The Triangulation Has Begun

“I hate to keep repeating myself, but to have the kind of relief the country needs, I think we change the government. Change the Senate, change the presidency.”

—Mitch McConnell, November 7, 2013

I recently wrote a piece on what I said will be the Republican establishment’s strategy to win general elections against Democrats: triangulation. They will try to make voters believe that they occupy the middle ground between those crazy teapartiers, who want to deconstruct the present government, and those nutty left-wingers, who want to construct an even bigger government.

Well, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell pulled the first arrow out of his triangulation quiver today, via Peggy Noonan’s Wall Street Journal column:

“The most important election yesterday wasn’t the governor of New Jersey and it wasn’t the governor of Virginia, it was the special election for Congress in South Alabama, where a candidate who said the shutdown was a great idea, the president was born in Kenya, and that he opposed Speaker Boehner came in second.” The victory of a more electable Republican, is significant, Mr. McConnell says. To govern, parties must win. To win, parties must “run candidates that don’t scare the general public, [and] convey the impression that we could actually be responsible for governing, you can trust us—we’re adults here, we’re grown-ups.”

McConnell, who is up for reelection in 2014, confidently says he is “gonna be the Republican nominee next year” in a race that would pit him against Kentucky’s Democratic secretary of state Alison Lundergan Grimes, who has been raising a lot of dough for the battle. In Noonan’s column, McConnell shrewdly went after the Senate Conservatives Fund, founded by former senator and unrepentant teapartier Jim DeMint, for spending a lot of money attacking Republicans like him and for doing so “in obvious coordination with Harry Reid’s super PAC.”

And McConnell has obviously figured that his primary campaign opponent, bidnessman Matt Bevin, who is supported by Tea Party groups like the Senate Conservatives Fund, is best dealt with by painting him and his supporters as irresponsible people who can’t win a general election because the public doesn’t trust them to be grown-ups and govern.

The National Republican Senatorial Committee has also stepped up the rhetoric against extremist groups like the Senate Conservatives Fund and the consulting firms that work with them. The New York Times recently reported:

“We’re not going to do business with people who profit off of attacking Republicans,” said Brad Dayspring, a spokesman for the committee. “Purity for profit is a disease that threatens the Republican Party.”

Feeling that threat from the anti-establishment extremists, the establishment extremists—who want all of the same things that their zealous Republican brothers want—are now fully arming themselves in an attempt to convince Americans that they are the middle-ground answer to the problem posed by people who don’t want to govern at all and people who want to govern too much.

My point in all this is that Democrats should not just sit back and enjoy the Republican Civil War, delightfully tempting as that is. We have to keep reminding people that even though Mitch McConnell and some other Republicans seem to have learned their lesson about courting and coddling the zealots in the Tea Party, the only difference between the establishment and the zealots is that the zealots are at least honest about what they want to do.

[Photo:Getty Images]



  1. Right, you are. I’ll believe the remarkably unpopular McConnell really wants to govern when he agrees to fight a duel with the other cracker Senator from Kentucky. If Mitch and Rand DO agree to duel, I’d be pleased to load their weapons with poison-dipped, hollow point, scatter shot. No reason to leave anything to chance —–


  2. ansonburlingame

     /  November 9, 2013

    I know that Duane disparages my comparisons to history. But so what as I believe there are still lessons to be learned from such study.

    In 1972 the anti-war movement was rampant and Nixon was a marginally popular President. He could have been picked off that year. But the anti-war left won the internal battled in the Democratic Party and look at the election results, in 1972.

    I submit the GOP is going through a very similar drill today, from the opposite direction. McConnel has all but said exactly that. The traditional GOP cannot be overwhelmed in primaries by the radical right. It came close to doing so in 2012 but fortunately a radical Tea Party candidate did not prevail. I put Santorum in that camp primarly because he catered to the religious right with no shame at all. But in the end a marginally popular President, Obama, prevailed against a GOP candidate that had been moved too far right by other LOUD elements in the GOP primaries.

    So here we are in 2014, almost, girding up for another round of left vs. right in National elections. I believe that history, again, shows that Americans ultimately try to stay rather “centered” over time in politics.

    Duane and most of the commenters herein claim their definition of “center”. They also claim that demographics has shifted the center decidedly to the left now. I on the other hand consider this blog far too far to the left, far from “center” in American politics. A majority of Americans will always ask for more from government. That builds a constituency on the left that gets big, when more is provided.

    But once the chickens come home to roost and Americans find out they must pay more money for all the things demanded, well watch out for the center to shift back right, a little bit, I hope.

    Today some 47% of Americans pay little or no federal income tax, the bulk of the revenue for the federal government. That number may well be getting bigger as well, if you are to believe Karl Rove, which I don’t so believe all the time. But I also believe “47%” is a good number to toss around and not hide from. Yet the only solution from most Democrats to even begin to relieve deficit pressure, debt pressure, is to tax the other half of Americans “only a little bit more”, just their “fair share”, right. OR they just ignore debt pressure and say we will “grow our way out of it”. And while we wait to really start to grow again, well we just print more money, about $85 Billion a month, because we NEED the money.

    Call me a doomsday sayer if you like. But I believe inflation and/or deflation is a big beast in a cage most of time but one always ready to leap out on the unwary. Print enought money, borrow enough money over time and that beast will be amongst us with vengence. We saw it wholesale in 1929 and got another taste of it in 2009. Does anyone else worry about just how big that beast can become when financial policies are feeding it in its cage all the time?

    As well, please recall that no matter what Kenyes said, most of it true, we only found the money to put the 1929 beast back in its cage by fighting a devasting world war. A conservative Republican forced taxes to remain high after that war to start to repay that debt. But once it got down to around 50% or so of GDP, well just see what happened then. And we continue to do so, not matter which party is in power, to increase debt, forever it seems today. Debt itself, until the Tea Party arose, was never a big deal, politically. The politics only argued over on what programs to spend all that money.

    Well when 47% pay little or any money and receive a big portion of it, well that is one problem. The other 10% however still get the bulk of the money as another problem.. Well that leaves 43% of Americans paying a lot of money and getting only a relatively small portion back.

    I wonder how long that will last and what the percentage spread of takers and payers will be when it all comes down around our heads? I also know full well that for now restive but not revolutionary 43% is what I now call the “middle” or “center” of politics. You can’t win an election without them, over time. And I am very much part of that “center” financially and politically. I suspect most of the commenters on this blog are there as well, at least financially.



  3. Nope. We’re living paycheck-to-paycheck, thanks to the real estate meltdown. We used to be in the middle class, but no more. We have been liberal since the 1960s. But I think your comments have helped all of us put a finger on the problem with the Republican Party — with conservatives like yourself: They assume that everybody’s political philosophy grows out of their financial position, because they assume we are all, at heart, greedy bastards who would throw poor people out of their houses or take food out of the mouths of starving children in order to keep their 401k’s afloat, or whatever. (You are basically Marxists, in other words.) Well, your position is just wrong, morally as well as statistically. There are plenty of middle class or higher progressives in this country, and we didn’t become the way we are by looking at our bank balances. We became this way by THINKING about stuff, not by clinging to our guns and our religion. There are lots of liberal millionaires, too. How do you explain that? You can’t, because you think that greed is good. Nothing is going to change. The United States is becoming less white, less Christian, and less conservative, and there’s not a damn thing conservatives can do about it, except live forever Good luck with that.


  4. John

     /  November 12, 2013

    The United States is the richest country in the world. The rich have continued to get richer while the middle class and poor get poorer. Is it the fault of the poor 47% that they are getting poorer? Or is possible to rethink poverty? I read a previous post about you mentoring an 18 year old African American. His father is a “loser” father perhaps? Or his father never got the mentoring that you are giving his son? There are no easy answers but blaming the least among us for their poverty or their addiction does not solve the issue. I don’t agree with your belief that the country will swing in the Tea Party direction. Something dramatic needs to happen for Republicans but I don’t see it happening. As someone born in another country, I love the United States and the constitution. The United States is the government in the world and the government is We The People. The GOP, from my perspective, are not for We The People. On the contrary, they seem to be for We The Rich and I don’t see much to challenge my view. As a Christian, a deep sadness of mine is that the Christian Right is for We The Rich and not for We The People who are quickly becoming We The Few Middle Class and We The Poor. Check this out:


  5. ansonburlingame

     /  November 13, 2013

    Well John, read a little closer if possible,

    First, I have no idea if the 18 year old of whom I wrote was African American or not. I never met him and never mentored him, either, I was simply told of his situation by a counselor in the high school, in an effort to show me what I might find as I began a mentoring program. Race for sure had nothing to do with the situation, as far as I could tell. But drugs and alcohol, at least on the part of the father, the only “parent” the 18 year old had, was certainly part of that problem! Recall his mother had sobered up but abandoned the kid, into the hands of a drunken father!! Now go figure out if giving the father more money will solve that particular problem???

    I have now begun to mentor some marginal kids. I will not reveal any specifics to protect the kids privacy as well. But as was the case when I substituted for 8 years in Missouri high and middle schools, well the real stories I could tell would curl your toes for sure. How for example should one mentor a freshman in high school that cannot or refuses to multiply one whole number by one simple fraction, correctly? Is that “just one kid” or is it a systemic issue of kids moving into high school without the “basics” to be able to perform at any level in high school? I don’t know, for sure.

    I also have no idea where you think I call for the Tea Party to take over America, politically. I only believe the initial premise of the Tea Party, to form a much smarter, effective and affordable federal government, one that focused on Constitutional powers ennunciated for that government was a good idea. That thrust has now been bastardized by many on the right of the political spectrum, just like the good ideas on the left have been bastardized by the likes of Obama, et all.

    If either side “takes over America, politically” well God help America in the future is my concern. In terms of moving America in the correct direction, Duane feels that Obama has not moved it far enough to the left. I of course disagree and say so, all the time herein.

    As for “guns” I call for most to be outlawed in the hands of private citizens. As for “religion” I have NONE, or hardly any. Characterize me all you like, but try to get it right as well.



    • Anonymous

       /  November 13, 2013

      My response was not intended mischaraterize you. My response was pushing back against the idea of less government and the simplistic solution of the Republican Party (the party led by Tea Party and right wing Christian folks). Anson, you alluded to the move back to the right which, I believe, will not happen unless the GOP changes. I think that it is terrific that you are mentoring and possibly mentoring a young person out of poverty especially if you stay in their lives as long as you live. The responsibility of poverty in tye a United States belongs to all citizens. We need to see the 47% not as mooches but as fellow citizens who need mentoring not money, as you say. Thanks for your response.


  6. ansonburlingame

     /  November 15, 2013

    Well, my aspirations are good, I suppose. But my chances of success, for just “one kid” are very limited as well. BUT, again, don’t get my focus wrong. I am doing NOTHING about the kid’s “poverty” and will do nothing.

    Instead I am trying to focus on the RIGOR in his approach to education. Does he study, at all. The answer is a loud NO. Does he even know what the subject will be in the next class he attends. The answer is a loud NO. Does he have any reference material to review, material that is available to him and he knows how to obtain it. The answer in a loud NO. Can he as a freshman in high school multiply a whole number and one simple fraction. The answer, he claims, is a loud NO. Please write down and multiply 2 x 1/2, “Charlie”. He refused to write it down (or could not do so?) but told me the answer was “3”!!!

    I could give that kid or his parents a Million dollars and all those answers would remain NO, at least until I “get through with him”, IF he sticks around long enough to learn what I am trying to teach him!!



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