Try as they might to position themselves as “moderates,” the Democratic renegades in the Senate are proving they can muddle the message and the budget process as they cower from an electorate who is tired with their half-assed measures.
They are led by North Dakota Sen. Kent Conrad.
Conrad also pressed some Bush-era budget maneuvers eliminated by Obama back into service: Instead of a 10-year budget that shows deficits steadily accumulating, for example, Conrad is proposing a five-year spending plan. And Conrad assumes that the alternative minimum tax will strike millions of middle-class families, generating billions of additional dollars in 2013 and 2014, though Congress has acted repeatedly to prevent that.
So they are returning to Bush-era obfuscation of the budget process.
The muddled Democrats are still winning the nomenclature war in the press as they continue to use the term moderate, a term that works in their favor. Evan Bayh, who may be called the wimp whip, tried, along with two other senators, to defend the group in The Washington Post this morning. Without citing his source, he claims that moderates rule.
Beyond the chessboard of the Senate, nearly half of the U.S. electorate calls itself moderate, and more than half of the rest identify themselves as conservative. That means Democrats could capture every liberal vote and half of the moderates and still lose at the polls. Many independents voted for President Obama and the contours of his change agenda, but they will not rubber-stamp it. They are wary of ideological solutions and are overwhelmingly pragmatic. Many of them live in our states and in the states of the other senators who have joined our group.
Set aside the inference that progressives in general and Obama’s budget specifically is not “pragmatic,” I don’t agree with his analysis of the electorate. The Center for American Progress found a different picture.
…34 percent of the country identifies as “conservative,” 29 percent as “moderate,” 15 percent as “liberal,” 16 percent as “progressive,” and 2 percent as “libertarian.” After moderates are asked which approach they lean toward, the overall ideological breakdown of the country divides into fairly neat left and right groupings, with 47 percent of Americans identifying as progressive or liberal and 48 percent as conservative or libertarian.
So in fact, the electorate is split. But the government is not. It clearly has a mandate from voters to enact a progressive agenda.
Most of the ideas with the strongest consensus (approximately two-thirds total agreement and 40 percent strong agreement), are all progressive positions: the need for more sustainable lifestyles; government investment in education, infrastructure and science; transformation toward renewable energy sources; the need for a positive image to achieve national security goals; and guaranteed affordable health coverage for every American.
Let’s hope this works.