Forget the swine flu. An outbreak of ‘moderate’ tagging has been rampaging through the U.S. media in the wake of Dede Scozzafava’s failed bid to win the vacant 23rd District seat in upstate New York. Political journalists have been tut-tutting that the ‘moderate’ candidate decided to withdraw. Whatever will happen next?
But if Scozzafava is so ‘moderate’, why did her campaign implode among controversy? The answer is that she is what conservatives refer to as a RINO – Republican In Name Only. Her voting record in the New York legislature is more liberal than that of some Democrats. And she was nominated for the safe Republican district by a small circle of party insiders, a carve up guaranteed to stir up resentment in any freedom-loving institution.
Conservatives mobilized around the independent candidature of another Republican, Doug Hoffman, who was subsequently endorsed by former vice-presidential candidate Sarah Palin. Since her withdrawal, Scozzafava has backed the Democrat who had earlier criticized her for voting to increase taxes.
Aside from this tangled web, the big question is whether it is accurate to label Dede Scozzafava a ‘moderate’. Surely a political moderate is someone who wants to protect personal liberty and a political extremist is someone who wants to take it away. By this definition, it is liberals who are extreme because they want to expand the role of government in people’s lives. There is nothing extreme about preserving liberty. Ms. Scozzafava is a liberal, not a moderate.
So why does the ‘moderate’ label get attached to certain politicians? Is this a word game directed by media elites, who know that if they present us with an artificial choice between ‘extremists’ and ‘moderates’ we will instinctively repel the former and welcome the latter? Or is it simply used subliminally by journalists to persuade voters to support the candidate they believe is most suitable?
Franklin Delano Roosevelt claimed that liberals want freedom too, referring to freedom from want and freedom from fear. But as history has taught us over the past hundred years, government control doesn’t produce this type of freedom at all.
My liberal friends all consider themselves moderate. They would define a moderate as someone who is reasonable – capable of seeing alternative points of view and smart enough to favor engineering a world where we can all live together in peace and harmony. People just like them. The word ‘moderate’ has become interchangeable with ‘liberal’.
It is the same with partisanship, which has become a pejorative term. A ‘partisan’ in U.S. politics has come to mean someone who disagrees with liberals. When Barack Obama called for post-partisanship, he didn’t mean that he would forge a new consensus or be willing to compromise. He meant that he had the power to force through liberal policies, which are, in his view, smart solutions.
But if we revert to the traditional definitions of ‘moderate’ and ‘partisan’, it is difficult to see this President as anything other than a fervent liberal who has further polarized the political environment. Obama has attracted strong opposition among conservatives and independents with his determination to expand government. Witness the tea party rallies.
What made Dede Scozzafava’s candidacy so virtuous to liberal media elites, and her withdrawal so regrettable, is that she was a ‘Republican’ who pushed a liberal agenda. Nobody should be surprised that the liberal drive-by media has a record of talking up Republicans who vote with Democrats. Giving a high profile to the Scozzafavas and McCains makes the Republican Party look divided, shallow, partisan and extreme.
By contrast, the possibility that there might be liberal moderates is not acknowledged. They don’t seem to exist. All liberals are thought of as moderates by fellow liberals. When Joe Lieberman was ousted in 2006 from being the Democratic Party’s Senate candidate in Connecticut he wasn’t given the ‘moderate’ moniker. That would have made all other Democrats look extreme. Instead, Lieberman was portrayed as being out of touch with the pulse of the nation.
So when news anchors lament political partisanship and throw around terms like ‘moderate’ they are simply advancing a liberal narrative. In truth, the media itself plays a big role in dividing and polarizing political opinion because it is mostly aligned to the Democrat Party and does not reflect the values of large swathes of America.
Perhaps it is no bad thing that we are conditioned to revere political moderates. That is, so long as we know the difference between a moderate and a liberal.