Wanted: Principled Centrists for Minority Party
Ross Douthat has the right idea. A lot of what passes for “centrist” ideas in Washington is self-serving Senators in both parties splitting the difference between two competing sides and declaring victory in their swing-state homes.
On the stimulus package of 2009, like the Bush tax cuts of 2001, this “centrist” approach proved far less appealing than it sounded at first. In 2001, they took a $1.65 trillion round of tax cuts and turned it into $1.35 trillion – partly through budget gimmicks that rendered the tax cuts temporary. And earlier this year, they turned a $900 billion stimulus package and made it a $800 billion package which cuts to such supposedly unnecessary projects as “pandemic preparedness”. Neither action changed the ideological force behind the bill; neither improved the balance on the budget that much; neither really changed the bill that dramatically.
Yet, somehow, Washington thinks this approach works and is proof that someone is “moderate”. Making a deal does not define you as moderate – if defines you as self-interested and flexible on the principles that define your priorities.
You can nudge one’s party in a new direction with a fresh approach to old priorities. The DLC did this in the early 90s. The GOP needs it’s own DLC; the GOP needs to find the new Jack Kemp.