No Moderation in the GOP
The GOP haven't had a moderating period for 35 years, except for a brief period when Bush was campaigning in 2000. He acted like he cared about the environment, but promptly dropped that. He did care about education, but his proposals were always tinged with partisan jabs against teacher unions, who are strong Democratic supporters.
After eight years of Bush as president, suddenly the farthest right component of the GOP realized that he was too moderate and they hadn't gotten what they wanted. They disavowed Bush and became even more hard-core.
Free Rein to Go Left among the Dems
The GOP's pivot to the right allowed the Dems to end their moderation jag. They shifted to the left (though they didn't become more extreme than they were in the 70's). Leaders were no longer claiming to be 'New Democrats.' Nancy Pelosi, the House leader and a big fundraiser for the party, is not from the DLC group but is instead one of founders of the House Progressive Caucus. The DLC disbanded in 2011, but hadn't had much influence since 2000. I'm not sure why, but the driving force and probably the money machine among Dems has been on the progressive side.
The sad consequence of this is that no party right now is trying to be moderate. All this is playing out against a backdrop of the parties becoming more ideologically polarized, rather than being coalitions.
There may not be forces that can correct this. The GOP has managed to fight off the most extreme Tea Partyers, but they certainly haven't become more moderate after their rightward turn in 2008, when their House members at first rejected legislation necessary to stabilize the banks and the economy. Many are still vehemently against TARP and the stimulus, even though these programs were successful in preventing a full blown depression.
If there are moderating forces working in the Democratic party, they aren't apparent to an observer like me. Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid are still the heads of their respective caucuses. Dems aren't forming new groups to spearhead a centrist message of responsible budget trimming and cost controls for entitlement programs. I wonder whether they need to lose the presidency before that happens. If so, the Dems will end up losing a great deal.
What's At Stake
However, if the GOP remains true to form, their first move will be passing tax cuts that benefit the wealthy and that also massively inflate the deficit. If the GOP goes for tax cuts, I don't think they'll attach a sunset clause this time, so the tax cuts will last until the Dems finally win back the White House, House and Senate. How hard will it be to undo what happens in the next few years? Isn't that a good reason to be moderate now?
Which trajectory will we take?
Extra. Part 1 here.