mom’s side of our family were abolitionists and Garrison WAS right! Any time for moderation against this creeping and very ugly thing is over. To paraphrase him… “We will be as harsh as truth, and as un-compromising as justice.” There really is no other choice and we’ve wasted enough time already. Today’s White House conference of social media trolls is an indicator of just how far these people will likely go – no rules, no quarter. Those that oppose this crud must think the same way.

  18. It is late but I agree the time for moderation is long past. Somehow Universal Health Care and Free College Tuition is possible in Western Europe.

    Imagine if some moderate would have told JFK going to the moon was too difficult and JFK would have axed the Space Program. Yeah, it’s too tough IKE, let’s not invade Normandy, let’s sit back and do nothing. Obama, you seem like a smart fellow, but you will never be President, sit back and be a Senator.

    Moderation goes no where.

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