During the McGovern-Mondale era, the Democrats were exactly where the Republicans are now: the party had been taken over by its most extreme liberal faction, and it had lost touch with the core concerns of the middle class….Those terrible losses in 1972 and, especially, in 1984 were the Democrats’ shock therapy.
What happened in the interim? In effect, moderate Democrats wrested the party back from its most liberal wing….“We had become a party that had stopped worrying about people who were working and only focused on people who weren’t working,” [Al] From told me. “The party didn’t understand how big a concern crime was. It had stopped talking about opportunity and growth.”
As one of Power Line’s readers chortles:
Wait…WTF??? NOW they’re telling us this? (While conveniently leaving out the Dukakis disaster…”competence, not ideology.”) What did they say THEN? Weren’t they actively denying these claims about Democrats, at the time? Weren’t they relentlessly attacking conservatives and Republicans with every weapon at hand precisely to deny that these issues were shortcomings of the Dems and the left? Indeed, were there not many voices heard even at the Times–THEN–denouncing conservatives for even raising these issues on the usual grounds of heartlessness, racism and venality?
Let’s go through what Nocera wrote, which is a piñata of humor; any way you swing at it, comedy treats emerge. First up, at Power Line, Hinderaker answers his reader’s question, “What did they say then?” and goes through the Times’ archives to find the expected glowing sales pitches for McGovern, Mondale and Dukakis, during the very era when the New York Times itself “had been taken over by its most extreme liberal faction, and it had lost touch with the core concerns of the middle class,” as its columnist writes. Just read William McGowan’s recent book Gray Lady Down for example after example of how accurate that was.
But let’s go back to Nocera’s quote once again:
During the McGovern-Mondale era, the Democrats were exactly where the Republicans are now: the party had been taken over by its most extreme liberal faction, and it had lost touch with the core concerns of the middle class.
I doubt if I’d call Dubya, Mitt Romney or John Boehner the GOP’s “most extreme liberal faction,” though certainly both Bush #41 and #43 often found themselves in trouble when they decided to work with the same Democrats that Nocera is decrying. Bush #41 was talked into caving on “No New Taxes,” his one campaign promise, which both brought on the recession of 1990, and was later demagogued against him by the same Democratic Party who initially welcomed the notion. It was a classic case of Animal House’s “You f***ed up – you trusted us” motto in action.
Similarly, Bush #43 certainly welcomed every opportunity to work across the aisle, whether it was Ted Kennedy and “No Child Left Behind,” bringing in Underperformin’ Norman Mineta as a cabinet official, or reaching out to Joe Lieberman. Just as with Bush #41 and taxes, Regime Change in Iraq was a carryover from the lip service at least of Al Gore, as well as Bill Clinton, and Madeleine Albright. And there wasn’t anything conservative about TARP, as savvy conservatives wrote at the time. Certainly Romney having brought socialized medicine to Massachusetts does little for his conservative bona fides, but in the Obama era, that doesn’t quite make him a member of either party’s “most extreme liberal faction.” Similarly, while Boehner’s waffling during the debt crisis did nothing to reduce the Debt Star explosion to come, he can’t be blamed for the runaway entitlement state and spending, which began under FDR and was super-duper-mega-sized by Mr. Obama.
OK, fun with Nocera’s awkward sentence construction aside, at least tonally, I’m not sure if he’s the best journalist to make the case that “moderate Democrats wrested the party back from its most liberal wing.” Recall that Nocera was the same Timesman who wrote – and later apologized for – this last year, even after the president’s call for a new civility amongst his fellow “liberals” earlier that year:
You know what they say: Never negotiate with terrorists. It only encourages them.
These last few months, much of the country has watched in horror as the Tea Party Republicans have waged jihad on the American people. Their intransigent demands for deep spending cuts, coupled with their almost gleeful willingness to destroy one of America’s most invaluable assets, its full faith and credit, were incredibly irresponsible. But they didn’t care. Their goal, they believed, was worth blowing up the country for, if that’s what it took.
[. . .]
As has been explained ad nauseam, the threat of defense cuts is supposed to give the Republicans an incentive to play fair with the Democrats in the negotiations. But with our soldiers still fighting in Afghanistan, which side is going to blink if the proposed cuts threaten to damage national security? Just as they did with the much-loathed bank bailout, which most Republicans spurned even though financial calamity loomed, the Democrats will do the responsible thing. Apparently, that’s their problem.
For now, the Tea Party Republicans can put aside their suicide vests. But rest assured: They’ll have them on again soon enough. After all, they’ve gotten so much encouragement.
If that’s the Times trying to reach out to “core concerns of the middle class,” I’d hate to see what came before. (Oh wait, I know what came before.)
And finally, have moderate Democrats actually “wrested the party back from its most liberal wing,” as Nocera claims? Let’s ask this polite young man how eager he is to support a self-described moderate Democrat:
In the liberal blogosphere, the most energetic quarter of the party, Kerrey’s comeback bid was lambasted as the return of yet another mushy moderate. The online left says it won’t lift a finger for him — and in some cases, it’s even rooting against Kerrey.
It’s a reaction that’s emblematic of the new normal in Washington, a place where there’s no room for committed centrists like Maine GOP Sen. Olympia Snowe, who announced Tuesday she’ll retire after three terms — and perhaps even for members with a record of orbiting the center, such as Kerrey.
“I hope he gets carpet bombed. The more Republicans spend in Nebraska, the less they’ll have to go after Democratic Senate candidates who actually act like Democrats,” said Markos Moulitsas, the founder of the influential blog Daily Kos. “And if it turns out he needs the help, then too bad. F—- him.”
Well, that settles it then! After years of being MIA, I’m glad moderation has finally returned to the party of McGovern, Mondale, Dukakis and Obama, along with an era of new civility, as well.
Although perhaps a road back from the Democrats’ ever-leftward swing over the last 45 years is finally visible, based on this:
Republicans should fight hard to make Brazile’s words a reality come November.