Ed Driscoll

What Could Go Wrong?

“Andrea Mitchell interviewed Susan Page, Washington Bureau Chief for USA Today, as part of her program’s Election Day coverage. When asked about Republican obstruction, Page surprised the biased host by projecting a GOP-controlled Senate would cause Senate Democrats to move further to the left,” Jeff Dunetz writes at Truth Revolt:

I think there is another effect from this election night that could affect Hillary Clinton. And that is the fact that a lot of those moderate Democrats in the Senate are the ones that are endangered. You are going to have a Democratic caucus that is more uniformly liberal. And the whole party I think is being pulled somewhat to the left. You talk to activists on the party- I did this morning- talking about it was the Elizabeth Warren wing of the party, Elizabeth Warren was the best surrogate, those are the issues, like fighting Wall Street, that generated the most enthusiasm among Democratic voters. So you will see, if you’re going to see the Republican Party pull to the right after tonight’s elections, I think you’re also going to see the Democratic Party pull to the left.

We’ve seen this movie before, haven’t we? As Ramesh Ponnuru noted at National Review over a decade ago in 2003, “Conservatives ought not to cheer the Democrats’ leftward lurch,” which had begun with their nomination of Al Gore to be president, and only escalated in the wake of September 11th and America’s involvement in Iraq and Afghanistan. Concurrently, as Ramesh noted, GWB moved Republicans to the left via his “Compassionate Conservatism” philosophy of Big Government-based conservatism:

One of the reasons that parties benefit when the other party becomes extreme is that it allows it to hug the center. But if Republicans are moving to the center and Democrats to the left, that means both parties are moving leftward-that the center of gravity of American politics is moving leftward. Isn’t that, too, part of the story of 1972?

Looking back 30 years, is it really clear that the McGovernites would have achieved more of their agenda by not taking over the Democratic party? If you were a liberal who wanted to move the country leftward, should you really be backing someone like Joe Lieberman? Conservatives who want the Democrats to move left have to believe that.

The other problem is that every once in a while Democrats, even if they move left, are going to get elected. It would be better for conservatives if there were a lot of Democrats who are willing to work with Republicans on tax cuts, judges, and Social Security — as there were under the Reagan and first Bush presidencies. Sometimes, Democrats are even going to get elected to the presidency. And even when a party recovers from ideological benders, there are after-effects. The Clinton administration’s foreign policy was impaired by the Democrats’ post-Vietnam hang-ups.

As Ponnuru concluded in 2003, “People ask me sometimes whether I’m happy about the Democrats’ current predicaments. But let’s rephrase the question. Should we be happy that one of our two major parties is going off the deep end? I don’t think so.” We’ve all seen how that’s played out since January of 2009.

How far to the left can Democrats go at this point?

From Wilson to FDR to LBJ to BHO, with only a minor pause by Bill Clinton — and only because the twin threats of Hillarycare and the loss of the Second Amendment ushered in the first GOP Congress in decades — Democrats have crept steadily left, shifting the center of political gravity for both parties in the process. When does the urge to shout “Leftward Ho!” cease?