From Taegan Goddard's Political Dictionary -
triangulationThe act of a political candidate presenting his or her views as being above and between the left and right sides of the political spectrum. It’s sometimes called the “third way.”
In practice, it has come to cover the situation where electeds establish a voting and issue position pattern that is so disorganized that they can present it as meaning whatever they think that a given audience will like best.
And when the audience changes, so does the way that the electeds present their records.
Some observers, being more cynical than me (which is saying something :) ) call it "practical".
I call it "cowardly".
In the last week or so, during the federal government shutdown crisis manufactured the Republicans in the US House of Representatives, we've seen a couple of the Democratic members of AZ's Congressional delegation go down this path in the most brazen way possible.
Reps. Kyrsten Sinema (D-CD9) and Ron Barber (D-CD2) have tried to look "reasonable" by siding with the tea party types in Congress by voting to weaken the Affordable Care Act. They have also supported a number of bills that are intended to cloak the Rs in an aura of "puppy dogs and fluffy white clouds" (funding PR-friendly agencies and operations like cancer research, etc.).
I'm not psychic, and I'm not exactly the first person they call for advice (shocking, I know :) ), so I can't speak from direct knowledge. However, most informed speculation on the subject is that Barber and Sinema have been voting the way that they have been in a move to gain Republican votes in their competitive districts.
By doing so, they've aligned themselves with, and given political cover to, the people who have crippled the government because they object to the idea that Americans now have access to affordable health insurance coverage. People who, during the shutdown, have:
- Said that shutting down government and putting hundreds of thousands of workers out of work was their idea of "fun" (AZ's own David Schweikert)
- Berated an unpaid park ranger at a WWII memorial in DC for shutting down access to the memorial, one of the many closed by the federal government shutdown created by Republicans (TX's Randy Neugebauer)
- Stated that they still deserve their paychecks because, unlike furloughed workers, they are still on the job (too many to list all of them, but here's one)
Neither Barber nor Sinema is the first to follow this game plan, and neither Barber nor Sinema will be the first to fail using it.
It's been used for many years by Arizona Democrats, and it has resulted in there being *no* Democrats holding statewide office and the Democrats holding federal office only coming from "safe" districts (Congressmen Ed Pastor and Raul Grijalva) or being carried into office on the coattails of another candidate* (Congresswomen Ann Kirkpatrick and Sinema, and Congressman Barber).
* - It's no mistake to say this. In 2012, Barack Obama was on the ballot and Democrats all over the country made headway; in 2010, he was not, and Democrats all over the country had their butts handed to them electorally.
It is a game plan that isn't likely to gain them the Republican votes that they covet - it's been said before that people who lean Republican will vote for the "real" thing when presented with a choice between a real Republican candidate and a Republican-lite one.
And the plan probably won't directly cost them Democratic votes because while many D voters may decide that Sinema and Barber aren't "good" candidates, they are the "less bad" option on the ballot.
Where it will hurt them is in the enthusiasm department. Candidates, especially those in competitive districts and races, need the support of *believers* who are willing to walk precincts and make calls for their candidate in exchange for, at most, a pat on the back and some snacks.
The ranks of their true believers are being thinned by this mess.
Let me be clear on this: I can accept disagreeing with an elected official on policy, so long as I believe that the elected's policy position is borne from a genuine concern for his/her constituents' best interests.
Politics is all about disagreement. People who can't handle that, who throw temper tantrums whenever they don't get their way and resort to threats, bullying, and extortion in an attempt to change the results of an election should do the honorable thing and get out of politics.
And so should those who aid and abet the bullies by throwing their constituents under the bus in an attempt to gain the support of people who are never going to support them anyway.
I don't know Congressman Barber, having never met him, but I did meet Congresswoman Sinema while she was a member of the Arizona legislature. In addition, I live in CD9 and met her again during the 2012 campaign.
She is smart, hard-working, accomplished, and ambitious.
Generally speaking, each of those qualities, even "ambitious", is a good thing in electeds, especially young ones.
However, "ambitious" can also be a problem for young electeds if rather than ruling their ambitions, their ambitions rule them.
The jury is still out on Sinema in this regard, but there are growing indications that her ambitiousness is compromising her political judgement. With the debt ceiling fight coming up and quickly, more insight into Sinema (and Barber, as well), will soon be available.
Donna at Democratic Diva offers her take on this situation here.
Bob at Blog for Arizona offers his take here.
Steve at Arizona Eagletarian offers his take here.