As an Illinois Republican I have little love for the Daley clan of Chicago. However, I have always respected their political acumen. William Daley, Commerce Secretary under Bill Clinton and Al Gore’s campaign chairman in 2000, where he was much too effective for my comfort in what should have been a big Republican year, and brother of Richie the Lesser, current Mayor for Life of the Windy City, has an interesting column today in the Washington Post:
But now they face a grim political fate. On the one hand, centrist Democrats are being vilified by left-wing bloggers, pundits and partisan news outlets for not being sufficiently liberal, “true” Democrats. On the other, Republicans are pounding them for their association with a party that seems to be advancing an agenda far to the left of most voters.
The political dangers of this situation could not be clearer.
Witness the losses in New Jersey and Virginia in this year’s off-year elections. In those gubernatorial contests, the margin of victory was provided to Republicans by independents — many of whom had voted for Obama. Just one year later, they had crossed back to the Republicans by 2-to-1 margins.
Witness the drumbeat of ominous poll results. Obama’s approval rating has fallen below 49 percent overall and is even lower — 41 percent — among independents. On the question of which party is best suited to manage the economy, there has been a 30-point swing toward Republicans since November 2008, according to Ipsos. Gallup’s generic congressional ballot shows Republicans leading Democrats. There is not a hint of silver lining in these numbers. They are the quantitative expression of the swing bloc of American politics slipping away.
And, of course, witness the loss of Rep. Griffith and his fellow moderate Democrats who will retire. They are perhaps the truest canaries in the coal mine.
Despite this raft of bad news, Democrats are not doomed to return to the wilderness. The question is whether the party is prepared to listen carefully to what the American public is saying. Voters are not re-embracing conservative ideology, nor are they falling back in love with the Republican brand. If anything, the Democrats’ salvation may lie in the fact that Republicans seem even more hell-bent on allowing their radical wing to drag the party away from the center.
All that is required for the Democratic Party to recover its political footing is to acknowledge that the agenda of the party’s most liberal supporters has not won the support of a majority of Americans — and, based on that recognition, to steer a more moderate course on the key issues of the day, from health care to the economy to the environment to Afghanistan. (end of column)