The Death of Moderation


In 2011 I went back to Oxford to my old college, St. Anne’s.  In 1983 studying  Stuart and Elizabethan history and literature I reconnected with my mother’s side of the family in Somerset and my own British heritage.  All of my views on the complexity of the world, America’s proper role in it, and of the variations in successful human cultures were formed in Europe that summer.

aunt edie's house0006

Showing Val  my old haunts in the ancient city was a hilarious mix of pub crawling and sightseeing. But it was also an odd experience.  It was not the 30th reunion of my class, but the 30th reunion of the program.  None of my friends and classmates from 1983 came back to Oxford.  It is an odd reunion when by design you know no one.


It led to some unanticipated encounters.  We  met for an afternoon a young woman recently fired from the Democratic leadership staff in the US House of Representatives.  It was the summer of 2011 and the effects of the 2010 election transferring the House of Representatives to Republican control were in full swing.

She was searching for a job elsewhere in government or even “God forbid” in the private sector.  As we toured the ancient city walls and the older colleges with their spectacular rooms, stain glass, and oddities bitterness  poured out of her. When she found out I was a Democrat she was  giddy in her glee to make fun of Republicans with a fellow Progressive.

Gleeful until I mentioned I was a Blue Dog.  The kind of Democrat willing to vote for Ronald Reagan, who thought President Clinton’s remark that the “era of big government was over” had transformed the party, and generally believed the 2010 election was a wholly predictable  response to Progressive overreach.

She turned with her hands on her hip and said to me, “Yeah, you people did really well in the election.  You are the kind of person who cost me my job.”  With a contemptuous bounce of the head she turned back to St Annes and never spoke to either of us again.

Let me be clear that I believe in almost the entire Progressive social agenda.  I believe in equal rights for everyone, including gay marriage, and that discrimination remains a persistent if diminished problem.  I believe in women having the fullest possible control of their bodies without any interference from the government.  I believe in public education including public university systems, but with a healthy skepticism of teachers unions.  You name the traditional progressive social cause and I support it in some form.

But I also believe in personal gun ownership, the lowest possible taxes, capitalism, domestic energy production, that punishing outstanding corporations and executives for the sins of others is stupid,  that we must have a constant focus on the dangers of dependency in social welfare programs, and an overpowering national defense. I also retain  a stubborn belief that for Colorado our state legislature in Denver can solve most problems much better than the Congress or the US Supreme Court.  Working with Republicans on economic issues is usually a question of timing.  I too want to cut spending, reform entitlements, and pay down the debt, just not until we have full employment.

The national press has written a lot about the Tea Party’s derisive attacks on RINOs (Republicans in Name Only).   But the untold story is the DINOs.  There is no one in the Progressive dominated Democratic leadership with the skills or inclination to cut deals with Republicans.

President Obama on issue after issue (budgets, taxes, immigration, etc) begins negotiations announcing the final unnegotiated deal and ridiculing any amendments or alternatives.  That simply does not work in a democracy and it is not producing  Clinton or Reagan style economic growth.

The negative effect of the Tea Party on Republican chances of governing are obvious.  Making your tent narrower is a stupid policy.  But the avalanche of big government makes it impossible for moderate Democrats to win Republican leaning districts or states.

The party that opens its tent back up first is going to win the next few years of elections.





  1. John, Thank you so much for this column. Being a libertarian leaning conservative I have felt lost after the 2012 election. The Democrats took power with Obama by moving sharply left towards democratic socialism. What do the Republicans do? There really aren’t that many voters further right. After all, the Tea Party focuses more on limited government. This could mean gun rights and less taxes, but it can also mean legalized marijuana and gay marriage. Your column has enlightened me to accept that the road to Republican power is for the GOP to accept that the country has moved left and to pick up traditional, fiscally responsible, Democrats who are now too far right for their own party. I think you articulate a great platform for the new GOP. Emphasis on personal liberty, privacy and freedom from government persecution. Need for a social safety net, but along with an acceptance that responsible government demands that it is fiscally sustainable. Taxes, yes but reasonable and responsible regulation and protection for litigatory abuses. Emphasis on giving small businesses a chance and the fundamental understanding that capitalism is necessary to pay for it all.

    • Thxs for taking the time to read and respond. I think the irony is it is the same way back for Democrats – move back to the clinton/Reagan compromise on economics. Instead we’re talking about 1960s income redistribution and corporate cronyism.

  2. Too bad people have to label each other as Republican or Democrat, Conservative or Liberal. I agree with your position almost word-for-word, but am a loss to identify the right label. My conservative friends think I’m a liberal, my liberal friends think I’m far right of center. I prefer to identify as an independent – as in having the intelligence and courage to think through each issue on its merits.

    • I think it’s important now to at a grass roots level (state legis & congressmen) to write emails and show up at community events and push them back to the middle.


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