The role of Republicans is now filled by moderate Democrats

Sen. Joe Manchin, masked but certainly not muzzled these days.

Sen. Joe Manchin, masked but certainly not muzzled these days./from his Twitter feed.

By “role” I mean “constructive role” or “traditional role.” The proper role of a loyal opposition, one that’s dedicated to contributing a point of view on the way to actually getting things done.

Which of course stands in sharp contrast to the embarrassing behavior we’ve seen exhibited in recent years by the loud, ranting, mentally dysfunctional remnants of the Trump-worshiping former GOP.

I noticed this frequently during the debate over the latest COVID relief bill. While people who wear the label of “Republican” sat on the sidelines making a shameful exhibition of themselves, moderate Democrats have steadily reshaped the bill, often in ways that normal, sane Republicans would have done back in the day.

I’ve seen and read about this in several places in recent days, as moderate Democrats kept the $15 minimum wage out of the bill and insisted upon other changes along the way. But nowhere did I see it sketched out as clearly as in an editorial in The Wall Street Journal today:

Of the Democrats who voted “no,” some no doubt agree with Bernie on the substance and merely didn’t want to steamroll Senate precedent.

But you might be surprised. “I have backed a $15 minimum wage on the federal level for years,” said Delaware’s Tom Carper. “At a time when our economy is still slowly recovering, though, policymakers have a responsibility to be especially mindful of the fragile state of small businesses all across this country.” Wow, that almost sounds like what Mr. Sanders might call Republican talking points….

Yep. That’s what I’m on about.

Maybe we could take these people — Joe Manchin and the others — and persuade some of the few, pitifully few nominal Republicans who still on rare occasion act like normal, thinking human beings (Mitt Romney, etc.) to join them. Get enough of them (a tall order), and then everyone could ignore the Trumpists, and we’d be back to the two-party system we once were used to — consisting of serious people with different viewpoints, constructively dealing with each other to shape legislation.

But of course, we’re nowhere near having a critical mass of them. Anyway, I’d hate to strip the Democrats of moderation that way. Do that, and the AOCs might actually start wielding the kind of influence among Democrats that the Trumpists like to pretend they do.

So for now, I’m sort of resigned to letting the bipartisanship go on between different kinds of Democrats. It’s not perfect. It would be nice for the Republicans to snap out of it and fill the position again themselves. But that’s not going to happen for awhile. The Götterdämmerung of the GOP is evidently going to be long, drawn-out, messy and painfully embarrassing to watch…

Like Götterdämmerung, but without all the Wagner.

Like Götterdämmerung, but without all the Wagner.

21 thoughts on “The role of Republicans is now filled by moderate Democrats

  1. Brad Warthen Post author

    I saw something a couple of weeks ago about Manchin now being the most powerful member of the Senate.

    He kind of is, with Democrats needing every single Democratic vote to get anything done….

    1. Leon

      Yet Manchin still went along with the rest of the Democrats and voted for an almost two TRILLION dollar bill that will saddle our children and particularly our grandchildren with more debt. However, I don’t know why that would surprise me in the least. Very few politicians of either party seem the least bit concerned about the financial burden they are leaving for future generations.

      1. Barry

        debt smedt.


        been hearing that for 40 years how the kids are going to have to pay – hasn’t happened yet. some of these kids are grandparents now still waiting on the bill that will never come.

        1. Leon

          Well, I am the kind of guy who pays off his credit card bill in full each month. Our nation is paying only the interest on a huge debt and adding to that debt without fail.

          1. Barry

            I respect that but person debt and government debt are not the same thing.

            Life is too short to worry about how much debt the government has rung up.

            I listened to a guy like Limbaugh whine about it for a decade in the 90s- only to eventually just quit talking about it because it didn’t matter anymore since Republicans embraced it as much as anyone else.

            My favorite was “budget hawk” Mick Mulvaney (who was personally in debt up to the top of his forehead) not giving a rip about the debt or deficit when he was in the White House.

            anyone is free to worry about it, but they are wasting time, and aren’t accomplishing anything because no one in power cares- and those that say they care don’t do jack about it when they are in power.

            So I quit even thinking about it years ago.

      2. bud

        Yep, heard about debt and inflation for decades. Never has materialized. Having said that we should be fiscally responsible. But guess which party has been more fiscally responsive? It ain’t the GOP. Debt soared under Dubya and Trump (pre-COVID).

      3. Brad Warthen Post author

        Absolutely. Republicans only discovered fiscal restraint, for the first time in years, when Joe Biden was sworn in. (which means I don’t respect their objections at all.) And remember, this bill is cheaper than the first one last year.

        Not to say I’m not concerned. I’ve hated watching the debt rise so dramatically in recent years. Which is what you get when you combine tax cuts with unrestrained spending.

        I am somewhat reassured by all the economists who say this is less harmful than NOT passing the stimulus. But not entirely.

        Also, I note that markets are encouraged as well. That doesn’t quite dispel the uneasiness, though. I don’t regard markets as rational…

  2. randle

    Also some of the never-Trumpers over at The Bulwark are offering their services as moderating voices in the Democratic Party. You’re probably familiar with most of the writers, and maybe you read their stuff. I’m also interested in seeing sanity and decency replace “the magic” of Trumpism, and like what I read there. Republicans are much better at messaging and not shooting themselves in the foot, things Democrats need to work on pronto. Not saying Democrats or Biden should drop their progressive agenda, but these guys are worth listening to.

    1. Brad Warthen Post author

      I will definitely read those with interest.

      As y’all know, and to the everlasting irritation of some of you, from the very start of all this madness back in 2016, the Never-Trumpers have spoken more clearly to me than voices from any other quarter.

      It takes a conservative to articulate exactly what is wrong with Trumpism, in terms that no rational person can deny. So over the last four years or so, I have more and more enjoyed Kristol — author of two of the articles you link — and Bret Stephens, David Brooks, David Frum, that lot.

      Of course, I also frequently connect with liberals, in the traditional sense of the term — liberalism of the sort with which Joe Biden is fully comfortable.

      The “woke” folks, not so much…

      1. Randle

        I started paying attention when Kristol, Tim Miller and Charlie Sykes became regulars on MSNBC. As you say, they know whereof they speak, from the inside out. Interesting to watch them discuss things with liberal commentators. Right now at least, the goodwill and shared understanding of what’s at stake is heartening. It’s like we’re on the right track.

        1. Doug Ross

          Anyone who can’t see the Bill Kristol, one of the slimiest human beings in the history of journalism, is just playing with Democrats for his own personal gain is sadly beyond hope. He’s an even sleazier Lindsey Graham. He’s the epitome of the Harvard snob, an unctuous, effete, egghead who stood on the sidelines cheerleading for the phony Iraq “war”. Now that his shtick had been brushed aside during the Trump era he figured out (like the conmen from the Lincoln Project) that his best way to maintain ANY relevance was to become a Never Trumper. Trust me, he’ll flip on Democrats the MOMENT a real Republican war monger gets back in power. So many of you are easily duped by these guys.

          [don’t bother replying, I don’t read replies…]

          1. Barry

            Love Bill Kristol’s commentary on Trump. Well done.

            I also liked when his son in law finally called out Trump.

          2. Brad Warthen Post author

            Randle, I get the feeling that Doug doesn’t especially like Bill Kristol. 🙂

            It might not be obvious to all of you, but I’ve been familiar with Doug’s ways of expressing himself for many years now, so I can pick up on subtle clues…

            1. Randle

              Your acute analytical ability was honed during your years as a journalist, no doubt. You did back the right guy and remained steadfast.

              Doug is like a little ray of sunshine, beaming in, spreading warmth and then moving on.

              Today, Michael Moore delivered one of the most unequivocal and enthusiastic endorsements of President Biden I have heard, speaking of different factions coming together. He was a major pearl-clutcher during the campaign. I believe Moore is also considered to be one of the slimiest human beings in the world by some. Or just unkempt.

              If this era of good feeling continues, I may become giddy.

          3. Bill

            It just seems like;since your fling w/Tulsi you’ve become hardcore
            like you were once a sensitive male or something but have since lost touch

  3. Pingback: Are Moderate Democrats the New Republicans?

    1. Brad Warthen Post author

      Just read it. She’s absolutely right about the problem:

      Imagine you’re a member of Congress. In front of you sits a bipartisan bill on an important national issue. You inspect the fundamentals and weigh them against the objective needs of your constituents and the country at large, right?
      Wrong. Instead, you likely ask yourself: Could I lose my next party primary if I vote for this cross-party effort? The answer, for Democrats and Republicans alike, is often yes. Party primaries create a proverbial “eye of the needle” through which few problem-solving politicians can pass…

      I don’t know whether her specific prescription for the ailment is exactly the right one, but it sounds good enough that I’m ready to give it a try.

      And then when we fix the primaries themselves, we move on to address the thing that made them this way: gerrymandering…

      1. Brad Warthen Post author

        By the way, Bud’s going to HATE the way she worded that, since she doesn’t let Democrats off the hook — what Bud calls “false equivalence.”

        Is the problem worse among Republicans? You bet. You know why? Because they’ve been better at getting their way on gerrymandering. Consequently, they’ve put themselves in a horrible box that’s pretty much destroyed their party.

        And if you live here in South Carolina, it’s kind of hard to imagine, because we don’t see it. But this is just as destructive a force to Democrats, in the places where they have the redistricting power.

        But yeah, the immediate disaster before us is the utter insanity of the Republicans, because the disease is so advanced on that side…

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