How the GOP Can 'Run Against the Center'

First he insisted on investigating Rep. John Murtha. Now he's objecting to the government-mandated closing of hundreds of car dealerships. No, it's not a Republican (although many Republicans agree on both counts). It's House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer. Is he onto something that Nancy Pelosi, Harry Reid, and even the president have missed? Perhaps.

Perhaps Hoyer -- trying to sidestep potential blame if the 2010 elections go poorly for Democrats -- has been reading the wise counsel of Michael Barone. Barone advises politicians to run "against the center" -- the center of power in Washington, D.C., that is. He explained in a recent column:

This center includes the Treasury, with its $700 billion of TARP funds voted last fall to purchase toxic assets from financial institutions and used instead to quasi-nationalize banks and preserve union benefits for employees and retirees of bankrupt auto companies. It includes the Federal Reserve, which has been vastly increasing the money supply. It includes a federal government whose $787 billion economic stimulus has so far failed to lower the unemployment rate from where the government projected it would be without the stimulus package.

There has been an historic aversion in American politics, running through the Progressive era and continuing in every populist movement up through the Tea Party protests, to concentrated power. Big Government, Big Labor, Big Oil -- you can see the pattern. "Big" is not such an attractive attribute in American politics and runs headlong into Americans' love of independence, entrepreneurial spirit, and affection for the "little guy."

And there are plenty of big things to be concerned about inside the Beltway. We are, after all, seeing the largest aggregation of power in Washington, D.C., since the New Deal. And even then FDR did not have the nerve to nationalize car companies or tell an insurance company to rip up its compensation contracts with its employees.

Moreover, we have just begun. Gov. Mitch Daniels has termed it "shock and awe statism" -- the voracious appetite for accumulating more and more power in Washington, D.C. Cap-and-trade seeks to regulate all energy output and emissions from inside the Beltway. Nationalized health care with a public "option" means health-care coverage run by government bureaucrats. And the Employee Free Choice Act means not only loss of the secret ballot but labor contracts imposed by government arbitrators rather than reached through negotiations between private employers and labor unions.

So what would a winning formula aimed at Washington's power grabs look like?

For starters, as Hoyer suggests, any convincing anti-Washington agenda must begin with fulfilling Nancy Pelosi's promise to "drain the swamp." Republicans and savvy Democrats would do well to insist that those under investigation in the metastasizing PMA Group scandal, including Murtha and Rep. James Moran, be alleviated of their committee posts and be subject to a swift House ethics probe. And that goes for Sen. Chris Dodd and House Ways and Means Chair Charlie Rangel, who retain their own prominent committee chairmanships while beating back ethics investigations. Likewise, anti-Washington agitators  should push for the ouster of Roland Burris, who, it seems, lied to the Senate about his contacts with Blago prior to getting the Senate appointment.