Is There a Future for Moderates?


Image by Mike Brice from Pixabay

Much has been written and said – I’m looking at you, Bill Maher – in recent months about how the Democratic Party seems to have lost its way.

That it is elitist.

That it is condescending.

That it is out of touch with the real world, where real people live and breathe.

That it is urban-based, urban-driven, urban-obsessed. 

That it is no longer the party of the working man (or woman).

That it spends an insane amount of time discussing the merits of defunding cops, removing offensive statues, or pondering the burning issue of gender fluidity, all the while tearing apart the English language.

Who, for example, would have ever thought that the innocuous term “brown out” might offend, well, brown people?

Apparently, Seattle Fire Chief Harold Scoggins did when last month he banned those two words to describe unstaffed units, at least in firefighter parlance.

Did I just write “Chief” Harold Scoggins? Ooops! 

You see, the San Francisco Unified School District decided in May that it will no longer use the word “chief” in job titles because of concerns from Native Americans.

 . . .

See where I’m heading on this? Democrats, God love ‘em, have lost more than their way; they’ve lost their cotton-picking (so sorry for that!) minds.

All I know is that next time I hear someone going on about how they got caught hiking or driving in a “white out,” I’m going to get really, really mad.

Which brings me to an intriguing cover story earlier this month titled “The Vanishing Moderate Democrat,” which appeared in The New York Times Magazine.

The piece, written by Jason Zengerle, begins with a congressman named Josh Gottheimer – who represents a wealth slice of suburban and exurban New Jersey – meeting early in 2021 with Nancy Pelosi to discuss their party’s message.

So, Gottheimer, who was elected in 2016 after barely squeaking by a seven-term Republican incumbent, pulls up a YouTube app on his iPhone, and it is a video of an ad from Bill Clinton’s 1996 re-election campaign.

A little background information is in order now, you know, for context. This Gottheimer character is co-chairman of the Problem Solvers Caucus, a group of 29 Dems and 29 Reps that actually believe in bipartisanship. In any case, the group annoyed (then and now) the hell out of Pelosi and most progressives on Capitol Hill, who dismiss the Problem Solvers as nothing more than a bunch of grandstanders. (Jared Kushner, no doubt, would call them “whiners.”)

Of course, it doesn’t help that the caucus threatened to reject Pelosi’s bid for speaker if she didn’t cave to their demands for rule changes that would make it easier for bipartisan ideas to at least be considered. Pelosi agreed to their demands. The San Francisco Democrat had no other choice.

. . .

So, back to the video. Gottheimer hits the button on his phone, and his screen comes alive with images of waving American flags, and then good old Bill is saying, “I am honored to have been given the opportunity to stand up for the values and the interests of ordinary Americans.”

Then, over images of construction workers, kids and cops, bold captions are unfurled of Clinton’s first-term accomplishments: “WELFARE REFORM, WORK REQUIREMENTS”; “TAXES CUT FOR 15,000,000 FAMILIES”; “DEATH PENALTY FOR DRUG KINGPINS.” 

The ad goes on to tick off Clinton’s goals for a second term: “BAN ‘COP-KILLER BULLETS”; “CAPITAL GAINS TAX CUT FOR HOMEOWNERS”; “BALANCE THE BUDGET FOR A GROWING ECONOMY.”

When the ad is over,” writes Zengerle, “Gottheimer says, he looked at Pelosi. ‘This is how we won,’ he told her, ‘And this how we win again.’”

Zengerle goes on:

“I asked him what Pelosi’s reaction was when he played it for her. Gotthheimer demurred. But the answer seemed obvious. The message that Pelosi and the Senate majority leader Chuck Schumer and President Joe Biden and the rest of the Democratic leadership had chosen for their party, the message that Democrats would be carrying into the 2022 midterm elections, was not the one that Gottheimer, and the disembodied voice of Bill Clinton, has counseled.”

In case you’ve forgotten, Clinton trounced Bob Dole in the 1996 election winning 49 percent of the vote to 41 percent for Dole. Clinton captured 379 electoral votes, to Dole’s 159.

Hail to the Chief.

Ellis Conklin
Ellis Conklin
Ellis Conklin spent decades as newspaper man, mainly in Los Angeles, Seattle and St. Louis, having worked at the Los Angeles Herald Examiner, United Press International as a national feature writer, and the Seattle Post-Intelligencer. At long last, he and his wife settled in Manzanita, Oregon. Here, Ellis continues to root for his beloved San Francisco Giants.


  1. Enjoyed the read.
    It will be a happy day when we are governed by “Problem Solvers” instead of Political Party Speak.

  2. I didn’t know that there WAS a Problem Solvers Caucus – let alone that the Caucus threatened to reject Pelosi’s bid for speaker if she didn’t cave to their demands for rule changes that would make it easier for bipartisan ideas to be considered. Thanks for writing this article. Why is only one member of the Caucus from Washington?

    I just searched the Caucus website, using “abortion” as my keyword search criteria. There’s no evidence that the Caucus plans to draft legislation to clarify abortion policy (and other civil liberties) at the federal level.

    Do they plan to weigh in on this “hot button” issue?

  3. Wow. When it comes to writing about politics, Ellis, you are El Jefe! Thanks for the fun, insightful read. Now get back to writing about sports and how our M’s will meet your Giants in the Binational Series.

  4. There seems to be a diminishing future for moderates of either party. Do we need a Moderates Party? Just asking …

  5. The pendalum swings.
    Read the article and agree that we moderates have lost our home in the Democrat party. JFK, RFK, HHH, are yesterday’s news, and so am I.
    Frustrating that Biden ran as a moderate and tried to govern as a far left progressive. Still can’t believe it. He shouldn’t run again but who else? I would prefer a moderate but the bench is very thin and could not get the nomination.
    And so it goes.

  6. The dems have lost their way, not because we can’t use racial slurs anymore (BIG FUN! Insulting entire cultures and denying their humanity is an excellent hobby!), but because the dems completely fail to do things like protect abortion rights, fight corporate greed, reform glaring, fundamental problems with our constitution and the way this country runs, etc.

    Today’s moderates are conservatives, and they should be because the conservatives we have now are full on fascists. I’d love for a conservative to be someone who I just disagree with, rather than someone trying to enrich themselves by hurting me and the ones I love as much as humanly possible, but the fascists are far more politically savvy, and they’re REALLY good at shifting the Overton window. Fear sells better than the attempt to make things better for the same reason we tend to remember bad things more easily than good things:

    The dems aren’t just failing moderates, they’re failing the left wing as well. The reason they get votes is because of the electoral college, and our two-party, first past the post electoral system. This incentivizes the dems to be just a little bit less bad than the other guys, but not to actually be good.

    When the other side actively tries to overthrow democracy, that means the dems can be completely useless, as long as they’re not actively subverting the rule of law. You have to vote for them at that point, because what other choice do you have? Jill Stein lost the election for Hillary Clinton, Ross Perot lost it for Bush the first. Third party candidates are spoilers, not choices. Basically, we aren’t going to get anything better than Biden and Pelosi because our country isn’t set up to give us better outcomes than that.


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