House Conservatives Threaten Fiscal Cliff Compromise

For the benefit of readers who were too busy with New Year’s Eve parties and today’s football bowl games, the Senate passed a measure to attempt to avoid the fiscal cliff after the House was unable to. The bill was a compromise which had measures which both liberals and conservatives were unhappy with (which would be expected considering how far apart the two parties are). As I predicted, and to nobody’s surprise, this is coming down to the last minute. Despite passing the Senate by 89 to 8, the bill’s fate in the House remains unclear.

The reason that the two Houses of Congress are responding so differently is that Senators face state wide races while most House members are gerrymandered into safe districts. Most House Republicans are safe from challenges by Democratic opponents, but many are at a real risk of primary challenges from Tea Party members who oppose the compromises necessary for good government in their rabid  opposition to the American system of democratic government. Senate Republicans are more likely to fear a nation-wide backlash against Republicans for allowing the country to go over the fiscal cliff.

John Boehner is losing what little control he had over the House Republicans. If he maintains his position as Speaker it will only because nobody else wants to be in his position. Eric Cantor has joined the conservative rebellion, with House conservatives now discussing passing the bill with amendments calling for spending cuts and returning it to the Senate. Senate Democrats say this would kill the bill.

If the House conservatives fail to get enough votes to accomplish this, there is still the possibility that Boehner would allow the full House to vote on the bill, where it might pass with votes from Democrats and enough Republicans to give it a majority. This has Boehner is a lose-lose situation. If he allows the bill to pass without the support of a majority of Republicans he weakens himself in his own party. If the bill does not pass the House, the Republicans will take the blame for the country going over the fiscal cliff.

Update: It appears that there are not enough votes to amend the bill (which would probably kill it) and there are reports that there will be a vote on the Senate bill tonight.

Update II: The House voted to approve the bill 257-167.

Republican Priorities

Obama summed up the main priority of the Republicans on Meet the Press today:

I offered not only a trillion dollars in– over a trillion dollars in spending cuts over the next 10 years, but these changes would result in even more savings in the next 10 years. And would solve our deficit problem for a decade. They say that their biggest priority is making sure that we deal with the deficit in a serious way, but the way they’re behaving is that their only priority is making sure that tax breaks for the wealthiest Americans are protected. That seems to be their only overriding, unifying theme.

Turns out they have a second priority, cutting Social Security benefits:

Negotiations to reach a last-ditch agreement to head off large tax increases and sweeping spending cuts in the new year broke down, at least temporarily, on Sunday after Republicans requested that a deal include a new way of calculating inflation that would lower payments to beneficiaries programs like Social Security and slow their growth.

Disagreement over Social Security is being called a major setback in the fiscal cliff negotiations today.

Update: Republicans appear to have taken Social Security cuts off the table for now. While they might not demand these cuts as part of the fiscal cliff negotiations they do plan to bring this up again in 2013.

A Conservative Wish For A New GOP

As I last pointed out a couple days ago, this is not a good time for serious conservatives. Despite constantly repeating his name in speeches, the Republican Party has become so extreme, and so unwilling to engage in the type of negotiations and compromises necessary for government, that there would be no place for Ronald Reagan in the party today. In that post I quoted Andrew Sullivan. Many other conservatives, such as Bruce Bartlett, have the same complaints. Moderate political scientists such as Thomas Mann and Norman Ornstein have discussed the problems to the nation caused by the extremism of the current leaders of the Republican Party. Today Mark McKinnon writes that all he wants for Christmas is a New GOP:

What I want for Christmas is a new Republican Party. Or I’ll take the old Republican Party of Ronald Reagan, George H. W. Bush, or George W. Bush. What I don’t want is the Republican Party we have today. As former George W. Bush and John McCain adviser Nicolle Wallace said, “I’m just tired of the Republican Party being the Stupid Party.”

All sanity seems to have left the ranks of those in charge of the GOP—or, more accurately, those who want to be in charge. Rep. Tim Huelskamp (R-Kan.) demonstrated in a jaw-dropping performance Thursday on Morning Joethe depth of the problem and why we are bound to go over the fiscal cliff. He made it clear he won’t vote for a tax increase on anyone, no matter how much they make. So, by his logic, we will end up going over the cliff, and raise taxes on everybody, because he and too many others like him in the party are unwilling to raise taxes on anyone. This intransigence will also make a core Republican tenet of broader tax reform more difficult to pursue because the new Congress will then be fixated on smaller bore issues like fixing the rates.

But there’s more. Huelskamp’s response to the Newtown tragedy? No need to change any gun laws. (Not even better enforcement of the laws we have?) And those who suggest any changes are simply “politicizing” the situation to fit their political agenda. Was George W. Bush “politicizing” 9/11 when he created the Department of Homeland Security? If so, then by all means shouldn’t we “politicize” in the wake of a national tragedy?

Other Republican elected officials said they wanted to wait to see what the National Rifle Association had to say. On Friday, Wayne LaPierre delivered. No new gun laws, but how about an armed guard in every school, because “the only answer to a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun.” Then LaPierre went on to blame every other facet of our culture for the problem. Now, I don’t disagree that much goes into the cultural equation causing violence, and much needs to be considered to address the root causes, like mental health and violent media. But in 2008, the U.S. reportedly recorded 11,000 gun-related deaths, and Japan recorded 11—and I believe the Japanese play video games. So maybe we should at least include guns in the discussion.

Now, I don’t think more security in our schools is necessarily a bad idea. But it begs the question of funding and federalizing local control of schools, two concepts deeply out of vogue with Republican orthodoxy. And reality.

But here’s the deeper point and the bigger problem for the GOP. Increasingly, it is becoming clear that the party is against everything and for nothing.

Nothing on taxes. Nothing on gun control. Nothing on climate change. Nothing on gay marriage. Nothing on immigration reform (or an incremental, piece-by-piece approach, which will result in nothing). It’s a very odd situation when the losing party is the party refusing to negotiate. It may be how you disrupt, but it is not how you govern, or how you ever hope to regain a majority.

And so, we have a Republican Party today willing to eliminate any prospect for a decent future for anyone, including itself, if it cannot be a future that is 100 percent in accordance with its core beliefs and principles. That’s not governing. That’s just lobbing hand grenades. If you’re only standing on principle to appear taller, then you appear smaller. And the GOP is shrinking daily before our eyes.

Ronald Reagan was long thought to be the most conservative of Republicans. And by any standard today he is the most popular Republican in modern history. Yet he raised taxes 11 times, supported a ban on assault rifles and the Brady Bill, which mandated background checks, and established amnesty for 3 million undocumented workers.

No one questioned Reagan’s principles or values. But he was seen as great because he had the ability to maintain his principles while adapting, evolving, and negotiating as the world around him changed. When I raise these issues, many of my Republican friends respond, “We will not become a stronger Republican Party by acting more like the Democratic Party.” And I say, “No, we become a stronger Republican Party by acting like reasonable human beings who acknowledge reality.”

The world is still changing. Faster than ever. And so should the Republican Party. Or condemn itself to a smaller and smaller base of core supporters and permanent minority status.

Tax Rates Lower Under Obama Than Reagan

Many on the right act as if the Reagan years were a golden age of small government and low taxes while Barack Obama has brought us socialism and high taxes. Of course these are the same people who are certain Obama raised their taxes when he actually lowered them. Taxes are lower under Obama than under Ronald Reagan:

But in fact, most Americans in 2010 paid far less in total taxes — federal, state and local — than they would have paid 30 years ago. According to an analysis by The New York Times, the combination of all income taxes, sales taxes and property taxes took a smaller share of their income than it took from households with the same inflation-adjusted income in 1980.

Households earning more than $200,000 benefited from the largest percentage declines in total taxation as a share of income. Middle-income households benefited, too. More than 85 percent of households with earnings above $25,000 paid less in total taxes than comparable households in 1980.

Lower-income households, however, saved little or nothing. Many pay no federal income taxes, but they do pay a range of other levies, like federal payroll taxes, state sales taxes and local property taxes. Only about half of taxpaying households with incomes below $25,000 paid less in 2010.

The uneven decline is a result of two trends. Congress cut federal taxation at every income level over the last 30 years. State and local taxes, meanwhile, increased for most Americans. Those taxes generally take a larger share of income from those who make less, so the increases offset more and more of the federal savings at lower levels of income.

The article later gave a few examples:

¶A household making $350,000 in 2010, roughly the cutoff for the top 1 percent, on average paid 42.1 percent of its income in taxes, compared with 49 percent for a household with the same inflation-adjusted income in 1980 — a savings of about $24,100.

¶A household making $52,000 in 2010, roughly the median income, on average paid 27.7 percent of its income in taxes, compared with 30.5 percent in 1980, saving $1,500.

¶A household making $22,000 in 2010 — roughly the federal poverty line for a family of four — on average paid 19.4 percent in taxes, compared with 20.2 percent, saving $200.

The comparisons would be less dramatic depending upon which year of the Reagan administration current rates were compared to as Reagan both lowered and raised taxes during his time in office. The numbers do debunk any idea that Obama has ushered in an era of high-tax socialism. That’s why the right wing is so violently against numbers, arithmetic, and facts.

Republican Compromise Turned Out To Be Too Good To Be True

Realistically there was one sure sign that we would not see a compromise to avoid the fiscal cliff–it is not the last minute. It appeared there might be some hope of a quick compromise when Representative Tom Cole suggested that Republicans accept Obama’s position of continuing the Bush tax cuts for the middle class while raising rates on the wealthiest tax payers. John Boehner has already shot down that proposal (which doesn’t mean the Republicans might not compromise on this at the last minute).

Republicans, in their usual display of dishonesty on fiscal matters, claim that they are refusing to go along with this in order to protect small business. However, only a tiny percentage of small businesses would be affected by the repeal of the Bush tax cuts. The real motivation is not protecting small business, but protecting the ultra-wealthy and avoiding confrontation with Grover Norquist. While a few Republicans have recently said they would put their country before a pledge to Grover Norquist to never raise taxes, most Republicans fear the political consequences of facing a Tea Party fanatic in their next primary battle.

Some Republicans are looking for a way to raise taxes on the wealthy, knowing that this is necessary, while pretending they are not. Mitt Romney ran on the idea of reducing tax rates and deductions, but there aren’t enough deductions to eliminate for his plan to add up. Recently I heard a really absurd idea floated of raising taxes on the wealthy by keeping the same rates but having the top rate apply to all income. While this might satisfy the desire to raise taxes while telling Tea Party members that they did not support a higher rate, the consequences of this could be a disaster.

Republicans often falsely claim that higher rates will prevent investment in the economy as businessmen will stop working to avoid the  higher rate. This does not actually happen because of how marginal tax rates work. If there is a three percent higher rate on incomes over $500,000, income up to $500,000 will still be charged at the same rates. Paying three percent more only on income over $500,000 would not deter anyone from doing more business which increases income over $500,000. The situation would be completely different if earning over $500,000 meant paying the current top rate on all income. In this case, going over the income threshold would mean that all income would be taxed at a higher rate, not just income over $500,000 and someone earning $500,001 would be paying substantially more in taxes than someone earning $499,999. This would really lead to people having an incentive to make less money if their income would otherwise be over $500,000 (unless it would be substantially more). I doubt this idea will go anywhere.

Hopefully when pushed by a deadline Congress will find a meaningful compromises at the last minute. It is important to avoid the fiscal cliff which will lead to both automatic tax increses and spending cuts. I’m finding some liberals expressing views such as John Cole’s: “Ending the Bush tax cuts and big cuts to defense? Sounds good to me!” Perhaps, but the automatic cuts to Medicare and many domestic programs don’t sound as good.

Winning the Post-Debate: Potentially The Best of Both Worlds For Obama

After last night’s debate, there is a lot of talk of a change in strategy for Obama.  There will certainly be changes in how Obama debates after he failed to adequately respond to Romney’s lies last night, and missed many opportunities to demonstrate the flaws in Romney’s policies. Debates of this type are not scored based upon how well the specific questions are answered. The debates are won in the media by using every moment a candidate has to speak to present their arguments and debunk the arguments of the opponent.

Some discussion of changes in overall campaign strategy misses the point. Buzzfeed writes that Obama has changed the strategy from criticizing Romney for being too conservative to being inconsistent. They are half right. Today Obama did highlight the inconsistency:

“When I got onto the stage I met this very spirited fellow who claimed to be Mitt Romney,” Obama told a crowd of some 12,000 the morning after the contest. “But it couldn’t have been Mitt Romney because the real Mitt Romney has been running around the country the last year promising 5 trillion in tax cuts that favor the wealthy. The fellow on stage said he didn’t know anything about that.”

Obama also accused Romney of “danc[ing]” around his positions; he hit him on taxes as well as outsourcing jobs; and claimed that Romney didn’t support teachers.

“The man on stage last night does not want to be held accountabilty for the real Mitt Romney’s decisions and what’s he been saying for the last year,” Obama said, suggesting Romney had switched his positions for political expedience. “And that’s because he knows full well that we don’t want what he’s been selling for the past year.”

The change is really not as drastic as Buzzfeed suggests. Earlier in the year Obama had a choice of criticizing the hard line conservative positions Romney adopted during the campaign or to attack him for flip-flopping by raising Romney’s past different, but more moderate, positions. Attacking Romney’s “severely conservative” positions was the more effective choice as it would not help Obama to raise the possibility that maybe Romney is more moderate than he now appears. However, once Romney made statements in the debate which were more moderate than the positions he has been campaigning on, it was consistent with their overall strategy to point out these differences. Obama will continue to tie Romney to the positions he has campaigned on for the past year, and prevent him from shaking the Etch-A-Sketch.

As long as Obama responds effectively (which is likely in the days beyond the first debate), this could be the best of both world for Obama. He can now justifiably attack Romney for both being too conservative and for being a dishonest politician who will say whatever he believes will help him politically, regardless of the truth. Plus Obama can be the candidate who defends Big Bird and Elmo.

The mainstream media crowned Romney the debate winner based upon the stylistic criteria usually used in these events, but some did realize the bigger trap which Romney has fallen into. First Read pointed out how Obama can win the post-debate:

Who wins the post-debate? If Romney won the instant reactions from last night’s debate, it is more than possible that the Obama camp can win the next 24 hours. Why? Because Romney said several things that could make life difficult for him today or in the next debate. First, Romney declared, “I will not reduce the taxes paid by high-income Americans.” But in addition to supporting the extension of the Bush tax cuts, which are skewed heavily to the wealthy, the non-partisan Tax Policy Center says that Romney’s tax plan would give the Top 0.1% an average tax cut of more than $246,000. Next, he stated that “there will be no tax cut that adds to the deficit.” While he has said his plan will be paid for, he’s yet to lay out any SPECIFICS on how he’ll pay for it. Romney also said, “I’m not going to cut education funding. I don’t have any plan to cut education funding.” But the Ryan budget plan, which Romney has said he’d sign into law, leads to long-term spending reductions in education. And Romney also didn’t disagree with the description that his Medicare plan would consist of “vouchers” for future retirees. Winning a “debate” is always a two-part deal — the night itself, and then the aftermath. This is now an opportunity for Team Obama and a challenge for Team Romney.

Jonathan Bernstein further described the hole Romney dug for himself:

… Romney’s policy positions are even more of a shambles now than they were previously. Romney’s position, over and over again, is to simply bluff it on policy. His tax plan continues to be the most obvious one, but it really happens across the board. Romney insisted tonight more than once that his tax plan will keep taxes the same for the wealthy, cut them for everyone else, and not add to the deficit. Forget about the Tax Policy Center; just that much is obviously incoherent and impossible. And, more to the point, it’s clear he’s going to keep on insisting that it adds up, no matter how clearly it doesn’t. But it’s not just that; on every policy, he’s just going to insist that the consequences of his plans that anyone might not like simply don’t exist, so that he’s for sweeping spending cuts but insists that no particular program that anyone brings up might lose any funding, or that he’s for repealing Obamacare but those with pre-existing conditions will magically be protected.

Any benefits Romney did receive by winning the debate were tempered by a day in which the news centered around how Romney was dishonest and his tax proposals did not add up. Jonathan Chait described Romney’s successful debate plan–lying:

Romney won the debate in no small part because he adopted a policy of simply lying about his policies. Probably the best way to understand Obama’s listless performance is that he was prepared to debate the claims Romney has been making for the entire campaign, and Romney switched up and started making different and utterly bogus ones. Obama, perhaps, was not prepared for that, and he certainly didn’t think quickly enough on his feet to adjust to it.

Tim Dickenson summarized Mitt Romney’s Five Biggest Lies. Unfortunately he left out Romney’s false claims regarding Medicare cuts, but plenty of others have responded to that. The Medicare cuts come from subsidies to insurance companies which cost more to treat patients than under the government plan and cuts to hospitals to reimburse for treating the uninsured as there will be far fewer uninsured people. Paul Ryan includes the same cuts (and more) in his plan. Obama’s cuts do not reduce benefits to either Medicare beneficiaries or to doctors. In reality, Obamacare provides additional benefits to Medicare patients and increases payment to primary care doctors to care for Medicare patients.

Think Progress didn’t attempt to narrow the list to five, pointing out that Romney Told 27 Myths In 38 Minutes. I wonder if this is part of Romney’s strategy. He tells so many lies that it is difficult to keep up and present the evidence on all off them.

I am confident that Obama will do a better job of holding Romney accountable in the next two debates, but regardless of how Obama handles the debates, we have further evidence as to the weakness of Romney’s arguments, and a clear example of how Romney will say anything, and contradict anything he has said in the very recent past, for political gain.

How Jed Bartlet Would Handle The Debates

Jon Stewart and Bill Maher on the Debate

Initial Thoughts On The First Debate

Initial Thoughts On The First Debate

Obama appears to have gone into the debate  looking to protect his lead and take no chances. As a result he came off too wonkish. He responded to some Romney lies but allowed many  others to go unchallenged. Romney better understood how these “debates” work in ignoring the actual questions and ignoring the facts. The debates are not about actually answering questions or about giving the most scholarly answer. Romney will be awarded the win by the pundits, but it is doubtful anything he said will really convince many people to vote for him. John Kerry beat George Bush far more decisively than Romney won tonight but still lost the election.

On taxes, Mitt Romney decided to shake the Etch-A-Sketch and ignore everything he has supported to date. While Romney has told many lies, he was at the most dishonest on health care. Obama did a fair job of responding to Romney’s lies about a board which will be making health care decisions but Obama failed to respond to Romney’s distortions about Medicare cuts.

Romney was the far better bullshitter while Obama was the one up on stage who was able to give serious answers. Unfortunately the television debate format is not a good place for such professorial explanations. I am tempted to say that this was the most boring debate I have watched but realistically if there were boring ones in the past I wouldn’t recall them for comparison. I was waiting for them to debate which state has the trees which are the right height or whether planes should have windows. I am now worried that Romney plans to tie Big  Bird to the top of his car.

Obama generally had the wrong strategy for this debate, but at times did effectively challenge Romney, such as in asking for specifics of which deductions Romney would cut. My bet is that Obama will take on Romney more forcibly in the next two debates.

The post-debate coverage is often more important in influencing opinion than the actual debate.  Romney won the debate on style but as the fact checkers are looking at the debate Romney is losing points. Further discussion of topics such as Romney’s tax plan, the actual facts about Medicare, and health-care reform could wind up benefit ting Obama more than Romney.

Update: Or, as wound up happening, the media could concentrate on simplistic stories about who won (based upon style) and ignore the issues.

Paul Ryan’s Unexplainable Tax Math

Republican economic plans are primarily about cutting taxes for the ultra-wealthy and coming up with arguments to con the gullible into believing that this is good for the economy. This does not mean that they are willing to cut spending for their pet projects. While they might claim that the tax cuts will bring in more revenue, this does not work when taxes are relatively low as they are now, leaving the middle class to pay for Republican fiscal irresponsibility. Paul Ryan was asked how his tax plan would add up, buts said he didn’t have the time to answer:

… it would take me too long to go through all of the math, but let me say it this way. You can lower tax rates by 20 percent across the board by closing loopholes and still have preferences for the middle class for things like charitable deductions, for home purchases, for health care.

Catherine Rampell explained why there was not enough time, beginning with:

There’s a reason why it would take too long — infinitely long, you could say — to go through the math that holds this policy proposal together: because math will never hold this particular policy proposal together.

Perhaps Ryan thinks he needs time as long as John Galt’s speech to explain this. Like this portion of Atlas Shrugged, his explanation would be fiction.

Today Bloomberg News asked Ryan about his tax plan, offering him all the time he needed to explain it. Ryan still couldn’t explain it. The math just does not add up.

Romney Unable To Shake Etch A Sketch On His Candid Opinions

The secretly taped comments from Mitt Romney continue to dominate the political news today. Romney’s comments were wrong on so many levels. Beyond the obvious problems of his attack on nearly half the country and on those who legitimately need assistance, he is so out of touch that he doesn’t realize he is actually attacking Republican voters. Despite the right wing myth that they are the job creators and Democrats are welfare leaches, a large percentage of those not paying income taxes are Republican voters. This includes the low-information white male voters who make up a huge percentage of GOP voters–many of these pay payroll taxes but don’t make enough to pay income taxes. Many are also elderly Republican voters who no longer have an income to pay income tax on. Those not paying taxes also include students (who might become job creators after completing their education) and members of the military (who might also be future job creators).

Many low income voters do vote for Democrats, but a tremendous number also vote Republican. The biggest recipients of federal government aide are the red states, not the blue states. While Obama now receives the vast majority of all Democratic constituencies, his greatest support has come from upper middle class Democrats and independents  (in contrast to the less affluent Democrats who backed Clinton in 2008). In offending all the Obama supporters who pay a larger percentage of their income than Romney does,  Romney’s comment might help Obama keep the portion of the independent vote which has drifted away.

On the other hand, if Mitt Romney had his way, he would be joining those who pay no income taxes.

Another irony is that the increased number of working Americans who do not pay federal income taxes is largely a consequence of GOP tax cuts. In order to cut taxes on the wealthy they have had to reduce income taxes on others. It was George Bush and Ronald Reagan who pushed policies which led to many lower income working people not paying taxes, while also cutting taxes on the wealthy.

If things weren’t already bad enough, another video was released in which Romney showed hostility towards the peace process and two-state solution in the middle east. He already showed during his trip to Israel that he will not be able to be an honest broker in a peace settlement. This video further shows his inability to handle foreign affairs.

The Choice This Year Is Between A Center-Left Democratic Party And Far Right Republican Party

If Democrats are to have a chance at retaining the White House and possibly controlling both houses of Congress, it is necessary to get out the message to voters who have voted Republican in the past that this is not the same Republican Party. It has moved so far to the extreme right that it is no longer the Republican Party of Ronald Reagan or Barry Goldwater. Rather than being the party of William F. Buckley, Jr., the Republican Party is now dominated by the type of far right wing extremists that Buckley once fought to exclude from the conservative movement. Today two columnists who often push for a centrist agenda discussed the extremism of today’s Republican Party.

Barack Obama has called the Republican economic plan Romney Hood, or Robin Hood in reverse. Matt Miller has another name for the GOP: Drawbridge Republicans:

Mitt Romney came from wealth and went on to build his own quarter-of-a-billion dollar fortune. Paul Ryan, who has never worked a day in the private sector (outside a few months in the family firm) reports a net worth of as much as $7 million, thanks to trusts and inheritances from his and his wife’s family.

Wealthy political candidates are nothing new, of course. But we’ve never had two wealthy candidates on a national ticket whose top priority is to reduce already low taxes on the well-to-do while raising taxes on everyone else — even as they propose to slash programs that serve the poor, or that (like college aid) create chances for the lowly born to rise.

Call them the Drawbridge Republicans. As the moniker implies, these are wealthy Republicans who have no qualms about pulling up the drawbridge behind them. Such sentiments used to be reserved for the political fringe. The most prominent example was Steve Forbes, whose twin obsessions during his vanity presidential runs in 1996 and 2000 — marginal tax rates and inflation — were precisely what you’d expect from an heir in a cocoon…

Today’s Drawbridge Republicans can’t be bothered. Yes, when their political back is to the wall — as Romney’s increasingly is — they’ll slap together a page of bullet points and dub it “a plan for the middle class.” But this is only under duress. The rest of the time they seem blissfully unaware of how off-key they sound. As the humorist Andy Borowitz tweeted the other day, “As a general matter, it’s a bad idea to talk about austerity if you just had a horse lose in the Olympics.”

Contrast conservative Prime Minister (and heir) David Cameron’s decision to defer his plans to lower the top 50 percent marginal rate in the UK. “When you’re taking the country through difficult times and difficult decisions,” Cameron said, “you’ve got to take the country with you. That means permanently trying to make the argument that what you’re doing is fair and seen to be fair.” As his spokesman added: “We need to ask those with the broadest shoulders to contribute the most.”

Now that’s a conservative ruling class with a conscience! Can anyone imagine Romney and Ryan saying the same?

Thomas Friedman’s column is about the need for a conservative party, quoting some conservatives who hold reasonable conservative positions as opposed to the extremist positions now held by the Republicans. Friedman, who often calls for centrist policies, now realizes that he is far more likely to see centrist policies from Barack Obama than the current Republican Party, with the extremism of the GOP preventing the government from passing reasonable solutions to today’s problems:

We are not going to make any progress on our biggest problems without a compromise between the center-right and center-left. But, for that, we need the center-right conservatives, not the radicals, to be running the G.O.P., as well as the center-left in the Democratic Party. Over the course of his presidency, Obama has proposed center-left solutions to all four of these challenges. I wish he had pushed some in a bigger, consistent, more daring and more forceful manner — and made them the centerpiece of his campaign. Nevertheless, if the G.O.P. were in a different place, either a second-term Obama or a first-term Romney would have a real chance at making progress on all four. As things stand now, though, there is little hope this campaign will give the winner any basis for governing. Too bad — a presidential campaign is a terrible thing to waste.

This is an important message to get out. This election is not a choice between a liberal Democratic Party and a conservative Republican Party. It is a choice between a center-left Democratic Party and an extremely far right Republican Party. The middle of the road is not somewhere between the Democrats and Republicans–it is near where the Democrats stand on most issues and far from where the Republicans now are. Those who seek centrist, or even old Republican ideas, are more likely to find their views represented by Democrats than Republicans if they go beyond all the misinformation being spread by the far right.