Thursday, January 5, 2012

Notes from the Political Middle: Demonizing ‘Moderates’

Image credit: CNN
Winning the presidential nomination of one’s chosen political party is certainly no easy feat. It takes a whole host of things – money, smarts, charisma, organization and sheer dumb luck – to emerge from the primary process as a Republican or Democratic nominee for president.
One of the toughest feats that successful nominees have to master is being an exceedingly limber political gymnast. They have to win over their party’s stalwarts – which comprise roughly a third of the electorate – that they’re the best person to represent them as the party’s standard bearer. Then, in short order, the nominees must transform and twist themselves into a candidate who will appeal to the voters in the political middle – also about a third of the electorate – because you can’t win the U.S. presidency by only garnering the support of those who share your party affiliation.

This is why it’s puzzling to me to see Newt Gingrich calling GOP frontrunner Mitt Romney a “Massachusetts moderate” as though a “moderate” is akin to a socialist hell-bent on transforming America into something more resembling France. After taking out a full-page ad in a New Hampshire newspaper attacking Romney as a “timid Massachusetts moderate,” Gingrich has made the rounds on TV and during voter meet-and-greets warning Republicans that Romney’s really a moderate type of guy, because, you know, them moderates, they’ve been known to take the reins of the nation and sink it like the Titanic. All the political and financial challenges facing America have occurred because of the scourge of“moderates,” right?

Gingrich, who seemed stunned that he came in fourth behind Romney, Rick Santorum and Ron Paul in Iowa, has said that if “Massachusetts moderate” Romney were selected as the GOP nominee, he thinks Romney would “be pretty good at managing the decay” and wouldn’t change the political climate.

This isn’t to say that I’m endorsing Romney, mind you, it’s just that this new trend of attacking people by hurling the word “moderate” at them as though it’s Kryptonite is abundantly silly. Writing for The Christian Science Monitor, Amanda Paulson pointed out that Romney is also guilty of using “moderate” as a “dirty word” suggesting that Gingrich is moderate because he’d cooperated with Nancy Pelosi on environmental issues and has made *shudder* compromises.

U.S. Senator Scott Brown, another Republican from Massachusetts where Republicans are about as abundant as four-leaf clovers, gets flak for his moderate tendencies and because he is willing to work with the people who he thinks have the best ideas, regardless of their party affiliation. He’s not following the party leadership and walking in lock-step with his GOP brethren, which is a wise thing given that the Bay State is very blue. If Brown voted straight party line, he’d be shown the door.

Even Rick Santorum, who was only eight votes behind Romney in Iowa and is well known for his social conservatism, was assailed by the son of fellow Republican presidential candidate, the pro-pot Ron Paul, as being a “moderate.” Rand Paul, a senator from Kentucky, told an Iowan talk show host that Santorum is “a big government moderate and I think conservatives need to be wary before thinking Santorum can be their champion.” Seriously?

The editor-in-chief of the web site The Moderate Voice has had enough of this idiotic, short-sighted nonsense. “Warning to the GOP: The way rhetoric is being used in the Republican primary campaign, there may come a point where moderates may simply decide they cannot vote for a Republican candidate,” Joe Gandelman wrote on The Moderate Voice. “No, this isn’t just a personal reaction. You can bank on this being a problem if trending continues.”

Alluding to the fact that whoever eventually gets the GOP presidential nomination will have to appeal to independent and moderate voters in the general election in order to win, Gandelman questioned this new anti-moderate trend: “Why would moderates vote for a political party that has increasingly used the word ‘moderate’ as a filthy political word? We’ve now seen a parade of candidates use it. And the phrase ‘going moderate’ has now become a major attack phrase by conservative talkers, some columnists and politicians.”

Why indeed.

Image credit: CNN.

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