Tuesday, July 26, 2005

Victories and Challenges

Let's just recap some of the recent victories for centrists in recent months. From the Gang of 14 Compromise to avert a filibuster battle, to strong showings for the McCain/Graham amendments on POW/detainee treatment, to the Virgina and Ohio Primaries, to Frist's failure today to stop debate on the defense appropriations bill in an effort to pass a bill protecting gun industry interests, centrists have had a good couple of months. Short term challenges like the Roberts nomination and the Rove affair should not distract though from advancing long term goals. As I see them, they include:

1. Redistricting reform. As many congressional districts as possible should be arranged so that they have real contests between Republicans and Democrats, to give people a real choice and encourage candidates to move to the center for the general election. Several groups like this and this are pursuing this goal.

2. Electing centrists at the local and state levels. The Moderate Republican points out that the cultural conservatives effectively pursued a 'salt of the earth' strategy for decades. That is, they recognized that one of them on a school board can color the board's agenda, much like just a pinch of salt is all it takes to define the taste of a soup. What's more, increasing moderates' involvement in local politics builds the 'farm team' for the future, more than simply focussing on the national level.

3. Articulate a vision. Reagan wasn't elected because he could win arguments, he was elected to implement his vision of a 'City on a Hill,' made secure and prosperous by the labor of free men and women. People didn't vote for Clinton because of his pithy writing style; he was elected because he projected a confidence that traditional Democrat programs inspired by concern for the poor combined with a respect for limited government could solve America's problems. Moderates need to project a vision too, and have not yet articulated it well.

We should take heart from legislative successes, but the high-yield work is attaining electoral victories. Building the infrastructure of centrists in office to help elections swing to the moderates more often will take some time.

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