Virtue of Immoderation

Let our journalists help you make sense of the noise: Subscribe to the Mother Jones Daily newsletter and get a recap of news that matters.


One of the things that’s so brilliant about President Bush—no, really—is that he can get many liberals to hate liberal ideas… simply by adopting them. Spreading democracy far and wide across the world? Bush has embraced it. Liberals sneer at it. But, as many pundits have pointed out, an idealistic foreign policy is fundamentally a liberal idea. Ditto for national standards on education. Or deficit spending. Or vast expansions of entitlement programs. Obviously Bush has implemented all these ideas in a terrible way, and no one should applaud that, but it would be a bad thing indeed if liberals—and Democrats in particular—went too far in opposition and became the party of stolid realism abroad, decentralized school choice, balanced budgets, and unduly restrained Medicare spending.

But if you wanted sanctimonious finger-wagging about “what’s wrong with the left”, I’m sure you can get that elsewhere. I’m not interested. What inspired this little rant was Onnesha’s post last week about Hillary Clinton. The Nation recently ran a good profile of Clinton finding that, far from being a shifty triangulator like her husband, she’s really quite moderate: “She projects pragmatism on economic issues, and she signals ideological flexibility on social issues.” Fair enough, though I worry about a candidate that gets tagged with the “ultra-lefty” label while acting quite moderate in practice; the reverse would be far better. What I do like about Hillary, though, is she potentially has that same quality Bush has—the ability to get conservatives to hate an idea just because she’s the one touting it. For instance, here’s how Greg Sargent describes Hillary’s stance on lowering the number of abortions in America via increased use birth control (and even teen abstinence):

The political beauty of this, as NewDonkey.com’s Ed Kilgore has observed, is that it makes a subtle play for Republican moderates by forcing right-wing ideologues to reveal themselves as the true extremists, as foes of the common-sense goal of lowering rates of unwanted pregnancies. “When Democrats speak this way about abortion,” says one senior Hillary adviser, “it drives a wedge between sensible Republicans, who want to reduce the amount of abortions, and the right-wing crazies, whose main goal is to stop people from having sex.”

Good stuff. More to the point, while naturally I’d love for some moderate presidential candidate to rise in 2008 and “unite this divided country,” I’m beginning to think it won’t ever happen. As the filibuster deal showed last week, all moderates ever end up doing is making a strange fetish out of compromise, and legitimizing extremists. (Thanks to those moderates who “saved the Senate,” Democrats who were opposing a handful of radical judges suddenly became “just as bad” as Bill Frist and the rest of the GOP’s nuclear warriors who wanted to shred Senate rules because they found them inconvenient.) From a strategic standpoint, then, a Democratic candidate who viscerally repulsed the conservative establishment—and Hillary is very, very good at that—while appealing to a bare sliver of swing voters may well be the way to go. The upshot here is that when Republicans start foaming at the mouth over the Clintons, they usually end up revealing their own ugliness and lose elections—as was the case in the 1998 midterms.

IT'S NOT THAT WE'RE SCREWED WITHOUT TRUMP:

"It's that we're screwed with or without him if we can't show the public that what we do matters for the long term," writes Mother Jones CEO Monika Bauerlein as she kicks off our drive to raise $350,000 in donations from readers by July 17.

This is a big one for us. It's our first time asking for an outpouring of support since screams of FAKE NEWS and so much of what Trump stood for made everything we do so visceral. Like most newsrooms, we face incredibly hard budget realities, and it's unnerving needing to raise big money when traffic is down.

So, as we ask you to consider supporting our team's journalism, we thought we'd slow down and check in about where Mother Jones is and where we're going after the chaotic last several years. This comparatively slow moment is also an urgent one for Mother Jones: You can read more in "Slow News Is Good News," and if you're able to, please support our team's hard-hitting journalism and help us reach our big $350,000 goal with a donation today.

payment methods

IT'S NOT THAT WE'RE SCREWED WITHOUT TRUMP:

"It's that we're screwed with or without him if we can't show the public that what we do matters for the long term," writes Mother Jones CEO Monika Bauerlein as she kicks off our drive to raise $350,000 in donations from readers by July 17.

This is a big one for us. So, as we ask you to consider supporting our team's journalism, we thought we'd slow down and check in about where Mother Jones is and where we're going after the chaotic last several years. This comparatively slow moment is also an urgent one for Mother Jones: You can read more in "Slow News Is Good News," and if you're able to, please support our team's hard-hitting journalism and help us reach our big $350,000 goal with a donation today.

payment methods

We Recommend

Latest

Sign up for our free newsletter

Subscribe to the Mother Jones Daily to have our top stories delivered directly to your inbox.

Get our award-winning magazine

Save big on a full year of investigations, ideas, and insights.

Subscribe

Support our journalism

Help Mother Jones' reporters dig deep with a tax-deductible donation.

Donate