Is Obama Creating a Center-Left Liberal Establishment in DC?

News & Politics

I like E.J. Dionne. I think he's on to something in his latest column. He's basically saying that President Obama is creating a center-left liberal establishment in Washington that is reminiscent of what we saw in the glory days between 1933-1968. Here's where I think Dionne is wrong. It's not really Obama who is creating this.

What's going on is that the Democratic Party is expanding to include people who have been Republicans all their lives. This mainly involves ordinary citizens, but it also includes politicians. The Republicans are losing scientists and internationalists and people that have moderate views on social issues. They're losing secular people and they are hemorrhaging anyone who isn't white. The Republicans are polling terribly in every region of the country outside of the South.

The Democrats have a growing number of people that are moderate or even right-wing in their outlook. Because of this, they have to juggle a lot of balls to keep everyone happy. Managing the party becomes a center-left affair even though progressives make up the single biggest bloc of Democrats.

Obama has pushed hard for progressive aims in certain areas and had tacked towards the center in others. Where Dionne is right is that Obama has consciously moved to do two things. He's used his appointments to lock in as big of a governing majority as possible. He retained Robert Gates as Secretary of Defense, appointed Ray LaHood as Secretary of Transportation, and tried to appoint Judd Gregg as Secretary of Commerce. He lured Arlen Specter into the Democratic Party. He let Joe Lieberman keep a committee chair and his seniority. He appointed his chief rival as Secretary of State. He courted the endorsement of Colin Powell and wooed Dick Lugar and Chuck Hagel into soft support for his presidency. He quickly moved to make up with John McCain.

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