Tuesday, April 05, 2005

Moderate Republicans = Rodney Dangerfield?

One should never provoke a Puerto Rican.

It's not easy being a moderate Republican these days. You are viewed by the many in the party as a traitor, called derisively a RINO (Republican in Name Only) and targeted by far right groups.

And that's just the Republicans.

Democrats and Independents see you as a fool to stay in a party that is so conservative. They also tend to see you as a patsy, who blindly follows the dictates of a far right leadership and is too timid to speak up. It would be far better, they say to leave the party and maybe even better to find a party that accepts you, like maybe the Democrats.


I'm a bit bothered ( and that's a BIG understatement) at the latest posts this morning by both The Moderate Voice and Bull Moose, a blog run by a former Republican who is now closely associated with the centrist Democratic Leadership Council.

Bull Moose doesn't have much sympathy for his former moderate friends in the party of the Elephant. He writes:
With all due respect to the GOP "wets", their problem is not that they are weak, but rather they are blind. They ignore the political reality that dictates that their party without the religious right is merely a full service concierge for big corporate money. The Moose writes in a review of Whitman's book ,

" The GOP bigwigs pay obeisance to the religious right because it provides the shock troops for their campaigns. The Republican establishment cynically manipulates the cultural issues because a party that is dedicated only to redistributing wealth upward has little chance of majority status. Once elected, Republicans reward the religious right with some crumbs, while the real goodies are handed out to their wealthy donors and corporate cronies."

The moderates have largely made their peace with a party that is the province not of Danforth, Warner, Shays or Whitman, but rather of Tom DeLay - money power marinated in social conservatism. Ultimately, the real problem for the mods is not the religious right but a party that has made as its primary purpose the promotion of the economic interests of the great malefactors of wealth. Cultural conservatism is essential to provide a populist facade for the plutocratic agenda.

I think it's wrong to say that the moderates are not aware of the power politics, but I also think it's shortsided. Yes the corrupt tactics of people like Tom Delay are a major problem, but don't underestimate the religious right. Bull Moose and The Moderate Voice are deeply mistaken if they don't see the power of the Religious Right and how they are corroding our American Republic. The Religious Rights aren't fools. They want an American shaped by their views and they see the GOP as their vehicle. The GOP is not throwing a few crumbs their way, but it is a marriage of convenience. They theocrats and the "sleazo-cons" both want power and they are quite willing to work together. Moderate Republicans are aware of this and have spoken up, not just about the recent Schiavo case, but on issues such as the who Delay fracas as well.

Washington Post writer Dana Milbank also tars moderates. Listen to what he says as he rips into former New Jersey Governor Christine Todd Whitman:

But Christine Todd Whitman, last vestige of Rockefeller Republicanism, is too nice to do that. Prim and sensible as she sat in a green armchair and pitched her new book at a Council on Foreign Relations forum this week, Bush's former chief of the Environmental Protection Agency ruled out quitting the GOP or launching a presidential candidacy. She even refused -- politely, of course -- to identify a single one of the "social fundamentalists" she claims have hijacked the Republican Party.

Notice that one of the things he said she and other moderates should do is quit the GOP. Outsiders always think this is some kind of sure fire way to get the attention of the GOP. They might look to Vermont Senator Jim Jeffords, who bolted the GOP back in 2001. But let's look at the result: yes, for a time his defection did tip the Senate in favor of the Dems, but it had no real effect. The far right of the GOP was even stronger in the 2002 midterms. If Whitman and others including yours truly, left the party, the result would not necessairly be that the GOP would start losing elections, but would get stronger. In fact, it has. Countless moderates have left and what do we have? A stronger GOP and a withering Democratic party, not a stronger one.

Staying in the party and fighting is not easy and it's certainly lonely. But I can't place my hopes in some kind of electoral defeat, especially when the Dems are in the wilderness. But I will stay and work for change from the inside. America needs two moderate parties, not one. It was when both parties occupied the sensible center that we saw things get done (ie: environmental laws, civil rights laws). I just think that instead of making fun of moderates, bloggers and writers would start talking to the many moderates out there who are working for change. It's easy to curse the darkness, but better to carry a light.


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