Wednesday, August 16, 2006

Moderate support

Just as the netroots left of the Democratic Party led a charge to unseat Joe Lieberman, the conservative Club For Growth -- fresh off a victory against moderate Republican Joe Schwarz in Michigan -- is leading a charge against Rhode Island's Republican senator, Lincoln Chafee.

One difference between Chafee and Lieberman, however, is that if Chafee loses the primary to his conservative opponent, his seat is almost guaranteed to go to a Democrat. The Club For Growth figures that's a small price to pay for ideological purity.

I wrote a few weeks ago about what moderates need to do to put more moderates in power. One of the tactics was to support the moderate candidates of both parties in their primaries, so that as much as possible the general election becomes a contest between two moderates. That way we win no matter what the outcome.

The Rhode Island race would seem to be the perfect example of this: Support Chafee in his primary fight so that we don't much care who wins in November.

Some people will note tactical considerations that complicate the question. I've also written that I consider the November elections a referendum on the ruling party, and in that context the Republicans deserve to lose big; I want the Democrats to take over either the House or the Senate, and I wouldn't weep if they captured both. Given that, wouldn't it be better to have the seat go Democratic, improving the chances that the Dems could take over the Senate?

I think this comes down to an exercise in principle and risk management. What's more important to you -- Democratic control of the Senate, or maximizing the number of moderates in Congress? If the former, hope Chafee loses the nomination. If the latter, help him win it. Because I would prefer to not even risk an ideological conservative getting into that seat. Even if you're a strong Democrat, showing support for Chafee is just good politics. If he wins, he'll remember the cross-aisle backing. Even if he loses, it sends a message to other moderates that there's a reservoir of support they can draw on to counter the partisan party bases.

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5 Comments:

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Chafee certainly qualifies as one moderate senator.
Can you list out all the sentors, D and R, that you see as moderate ?
GK

8/16/2006 12:29 PM  
Blogger Sean Aqui said...

I've never sat down and made a list. Let's see:

REPUBLICAN
Lamar Alexander
Christopher Bond
Lincoln Chafee
Susan Collins
Mike DeWine
Elizabeth Dole
Gordon Smith
Olympia Snowe
Arlen Specter
John Warner

DEMOCRAT
Max Baucus
Evan Bayh
Joe Biden
Jeff Bingaman
Maria Cantwell
Thomas Carper
Hillary Clinton*
Chris Dodd
Mary Landrieu
Blanche Lincoln
Ben Nelson
Bill Nelson
Barack Obama
Mark Pryor
Ken Salazar

*I still think of her as liberal, but I have to look at her votes and positions and they're more centrist.

8/16/2006 8:55 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thanks for the list, I agree with most of them.
Some thoughts about the list.
1. I would put Patrick Leahy in the list. Though I dont know his complete record.
2. Lindsey Graham, maybe but I dont know his complete record either.
3 I agree about Hillary Clinton. If Politics is a chess game, she saw ahead and when she became a senator and staked out centrist positions. I read somewhere that she had "non-liberal" views when she was younger, it must be a natural for her to take positions like she did.
4. Interestingly, I dont see Joe Lieberman in the list.
5. Democrats make up the minority but there seems to be more of them in the list.

GK

8/17/2006 7:36 AM  
Blogger Sean Aqui said...

Leahy and Graham are borderline, IMO. But I had to draw the line somewhere.

Lieberman's a bit of a strange duck, like John McCain. All in all, though, I consider them both more conservative than moderate.

8/17/2006 9:52 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I wouldn't mind seeing Chafee continue on, as long as the conservative (most likely a Bush rubber-stamp) gets trounced. Chafee seems to have an independent mind, and he is pro-environment (which is top on my list of issues). I think he supported the Iraq war, but a lot of supporters are emerging from the propaganda-induced haze that has blanketed the country since the Iraq attack.
Democrats need to take one house, but having moderates of any party is a good thing.

On the subject of Congressmen, can you find a bigger idiot than Virgina Republican George Allen? Seeing him lose would be particularly...savory.

- Caracarn

8/17/2006 1:45 PM  

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