Gang of Thirteen

David Brooks and Matt Yglesias have both floated the idea that moderate Republicans in heavily-Democratic, heavily-urban coastal states should form a new political movement that, in effect, serves as a semi-detached wing of the GOP. Gerald Seib of the Wall Street Journal suggests that moderate Democrats in the U.S. Senate form an informal faction designed to help bridge the gap between congressional Democrats and Republicans over sequestration and the continuing resolution:

To define this group, start with the six Democratic senators running for re-election next year from states carried by Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney: Mark Begich of Alaska, Max Baucus of Montana, Kay Hagan of North Carolina, Tim Johnson of South Dakota, Mary Landrieu of Louisiana and Mark Pryor of Arkansas.

Add to the list two senators from swing states also running in 2014, Mark Warner of Virginia and Mark Udall of Colorado.

All face voters next year in states where voters either lean red or have limited regard for party labels. All have reason to show they can find middle ground.

Throw in West Virginia’s Joe Manchin, Missouri’s Claire McCaskill, Indiana’s Joe Donnelly, North Dakota’s Heidi Heitkamp and Montana’s Jon Tester, who were elected from red state states last year, and you have 13 Democrats who have either the potential or the need—or both—to break the fever that grips the political system.

Seib’s logic is different from that of Brooks and Yglesias, who see the dominance of the Democrats on the west coast and the northeastern U.S. — a product of regional aversion to a national Republican Party closely identified with the distinctive cultural and economic priorities of the U.S. South — as a problem insofar as it inhibits healthy political competition. Seib, in contrast, sees centrist Democrats as honest brokers who can play the role once played by liberal Republicans. My impression is that the members of Seib’s would-be centrist caucus vary in their willingness to break with core Democratic priorities, but it’s an interesting idea all the same that is not unrelated to Josh Kraushaar’s 2012 suggestion that a Romney administration could make deals with a centrist Democratic “Gang of Eight.”  

Reihan Salam — Reihan Salam is executive editor of National Review and a National Review Institute policy fellow.

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