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Lincoln Institute


Moving the Goal Posts

by Lowman S. Henry,
CEO, Lincoln Institute of Public Opinion Research
 

A football field is 100 yard long. That makes the 50-yard line the center of the field. Suppose we were to change the rules and make the football field 120 yards long. That would make the center of the field the 60-yard line. Despite changing the center, the 50-yard line is still 50 yards from the goal line even though it is now ten yards away from the middle of the field.

Simply put, we moved the goal posts.

That is what has happened to American politics. Policies and positions that at one time were considered moderate, are now denounced as extreme. This is because the field was not lengthened ten yards on each side; rather all 20 yards were added to the Left side of the field making formerly centrist positions seem further to the Right.

Conservatives who espouse low taxes, personal freedom and a strong national defense are now portrayed as the "radical Right," despite the fact such positions occupied the nation's mainstream for generations. The Democratic Party, establishment Republicans and a liberal dominated news media all view it in their best interests to claim the center is now the extreme.

But voters are not buying the argument.

The upset of this year's primary season was the defeat of U.S. House Majority Leader Eric Cantor in Virginia's 7th congressional district. It was the first time in history a sitting Republican majority leader lost his own party's primary. Many factors contributed to Cantor's defeat, but the fact is a TEA party conservative put together a message that resonated with voters and despite being massively outspent won the election.

Another incumbent is on the verge of being ousted in Mississippi where long-time U.S. Senator Thad Cochran has been forced into a run-off election by TEA party conservative Chris McDaniel who actually received more votes than Cochran in the first round of balloting. McDaniel has been ahead in polls leading up to the run-off election.

For his part, Cochran has laid waste to establishment claims that TEA party candidates must be defeated in primaries because they suffer from foot-in-mouth disease causing them to lose winnable general elections. At a recent campaign appearance Cochran claimed he grew up "doing all kinds of indecent things with animals." His claims of barnyard exploits proved candidates from all parts of the political spectrum can say stupid things.

Here in Penn's Woods even Democrats are not buying the progressive spin. In what one Left wing blog termed "the worst Primary night for PA progressives in recent memory," Democrats nominated a wealthy "one percenter" over more Leftist candidates for governor. Self-described liberal lion state Senator Daylin Leach finished third in a congressional primary in which the most centrist candidate on the ballot prevailed. Progressive rising, now fallen star State Representative Erin Molchany lost to an old-line Democrat and State Representative Margo Davidson, a pro-life Democrat defeated her progressive challenger.

The bottom line is this: although the progressive/mainstream Republican/news media echo chamber would have you believe conservative positions are now extreme voters in both parties are, at the ballot box, proving otherwise. Essentially, both political parties have become disconnected from their grassroots. Thus the political division in America today is more between those who govern and those who are governed than it is between Republicans and Democrats.

For Republicans this is an opportunity to appeal to Democrats turned-off by their party's ultra-progressive wing much as Ronald Reagan did in assembling a winning coalition back in the 1980s. The war establishment Republicans are waging against the GOP's TEA party base provides a division that can be exploited by Democrats.

With internal strife abundant in both parties, the one which does the best job of minimizing their internal divisions will prevail at the ballot box both in this November's race for Governor of Pennsylvania and in the 2016 Presidential campaign now getting underway.

(Lowman S. Henry is Chairman ~CEO of the Lincoln Institute and host of the weekly Lincoln Radio Journal. His e-mail address is lhenry@lincolninstitute.org.)

Permission to reprint is granted provided author and affiliation are cited.


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