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Fanatical Moderation

Fanatical Moderation
AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite

Dear Reader — 

Bipartisanship has become a four-letter word. There was, of course, no golden age of bipartisanship in our country’s past, even during the vaunted early years of the Republic. From the political machinations of Alexander Hamilton’s Federalist Party and the caning of Charles Sumner — not to mention the Civil War — to Newt Gingrich’s Contract with America and the “resistance” of today’s progressives, party politics has always been, well, partisan. Still, polarization has been growing both between the parties and within the electorate, with rhetoric and tactics once reserved for the campaign trail becoming part of politics as usual. 

In this context, efforts to look past differences to pursue a greater good, find common ground, or compromise smack of idealism, defeatism, or even duplicity. Whence the demand for “outsiders” who can transcend these Beltway dynamics to represent their constituents more capably and honestly. The irony is that greater polarization has resulted in less effective governance and more dysfunction — something Donald Trump effectively exploited during his campaign by promising to “win.” Yet, even the president — who is not exactly known for promoting moderation in politics — has signaled a willingness to work across the aisle, implicitly granting that “winning” sometimes means compromising. Could the Trump era inadvertently give way to a bipartisan one? 

One thing that makes this seem unlikely is the considerable muscle behind hardliners on both sides. Such is the motivation behind the bipartisan organization No Labels, which inspired a new centrist bloc in the House of Representatives intended to counterbalance more ideological ones such as the House Freedom Caucus. Comprised of roughly 40 Democratic and Republican members, the Problem Solvers Caucus made headlines in recent months for proposing a plan to stabilize health-care markets after the GOP’s failed repeal-and-replace efforts and later huddling with the president on tax reform. The No Labels philosophy now has a voice in the upper chamber too, as Sens. Collins (R-ME) and Manchin (D-WV) recently joined the organization as honorary co-chairs. At a Tuesday press conference on the Hill, the senators pledged to work with the Problem Solvers Caucus to find bicameral, bipartisan solutions to the major problems of the day.

An easy criticism of bipartisanship is that in seeking compromise lawmakers wind up comprising their principles. But, as Sen. Collins pointed out in her remarks Tuesday, bipartisanship does not have to mean papering over disagreements — sometimes deep and irreconcilable ones — so much as finding a way to govern in spite of them. To that end, the senator highlighted a need for “fanatical moderates.” That may not sound like much of a rallying cry. But if partisan efforts — such as the current tax reform push — continue to fail, we may be hearing a lot more from Washington’s self-described problem solvers. 

These are some of the many issues taken up at RealClearPolicy over the past week. Below you will find just a few highlights.

— M. Anthony Mills, editor | RealClearPolicy

***

Republicans Are Wrong About the Individual Mandate. In our own pages, James C. Capretta urges Republicans to find a conservative alternative to the controversial Obamacare provision, rather than just scrapping it. 

The Upper Middle Class Got Totally Suckered by the GOP. The Week’s Ryan Cooper contends the House tax plan “soaks” the upper-middle class to protect the rich. 

Reform Should Expand R&D Tax Credit. Also in our pages, Joe Kennedy argues that incentivizing private-sector research will stimulate economic growth. 

Class Realignment Broke the Democrats. The Washington Free Beacon’s Matthew Continetti contends that the realignment of American politics along class lines has disrupted the Democratic Party more than the GOP.

The Estate Tax Only Impacts the Wealthy. Repeal It Anyway. In RealClearPolicy, Brad Polumbo argues that “just because a tax is redistributive doesn't mean that it's a good idea.” 

GOP Tax Plan Fails to Deliver Meaningful School Choice. Also in RealClearPolicy, Nat Malkus and Preston Cooper contend that the main provision in the tax bill concerning K–12 education falls short of the administration's stated goals.

How the Rich Rig Regulations. In Washington Monthly, Mark Kleiman reviews a new book that argues regulatory overreach has increased economic inequality. 

Leave Children’s Health Insurance to the States. In our pages, Drew White urges Congress to “relinquish control” of the Children's Health Insurance Program and empower states to reform it. 

Has the GOP Abandoned the Ownership Society? The Atlantic’s Russell Berman considers whether House Republicans’ plan to roll back tax incentives for home-buying signals a break with their party’s platform. 

Let Native Americans Manage National Monuments. Ruben Pacheco makes his case in RealClearPolicy

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