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More Moderates But Less of a Voice

By Kelly Thomas - Posted on 12 March 2012

Link from The Hill. This is a great article by Juan Williams which illustrates what we all know: more and more people are falling into the "moderate" category of politics but our representatives are increasingly portraits of the extremes. The only point I would add from my perspective is that the extremism seems to be much more right-leaning these days. When was the last time you heard non-biased sources say that a bill introduced in Congress was too liberal? I'm sure my observation is a result of the 2010 election which swept many Tea-Party candidates into office. RFO members unite...our quest continues for a moderate voice in Congress.

The Founding Fathers designed Congress to represent the will of the majority of Americans.

Yet, even as more Americans identify themselves as independents — not Democrats or Republicans — there is a painfully sharp decline in moderate and independent voices in both houses of Congress. It is also true that everywhere but Capitol Hill more people are moving away from conservative or liberal labels in favor of calling themselves moderates.

The death of the political middle is the defining shift taking place in American politics today. It is ending the tradition of political leadership that rises above ideology, region, party, religion and even race to attain statesmanship. And it is weakening the two-party system.

Here are the numbers:

According to a Pew Poll from last month, 26 percent of Americans identify as Republican, 32 percent say they are Democrats and a plurality of 36 percent call themselves independents. A January 2012 Gallup poll found that 40 percent of Americans self-identify as conservative, 35 percent as moderate and 21 percent as liberal.

Yet even as more citizens go to the middle, the politicians are marching to the political extremes. According to an analysis of congressional voting records by Professor Keith Poole of the University of Georgia’s Political Science Department, the Republican caucuses in Congress have become dramatically more conservative since the 1960s. At the same time, he says, the Democratic caucuses have remained largely unchanged in their moderate, left-of-center leanings. His comprehensive research is available online at

Now, with the retirement of Maine Republican Sen. Olympia Snowe after 33 years of service in Congress, the GOP caucus will become more conservative still. Moderates will have even less of a voice in the halls of Congress.

For last year, VoteView ranked Snowe as the most moderate Republican senator. This ranking mirrors that of National Journal’s congressional scorecard last year, which gave Snowe a composite liberal score of 45 out of 100 and a composite conservative score of 55 out of 100. Both VoteView and the National Journal also ranked Nebraska’s Ben Nelson as the most moderate Democrat senator. Nelson announced his retirement earlier this year.

In an interview after her announcement, Snowe cited “the frustrations that exist with the political system here in Washington, where it’s dysfunctional, and the political paralysis has overtaken the environment to the detriment of the good of this country.

“I do not realistically expect the partisanship of recent years in the Senate to change over the short term,” she added. 

Perhaps the best example of the paralysis of which Snowe speaks is the record use of the filibuster by Senate Republicans. A supermajority of 60 votes is now required to pass any legislation in the upper chamber because of GOP obstructionist tactics. It used to be a simple majority of 51 votes.

The short-term political implication of Snowe’s retirement is that Democrats are now very likely to win her seat and retain control of the Senate in 2012.

Snowe and Nelson are not alone. The Congress has become an increasingly uncomfortable place for voices of moderation. Many of them are fed up and have decided that 2012 is the year they will call it quits.

Long-time moderate California Republicans like Reps. David Dreier, Wally Herger and Elton Gallegly have announced their retirement from the House. They are joined by conservative Blue Dog Democrats like North Carolina Rep. Heath Shuler and Oklahoma’s Dan Boren.

Along with Snowe and Nelson, the Senate will be losing one of its most influential moderate voices with the retirement of Joe Lieberman (I-Conn.). Recall that Lieberman won his last re-election in 2006 not as a Democrat, but as an independent because he was defeated in the Democratic primary by a more liberal challenger. Lieberman, the 2000 Democratic nominee for vice president, was harshly criticized by Democrats for crossing party lines in 2008 to support his long-time friend Republican John McCain (Ariz.) for president.

Yet after all that, 2012 is the year he has decided that he has had enough.

When Ronald Reagan was asked about his switch from being a Democrat to a Republican partisan in the 1960s, he would respond by saying: “I didn’t leave the Democratic Party. The Party left me.”

There are a lot of moderate Republicans and Democrats around Washington saying the same thing these days.

The defeat of moderate Republicans in the 2010 Republican primaries by conservative insurgents further discouraged the voices of moderation.

Progressives often complain about a “false equivalency” — when the blame for the polarization in politics is distributed equally to both parties. In their view, progressives do not exert nearly as much pressure on the Democrats to be liberal as conservatives do to make the GOP more right wing. There is some truth to that. Conservatives are better and more organized in enforcing what Grover Norquist calls “quality control” on Republican politics. However, the Left has tried to do the same thing and would be doing it more often if they could. 

Because of the exodus — if not expulsion — of the remaining moderates from Congress this year, American politics will become even more polarized and dysfunctional. If you like the ideological extremism and obstructionist paralysis that has characterized the 112th Congress, then you will love the 113th.

Our political party system in this country is under attack by each taking hard stances. There is no reason other than to ignore or strike the middle ground for political consolidation.  There is no good logical reasoning to this consolidation of ideological dogma.  Now to give FALSE information by each side is the real problem our country needs to deal with our collective, serious issues.

 Why the American people do not give this much wider view, critical consideration IS THE REAL PROBLEM.  Our populous in general do not take this seriously beyond the rhetoric offered on "news' organizations who are privately owned.

 The influence of commercials, shows, and substandard reporting by commentary is outrageous.  There used to be a hard core of public and private reporting based on transparent facts.  Now days you need to get on the internet and sort though many different articles and decipher who wrote what and then decide if that reported information is true...partially true...or just out right false.

 This takes time and effort to vet that information.  You can not depend on our news agencies to even publish reports not already 'allowed' or 'disallowed' based on some 'political' leaning.  Influenced by onerous influences by the money people and the ones who already want and get to report what they think is best is not news.

I know this is not what the people want to see.  I know this is not what our legislatures are meant to endure or even participate in or be subject to.  This is at the core of our system and is in no way addressed by either party including 'independents'.

Great find, Kelly. 

A corollary to that theme is well stated in a Bruce Bartlett blog on the origin of modern Republican fiscal policy.  Quite enlightening - a Republican insider illustrates that the current party is twisting many of the original premises, certainly the ones I trusted when I cast my very first vote at age 18 for Ronald Reagan.


I have heard recently that moderate Republicans should form another party, and leave the GOP behind. After all, in the 1850s, Abraham Lincoln and other Whigs left their party and formed the Republican party. Many southern Whigs, in contrast, when they realized that the Whig party was no longer able to compete nationally, joined the Democratic party. John C. Fremont was the first republican to run for the presidency (in 1856 he ran against Democrat James Buchanan). Buchanan won. Abe Lincoln was the second Republican candidate, and we all know he won in 1860.

Forming another party is EASY. Making that party competitive in national elections is hard. The only way the Republicans were able to accomplish it in only a few years was because of the very divisive and sectional issues of slavery and secession. In today's world, most third parties fail, primarily because they want to try for the whole enchilada (the presidency) right off the bat. I believe the correct way of making another party relevant is to try for local and state offices first, then for congressional offices, and then finally for the presidency.

Not to equate the U.S. with Israel (Israel has multiple parties, but until recently, just two major ones-- Likud [rough equivalent of America's GOP] and Labor [the rough equivalent of America's Democrats]). Several years ago, quite a few Likud party members, including Ariel Sharon, thought that Likud was becoming too rigid (especially with regards to the Palestinian-Israeli conflict), and broke away from the party to form their own party (Kadima). Kadima does have members in the Knesset, and has had the office of Prime Minister for a short time with Ehud Olmert. However, it has not succeeded since then, as Kadima's Tzipi Livni has failed twice to become Prime Minister against Likud's Benjamin Netanyahu. Even in Israel, where it is easier to become Prime Minister by forming a coalition government with minor parties, Kadima has basically failed.

So, in essence, forming another party (a party of moderates, or a party of non-crazies) would be easier said than done, unless that party was resigned to labor in obscurity for years before becoming relevant on the national scene.


Steve McCann

Today, so much power is vested in the office of president that honor and integrity must be hallmarks of a president's character. Unfortunately, they are not with Barack Obama -- he may well be the most dishonest and disingenuous occupant of the Oval Office in history, and he will do more damage to the nation than all his predecessors combined.

His failings can no longer be excused by this historical deference or timidity fostered by race with the euphemisms of spin, obfuscation, fabrication, or politics being used to avoid the truth. Obama is extremely adept at exploiting the celebrity culture that has overwhelmed this society, as well as the erosion of the education system that has created a generation or more of citizens unaware of their history, culture, and the historical ethical standards based on Judeo-Christian teaching.


American Thinker???  Really?  How right wing can you get???

That's a clear example of rightwing insanity.  He describes Obama as a sociopath, pathological liar, and probably mentally ill.   Hmmm, I can think of a better person for that description with the initials S.P.  They really have gone off the deep end!

I am starting to feel sorry for these right wing puppets. Not only are they believing the insanity, they are becoming insane.

I generally agree that the political scene has increasingly become more polarized, in the face of a growing group of moderate constituents.  I think your assertion that this shift is mostly happening on the Republican side may be based on some bias.  Given massive spending increases over the last three years (the stimulus package for example), the dramatic increase in government paid healthcare coverage to non-paying recipients, and the attempt to require everyone to purchase health insurance, I would arue that there has been plenty of very liberal legistlation passed by congress as of late.  And this is the stuff that passed--I think it is safe to say that many if not most democrats would have been happy to see much more liberal versions of each of these.  Any of this legislation would have been appallng 20 years ago.

An interesting story I came across discussed comments made by Romney earlier today in Iowa with a good counterpoint;

Romney went on to say that he would put out the “prairie fire” of debt in America, and accused President Obama of driving up the national debt by more than $5 trillion. While it is true that the debt has grown by more than $5 trillion since the president took office in 2009, it is not true that Obama’s programs account for all or even most of that accumulation.

In an analysis of Congressional Budget Office figures published last summer, The New York Times attributed more than $5 trillion in deficit spending to President George W. Bush, and $1.4 trillion to President Obama.

Most of President Obama’s direct contributions to the national debt stem from non-discretionary defense spending and stimulus programs initiated by President Bush. President Obama also added his own stimulus programs and introduced over $420 billion in tax cuts for middle class families and small businesses on top. Costs related to Obama’s health care reforms are actually much smaller than other major spending programs ongoing when he took office, including President Bush’s Medicare Part D.

I hope the president uses these figures over and over again in ads.

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