Is A New Moderate Majority About To Emerge?

Bruce Bartlett seems to think so. Obama’s fiscal cliff deal may have broken the hardline stance the GOP has taken on since the beginning  of his presidency. It seems the logic of the Republicans who voted for the fiscal cliff deal might be, “They are going to attempt to replace me in the primaries anyway. I might as well run as a bipartisan politician, able to reach across the isle, instead of an ideological warrior.”

When Republican hopes were dashed last November, at least some of the more senior Republicans in Congress became receptive to working with Democrats once again. The fiscal cliff forced their hand. Rather than allow automatic tax increases and spending cuts to potentially tank the economy, Republicans and Democrats in the Senate negotiated a bipartisan deal with Vice President Joe Biden. They sent it to the House and promptly left town.

House Republicans had refused to participate in the negotiations because of philosophical opposition to higher taxes. But their hand was forced and at the last possible minute, House Speaker John Boehner brought the Senate bill up for a vote. Eighty-five Republicans joined 172 Democrats to pass the bill. The vast majority of Republicans, 151 in all, opposed the legislation along with 16 Democrats.

The question now is whether these same Republicans may be willing to break with the rest of their party again to support an increase in the debt limit, complete the fiscal year 2013 appropriations bills, and find a replacement for the $1.2 trillion sequester that was only delayed by the fiscal cliff deal. All three of these issues will likely be folded into one measure that must be acted upon by mid-February.

If we see another vote like the one on the fiscal cliff, with a third of House Republicans willing to vote with Democrats, it will be an event of potentially far-reaching importance. It may herald the creation of a moderate majority that would be the 21st century counterpart to the old conservative coalition.

Lets see what happens.

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9 Responses to Is A New Moderate Majority About To Emerge?

  1. I’m also quite pessimistic for a few reasons. The entrenchment of our arbitrary two-party system works against the coalescing of third-party movements. As a result, any working coalitions – like the one which passed the fiscal cliff deal – are always issue-specific and transitory. Furthermore, the gerrymandering which occurred after the Tea Party success of 2010 pretty much guarantees GOP control of the House of Representatives for another decade. The only possibility that could upset this situation is the dissolution of the GOP (à la 19th century Whigs) and the formation of a new party comprised of Republican, Independent, and Democratic moderates. However, the chances for that scenario are nil. The political climate is just too polarized now. With the American South moving ever further into the realm of right-wing extremism, the counter-reaction from the rest of the nation is not likely to be moderate.

  2. A single data point doesn’t make a trend. My boss always tells me this and it is very true. Any one data point can’t show you a change in trends. It might be changing or it might not but we can’t tell if there is a trend until we get some more data points.

    Personally, I think it would be great if a moderate part formed. I have thought for a long time we need a 3rd party and I have been hoping the republican party would fracture under the stress of the tea party conservatives. But I seriously doubt anything is going to change. Consider what happened to the GOP house members who didn’t vote for Boehner as speaker of the house. They lost their committee appointments effectively removing that from decision making in those areas. Then consider that the RNC may not support any congressional member that breaks ranks and in fact they may support a challenger to their seat. The GOP will do everything in its power to keep congressional members inline. So I doubt anything major will happen.

    • I totally agree that its wishful thinking right now. Politically though, there is opportunity because so many Republicans broke on the fiscal cliff and voted for the tax increase. The next two years (before the next elections) could be very interesting indeed.

      Thanks so much for your comment!

  3. I should point out that I hope a more moderate and cooperative Congress comes forth.

  4. I don’t it happens.

    The only think bipartisan about that deal was that it included Democrats and Republicans voting for a bill that was completely in favor of Democratic principals. It offered no spending cuts even though the president had proposed 400 million (or billion (I forget at this point)) in spending cuts.

  5. Barneysday says:

    Don’t bet your lunch money on it!

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