Finley: RINOs and DINOs need new home

Nolan Finley
The Detroit News

Democrats are following the Republican game plan in whittling away their middle.

Instead of making their tent bigger to take in those disenfranchised Republicans and disillusioned independents, the Democrats are downsizing, pushing out their own moderates to make more room for ideological purists.

The GOP has been doing the same thing for the past eight years. Right-wing activists seized the party in 2010 and went on the attack against what they saw as an establishment too willing to compromise on conservative values.

Those who refused to endorse every plank in the rigid right platform were out the door. Politicians who dared moving to the middle to make a deal with Democrats were punished with primary challenges and the epithet Republican in Name Only (RINO) was hung around their necks.

Democrats have come to the same place. Last week, Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren, the party’s putative leader, served notice on those Democrats urging the party to move to the middle, telling them the liberals have taken charge.

“We are not the gate-crashers of today’s Democratic Party,” the senator said of her fellow progressives. “We are not a wing of today’s Democratic Party. We are the heart and soul of today’s Democratic Party.”

Earlier, the party’s other heavyweight lefty, Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, laid down a litmus test for those Democrats who don’t support his Medicare-for-all proposal: Get on board or face a challenge in the primaries.

When Rep. Ben Ray Luján of New Mexico, chairman of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, suggested the party would be open to pro-life candidates in certain races, he was roundly condemned.

So where does that leave Democrats who support much of the party’s agenda, but not all? Those who are liberal on social issues but more conservative on economic matters? The observant Catholics who don’t endorse abortion rights? Businesspeople who still believe capitalism is preferable to socialism?

By the Warren/Sanders standard, they’re Democrats in Name Only, or DINOs, and like their Republican counterparts, they have nowhere to go.

A January Gallup Poll found that 35 percent of the country identifies as moderates, compared to 36 percent who are conservative and 25 percent who are liberal.

The middle makes up a large piece of the population. Yet in the last Congress, according to rankings by the American Conservative Union, there were fewer than 50 moderates out of 535 congress members (most were Republicans, by the way). That’s not even 10 percent.

The Democratic and Republican parties are now so under the thumb of their intolerant fanatics that moderates must either shut up and go along or get out.

They need a new home. The nation is ripe for a centrist party that supports proven measures to build a strong economy while allowing plenty of room for those who have varying views on social issues.

If Donald Trump is the face of Republicans, and Warren/Sanders the faces of Democrats, a lot of voters will be looking for something better in 2020. They should have a legitimate alternative, a party less obsessed with power, less doctrinaire and less afraid of compromise.

We’ve settled too long for a bad binary bargain.

Twitter: @NolanFinleyDN