The pundit class has been talking about Olympia Snowe's retirement from the Senate in terms of the end of moderates. In an effort to pretend balance, they refer to a lack of moderates in "both parties". This is wrong on a whole bunch of levels, and to believe that meme is to miss what is really occurring. There is no middle, there are painfully few moderates, in the REPUBLICAN Party. This is not something that applies to the Democratic Party. The 21% of America that self-identifies as "progressive" would not claim our President as a member of those ranks, rather that he is a moderate Democrat. But because the GOP sets the language, he comes off looking RELATIVELY progressive. "Relatively" compared to a party that wants to return to 1850.
Take the Blunt Amendment that went down in flames yesterday: was its defeat the winning of some sort of progressive thrust? NO. The Blunt Amendment was completely out of the mainstream. The idea that birth control would be an issue in the 21st century is idiotic. Further, they couched the amendment as related to religious freedom, instead of what it was, which was an attempt to deny all sorts of insurance coverage to millions of people. People who voted for it (including the women and the Democrats) are in no way moderate, they are reactionary.
Spawn of Satan asked, in his Michigan speech: (full text)
Do we believe in the smart and elite in this country to manage us?
Let's think about that for a minute. The converse of "smart and elite" is "stupid and worst". Really, Rick? One can contend that only the far right activist racist teabag members of the Republican party vote in primaries and caucuses, but Spawn is polling well overall with the GOP. Likely not enough to win the nomination because the GOP elite cheat (read this, and especially the comment from pretzalz). But still, he's struck a chord with the right, and is forcing the whole party rightward ho! Spawn is a Penn State grad, a frat member. Up until the 70's, Penn State wasn't an academic bastion, but they started moving in that direction and for decades have provided a "smart" education. Their football team? Elite in many ways. The simple answer to why Rick is so anti-education is simple: the less educated the electorate, the more likely someone like him can win a general election.
In 2008, Rachel Maddow did a football explanation of who would win the presidential contest a week before election day. (Start clip at 4:44). Ever since, the GOP has endeavored to move the goal posts, and the field of battle by trying to get the more reddish states (some purple-blue after Obama won them) into play. They did well with that in 2010 by virtue of embracing the teabaggers. They moved the goalposts with the issues of health care reform and cessation of government spending. While those issues have failed, they're still trying. Since it's not working as well as they'd like, they're using words (generally incorrectly) as dog whistles to rally the uninformed to their side. Some samples:
So when people talk to you about a lack of moderates, show them this chart. You won't find Democrats or centrist independents using these terms the way the GOP intends them.
In the Democratic Party, we define family in terms of people who live together by bloodline or choice to form a cohesive unit. We define religious freedom as just that: the freedom to practice your religion, and not make the rest of us accede to your belief structure. You can take it from there.
The Republican Party has eaten its own moderates, women, and 16 of the 18 minority members (except Mike Steele and Alan West).
And these fake beliefs, outside the mainstream, are what the GOP is going to run on this year. Not just in the presidential face-off, but in the Senate, House, and state and local races. If we let them control the words, they'll move the game to where they want it on the field. President Obama is doing a great job of calling them on it, we need to stand with him in word and deed. So when you hear people around you inventing facts, correct them. Tell the truth. Get involved: politick your neighborhood, contribute time and money. This is our country and we must not surrender it.