Fallacy of Governing from the Center
A moderate road to success?...
[Thomas G. Del Beccaro] 12/14//05
"Standing in the middle of the road is very dangerous;
get knocked down by the traffic from both sides."
fallout from the special election, there is a renewed discussion
about governing from the Center. It is a mantra championed
by many a consultant and some “moderates” – in
both the Democrat and Republican Parties - that claim you have
to be a centrist/moderate to win/succeed in California. Simply
stated, that simply isn’t true.
is not true because in order to succeed, politicians must be
defined to attract voters because the “very essence of
leadership is that you have to have vision. You can't blow
an uncertain trumpet.” Put
another way, voters generally do not elect leaders if they are uncertain
as to how they will lead or how they will vote.
Thomas G. Del Beccaro
G. Del Beccaro is publisher of the website Political
Vanguard. [go to Del Beccaro index]
by contrast, has no easily definable governing principle. Nor
is there is a specific
profile of a Centrist Voter. The Center has no organizing theme, no conventions,
no convention goers, no platforms and no army of volunteers.
It is occupied
by independents and “declined to state” voters. By self-identification,
they are voters who are not enamored with Party politics and often not
enamored by politics at all. They tend to vote issue by issue. As they
do so, they vote conservatively on some issues, in a liberal fashion other
times and otherwise somewhere in between. They can be socially conservative
but not care for the concept of limited government; they can be fiscally
conservative but socially liberal and many shades in between.
are hard to define. No less hard to define than a Centrist politician.
To move to
the Center, therefore, is to be become less defined – to
create uncertainty as to how you will vote and how you will lead. All of
the above, in large part, is why very few Independents have been elected
and even fewer have succeeded at high levels of leadersip. Witness the
fall of Jesse Ventura in Minnesota at the hands of both Parties.Really
successful leaders, either Republican or Democrat, in California and elsewhere,
contrary to conventional wisdom, do not run to the Center to succeed – neither
do their Parties - if they are smart.
Instead of becoming Centrist themselves, they run on issues – issues
that unite their party, issues that attract independents and which divide the
even though the Republicans were the minority Party in Congress
at the time of his election, President Reagan became hugely
successful by making the issue of cutting taxes a central theme
of his Presidency. At the time he did so, it was not a so-called
Republican issue. Remember that George Bush senior thought
it “voodoo economics.”
Reagan, however, was able to unite his party around that cross-over issue and
he was able to attract many independents and even Democrats - Reagan Democrats.
He did the same with the issue of pride in America and its defense. The
Democrats, on the other hand, were divided on those issues and still are.
Clinton used that strategy as well to some degree. Clinton ran on tax cuts
and welfare reform (a stretch for most Dems) in addition to the many standard,
quite liberal Democrat issues. His triangulation got him through two tumultuous
terms along with help of Ross Perot.
The same works in California. In the 1980s, Contra Costa County was a Democrat
stronghold. A Republican best known for being the “Angry Taxpayer” wanted
to get elected to the Assembly. Against the odds, he canvassed the County
to determine what issues mattered to the largely Democrat voters. He campaigned
on those conservative issues which he and they had in common – along
with his angry taxpayer theme. He won and eventually became Congressmen
Bill Baker after 12 years in the Assembly.
Assemblywoman Lynne Leach would soon follow in the same Assembly District and
received over 60% of the vote twice – an even higher vote percentage
than Baker. Why? Because Leach, a staunch pro-lifer, emphasized education
reform – another non-liberal crossover issue – and no one,
and I mean no one can accuse Lynne Leach of being a centrist/moderate.
Thus, the key is not to become Centrist, whatever that is, but to pick cross-over
issues within your philosophy and combine them with your base issues thereby
creating working majorities which, if fostered long enough, produce realignments.
There are any number of issues that the Republican Party in California can
champion using the cross-over model. They include taxes, immigration reform,
voter ID reform, and more.
pushing too many at once (and thereby uniting all of the Democrats
at once as happened in the ill-fated Special Election), the
Republican Party should stay true to its basic principles and
pick one cross-over issue at a time and build political momentum
and with that find success- and that’s no fallacy. CRO
2005 Thomas G. Del Beccaro