The West Wing and the Dirty Business of Politics

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Dennis Sanders

Dennis Sanders is the Associate Pastor at First Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) in Minneapolis, MN.  You can follow Dennis through his blogs, The Clockwork Pastor and Big Tent Revue and on Twitter.  Feel free to contact him at dennis.sanders(at)gmail(dot)com.

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  1. Avatar Philip H
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    says:

    You are not the last moderate Republican. I number three such individuals among my best IRL friends. The numbers are there.

    Just like your Never Trump group didn’t offer a down and dirty alternative to Senators looking to retain power (which is what your analysis of their potential losses boils down to), no one has really offered moderate Republicans (especially socially liberal ones) a political home. Democrats have moved to the center in their policies but have never successfully recruited moderate Republicans to join them. No one has done the work to help disaffected conservatives adapt.

    Its the same as the larger population. Many Trump supporters do so because they like who he hurts politically; many other came to his camp initially because they felt they had nowhere to go in modern politics – no one was fighting for them. And they were right – Republican and Democratic politicians have become enthralled with different segments of big corporate money and acted accordingly in their policies. Labor is lost to them.

    And just as you see no real place for you as a moderate Republican, believe me that out here on the firm left, Democrats have abandoned us too. Its one of the things you and I have in common.Report

  2. Avatar DensityDuck
    Ignored
    says:

    You keep asking why there aren’t any Moderate Republicans, and I reply (as with the last five times you’ve written this post) that it’s not like the Democrats are out there saying “well we’d be happy to work with Moderate Republicans”. If you want to know how the Democrats would react to a Moderate Republican, I give you the 2012 election, because Mitt Romney was exactly what you have in mind and people acted like he was Newt Gingrich mixed with George Wallace.Report

    • Avatar Oscar Gordon
      Ignored
      says:

      Dude, he had binders, BINDERS I SAY!, full of women.Report

      • Avatar Brandon Berg
        Ignored
        says:

        He also said that taxes on corporations are paid by people.

        My contempt for the left grew three sizes that day.Report

        • Avatar CJColucci
          Ignored
          says:

          What, exactly, were the Democrats supposed to do about Mitt Romney? Support him? Vote for him? Desert their own (incumbent) candidate? Dudes, he was the candidate of the opposing party. It was the business of the Democrats to oppose him. They opposed the policies he stood for, just as he opposed the policies Barack Obama stood for. So they slugged it out.
          And compared to a number of other elections I am old enough to remember, they slugged it out more-or-less in line with Marquis of Queensbury Rules. Romney made his pile buying out companies, loading them with debt, and firing people. It’s a lawful enterprise and he was entitled to make his pile that way if he could, but it was fair game, just as Obama’s never having held anything that Republicans would consider a real job was. Whether Romney’s flip-flopping was any more egregious than other politicians’ I leave as an exercise to the reader, but he was certainly clumsier about it than most, and rightly suffered for it. His other wounds were largely self-inflicted — his patrician disdain for the 47 percent, his related inability to connect with them, his mistreatment of dogs, and his binders of women. When your opponent hangs a curveball over the plate, you swing at it.
          The plain fact is that, by the normal standards of electoral politics Romney was treated by his opponents well within the norms of electoral competition. And if he had won, Democrats would have worked with him, as they had worked with his Republican predecessors, agreeing on some things and disagreeing on others.Report

          • Avatar DensityDuck
            Ignored
            says:

            ” His other wounds were largely self-inflicted — his patrician disdain for the 47 percent, his related inability to connect with them, his mistreatment of dogs, and his binders of women. ”

            you’re angrily asking what you were supposed to do and then you literally do the exact thing that you aren’t supposed to doReport

            • Avatar CJColucci
              Ignored
              says:

              I’m not angry at all, and I don’t see how anyone with normal reading comprehension abilities could come away thinking I thought that normal competition, and jumping on hanging curveballs, is an example of what “you aren’t supposed to do.” Quite the opposite. I think it is precisely what you’re “supposed to do,” and precisely what was done in 2012. If you think political opponents are not supposed to do that, or that Romney was treated worse than usual, please proceed.Report

              • Avatar DensityDuck
                Ignored
                says:

                you’re angrily asking what you were supposed to do and then you literally do the exact thing that you aren’t supposed to doReport

              • Avatar CJColucci
                Ignored
                says:

                “Please proceed” does not mean “repeat yourself.”Report

              • Avatar DavidTC
                Ignored
                says:

                DD seems to think politiness requires Dem voters vote for any non-batshit crazy Republican, I think it’s because he honestly can’t grasp Dem voters liking Democratic policies better, so thinks we’re only voting against Republicans because they are horrible people or far-right lunatics.

                So if the Republican candidates _aren’t_ horrible people or far-right lunatics, the voting public will either vote for them or has somehow been horrifically and unfairly mislead about how horrible they are!

                The fact that people actually like the policy differences is incomprehensible, as is the fact that almost no one on the left thinks Romney is a bad person in any meaningful sense. (The dog story: Worrying but stupid.)

                We just don’t like his policy, and we don’t really like his…life experiences, I guess is how to explain it. The most personal leave of dislike I am able to drum up is that he’s an extremely wealthy person who was handed his wealth and a huge level of personal connections…but that’s almost all politicians, so…whatever. I feel he thinks about wealth and society from an _extremely_ priviledged position, which would worrying to me and make me dubious if he claimed policy positions otherwise, but he…didn’t. His stated positions match what I would expect from a vulture capitalist, and so…I can just worry about his stated positions.

                But I guess I didn’t vote for him because of binders of women or some COMPLETELY UNFAIR thing the media blew up about. Unlike how the media treated *check notes* Obama and *check notes* Hillary *desperately checks notes again* Who wrote this?Report

          • Avatar Pinky
            Ignored
            says:

            I don’t want to start a dogpile, but can you explain how the “binders of women” was self-inflicted, or fair treatment?Report

            • Avatar CJColucci
              Ignored
              says:

              The candidate said it himself.Report

            • Avatar greginak
              Ignored
              says:

              Binders was silly. Silly to say but silly to criticize. It was inconsequential. But why talk about binders??? Did that swing the election? Were there silly criticisms of Obama? ( short answer hell yes there were a metric crap ton of them) There are a lot of silly critisms of pols that don’t mean squat. That people made silly crits of Romney doesn’t mean anything other than we have an often silly stupid country.

              Hell people make silly irrelevant crits of Trump. His goofy make up and hair. Utterly irrelevant.Report

              • Avatar Jaybird
                Ignored
                says:

                What made “binders” silly was that Mittler hired more chicks than Obama did.

                But “binders” was a way to make Mittler seem like a sexist who was out of touch and Obama was the Feminist Candidate.

                To be honest, the thing that should have scared us was Romney putting the dog on top of his car.Report

              • Avatar greg galanos
                Ignored
                says:

                “Binders” has become a conservative talking point to show how unfairly Romney was treated. Like O’s mustard choice or tan suit or the “terrorist fist bump” shite never occurred. There were plenty of things D’s and liberals could and did crit Romney for like his 47% crap.

                Part of the standard victimization kit is playing that only your side has ever been smeared unfairly.Report

              • Avatar Jaybird
                Ignored
                says:

                The worst part is that if White America adopted the terrorist fist bump, maybe Covid-19 wouldn’t have spread as quickly.Report

              • Avatar CJColucci
                Ignored
                says:

                I don’t disagree with this, as an observation on the general silliness of our political discourse, but it hardly shows that Romney was especially ill-treated, like “Newt Gingrich mixed with George Wallace,” which was the original point of contention.Report

              • Avatar greginak
                Ignored
                says:

                Yeah Romney wasn’t treated worse then other pols. Especially in comparison to the kenyan socialist traitor who he ran against.

                The entire concept is sort of even sillier when just last night the Prez didn’t balk at passing on Q nutbaggery and whack job bin laden conspiracy theories.Report

          • Avatar DavidTC
            Ignored
            says:

            Yeah, I have to second this.

            The Democrats have always been perfectly happy to work with moderate Republicans. Or…any Republicans, actually, although obviously the more moderate something

            The fact Democrats don’t _vote_ for moderate Republicans instead of their own candidate (Especially their own incumbent president) is _not_ disproof off that. WTF?

            No one is expected to vote for the other party’s candidates! At least, not their normal candidates. Both parties should vote for their own candidate…at least, when their candidate isn’t a clearly incompetent racist lunatic, I guess. (Even then, I’m not entirely sure I can say ‘vote for the other candidate’ as much as ‘do not vote for yours’.)

            Neither is attacking the other side during the election for, you know, actual missteps and things said. The 2016 race was entirely reasonable by _both_ candidates, and no one has any real problems with anything anyone did. (Edit: I mean the _candidates_. The far right has some birtherism to answer for.) Some stuff got blown out of proportion, and turned into mockery but…that happens in elections. Mitt Romney had binders of women, Barack Obama had 57 states.

            Stupid criticisms of weird phrasing or misspeaking? Yes. Unacceptable in in politics? No.

            The question is not the election. The question is will the elected people of each party work with the people elected by the other party?

            Democrats literally spent so much time and effort trying to work with Republicans on the ACA that it barely passed, and ended up flawed in fairly large ways because of the process compromises.Report

            • Avatar DavidTC
              Ignored
              says:

              Heh, didn’t finish my thought in the first paragraph. I was just trying to say something like…obviously, Democrats are more likely to end up working with moderate Republicans than non-moderate ones for the purely practical matter of ‘They are obviously more likely to be able to compromise on common goals’.Report

            • Avatar DensityDuck
              Ignored
              says:

              Well I dunno, I saw Harry Reid and Nancy Pelosi ordering the Democrat side of Congress to vetoing funding bills passed by moderate Republicans during the various shutdowns, and that doesn’t look a whole lot like “willing to work with them” to me.

              “The question is will the elected people of each party work with the people elected by the other party?”

              Nah. The question is will they be allowed to.

              “Some stuff got blown out of proportion, and turned into mockery but…that happens in elections.”

              it’s funny how the top post says “why aren’t there more moderate Republicans” and I say “because people are incredible dicks to them” and your reply is to explain how they weren’t THAT incredible of dicks and people are dicks like that ALL THE TIME and anyway those Republicans deserved it and beside they should just suck it up and stop being such whiny little baby wimps about everything. Like, even you admit that people were incredible dicks in response to Republican attempts at moderation and outreach; you just don’t think that’s bad.Report

              • Avatar Oscar Gordon
                Ignored
                says:

                I think Nevermoor downthread has a point regarding earmarks. As abused as they were, Earmarks gave politicians political cover for reaching across the aisle.Report

              • Avatar DavidTC
                Ignored
                says:

                Well I dunno, I saw Harry Reid and Nancy Pelosi ordering the Democrat side of Congress to vetoing funding bills passed by moderate Republicans during the various shutdowns, and that doesn’t look a whole lot like “willing to work with them” to me.

                ‘Why didn’t the Democrats allow the Republicans to pass bills that would defund the headlining bill the Democrats just passed and repeatedly tried to compromise on the Republicans with on passage and got rebuffed?’.

                An important note is that these shutdown happened _because those ‘moderate Republicans’ voted for them_, in an attempt to get their way and not implement the Democrat’s new law.

                That’s not a reasonable compromise, and you have to have very special blinders on to think of it as
                one. If the moderate Republicans wanted input on the ACA, they should have _actually suggested changes and then voted for it_, instead of trying to destroy at literally every pass.

                Or, hell, tried to pass changes at that point! But the Republicans seem to think they can alter any law even when they literally just hold one branch of Congress, which is what they had at that point. So they decided to hold the entire government hostage.

                it’s funny how the top post says “why aren’t there more moderate Republicans” and I say “because people are incredible dicks to them” and your reply is to explain how they weren’t THAT incredible of dicks and people are dicks like that ALL THE TIME and anyway those Republicans deserved it and beside they should just suck it up and stop being such whiny little baby wimps about everything. Like, even you admit that people were incredible dicks in response to Republican attempts at moderation and outreach; you just don’t think that’s bad.

                Not voting for someone’s bad policy is not being a dick. The whip not telling people to vote for things is not being a dick, it’s merely not working with people. (And the ‘working together’ point was about two years earlier, and the Republicans didn’t show up.)

                Neither is the media paying attention to the sort of verbal gaffs in the way they do to literally all presidential candidates…and actually, often much nicer.

                Not only did Obama get mocked for apparently saying there were 57 states (Actually, he said there were 58, but he hadn’t visited one, because he was trying to say the number of continental states.), the Republicans then invented a theory that _this somehow how to do with him being a secret Muslim_ and talking about visiting the hypothetical ’57 Islamic states’. A theory literally presented on the floor of the House of Representives.

                And you’re bitching about people mocking ‘binders of women’, which caused everyone to claim Romney was, of course, a serial killer who collect women in his basement^W^W^W^W^W^W^W^Wvaguely out-of-touch older guy.

                Jesus Christ.

                Your definition of ‘being a dick to moderate Republicans’ is ‘The left not genuflecting to them worshipfully and agreeing to do everything they say’.

                Either you have special rules for Republicans vs. Democrats, or you’re claiming that _is_ being a dick, at which point, that just returns us to our original question: Why aren’t there moderate Republicans _specifically_ but there still are moderate Democrats?Report

    • Avatar Jaybird
      Ignored
      says:

      Mittler liked to fire people.

      We need a president that prefers hiring them.Report

    • Avatar Mike Schilling
      Ignored
      says:

      Democrats acted partisan during an election and were unfair to the opposition. This is unheard of, and a reason to hate them forever. It’s even worse than Obama being a pro-terrorist illegal immigrant who’s going to impose sharia law.Report

  3. Avatar Aaron David
    Ignored
    says:

    There are zero moderates in either party right now as we are not in a position to allow ideological impurity. And until there is some sort of reckoning via our national politics, those are the people who are going to get cut out of the picture. Remember when the blue dogs got slaughtered during the great health care massacre of ’10? That happened because the prize was perceived as more important than the moderates, who were used as pawns.Report

  4. Avatar Chip Daniels
    Ignored
    says:

    The word “moderate” needs to be examined here.

    In what ways do “moderate” Republicans differ from Trump?

    Is it only an aesthetic difference, where a President Moderate would appoint the same judges, sign the same tax bill but not tweet so much or ramble like a crazy uncle?

    Is it corruption? That a President Moderate would appoint the same judges and sign the same tax bill but not be as outrageously corrupt and self-dealing?

    Is it authoritarianism? That a President Moderate would appoint the same judges and sign the same tax bill but respect the independence of the judiciary and institutions of American governance?

    In any case, moderates need to grasp that rooting out aesthetic ugliness is the easiest and least important. American democracy could easily survive the most vulgar and buffoonish President.

    Rooting out corruption and authoritarianism would be the most difficult challenge for any moderate Republican.
    This is because the broad policy goals of the Republican Party are deeply unpopular, and unable to survive in a free American democracy.

    Even the “noncontroversial” aspects of the Trump administration- the judicial appointments and tax cuts- were things that were broadly unpopular.
    The tax cuts were popular with and only benefitted the rich elite.
    The judicial theories and decisions that the Federalist Society pursues are deeply unpopular; This is why they have to lie and play ignorant when questioned.

    Which is why even a hypothetical Moderate Republican can only gain and keep power by foul means and view republican democracy as their enemy.Report

    • Avatar Pinky
      Ignored
      says:

      I concur in part and dissent in part.

      The article conflates the moderate impulse toward politeness with the moderate center-right agenda. And while I’m on this point, I recall a problem I had with the article, “Why Moderate Republicans Suck”. It seemed to assume that there was a thing called moderate Republicanism that had specific policy positions. But what are they? The article was from 2009. What are the issues that the moderate Republican has championed since then? To put it another way: the moderate Republican should be in an ideal position to force compromise, That hasn’t happened. I think Dennis assumes it hasn’t happened because moderate Republicans are failing at messaging or somesuch. But what is the product they’re selling, the deal they’re looking to negotiate? I can’t think of a thing they’re bringing to the table of ideas. And there could have been things. The only thing I can think of that’s gotten anywhere is Common Core, and that was a leaderless movement.Report

      • Avatar CJColucci
        Ignored
        says:

        A decade or so ago, there used to be a lot of articles about the need for a new party with a broadly centrist agenda — the specifics of which looked an awful lot like the actual Obama administration.Report

        • Avatar Jaybird
          Ignored
          says:

          What, exactly, were the Republicans supposed to do about Barack Obama? Support him? Vote for him? Desert their own candidate?Report

          • Avatar Nevermoor
            Ignored
            says:

            Well, for starters, work with him to effect bipartisan compromise that was closer to their preferences than what they would otherwise get. Instead of pretending everything he wanted made him Literally Hitler plus Mao.Report

          • Avatar CJColucci
            Ignored
            says:

            They could, for example, say that he never had a real job and wasn’t up to the task of being President. Or attack the substance of his proposed policies. Or question his attachment to the institutions of the United States. Or attack any policies they thought had failed. Or attack corruption, if they could find it.They could vote for John McCain, or Mitt Romney. They could vote against things he wanted. All of this is the normal rough-and-tumble of politics. I’m not the one complaining; take it up with your wingman.Report

          • Avatar Mike Schilling
            Ignored
            says:

            Filibuster everything he proposes. Refuse to confirm any of his judicial appointments. Keep the Senate in fake session to prevent recess appointments.Report

      • Avatar Chip Daniels
        Ignored
        says:

        Its my theory that the end of the Cold War made the justification for the political ideology, of both the Republican Party and Democratic moot but they haven’t really found an effective replacement.

        I wouldn’t say they are perfectly symmetrical but suffering from a similar problem.

        For example, the New Deal solutions embodied by the stress on labor unions and governmental redistribution don’t seem adequate to handle the globalized economy.

        And the “three legged stool” of Reaganite conservatism seems hopelessly incoherent now and actively opposed to each other.

        Of the two, I see the Democrats as being better equipped to evolve their thinking. (Of course I do!)
        A social safety net can take a lot of different forms, and at the end of the day, even the most radically transformed global economy still needs an effective physical infrastructure run by competent governmental bureaucracies.Report

        • Avatar Nevermoor
          Ignored
          says:

          Mine is different. I think two other things got us here.

          First, eliminating pork barrel spending made it very difficult to get bipartisan compromise. If a different world, you could imagine someone like Ernst (who is facing attacks for “not doing anything
          For Iowa”) could be a gettable GOP vote on something in exchange for some kind of targeted infrastructure spending. Now, that’s not a lever that can be pulled (which is too bad, both for that reason and because we just went through a period where even useless spending would have helped a distressed economy).

          Second, the GOP (but not Democrats) has set up a post-politics gravy train that is ONLY available to those who perfectly toed the line while in office. So I dont think GOP cowardice is only about fear of losing a house or Senate seat, but rather fear that the rest of their professional life will be dramatically less lucrative.Report

          • Avatar Saul Degraw
            Ignored
            says:

            The Democratic Party is a big tent party that often have priorities, needs, and wants that hard almost impossible to reconcile. This is why we sometimes need up with uninspired compromises like the individual mandate in the ACA and so-so subsidies or with “let’s expand the earned income tax credit again!!!”

            The GOP at this point seems to exist mainly to be the “not Democratic party” and to “own the libs.” Greenfield aced a question on break-even prices for corn last night in an Iowa debate. Ernst could not answer a similar question on Soy and just stuck with talking points on Trump’s trade policies and I think you picked up the reason. She is in an edge race and if she loses, she needs something else to do. If she sticks with the line, she will likely get a job as a lobbyist or on the right-wing media gravy/wingnut welfare train.Report

          • Avatar DavidTC
            Ignored
            says:

            Second, the GOP (but not Democrats) has set up a post-politics gravy train that is ONLY available to those who perfectly toed the line while in office. So I dont think GOP cowardice is only about fear of losing a house or Senate seat, but rather fear that the rest of their professional life will be dramatically less lucrative.

            I don’t think that’s true.

            Thanks to Fox News and Limbaugh and other media nonsense, the Republican party started primarying RINOs (And I think invented the term?) back in in the 90s.

            This has completely decimated the moderate Republicans. They either changed their position fast enough or got kicked out of politics. That is why the party changed.

            Meanwhile, there are gravy trains for basically _everyone_ who leaves politics. What you’re talking about is the specific partisan job factory that conservative organizations have set up, Wingnut Welfare, and some conservative enough politicians do end up there.

            But the vast majority of conservative politicians end up exactly where all the other pols do…as lobbyists. Which is probably more lucrative, and couldn’t possibly care less about partisanship.Report

        • Avatar Saul Degraw
          Ignored
          says:

          I think the problem of the Democratic Party is that it functions as the “not-Republican party” and that contains too many disparate groups with different needs. They can agree on a lot of stuff vaguely but specifics might cause huge fights. The Democratic Party contains activists like AOC, people who represent some of the poorest districts in the United States, and also lots of UMC liberals who do not see anything wrong with hoping for a partnership at a big law firm or in I-banking. But as long as the GOP stays in crazy town, this is where it goes.Report

  5. Avatar greginak
    Ignored
    says:

    I think framing necessary politics as dirty, which plenty of people do, is part of the problem. Politics is democracy. It’s negotiating and explaining and making things work. That is ordinary people work and should be treated as such. When framed as dirty you get dirty people who think negotiating is always win/lose. It minimizes the basic daily work of politicians of making government run. Getting letters delivered and pot holes filled. The basic work is devalued in the US which is one reason why so much of gov is clanky.Report

  6. Avatar Saul Degraw
    Ignored
    says:

    Being a moderate is a term that I think lots of people like to use because it sounds good but it is hard to pin a meaning on. Both parties have politicians that would like to be seen as moderate but the voting records of D moderates and R “moderates” is very different.Report

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