The Road Less Travelled and a tale of the Middle Path

One day a music teacher was teaching his student how to play a string instrument. woman tuning a lute

Siddartha heard the teacher say “if you wind the string too tight it will break and if you have the string too loose, there will be no music”. On hearing these words, Siddartha came to the realisation of the middle way of life – it must be neither strict and nor undisciplined.

Every culture has its stories and metaphors.  The story of the music teacher on tuning is a famous one for those on the Buddhist path.  Like all stories with morals, they usually apply to things way beyond any spiritual path. This is a good one for a set of folks that haven’t been on any kind of a spiritual path–let alone a middle one–for some time.  In Buddhism, there is no permanent soul.  In the Republican Party, there is agonizing soul-searching from people who may have misplaced theirs.

I offer you a few tales of the Lost Middle Path.

Here’s a name you may not have heard about recently but one that you will know well if you are of a certain age.  Michelle Cottle at TDB writes Mosbacher: I’m Furious at My Own Party”.  Some people don’t worry so much about losing their souls or their way.  They respond a little more to losing their donor base.

Best not to ask GOP fundraising legend Georgette Mosbacher about the state of her beloved party unless you want an earful. The co-chair of the RNC’s Finance Committee (and CEO of Borghese cosmetics), Mosbacher is “mad as hell” about the myriad ways the “brand has been tarnished”: the sorry state of the presidential primary process, the ongoing alienation of Latino voters, the “outrageous” Senate candidates that the party ran this cycle, the epic failure of the fiscal-cliff negotiations, and, most recently, the House’s dithering over disaster aid for the victims of superstorm Sandy.

“I’m angry!” fumes Mosbacher. “I’m angry about the stupid mistakes that were self-inflicted.” It’s this last part she finds the most enraging. Though she believes the party has “unfairly” been defined by its recent mistakes, she is very clear about where the ultimate blame lies: “We did it to ourselves.”

Mosbacher is, of course, not alone in her ire. Postelection, you can’t swing a dead cat without hitting a hastily assembled group of Republican leaders laboring to figure out where the party went wrong last cycle and how to get it back on track. So far, however, Mosbacher is unimpressed by their efforts.

“I have not seen an honest postmortem assessment yet,” she told me. “I have not seen anything that gives me any comfort right now.”

This is an unfortunate development for the GOP, because, as Mosbacher explained it to me this weekend: “I’m not writing any checks, and I’m not asking anyone else to write any checks until I hear something that makes sense to me.”

The root problem, as she sees it: the sorry state of the party’s leadership in Washington.

Take the implosion of certain Senate candidates, she says. “One or two bad apples—excuse the cliché—really can spoil the whole thing. But it’s incumbent on our leadership to know who those are. Don’t tell me these people didn’t know who they were before they spewed their nonsense.” Mosbacher grows increasingly agitated. “How did they get this far? Where was the leadership to stop that?”

Ah, yess, Georgette! It’s just a few bad apple that slipped by the DC leadership. Have you put on your Gucci pantsuit recently and talked to your insurrectionist, christofascist, gun loving, nutter grass roots recently? Ever been to a party convention overrun by folks sent by Pat Robertson’s goons and the local KKK?

Seems like a few of the cohort aren’t just withholding the check book these days. 

The Republican Main Street Partnership, a Washington-based group that has promoted moderate GOP lawmakers and policies, will remove the word “Republican” from its title and welcome center-right Democrats in 2013, Yahoo News has learned.

The organization’s board of directors voted Tuesday morning to scrap party identification from its title and be known simply as “The Main Street Partnership.” The group’s new president, former Ohio Republican Rep. Steven LaTourette, told Yahoo News that he plans to begin conversations with Blue Dog Democrats and centrist groups in the coming months.

“The goal is to try and fill the void that is the middle,” LaTourette, who resigned from Congress this year, said. “The American political system is like a doughnut: You’ve got sides, but you don’t have anything in the middle, and it would be my goal to work with Republicans and Democrats who want to find the path forward to getting things done and compromise.”

In a statement released Tuesday afternoon, LaTourette added: “While we have changed our name, we have not changed our values or our mission. We will continue to be a right of center organization and continue to represent the governing wing of the Republican Party.”

The Main Street Partnership will also expand its super PAC, Defending Main Street, to aid center-right members of both parties, LaTourette said, adding, “It’s not going to be focused so much on party as it is on protecting people from the right and left extremes if they choose to do the right things.”

So, does any of this make sense or will it work?  Can the Republican party be reformed or will some other solution to its extremism emerge?  Who are the “Holy Grail of Voters according to the NJ?

What has happened is that the gap between the share of voters who identify themselves as Democrats compared with those who consider themselves Republicans has grown so wide that, for the GOP, winning a majority of the independent vote nationally is necessary but no longer sufficient for winning a national popular vote. In this past election, 38 percent of voters called themselves Democrats, and just 32 percent called themselves Republicans. In 2008, it was Democrats at 39 percent and Republicans at 32 percent. Over the past five elections, only in 2004 were the two parties evenly matched at 37 percent each. In the other four elections, the Democratic advantage has been 4 points in 2000 (when Al Gore won the popular vote but lost the Electoral College), 5 points in 1996, 6 points in 2012, and 7 points in 2008. This is certainly one reason why Republicans have lost the popular vote in five of the past six elections; generally there are more Democrats than Republicans. When the gap gets really wide, independents can’t make the difference.

Similarly, in those past five elections, Democrats have won between 81 and 89 percent of the vote of self-described liberals (averaging 86 percent), while Republicans have won between 72 and 84 percent of self-described conservatives (averaging 80 percent).

Why Republicans tend to stick together a bit more than Democrats—and why liberals tend to vote a little more for Democrats than conservatives do for Republicans—is anyone’s guess.

So if Democrats can reliably count on winning the lion’s share of the votes of Democrats and liberals while Republicans can be equally assured of the support of Republicans and conservatives, the question that arises is whether it’s independents or moderates that are decisive.

Hmmm, where are reasonable to go?  Certainly not to today’s Republican party. But, the democratic party’s been pretty worthless too.   Excuse me while I go check google maps for the location of the middle path in America.  I’m certainly not going to ask Georgette to come out of her shoe closet long enough to figure out what’s gone wrong with the Republican party.  I’m also not looking towards the current administration to tell me why it can’t even support policies that Nixon, Eisenhower, Ford and Reagan would’ve found reasonable, let alone the roster of Dem presidents that surrounded them.  Now, where’s that damn path!

Another Tale since I just watched this on TV and nearly fainted.

In Dick Armey’s world, Democrats want abortion to be as available as pay-per-view movies.

The former House Republican Majority Leader and former Freedom Works chairman insisted on Tuesday that the left wants “abortion on demand” during a discussion on Hardball about the divisions in the GOP.

Armey acknowledged there had been several “foolish mistakes” the GOP made during the campaign season, including Mitt Romney’s remarks about the 47%. He insisted the party was trying to “rediscover its relationship” with constitutional limitations on big government and fiscal responsibility.

Host Chris Matthews asked why, if the Republicans are really the party of limited government, does the party have its candidates trying to get rid of contraception, and outlaw gay marriage and abortion. “Why don’t you stay out of people’s lives if you really wanted limited government?” asked Matthews.

The former lawmaker insisted that there were simply a few bad apple candidates, just like the Democrats have “had a few rather strange people” too. When Matthews pointed out the GOP platform includes items about personhood and contraception, Armey insisted the Democrats also have “unusual” and “strange” items in their platform.

“Name one,” Matthews challenged.

“Homosexual marriage, all right. Abortion on demand,” Armey shot back. “These issues are in your platform. You don’t think it’s strange for these issues to be in your platform pointing in one direction, but you consider it outrageous that the other party has the same issues pointing in the another direction in their platform.”

Matthews responded, saying “The Democratic party generally supports Roe vs. Wade. It does not support ‘abortion on demand,’” adding the issue of gay marriage is going to be decided state by state, not nationally.


22 Comments on “The Road Less Travelled and a tale of the Middle Path”

  1. bostonboomer says:

    Great post, Dak. But for me the problem is that both Democrats and Republicans have moved so far right that if there’s a “middle path,” it would be to the left. Meanwhile, the left side of the political spectrum has been banished completely.

    • dakinikat says:

      Yes. The policies floated around by both parties these days are based on right wing memes and would’ve gone unsupported by many on both sides back in the day.

    • RalphB says:

      I believe that’s because they are funded by some of the same wealthy donors. Remove that donor base and the problem would disappear for the most part.

  2. bostonboomer says:

    Please excuse this OT link, but a judge has decided that Bradley Manning was illegally punished in prison, and has reduced Manning’s possible sentence.

    IMHO, Manning was tortured.

  3. Fannie says:

    Yes, Yes, Yes for Manning, I just hope those months of solitary imprisonment hasn’t damaged him for life.

  4. Fannie says:

    Speaking of the dems being worthless, what in the world Harry Reid thinking to allow the NRA to slip in a provision in Obama Health care bill in 2010? It restricts the government from collecting data on gun ownership……………what about doctors, I mean to tell you it sounds like he just allowed them to hold the gun to our heads……………….I am so pissed.

    • bostonboomer says:

      I recall reading that at the time. Obama made a lot of “compromises” to get that bill through. That one was really idiotic.

  5. bostonboomer says:

    Jonathan Chait on The Eternal Folly of the Bipartisan Debt Fetish

    I consider the long-term deficit a problem worth solving, though I would argue that mass unemployment and, especially, climate change are more urgent problems. I would like to know the case to the contrary, but if there is an argument for elevating the deficit above those priorities, I am not aware of it. Overt argument is not the preferred style of respectable centrist pundits. It is too rude.

    And so, when figures like Erskine Bowles and Alan Simpson are invited on to programs like Meet the Press, they are treated as disinterested wise men rather than political advocates. The host, David Gregory, asks them to hand down rulings on politicians. He does not question their own ideas. (Notably, the Sunday talk shows, a haven of right-thinking, deficit-obsessed centrism, have given over little attention to climate change in the last four years and have not quoted a single climate scientist during the entire span.)

    The most striking feature of the centrist deficit drone rests upon a political analysis that is willfully, and probably self-defeatingly, false. Seib, Ignatius, the Economist, Bowles, Simpson, and their endless list of allies all believe unswervingly that the solution to the long-term deficit requires both parties to move to the center. They seem to hold this belief as a matter of a priori logic. Literally nothing seems capable of budging it.

    In reality, since 1981, and especially since 1990, the Republican Party has grown totally uninterested in deficit reduction per se (as opposed to using the threat of deficits to limit social spending.) The Democratic Party has grown to largely embrace the anti-deficit agenda.

    This is most glaringly obvious in the current atmosphere. The two parties are currently at loggerheads over the manufactured crises of budget sequestration and the debt ceiling. President Obama’s position is that the two parties should enact a mix of cuts to retirement programs and revenue increases through tax reform. The Republican position is that no more revenue can be considered, and further deficit reduction must consist entirely of domestic spending cuts.

    • RalphB says:

      Weisenthal’s article blows that deficit crap away.

    • NW Luna says:

      Seib, Ignatius, the Economist, Bowles, Simpson, and their endless list of allies all believe unswervingly that the solution to the long-term deficit requires both parties to move to the center.

      That would be center of the radical-radical right.

  6. RalphB says:

    Joe Weisenthal has a must read article on the creation of money. It dispels the common myths of limited currency in a sovereign nation in very simple fashion.

    Business Insider: Why The Fight Over The $1 Trillion Coin Is The Most Important Fiscal Policy Debate You’ll Ever See In Your Life

  7. dakinikat says:

    Guess we know who the real pope is now …

    Oprah Winfrey ‏@Oprah

    BREAKING NEWS: Looking forward to this conversation with @lancearmstrong: #NextChapter

  8. dakinikat says:

    Wow … Frontline on Rhee and charter schools is amazing … did you brother do any of this BB? You have to watch this!!!

  9. dakinikat says:

    Mediagazer ‏@mediagazer

    Why Are Athletes Accused Of Rape Often Glorified In The Media? (@ktheaney / BuzzFeed)

  10. RalphB says:

    This is genuinely funny and the reporter handled this perfectly 🙂

    WATCH: Two Seemingly Drunk Co-Eds Crash Live Report, Ask ‘Where’s The Weed?’

    Last Friday at Cowboys Stadium in Arlington, Tex., CBS reporter Jeff Jamison tried to report on hometown Texas A&M’s chances in that evening’s AT&T Cotton Bowl game before getting interrupted by a pair of seemingly inebriated co-eds who just wanted to talk about how much they love “Johnny Football,” a.k.a. Aggies’ quarterback Johnny Manziel.

    The pair mugged for the camera and raved about how they “know” Manziel, all while Jamison handled their drunkenness with coolness and aplomb.

  11. RalphB says:

    This is wonderful and eviscerates the IMF and economic forecaster in general. The Aussies are not impressed!

    Sydney Morning Herald: When a guess is as good as a forecast

    Whoops. As far as forecasting errors go, the latest confessed to by the International Monetary Fund is a whopper. It’s in a category of its own. Other contenders might be the man who turned down The Beatles (“groups with guitars are on their way out”) or the movie executive who said home video recorders would kill the motion picture industry (“I say to you that the VCR is to the American film producer and the American public as the Boston strangler is to the woman home alone.”).

    But those wrong forecasts never caused massive human misery (all the more so because they weren’t taken seriously).

    The IMF, on the other hand, solemnly advised the nations of Europe coming out of the financial crisis to raise taxes and wind back government spending. Its commandments had weight. Yes, it had failed to foresee the crisis in the first place, but it was the lender of last resort. They might need it.

    “Olivier Blanchard should be forced to spend the next three years cleaning toilets in Athens for minimum wage, while wearing a sign that says “I am personally responsible for your misery”. Fuck him.” — Sarah Proud and Tall at Balloon-juice

    • dakinikat says:

      The Europeans sit on the IMF and make it political … that’s the problem with the World Bank and the IMF and it’s why politicians need to be kept out of things like central banks … the IMF was reluctant to the austerity game but came along … it’s actually refreshing to see them admitting mistakes on their assumptions

      • RalphB says:

        It is but, in their report, it seems they weaseled out in the end. One of those whocuddanode moments.