Friday, November 6, 2009

Who Won Tuesday?

Political commentators– whether they are conservative or liberal; thoughtful or angry; intellectually honest or hopelessly partisan; penetratingly insightful or galactically stupid – and whether or not they ply their trade in television, print, or radio - have one thing in common. They analyze election results in terms of which political party won the day.

The read on Tuesday, generally, was that Republicans won the day. Gubernatorial victories in New Jersey and Virginia, two states that voted decisively for Barack Obama in 2008, gave the GOP reason to celebrate. Democrats took what cheer they could from a Democratic victory in New York’s 23rd Congressional district, in which one of their own defeated a Conservative party candidate that was endorsed and supported by such GOP heavyweights as Rush Limbaugh and Sarah Palin.

But the real winners on Tuesday were the largest and quietest group of American voters. There will be no victory parties, no spinning to the press, no acceptance speeches and no oaths of office – but the winners on Tuesday were your friendly neighborhood moderates.

The Misunderstood Moderate
There are several problems with the way moderates are characterized by the political press.

First, we are not the same as Independents. Many moderates belong to political parties, but represent the more moderate wing of that party. Most Northeast Republicans, for example, are moderates, as are many Southeast Democrats.

Second, we do not hold moderate views on every subject. We tend to be moderate on some subjects such as abortion and interrogation techniques for suspected terrorists. But we can often be well to the left or the right of the major parties on other issues. For example, many Northeast Republicans favor gun control, while most Democrats with national ambitions make sure to get their picture taken shooting ducks.

And third, we care about politics. The independent voter, especially those that only vote during Presidential election years, tend to be apathetic about politics, and their votes tend to be more personality-driven than issue-driven. But the true moderate cares deeply about politics, is highly informed, and votes in off years…he just doesn’t vote for the same party all the time. National and local issues and even broader strategic goals play a part in which lever gets pulled.

Moderates Win! Moderates Win! The-e-e-e-e-e-e-e-e-e-e Moderates Win!
I won’t go into detail on what happened Tuesday – there is plenty of good analysis in the mainstream media for that. But the bottom line – GOP victories in blue states and the hard right getting a bloody nose in upstate New York – were both good things for moderates, both cautionary tales to the partisan leaders of both parties that the center will hold. To Pelosi and Rush, we say a pox on both your houses.

Now if we can just do something about gerrymandering…

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