Ross Mackenzie

When they start throwing words like “moderate” and “bipartisan” at you, the best thing to do is duck.

Let’s begin with a semantics lesson and some facts.


Within the electorate, “conservative” is regarded broadly as an acceptable word, or label. “Liberal” (or, horrors, “leftist”) is not. Polls suggest that regarding the labels “conservative” and “liberal,” about twice the number of Americans describe themselves as “conservative.” Because these days “liberal” carries many negative connotations, those of that ilk have appropriated to their self-descriptive use such words as “moderate,” “centrist” and “mainstream” — even “independent.” Practically everybody loves a moderate.

A telltale? When “moderate” is deployed against”conservative,” as in: “Moderates defeated conservative efforts to open ANWR to drilling.” Or: “Conservatives overcame a coalition of moderates and liberals.” You’re about to be the recipient of a liberal message. Better duck.


The Republican Party is heavily conservative, the Democratic Party heavily liberal. Yet Republicans, as a group, are far more fractured ideologically.

The Republicans currently boast at least three camps: social conservatives (represented by for instance Mike Huckabee), economic conservatives (Mitt Romney), and national security conservatives (Rudy Giuliani and John McCain). The primaries feature a fight among those camps for dominance within the party — and ultimately the party’s presidential nomination.

For the party to have any hope of retaining the presidency in November, the two unsuccessful camps must bury their intra-party differences. If they don’t rally around the nominee, the party will lose to the Democrats.

The Democrats do not feature comparable ideological division: For the most part, excepting the likes of a Joe Lieberman, they are liberals of one very leftist mind. From Social Security and energy and the environment to illegals and taxes and the toxic Texan, they all say pretty much the same thing. All tend to regard global warming as a graver, more actionable threat than global terror. When asked by Charles Gibson in a New Hampshire debate to acknowledge that the Iraqi “surge” might be working, none would.

So to distinguish themselves from each other and to gain advantages in the race for the Democratic nomination, both Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama have played the race card. Senator Obama offers himself as prospectively the first African-American president, Sen. Clinton as prospectively the first woman. Mrs. Clinton offers herself as more “experienced” and, boasting pure leftist credentials, seeks incredibly to present as more moderate — as the centrist she demonstrably is not.

Ross Mackenzie

Ross Mackenzie lives with his wife and Labrador retriever in the woods west of Richmond, Virginia. They have two grown sons, both Naval officers.

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