It’s no secret that the past couple years haven’t been easy for moderates in either political party. That’s not really anything new— it’s never easy being someone who actually wants to try to get things done in government rather than throwing rhetorical bombs designed to get you on the evening news.

Moderates are always in peril, as they usually represent swing seats that are ready targets for the other party, whether that’s at the state legislative level or in Congress. We saw this most recently in 2010, when major Republican gains in Congress often came at the expense of moderate Democrats who were members of the Blue Dog Coalition. It happened again in last year’s midterms, when several moderate Democrats lost their re-election to the Senate in states that Donald Trump had carried.

Lately, though, moderates have had to worry not just about the other party going after them come election time, but also about their own increasingly restive base. The extremes in both parties have shown more willingness to go after their own incumbents, whether that’s Dave Bratt defeating Eric Cantor in Virginia or Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez upsetting Joe Crowley in New York. As that happens more and more in both parties, politicians will increasingly toe the party line rather than speak out.

It doesn’t seem as if life is going to get easier for moderates in either party any time soon, either. Even though Democrats successfully elected a number of centrists in Republican-leaning districts, they’re not the ones getting most of the attention at the national level right now. Instead, it’s the more liberal newcomers to Capitol Hill who are getting the headlines, floating ideas like the Green New Deal, Medicare for all, and free college tuition for everyone. While it’s worthwhile to expand the debate, forcing these issues to the forefront is likely causing heartache for leadership and their more moderate colleagues.

We’ve already seen that impact on the presidential race, where most of the Democratic candidates are staking out positions closer to Bernie Sanders than Hillary Clinton. That will trickle down to congressional races, as vulnerable freshmen from swing districts, such as U.S. Rep. Jared Golden of Maine, face the unpleasant prospect of having to vote on these ideas. Normally, leadership might be inclined to protect their new legislators from having to go on the record on these bills, but they know if they do now, they risk a rebellion from their base.

It will be even more difficult for Golden to avoid taking a position on the Green New Deal because his colleague, Chellie Pingree, is an enthusiastic proponent of it. Golden, like all Democrats running for re-election, ought to have an answer for his constituents as to whether he supports the Green New Deal and other radical proposals coming from the far left of his party.

It’s not just Democrats up for re-election who may be challenged by these liberal ideas, but also those hoping to earn the presidential nomination and defeat Trump as well. Trump’s surest path to re-election is to portray his eventual opponent as a radical liberal, which is why he’s so eager to highlight all of these proposals at every possible moment. That makes life difficult for the few Democrats who are interested in claiming the center lane of the presidential race, as they’ll be forced into a constant response mode by Trump and fellow Democrats alike.

Trump, for his part, isn’t doing much to help moderate Republicans on the ballot with him. His decision to declare a national emergency to get the funding for the border wall may please his base, but it’s setting off alarm bells all over Congress — even from some conservatives who agree with him about the border.

It seems certain that the House will pass a measure that overrides his emergency declaration, which the Senate would then have to take up. Republican senators, including Susan Collins, would then have to face the decision of whether to anger Trump’s base by voting against his declaration or anger moderates by voting to uphold it. Either way, it’s a tough choice politically — even if the measure is certain to be vetoed and is therefore largely symbolic.

Over the next year, moderates on both sides of the aisle will continue to find their political lives challenging. They’ll increasingly find themselves under fire from ideologues for refusing to toe the party line, rather than being praised for their independence.

That’s a true shame, but it’s no surprise in these highly polarized times.

Jim Fossel, a conservative activist from Gardiner, worked for Sen. Susan Collins. He can be contacted at: [email protected]

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