Remember a Time When It Was OK to be a Political Moderate?

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By Ellis Conklin

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 wealthy 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. And 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.