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The Illusions of E.J.Dionne, Jr.—A Leftist Masquerading as a Moderate Centrist

Next, Dionne goes on to exaggerate and distort the message presented regularly by responsible conservatives I have often cited, like those who write for publications such as The Claremont Review of Books and The National Interest, and which include writers in particular like Yuval Levin, William Voegeli, Jim Manzi, Vince Cannato and scores of others. The conservatives I know who write for these publications on issues such as the budget, health care, the housing crisis and other serious problems do not want to get rid of Social Security, attack the entire New Deal welfare state edifice, and abolish the income tax. Instead of discussing the kind of serious thinking they and others engage in, Dionne attacks a group of straw men who supposedly favor extreme positions that even Ronald Reagan didn’t take.

That too is the old trick: Having bitterly attacked Reagan as an extremist and fascist when he was President (I have heard that from podiums from liberals more than a few times) they suddenly invoke his name as a responsible conservative so different from those who are active today. As for ObamaCare, Dionne does the same thing. Rather than address himself to the kind of criticisms that serious conservatives have made, he simply says it is a “middle-of-the road Republican” program from 15 years ago which is now somehow condemned “as radical.” Really?  Please produce that health care program, E.J.

What Dionne really favors is a center-left and pro-Democratic agenda.  He, like other liberals, progressives or whatever name these social-democrats prefer to use to describe themselves come up with, does not seem to realize that the United States is a center-right nation, and not a center-left one. That is why he prefers to call conservatives part of an “extreme right” and wants to “broker an alliance between the center and the left.” He even writes this after our country’s voters have seen fit to give  the Republican Party a major victory in the midterm election. As Wehner notes, “Americans, by a greater than 2-to-1 margin, self-identify as conservative rather than liberal.”

By ignoring that fact especially, what E.J. Dionne has done is to show that he lives in an illusory world, in which he thinks that he and other social-democrats and socialists  (let us use the more appropriate name for them rather than Dionne’s preferred “progressive” label) represent the real voice of the American people, rather than the one that has just spoken out so clearly.  And as Wehner adds, Dionne actually supports Nancy Pelosi, a woman so extreme that she gets an 8 percent favorability rating among independents, and a 61 percent unfavorable one! Can Dionne really seriously maintain that Pelosi is a centrist moderate?

As for the recent No Labels event, Dionne acknowledges that “the few Republicans present were admirable people driven from their party by the right wing.” Sure, why else would Dionne call any Republican admirable? So he concludes that moderation only exists “on the center-left and among Democrats.” Since we have seen, and the country believes, that the left and the Democrats are anything but moderate, Dionne reveals that No Labels is a bogus movement -- a confab of liberals pretending to be anything but what they are, in order to convince some gullible types to give them a hearing.

And I’m tired of everyone and his brother citing David Frum -- a man I respect and consider a friend, although I differ with him on some questions and agree with him on others -- as the only conservative every liberal and radical cites regularly as proof that every other conservative is an extremist. Dionne writes that Frum “was too quick to raise questions about Sarah Palin’s qualifications and dares to think that Republicans need to get serious about problems such as health care.”

Yes they do. And at the recent Restoration Weekend panel on conservatism, which you can watch  or read here, I strongly came out against Sarah Palin’s candidacy, arguing that rather than gaining a chance to present conservative positions on the issues, she herself would become the issue. I argued that she could not win, and that it would be a disaster for her to become the Republican Party’s candidate. No one booed. I was treated respectfully, and aside from one member of the audience who came up to scold me and yell at me when the panel was over, I received many comments from those attending indicating support for my position. Indeed, one prominent conservative told me that he would not and could not vote for her if she became the nominee, even if it meant Obama might win. And this event was held at what many people consider a gathering sponsored by a hard-line “extremist” conservative group. So, E.J., David Frum is not the only one making that argument, and it is, actually, not so controversial.

So, the truth is that few will follow E.J.Dionne, Jr. in his call for a new group that will attack only conservatives -- as he puts it, by reminding “us of how extreme the right has come” -- and that will now seek to “help broker an alliance between the center and the left.” Who should we align with -- the likes of the MSNBC crew Lawrence O’Donnell, who says that he is a socialist,  (unlike Dionne) Rachel Maddow and Keith Olbermann?  Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid? Is that what he seriously believes?

The fact is that, as Wehner correctly concludes, the only extremist is Dionne himself, a left-winger trying to pass himself off as a moderate man of the center. That is why the No Labels movement does not only look dead, despite Frum’s claim to the contrary, it is dead upon arrival. And for good reason!