There's no room for moderates in the modern G.O.P.

In 1993, moderate Republican Christine Todd Whitman made history when she was elected New Jersey's first female governor.  She served for eight years until being tapped by then-President George W. Bush to head up the Environmental Protection Agency in 2001.  After a series of public disagreements with the Bush Administration, Whitman resigned the post in 2003.

Once she left the Bush cabinet, Whitman wrote a book entitled It's My Party Too in which she criticized the Republican Party's hard lurch to the right in recent years.

Today, perhaps more than ever in modern times, the Republican Party at the national level is allowing itself to be dictated to by a coalition of ideologica l extremists--I call them social fundalmentalists--groups that have claimed the mantle of conservatism and show no inclination to seek bipartisan consensus on anything.

The leaders of these groups seek to impose rigid litmus tests on Republican candidates and appear determined to drive out of the party anyone who doesn't subscribe to their beliefs in entirety. They would dispute my assertion that there's room in the party for all those who share basic Republican principles but might disagree on particular issues.

To these ideological zealots, unless you oppose every gun control measure--including assault-weapons bans--you're not a real Republican. Unless you oppose abortion in every instance--including in cases of rape or incest--you're not a real Republican.

Tuesday, Pennsylvania Senator Arlen Specter --a moderate Republican-- joined the Democratic Party after more than forty years on the other side because, according to some radical right-wing groups, he wasn't a "real Republican." Because of the strict ideological litmus tests imposed on Specter by extreme right-wing groups such as the Christian Coalition, the Club for Growth and Americans for Tax Reform, the Grand Old Party has lost one its few remaining moderate voices.  

And moderates, writes Christine Todd Whitman, have an "indispensable role to play."

[Moderates] must bring the Republican Party, and American politics generally, back toward the productive center. But that won't happen easily. It is time for Republican moderates to assert forcefully and plainly that this is our party too, that we not only have a place, but a voice --and not just a voice, but a vision-- a vision that is true to the historical principles of our party and our nation, not one tied to an extremist agenda."

One can only imagine what type of extremist agenda the right-wing groups were pressuring Sen. Specter, a 40-year veteran of the Republican Party, to support that lead him to conclude his only option was to switch parties.

"I have been a Republican since 1966. I have been working extremely hard for the Party, for its candidates and for the ideals of a Republican Party whose tent is big enough to welcome diverse points of view," Specter said in a statement announcing the switch Tuesday.  "Since my election in 1980, as part of the Reagan Big Tent, the Republican Party has moved far to the right. Last year, more than 200,000 Republicans in Pennsylvania changed their registration to become Democrats."

Many right-wing, radical Republicans have started lashing out at Arlen Specter calling for him to return campaign contributions while others find themselves using invective to personally attack the senior Senator from Pennsylvania.  Sadly, their anger is misdirected.

Arlen Specter is not to blame for 200,000 Pennsylvania Republicans switching to the Democratic Party, and Arlen Specter is certainly not to blame for moderate Republicans believing that there's no home for them in today's Grand Old Party.  The blame for Arlen Specter and even former Vermont Senator Jim Jeffords lays squarely with the ideologues currently controlling the once great Republican Party.

Former New Jersey Governor Christine Todd Whitman was onto something when she wrote, "Too many of them would rather be 'right' than be in power."

Today, the right-wing Republicans are neither right, nor are they in power.

Tags: Arlen Specter, Christine Todd Whitman, Conservative Moderate, Democrats, It's My Party Too, liberal, Pennsylvania, progressive, Republicans, U.S. Senate (all tags)

Comments

19 Comments

It's been awhile since my last diary. . .

. . .Can I get some recs for old time's sake?

by Andre Walker 2009-04-29 01:25AM | 0 recs
Hopefully Democrats don't get there

Hopefully we never reach a point where the various factions in the Democratic Party have no respect for one another, and that the power never shifts all the way to one side where there can be a threat of a purge.

by RichardFlatts 2009-04-29 06:18AM | 0 recs
There are elements in the party

especially on the blogsphere who do want the Democratic Party to become that way, but they're not in power at the moment, nor are they happy with the state of the party right now.

by DTOzone 2009-04-29 01:28PM | 0 recs
Its always the fringe element

The story with the Republican Party is that the fringe won out.  They are actually in control.  10% of the loons are wagging the tail of the other 90%.

Its like the sane Republicans are Pakistan and the wingnuts are the Taliban.  They didn't want to fight the extremists in their mist and let them take over.  

by RichardFlatts 2009-05-01 06:42AM | 0 recs
Re: There's no room for moderates P.

Watching the Republican Party meltdown reminds us that ideological purity is satisfying but it doesn't win elections.  Personally, I'm happy to have Senator Specter in our slightly larger tent.

There's no need for a second party in this country because the Democrats are ready, willing and able to take both sides of any issue.

by GFORD 2009-04-29 07:18AM | 0 recs
As Will Rogers said

I am not a member of any organized political party.

I am a Democrat.

______
Which has been both the strength and weakness of the Party. I am not a big fan of Spector but I think he can be described as a small-p progressive in that he knows that the way to face is forward and not over your shoulder to a conservative golden age that never really existed. That is I think that progressives and moderates agree that the general path is forward, they just disagree on the specific route and pace and there is room in the Democratic Party for both.

While the Republican Party is committed to a return to time where people knew their place, and especially workers, women and people of color. For them America hit its absolute peak in 1898 with winning the Spanish American war and putting all the wogs right in their place. Everything after that point has been a disaster. Trust Busting, Establishment of the Fed, introduction of Income Tax, giving women the vote, direct election to the Senate and then the horrible culmination of it all-the New Deal. What was wrong with the Old Deal where wealthy white English speaking men set the rules for the world?

I am perfectly serious in saying the Republican Party in its current state would be perfectly happy if the twentieth century had never happened, it ruined everything for them.

by Bruce Webb 2009-04-29 01:03PM | 0 recs
Both sides

"There's no need for a second party in this country because the Democrats are ready, willing and able to take both sides of any issue."

If you assume Specter and the vast majority of the Republican party represents one side of the argument, then there is no doubt that Democrats are "ready, willing and able" to represent both sides.

Yea, BOTH parties when they are not in power take the defending the people against the government role, but on the flip BOTH parties take the role of defending the government from the people when they get into power.  

It is unrealistic to believe that Bush some how limited government.  By any measurement under his presidency Federal government spending and regulation grew.  His father was almost as bad.  

Both political parties follow the same economic policies.  Both parties focus on a top down political structure.  The American people deserve a real options at elections.  

Specter didn't switch parties because of anything other than self-preservation.    He can't win the primary and there is a big chance that democratic party may be in power for a long time(look at the last 90 years for an example.)

The libertarian view point is shut out, castigated, vilified and ridiculed.  That is not good for our country.  Specter is just another representation of how the parties mean nothing when they stand without principles.   We deserve real choices.  Without them, what is the point of voting.  Now both parties represent the government as a collective and ignore huge swaths of individuals.

by Classical Liberal 2009-04-30 07:23PM | 0 recs
Re: Libertarian

When it came to the size of government and social issues Bush was no Libertarian. But when it came to Wall Street he was the ultimate Liberarian. He virtually shut down the FEC and OSHA and removed all regulation and government interference from Wall Street and business. Taxes became optional for any corporation with a decent accounting firm.

His hands off, libertarian keep the government and government regulation out of the markets and business philosophy was probably the biggest failure of his governance. Bigger then his expansion of government and debt. The abuses it enabled brought down the world economy and left the global economy saddled with $60 trillion in fraudulent financial derivatives.

by hankg 2009-05-01 07:24AM | 0 recs
Re: Libertarian

As a Libertarian I do not see Big Business in Bed with Big Government as a policy I could get behind.  That is not a Libertarian view point at all.  Read Adam Smith - Faceless corporations are bound to be inefficient and corrupt because it is not their money they are spending.

Big Government needs Big Business.  They go hand in hand.  Quick pretending it is the free market people who wish to make this relationship stronger.

I would argue it is demand side economics which put this country in the position it is in now, but that is a larger discussion.

by Classical Liberal 2009-05-01 03:14PM | 0 recs
Re: Libertarian

It was not the big government in bed with big business angle I was commenting on it was the market 'freed' from government regulation and oversight. Is'nt that a basic tenant of libertarian conservatism. The market will do a better job of regulating itself then government beaurocrats can?

As to big business, in an unregulated free market big businesses will use their clout to shut out competition and protect market position and profit.

by hankg 2009-05-03 06:40AM | 0 recs
Re: Libertarian

I kind of guess a basic tenant of libertarian conservative would be the markets can run things better than the government, but we need government to protect us as well or a free people would not choose to have one.

I would say limit federal government, empower the people through strong local/state governments.  Big business partners with big government because government thinks big business saves the people from small business.  The federal government mainstreams things for these national corporations to operate; it also edges out the little guy.

by Classical Liberal 2009-05-03 01:24PM | 0 recs
This is the best lesson here

Honestly, the 60th vote doesn't mean much to me; it was always an artifical hurdle that the Democrats collaborated on so they could continue using the politically lucrative (and essentially true) "blame the Republicans" schtick.

What this whole episode really says is: the Republican party has left its moderate voices behind because they threw all their chips in with a highly ideological base that has shrunk as their theories proved false, their leadership proved inadequate, and their keystone wedge issues unimportant to legions of new voters.

That's the best thing to come out of this; anything that actually happens with the Senate is gravy.

by Dracomicron 2009-04-29 09:14AM | 0 recs
The Southern Strategy

When the Republicans threw out the legacy of Lincoln and made a pact with the devil by assimilating the Dixiecrats they sowed the seeds of their destruction. It got them political dominance for 2 decades but the religious fundamentalists, neo-segregationists and nativists they pandered to rather then remaining useful idiots for corporate interests now are running the show and have a death grip on the party.

It's now the party of the rural deep South and Appalachia. It is collapsing every where else as the vicious raving wingnuts seem as alien to average Americans as a Taliban Mullah. It may not have seemed so at the time but the loss of the Dixiecrat wing was the best thing that ever happened to the Democratic party. It is now a center-left coalition that can encompass 70% of the nations electorate.

The oligarchs who thought they had the perfect formulae for destroying labor and robbing the middle class are scrambling to find some leverage in the Democratic party. They certainly have their stooges in place in Geitner, Summers and the legislators who are doing their bidding gutting the bankruptcy bill.

by hankg 2009-05-01 04:25AM | 0 recs
Two Decades?

What two decades are you referring too?  From 1930 until today Democrats controlled the house 58 out of the last 80 years and controlled the senate 66 of the last 80 years.  When republicans had control it was only by the smallest margins.  

I am not defending the GOP, just striving for accuracy.  I think your view point is out of sync with reality when you say 2 decades of political dominance.  They have had NO political dominance. The last time the GOP had political dominance was in the 1920's and that was controlled by the progressive wing of the party(at least Hoover's term).  

by Classical Liberal 2009-05-01 06:35AM | 0 recs
The Republican ascendancy

Since Reagan, the Republicans have been on offense and the Democrats have been in retreat.

Even before Bush when Republicans took control of the Congress all of Bill Clintons DLC agenda: NAFTA, welfare reform, the promotion of globalization and deregulation where all right out of the Republican playbook. The dismantling of the New Deal which continued under Clinton and the Republican dominated congress went into overdrive once they gained control of all branches of government under Bush. The margin of control didn't matter since the opposition and media were spineless and or complicit in the Republicans malfeasance.

Rove and Cheney thought they were founding a 1,000 year reich which is why they were so cavalier with breaking the law. They never thought they would be called to answer for any of it with permanent  Republican dominance of government and media.

They have had NO political dominance? Where have you been for the last 8 years?

by hankg 2009-05-01 07:17AM | 0 recs
Re: The Republican ascendancy

I just don't see it.  They get into office then build government.  Sure sometimes there methods are different, but the parties are essentially the same.  

Bush signed through the largest regulation in history on his watch.  Increased New Deal policies(ie MediaCare).  The GOP got no where with SS reform and reforms to HUD/Fannie Mae.

The only "attacks" on new deal policy was welfare reform.  Laws are not being removed from the books and we are not freer people.  

Margin of control does matter as you see as Reid claims he needs a super majority to get anything done.  That is something Republicans have not had for 90 years.  

Where have you been on this whole media attacking new deal policies?  I just don't see it.

NO POLITICAL DOMINANCE AT ALL - In 2001 the Senate was split 50-50, in the house the republicans had a 9 seat advantage.  By June, Jeffords switched parties giving the senate to the democrats.  In 2003 Republicans picked up a few seats giving them a 22 seat advantage in the house and 1 seat advantage in the senate.  In 2005 the Republicans had their strongest control in the senate with 55-45 and 27 seats in the house.  By 2007 Democrats had a 37 seat advantage in the house and 16 seats in the senate.  (This was larger than any control the republicans had for 80 years)

You could point to Republican gains in the 90's to the last time they had weight behind them - I guess you could give them some credit to the "balanced budget" of the late 90's.  That was the only time they had people and power behind them.  

Bush was no de-regulator - of course that is the secret behind why half of the country disliked him.  That and he increase the power of the Federal Government through things like, FISA, HHS and FEMA.  Of course now that Bush is out no one complains about these "breaking of laws".  

Look at the History - Republican control of the legislature which writes laws and controls the purse strings have been small blips in-between long runs of Democratic control.

Now Red and Blue are not the same as classical economics and Keynesian Economics or liberal versus conservative.  The parties seam to change positions whenever they get into power.  Hoover, T. Roosevelt, and to an extent Both Bush's governed like progressives.  Coolidge and Reagan where really the only two "small government" Republicans this century.  Maybe Ike, but he was not necessarily a small government guy.

Where have you been.  Read beyond the hype.  

by Classical Liberal 2009-05-01 03:06PM | 0 recs
Re: The Republican ascendancy

Clinton and Kennedy could possible fall in that group though for the Democrat side.

by Classical Liberal 2009-05-01 03:07PM | 0 recs
Re: The Republican ascendancy

The repeal of the financial regulations put in [palce by the New Deal led directly to the credit bubble and current collapse. That dregulation was of huge historic importance and it was the foundation of the Republican economic agenda. The other half of that was the demonization and destruction of the unions.

Republican dominance is short lived because once their policies bring about financial collapse it takes a generation or two for voters to forget. It took from 1929 until Bush for them to regain a dominant position. It didn't take lomg for them to wreck the economy.

by hankg 2009-05-03 06:45AM | 0 recs
Re: The Republican ascendancy

That just is not accurate.  Republicans and Democrats partnered in the "destruction" of the economy.  They both share the demand side economics which says when the economy is going through a correction; keep the interest rates down and pump money into the economy.  

True classical economics would say limit government spending and permanently reduce the tax rate in down economic cycles.  Yes Bush cut taxes, but A.  It was temporary and B. He relied much on tax rebates(just pumping money into the economy).

It is impossible to look at the economy and ignore the damage done by Hud and Fannie Mae.  As well as the damage the Fed has done when there charter no longer focuses on maintaining a strong dollar and instead focuses on full employment.

Yes in 1999 President Clinton signed a bipartisan piece of legislation that changed some of the regulation, but it really is short sighted to think it was the root of the problem.  It is smoke screen put up by Washington pointing to that.

Hoover was not a small government guy, he was Keynesian through and through and could be classified as a progressive(just like Bush).

FYI - Bad economies are natural and NEEDED.  That is when corruption is exposed and when things level off.  Let's not pretend the only good government is one that avoids all corrections in the economy.  Time and again we have seen that this only leads to worse swings in the future.

Unions may have been a attacked, but some deserve it.  While I think they have a value, I am not naive enough to believe they can not grow corrupt at all.  I mean do you think the auto unions are completely free of blame for the trouble in the auto industry?

by Classical Liberal 2009-05-03 01:01PM | 0 recs

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