Sunday, June 17, 2007

POLITICS OF RECONCILIATION... ARE THERE ENOUGH MODERATE REPUBLICANS TO MAKE IT POSSIBLE?

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Alas, I think the answer to the question I posed in the title is no. Almost all the moderate elected Republicans are either dead, defeated or retired. Former Missouri Senator John Danforth is trying to get a politics of reconciliation thing going. He's on the Republican Leadership Council, together with former Maryland Lt. Governor Michael Steele and former New Jersey Governor Christie Todd Whitman. They're teaming up with some other marginal Republican organizations that have "moderate" perspectives-- the Log Cabin Republicans, the Republican Mainstreet Partnership, Republicans For Environmental Protection, and Republicans For Choice-- and urging Republican leaders to cast aside the evil old ways that have brought the GOP into such low public esteem of late. In an open letter to party leaders they claim Republican candidates will be forced to "reckon" with them in the months and years ahead as they "organize and mobilize for no purpose less dramatic than the rescue of our Party and the refocusing of its platform on the bedrock principles of individual liberty and limited government; lower taxes and free markets; a strong national defense and collaborative foreign policy."

According to Central Sanity they've finished a 3rd, "less militant," final version of... a letter:
We intend this letter as an encouragement to GOP leaders who (a) embrace those bedrock principles but recognize that the narrow-minded strategies of certain social conservatives have made our Party a shadow of its former self, and (b) thus reject these social conservatives’ alienating approach and prefer what former U.S. Senator John Danforth has labeled a politics of “reconciliation,” a politics wherein we seek to emphasize what unites rather than what divides us. If you fit in this category, we encourage you to speak up and boldly state your beliefs, without equivocation. And if certain social conservatives attack you for doing so, we – the real Republican base – will be there to lend our support.

We believe the wise use of taxpayer dollars requires our government to avoid deficits and the enormous and unnecessary burden those deficits will place on future generations.

We believe in personal responsibility, self-reliance, capitalism, and the power of markets – markets that are allowed to operate with the least possible degree of regulation that is necessary to safeguard fair play and equal opportunity.

We believe in prudent actions that advance our national security, grounded in a foreign policy that, quoting former New Jersey Governor Christine Todd Whitman, is “premised on the understanding that the rest of the world matters to us,” and that thus we should guard “against becoming ensnared in nation-building enterprises and push for policies that engage us with the world community and show, in the words of the Declaration of Independence, ‘a decent respect to the opinions of mankind.’”

We believe in the U.S. Constitution, its checks and balances, and importantly, the protections it affords our states and citizens. We further believe those protections should be consistently applied, both in times of war and of peace. The war on terror should not be a war on habeas corpus.

We believe in maximizing personal liberty and minimizing government interference in our private lives, including the lives of pregnant women, terminally ill patients, gays, lesbians, and all other categories of responsible, law-abiding adults. Again quoting Governor Whitman: “The defining feature of the conservative viewpoint is a faith in the ability, and a respect for the right, of individuals to make their own decisions-- economic, social, and spiritual-- about their lives. The true conservative understands that government’s track record in respecting individual rights is poor when it dictates individual choices. Accordingly, the conservative desires to limit government’s reach as much as possible. Traditional conservatives adhere to the maxim, often attributed to Thomas Jefferson, that government governs best that governs least.”

We further believe that the truest pro-life position is one which allows and encourages the ethical pursuit of all scientific research that holds promise for mitigating diseases that afflict our families and friends.

We believe the education of our young people is critical to our future as a nation and that realistic, fiscally conservative policies should be developed to further advance educational standards, opportunities, and access, from the lowest grades to the highest, from kindergarten through college.

We believe in reasonable policies that will advance the health of our citizens, with an emphasis on children, seniors, and others who are truly in need and cannot otherwise afford health care.

We also believe in reasonable policies that will advance the health of our environment, with careful attention paid to protecting our economic vitality and objective analyses of the pro’s and con’s of alternative energy sources.

In summary, we embrace what management guru Jim Collins – in his bestselling book Built to Last – called the “Genius of the AND.” We believe the GOP and its members can and should be simultaneously pro-choice and pro-life; pro-environment and pro-economy; pro-family and pro-liberty; pro-budget and pro-opportunity; pro-security and pro-Constitution. These beliefs need not be contradictory nor exclusive.


It sounds perfectly within the realm of reason. In fact Liberal Values makes a very optimistic case for this manifesto. "This return to rule of law and move away from the authoritarianism of the current Republican leadership is what is necessary if the Republicans are to hope to be anything more than a southern regional party in the future. All in all, it isn’t even terribly inconsistent with the views I recently expressed in The Meaning of Liberalism. A Republican Party governed by these principles would help end the gridlock, allowing liberals and moderate conservatives to work together for the improvement of the country without being distracted by the wedge issues pushed by the current Republican leadership."

Bravo! Unfortunately even a cursory glance at the reality of the voting records of the elected Republicans in the organizations cited makes this whole project nothing but wishful thinking. I looked for the membership lists of all the organizations to see which Republican senators and House members are part of this grand moderate coalition. By and large their voting records are so extreme and so radical right that they make the most despised and reactionary Democrats appear almost moderate.

First we have to take the Log Cabin Republicans out since it's a closet case organization and no elected Republican will admit being a member. They have some kind of a dinner coming up July 12 in DC and "honoring Republican heroes in Congress." They list two. First is Mary Bono, who lives in one of the country's most high density gay districts in the country, Palm Springs area, and has the exact same voting record on gay rights as vicious homophobes like Marilyn Musgrave (R-CO), Mean Jean Schmidt (R-OH), and John Doolittle and Republican closet queens Jim McCrery (LA), David Dreier (CA), Patrick McHenry (NC) and Denny Hastert (R-IL). And the second, just added, is Gordon Smith, the Oregon Senator widely considered to be vulnerable to defeat in his own party's primary, from a far right kook, or in the general election, where the Democrats will run an actual moderate instead of a make believe moderate, which is what Smith's voting record shows him to be.
Needless to say, closeted gay Republican senators like Lindsey Graham (SC), Miss McConnell (KY) and Larry Craig (ID) are not members of the Log Cabin Republicans.

The other organizations all have Republican elected officials who are willing to admit being members. The problem, in almost every case, is that their voting records are far from moderate. The Republican Mainstreet Partnership membership list includes 6 senators and 40 current House members. Some of them are so radically right that any object examination of their voting records would have to conclude they are far closer to being neo-fascists than moderates. It starts out well enough, with the least reactionary Republican in the House, Christopher Shays (CT) whose Progressive Punch score of 31.04 makes him appear to be on the fringes of moderation. The most extreme right-wing Democrat, a reviled reactionary, Mississippi DINO, Gene Taylor, who no one in their right mind would ever call a moderate, has a 49.65 score. After Shays it goes downhill... really fast. Other members of this list of moderates include far right culture warriors like Kay Granger (TX), with a score of 4.46, and Dave Camp of Michigan who has the same score, 7.0, as Tom Tancredo (often described as the "American Mussolini") as well as blatantly fake moderates like closet queen David Dreier (CA) with a mighty 5.09 score, and Jim McCrery with a similarly horrendous 6.11. In this alternative universe, moderates include models of right wing extremism like Greg Walden (OR), Randy Kuhl (NY), Jo Ann Emerson (MO), Ginny Brown-Waite (FL), southern California's corruption trio of Jerry Lewis, Ken Calvert and Brian Bilbray and a bevy of Ohio wingnuts who no one ever accused of moderation: Paul Gillmor, Michael Turner, Ralph Regula, Deborah Pryce, David Hobson and Steven LaTourette. On the Senate side it is within reason to think of Arlen Specter (R-PA) and Oympia Snowe (R-ME) and perhaps even Susan Collins as at least coming close to being moderates (all scoring in the 30s), especially in election years when they're trying to shed the rubber stamp designation they earn the other 5 years of their terms. But there is no way of examining the hard right voting records of members Norm Coleman (16.56), Gordon Smith (16.17) and John McCain (13.99) and declaring those records are even vaguely moderate. There are two GOP governors in this lot too, Linda Lingle and Arnold Schwarzenegger, both from deep blue states, Hawaii and California.


Republicans For Environmental Protection is just a joke. Their honorary board is mostly ex-office holders like Lincoln Chafee, Jim Leach, Joe Schwarz, Christie Todd Whitman and Sue Kelly plus a list of basically anti-environment, pro-polution GOP hacks. Not one has a good environmental record. The most acceptable-- though nothing to write home about-- belongs to Maine's Susan Collins- (56.45) and it beats the 4 most pollution-friendly Democrats: Max Baucus, Mary Landrieu, Blanche Lincoln, and Ben Nelson. The only other GOP senator in this group is John McCain with a 29.03 environmental score, something I would describe as sickening, not moderate. In fact, by way of comparison 3 senators tied at #1- Lautenberg, Obama, Salazar, all with perfect environmental records (100) and 9 Repugs are tied in last place with perfect zeroes that you can only get if you are 100% owned by polluting industries and developers or if you hate cleanliness and anything natural: Lamar Alexander (TN), Richard Burr (NC), Saxby Chambliss (GA), Jim DeMint (SC), Chuck Hagel (NE), Johnny Isakson (GA), Mel Martinez (FL), Lisa Murkowski (AK), David Vitter (LA).

It's even worse on the House side. For some reason pollution-advocates like Jim Walsh (NY), with a score of 13.28, Jim Gerlach (PA) with a score of 23.53, and Wayne Gilchrest (MD) with a whopping 24.22 are on the honorary board even though their voting records are disgraceful and blatantly anti-environmental.

Again, for comparison's sake, the most pollution-friendly Dems are Dan Boren (20.69), Charlie Melancon (31.03), Bud Cramer (36.43), Chet Edwards (38.76), Henry Cuellar (41.38) and Collin Peterson (44.96)-- the shame of the Democratic caucus. But interspersed with them are the "environmental heroes" of the GOP. 43 Democrats have scores of 90 or above with the best belonging to Barbara Lee (99.23).

The pattern stays exactly the same when you get to Republicans For Choice. Their Advisory Committee has a couple of Republican congressmembers who could be considered "moderate" on reproductive choice-- Olympia Snowe (66.67), Christopher Shays (CT)- 66.67, Susan Collins (60), and two members from Illinois, Mark Kirk (59.09) and Judy Biggert (58.33). After that the voting records look to me like they belong to a bunch of anti-choice nuts: Rodney Frelinghuysen (NJ)- 33.33; Wayne Gilchrest (MD)- 33.33 and Arlen Specter (PA)- 40 (worse than even the most anti-choice Dems except Ben Nelson's 13.33. I guess someone defining pitiful scores like these as moderate are painfully aware that almost every Republican senator-- 40 of 'em-- have perfect zeroes-- and that includes fake moderates like McCain, Sununu, Coleman, and Hagel.

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7 Comments:

At 3:39 PM, Anonymous Ron Chusid said...

Thanks for the link. I was obviously looking at this from a more hopeful philosophical viewpoint, while you are looking in terms of practicsl politics.

I think we both agree that it would be a good thing to have a Republican Party which subscribes to these principles. It is a valid point that we have seen far too cases of Republican moderates standing up to really support such principles.

One hopeful though, should the moderates somehow take control of the Republican Party, is that many of the moderates might have been pulled to the right in the past but are finally seeing the error in this.

Looking at voting records can be a little misleading as many votes come down to supporting the party line, especially in recent years when this was enforced much more strongly than in the past. A Republican Party which was really controlled by such moderates might really take a different course, especially after having seen the consequences of following the leadership of the far right.

 
At 6:57 AM, Blogger Pete Abel said...

Exactly, Ron. That's how I see it, too.

 
At 7:04 AM, Anonymous me said...

"Moderate Republican"? WTF is that?

 
At 10:45 AM, Anonymous Ron Chusid said...

""Moderate Republican"? WTF is that?"

It is a species which I had feared was extinct. This letter might prove otherwise. More likely they will be brushed aside by the dominant organisms in the GOP, but we can hope that the Moderate Republicans find a way to thrive.

 
At 8:51 AM, Blogger Pete Abel said...

Clarification: We have not yet officially received the agreement of the previously listed organizations to sign on to this letter, hence I have updated to delete their names until they agree to sign on, and to make it very clear that this is still a draft, circulated only for reaction and possible individual signatories:

Corrected draft is here: http://centralsanity.blogspot.com/2007/06/revised-letter-to-republican-leaders.html

 
At 3:46 PM, Blogger Citizen Carrie said...

Every once in a great while I do a search on "moderate Republican" and usually come up disappointed. Usually, I'll find references to "virtually unknown Republican" or "Republican voted out of office after one term", or even "total loser". I'm glad I found this blog.

I was really hoping that by now some of the moderates would start standing up to the theocrats, but it hasn't happened yet. Or if it has, I'd really like to know about it! I just fear that the moderate Republicans have died off and people have either drifted off to the left or right, with only the apathetic occupying the middle ground. I hope I live to see the day when more people declare for the center.

 
At 7:58 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

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