I’m not prepared to argue with the main thesis of Alicia Mundy’s piece in the Seattle Times today, which posits that the US Senate Republican caucus is moving even further to the right in the wake of Sen. Trent Lott’s retirement.
This year, when Senate Republicans dropped into the minority, Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., Lott and their caucus began losing control to four conservative members with clout among several large and vocal interest groups — John Kyl of Arizona, Tom Coburn of Oklahoma, Jim DeMint of South Carolina and John Cornyn of Texas.
[…] Coburn, for instance, has held up many bills that involve earmarks and new spending. One, worth about $7 million over the next few years, would increase regulations on pool makers because of accidental deaths of children attributed to pool drains.
Kyl and his allies also strongly oppose issues related to birth control and stem-cell research, infuriating Murray.
On Thursday, Kyl was elected to take Lott’s place in January, as the new No. 2, the enforcer. He told Roll Call that he “can’t be a patsy.”
Are Kyl, Coburn, DeMint and Cornyn really further to the right of Lott, who infamously claimed that “we wouldn’t have had all these problems over all these years,” had Strom Thurmond been elected president in 1948, running on a segregationist platform? Well, maybe, and Mundy certainly deserves credit for raising the question. But her closer… oy:
That leads to the question: How does a legislative caucus function with an ideologically driven group in the driver’s seat?
Democrats have grappled with that themselves.
Really? The Democratic caucus has grappled with an ideologically driven group in the driver’s seat? And when exactly was that? Surely Mundy’s not implying that Sen. Harry Reid operates as a liberal ideologue, or that the House Democratic caucus under the leadership of Nancy Pelosi, Steny Hoyer, and Rahm Emmanuel has in any way pandered to the liberal extreme of the party?
Of course, I guess centrism can be as much an ideology as the radical neo/theo conservatism that drives the likes of Kyl and Coburn, but it is this kind of media obsession with equivalency that ends up distorting the political debate, and driving our policies ever further toward the right. If “Democrats have grappled with” the same sort of “ideologically driven group,” readers might logically conclude then that Democrats must be as ideologically extreme. It is in this way that Mundy’s lazy attempt at balance achieves the opposite, branding by inference Reid and Pelosi’s relatively centrist agenda as equally “ideological”.
The fact is, Kyl and Coburn are extremists who don’t represent the mainstream of American political thought, whereas polls show that the majority of voters consistently align with Democrats on the majority of issues. To imply equivalency only serves to enable this right-wing fringe.