The irony of a Republican lamenting the loss of moderate Dems


When Donald Trump traveled to Nebraska last month to headline a rally, the former president didn’t explicitly endorse Rep. Don Bacon’s GOP primary rival, but he did encourage his followers to “vote like hell against” the incumbent congressman.

It didn’t work: Bacon won his primary by 44 points.

Now, as the Nebraska Republican looks ahead, he expects to be re-elected, though as Politico noted, he’s concerned about the next Congress — specifically, the kind of Democrats he’ll work with if re-elected.

Republican Rep. Don Bacon is lamenting the loss of moderate House Democrats who have been defeated by primary challengers on their left. The Nebraska centrist, who represents a district that swung for President Joe Biden in 2020, pointed to outgoing Reps. Kurt Schrader (D-Ore.), Carolyn Bourdeaux (D-Ga.) and Conor Lamb (D-Pa.) as a loss among those who try to reach across the aisle in the House. He also pointed to the progressive candidate who won the primary race running for the seat of retiring Rep. Mike Doyle (D-Penn.), also a moderate.

The Nebraskan specifically said, “With the loss of Schrader, Bourdeaux, Lamb … and the much more progressive candidate winning in Doyle’s seat will make it tougher for consensus builders to carry the day in the House. It appears the Democrat Conference will have less centrists.”

For now, let’s put aside some of the grammatical concerns related to that quote and instead focus on the substance: Bacon wants to see moderate Democratic “consensus builders” in the House, and he expects their numbers to shrink by the time members of the next Congress are sworn in early next year.

There are a handful of problems with this complaint.

First, Bacon isn’t an ideal messenger for this message. While he’s certainly not a right-wing firebrand along the lines of Matt Gaetz or Marjorie Taylor Greene, the Nebraskan is nevertheless a conservative who voted with the Trump White House roughly 90 percent of the time.

Second, it’s rather extraordinary to see a House Republican lamenting the loss of Democratic centrists as moderate GOP lawmakers increasingly become an endangered species. We are, after all, talking about a House Republican conference in which most of its members refused to even certify the results of the 2020 presidential election.

If moderate Democratic “consensus builders” in the House wanted to strike deals with GOP colleagues, the number of Republicans who might be interested in compromise and responsible governance is vanishingly small — and shrinking as members such as Michigan’s Fred Upton head for the exits.

In contrast, there remain plenty of Democrats — in both chambers and in the Oval Office — who are eager to cut bipartisan deals.

Finally, let’s not lose sight of the larger legislative context: Even if House centrists reached all kinds of bipartisan agreements, and even if those bills passed, the process of getting good legislation through the Senate — where the filibuster has been routinized — has become incredibly difficult, thanks in part to the limited number of GOP moderates in the upper chamber willing to break ranks on key votes.

All of which is to say, there’s no shortage of governing problems on Capitol Hill, but the departure of some centrists Democrats isn’t one of them.