Monday, May 23, 2011

How Drastically The Republican Party Has Changed In Such A Short Time


Leonard Lance & Scott Walker, indistinguishable faces of Republican change

Yesterday's post about the far right voting record of Hawaii's former congressman Ed Case, brought to the fore a March 17, 2005 amendment by right-wing extremist Jeb Henslarling (R-TX) to cut off funding for Planned Parenthood, NPR and the National Endowment for the Arts. It was handily defeated 320-102 with only one Democrat, the aforementioned Case, plus the 101 most radical Republicans voting for it. Most Republicans, 122 of them-- led by Tom DeLay and Henry Hyde-- voted against it as much too radical. This year, virtually the entire Republican caucus voted for the exact same defunding measures-- dozens and dozens of them flipping away from protecting a woman's right to choice or the public's right to actual fair and balanced news coverage. Only 7 Republicans (Charlie Bass, Judy Biggert, Mary Bono Mack, Charlie Dent, Bob Dold, Rodney Frelinghuysen, and Richard Hanna), voted against Mike Pence's amendment to strip funding from Planned Parenthood. Ten Blue Dog types as bad as Case (your Heath Shulers, Lipinskis, Joe Donnellys, Mike Rosses... that ilk) crossed the aisle to vote with the Republicans.

But what I found most interesting were the ones who switched from supporting Planned Parenthood in 2005 to opposing it this year. Here in California the flip floppers included:
Ken Calvert (R)
David Dreier (R)
Elton Gallegly (R)
Darrell Issa (R)
Jerry Lewis (R)
Buck McKeon (R)
Devin Nunes (R)

Mary Bono voted against stripping funding in 2005 and again this year and far right extremists Wally Herger, Dan Lungren, Gary Miller, Dana Rohrabacher, and Ed Royce were also consistent-- against Planned Parenthood in 2005 and against it again in 2011.

The Republican Party has changed... drastically, and not just in terms of women's issues. They're no longer even a mainstream party, not even a mainstream conservative party. We saw that over the weekend at the Wisconsin Republican Party state convention, where the neo-fascist Walkerite faction so thoroughly controlled it that 3-term popular ex-Governor Tommy Thompson was violently kicked to the curb, his hopes for a Senate run dashed by the extremists.
His D.C. lobbyist cash paid for plenty of signs to limn the sparse crowds at the annual Wisconsin Republican convention here, but Tommy G. Thompson's run for the U.S. Senate was soundly rejected by his own party in humiliating fashion, with Thompson losing a straw poll to a nobody former state senator, with him dissed by extremist U.S. Sen. Ron Johnson.and with him under attack by Scott Walker's own political machine.

Thompson himself was a no-show at the debacle, but it's just as well that he hid.

He lost the poll to former state Sen. Ted Kanavas, a retread not well known outside of Waukesha County or his own family.

One of Scott Walker's top advisers, R.J. Johnson, led an all-out assault on a Thompson Senate candidacy.

And Tea Party extremist Ron Johnson gave a sideways but unequivocal rejection of Thompson, using euphemism to say that Thompson's previous support for President Obama's health care reforms for working families rendered Thompson anathema to the Wisconsin Republicans' ruling right wing.

In yesterday's Newark Star-Ledger Tom Moran explained the transformation of New Jersey Congressman Leonard Lance from a mainstream conservative "nerd" to a rubber stamp for the extremist wing of the neo-Confederate, neo-fascist GOP of today. Focusing on Lance, he actually explained the transformation of the entire Republican Party.
After serving 19 years in the state Legislature, Lance has moved steadily to the right since he started drinking the water in Washington after winning his seat in 2008. Now, even his admirers are wondering if he’s sold his soul for political advantage.

“Is he basically throwing his long-standing moderation over the side in hopes of being in the good graces and moving up in the party?” asks Ross Baker, a political scientist at Rutgers University. “I think it’s an interesting question, and one no one would have asked about Leonard Lance five years ago.”

Lance, 58, says he hasn’t changed a bit, but facts are hard things to ignore.

He once vehemently supported a cap-and-trade bill to fight climate change, and now he’s against it. He even voted to strip the Environmental Protection Agency of the power to regulate carbon emissions in more measured ways, giving aid and comfort to the troglodytes who see climate change as a hoax.

A pro-choice Republican going way back, he voted recently to cut off all funding for Planned Parenthood, even those clinics that provide health care with no abortion services.

A leading voice for bipartisan cooperation in Trenton, he has attached himself to Washington’s most uncompromising fire-breathers on the biggest fight of the day-- the budget.

The plan drafted by Republican leaders didn’t go far enough for Lance. He supported the tea party budget, which would savage programs such as food stamps and health care for the poor, eliminate funding for the arts and public broadcasting, and reduce taxes. And yes, those lower taxes would benefit mostly the rich.

This plan was too ferocious for every other Republican in the New Jersey delegation, with the exception of Rep. Scott Garrett, an anti-government ideologue who even opposed aid for Louisiana after Hurricane Katrina.

...This is not the Leonard Lance we knew in Trenton. The real question is, what inspired the change?

Here’s the crudest explanation: Lance was challenged by tea party candidates in the 2010 primary and won with only 56 percent of the vote, so he wants to protect his right flank. He represents the 7th District, which stretches across Central Jersey like a belt.

But with redistricting coming, he could be put in a new district with Garrett and have to compete for conservative votes.

Add to this the pressure from his own caucus in Washington to move right. Lance knows the history of moderate Jersey Republicans getting kneecapped by conservatives in Washington, and the mood today is even fiercer.

“Nobody wants to be the outlier in his own party,” Baker says. “The idea of being a member of the club is important.” ... Whatever the reason, the rightward shift is disheartening to those who have spent years in Lance’s cheering section.

“I’m concerned for the country when even someone like Leonard is voting against his own principles,” Tittel says. “There’s an old adage that says Congress has ruined many a good man. And I’m concerned that could happen to Leonard.”

Lance has a principled, capable progressive opponent this cycle, Ed Potosnak, who was endorsed by Blue America this week. Please consider contributing to his campaign to make Congress less extremist by one.

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