The Political Center Is Gone
In a new USA Today/Suffolk University poll, President Joe Biden's approval is down to 38%. Which looks pretty good compared to Vice President Kamala Harris, whose approval now stands at 28%.
Democrats have just been reprimanded by voters, with the upset victory of Republican candidate and political novice Glenn Youngkin in the governor's race in Virginia, an almost upset victory in New Jersey by Republican gubernatorial candidate Jack Ciattarelli, who came within 2% of the vote of winning, and revolts in school board elections nationwide, pushing back against critical race theory and COVID-19 government interventions.
It's not rocket science that Biden and his party have lost touch with the voters who elected them. Large percentages of these Democrats did not vote for Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and the "squad." And they are unhappy with Biden's capitulation to the far-left elements of his party.
Respected Democrat strategist Mark Penn has a piece in The New York Times urging Biden to shake off these progressives and reconnect with the moderates in his party. This is what Bill Clinton did, he reminds readers, to save his presidency in the mid-1990s.
Former Louisiana Republican Gov. Bobby Jindal offers up a similar message in a Wall Street Journal op-ed. Both parties, after victories, tend to relinquish too much influence to the "extreme" elements in their party, he says. Statesmanship, the message goes, means understanding the need to move to the middle.
But there are problems with this sage advice. One, voters themselves are moving away from the middle. And, two, the reality of culture and politics of the country is things keep moving left. The only difference between when Republicans are in control and when Democrats are in control is how fast it happens.
Yes, it's true that Bill Clinton saved his presidency by turning to the middle. But then, in 1994, according to Gallup, 25% of Democrats self-identified as liberal, 25% conservative and 48% as moderate. Today, per Gallup, the percentage of Democrats identifying as liberal has doubled to 51%; the percentage identifying as conservative is half what it was in 1994 -- 12% -- and the percentage of moderates has dropped from 48% to 35%.
At the same time, Republicans have become more conservative than they were in 1994.
In 1994, 58% of Republicans identified as conservative. Today, it's 75%.
Statesmanship and compromise are only realistic when most voters, of both parties, are generally on the same page regarding our core values. But what happens when the common ground of core values is lost?