The freshman Democrat Joe Donnelly from Indiana tells Nancy Pelosi that she better stay in the moderate muddle-middle or the Democrats will be out in two years. Out, damned spot, out!:
If Pelosi ``goes too far one way or another, we're not coming back,'' Donnelly says. He sees his party's victory in the November elections as less an endorsement of its agenda than a rejection of Republican rule: ``People just got real tired of this bunch, and they fired them.''
Donnelly's view reflects those of many of the 30 House Democrats elected in districts previously held by Republicans. Their fragile hold on their seats means they'll be pushing their new speaker, who represents heavily Democratic San Francisco, to limit confrontations with President George W. Bush and the Republicans over taxes, the war in Iraq, stem-cell research and abortion.
The muddy middle as the safe place to politick from has three possible problems for me:
First, it's not unthinkable that very few people actually inhabit this interesting swampland (see the reference to the new Time blog?). Sometimes a middle is empty, in the sense that it's quite hard to see what the moderate position might be between those who don't want any stem-cell research at all and those who do want it. An itsy-bitsy amount of such research? See the difficulty here?
Second, where the middle is depends largely on where we perceive the extremes to be and the wingnuts have been very successful in pulling the political dimension further and further to the right so that now a fairly moderate liberal is labeled as a communist or a fascist, and the likes of Glenn Beck are given this description in the mainstream media:
"Glenn is a leading cultural commentator with a distinct voice," said Jim Murphy, senior executive producer of "Good Morning America." "At times, he is the perfect guest for many of the talk topics we cover on morning news programs."
And what does this "leading cultural commentator" say on various topics? A few examples:
# Beck referred to "those who were left in New Orleans [during Hurricane Katrina], or who decided to stay" as "scumbags."
# Beck called antiwar activist Cindy Sheehan "a pretty big prostitute." He later described her as a "tragedy pimp."
# During a discussion of the "politically correct world we live in," claimed that Braille on walls (used to identify rooms for blind people) "drives me out of my mind." He then said, "Just to piss them [blind people] off, I'm going to put in Braille on the coffee pot ... 'Pot is hot.' "
Third, the drive towards the middle is almost completely directed at those who are viewed as being of the left persuasion. I see no deep introspective thinking among the wingnuts about the need to move towards the center. They're not budging, unless it is to move further towards Attila the Hundom.