Decline of the Centrist Dems

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BY JOHN FUND – Two events yesterday highlighted just how much moderate Democrats have become a near-extinct species in their party.


First, only three House Democrats joined with a unanimous GOP caucus in a vote to repeal ObamaCare. North Carolina Rep. Mike McIntyre, Arkansas Rep. Mike Ross and Oklahoma Rep. Dan Boren have reputations as party mavericks, having all voted against Nancy Pelosi for speaker. No other Democrat joined them, despite the fact that a plurality or majority of Americans in every major survey supports repeal.

The second noteworthy event yesterday was the retirement of Joe Lieberman, the four-term U.S. senator from Connecticut who caucused with Democrats even though he won re-election in 2006 as an independent. Mr. Lieberman’s career sums up the decline of Democratic moderates. As a senator in the 1990s he backed tort reform, an end to racial quotas and school choice. On foreign policy, he was a firm believer in confronting terrorism. But when he was selected as Al Gore’s vice presidential running mate in 2000, he had to appear before Democratic delegates representing key party interests and back away from his views on quotas and school choice.

In 2004, Mr. Lieberman ran for president but got nowhere in Democratic primaries. I vividly recall him visiting The Wall Street Journal after that election and lamenting “there are so many dogmatic liberals in the Democratic Party that there’s little room for intellectual diversity.”

That was borne out in 2006, when Mr. Lieberman’s support for the Iraq War prompted a left-wing primary challenge. He lost the primary and was only able to retain his seat by winning a majority of Republicans with an independent bid in the general election. By 2008, Mr. Lieberman was so alienated from his party that he endorsed John McCain over Barack Obama and was Mr. McCain’s personal pick to be his vice-presidential running mate. Mr. McCain ultimately settled on Sarah Palin so as not to alienate Republican delegates.

Mr. Lieberman made it clear in his retirement announcement that his party, not his own beliefs, had changed. “The politics of President Kennedy — service to country, support of civil rights and social justice, pro-growth economic and tax policies, and a strong national defense — are still my politics,” he said, “and they don’t fit neatly into today’s partisan political boxes anymore.”

They certainly are no longer welcome in the party of Barack Obama, Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid.





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