The Democrats and the Mythical Middle

03/23/2010 05:12 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011

The "mythical middle", a phrase coined, as far as I know, by Arianna Huffington during her recent appearance on Olbermann, goes to the heart of the Democrats' problems.

The first clue should be that a move to the center is what's currently being advocated by Sen. Joe Lieberman. That alone should send the party hurrying in the opposite direction. If the Democrats are going to start shopping at Traitor Joe's for advice about political orientation, they can forget it.

It hasn't been daringly progressive policy-making that's angered Independents, as the Right would have us believe, but quite the opposite.

"We gave you an inch and you took a mile, now it's time for the slapdown!" wrote one gleeful internet commenter after the Brown victory.

Totally false.

In terms of mandate, popular enthusiasm and political opportunity, the Dems were given a mile and have taken an inch. That's precisely what's angering the majority of people.

It's simply been a lack of results. Voters don't care about good intentions. Voters don't care about bipartisanship. Voters only care about results.

Instead of results people have seen the Democrats throw more and more bones to a snarling Republican minority - watering down overhauls until they were giveaways - and for what?

All that the trading away of key progressive goals to satiate the mythical middle has done is to dispirit progressives (i.e. low voter turnout in Boston) and to waft the stench of blood to conservatives, leaving Democrats with a wobbly base, an energized enemy and little to show for it.

It's abundantly clear that the Republicans see compromise as weakness and therefore expect it from Democrats but never do it themselves.

For the immediate future I agree with Bob Cesca that the Democrats need to pass the bill, both because of the good that it will do and because another chance will be a long time coming.

But enough Democrat fatalism. Enough hopeless groping for the mythical middle. That fairy tale doesn't end well.