Tuesday, January 31, 2006

Whither Moderate Democrats?

A lot of ink has been spilled concerned the demise of moderate Republicans. Where we once had a strong voice in the party, we are now at best sidelined by the far right, if not outright chased out.

It seems the press is finally starting to notice that the rabid left has taken a page from the far right's strategy to take over the GOP and have started spewing venom at anyone that doesn't share their rabid values.

Over the past few days, there have been two articles in the Washington Post (you can access them here and here) that show a hard left that I believe wants to remake the Democrats in the way that the hard right remade the GOP.

The second article is about a recent conference that included such luminaries of the hard left such as former Attorney General Ramsey Clark ( I guess he found time to attend in between defending some the world's worst leaders like Saddam and Slobodan Milosevic) and Cindy Sheehan, fresh from here visit with Venezuelan President/strongman, Hugo Chavez. The second piece notes that Sheehan is mulling a bid to challenge California Senator and moderate Democrat, Diane Fienstien, in the Democratic primary.

It also looks like Connecticut Senator Joe Liberman should be watching his back as well. He might be facing opposition from his left from a Ned Lamont. And it looks like the far left base demands Liberman's head for his "cowardice." Just read this reaction after yesterday's filibuster vote on Samuel Alito by a Kossack:

Lieberman f****n voted FOR cloture. If we do one thing this year it should be to find a REAL Dem for that senate seat - or whenever he's up for reelection.

A "real" Democrat, huh?

Sort of reminds me of reactionaries in my own party who call folks like Arlen Specter, Susan Collins or Olympia Snowe "RINOs" or "Republicans in Name Only."

From the looks of things, it seems that moderate Democrats are also becoming an endangered species. And that's sad. While the fringes of both parties might see moderates as traitors to the cause, these are the ones that roll up their sleeves and get things done. They aren't motivated as much by ideological purity as they are in doing what's best for the country as a whole. The fringes are interested in feeling good and love it when someone spews venom at the other side.

The thing is, while the far left and far right duke it out to see who is right, our country is facing several crises in the near future. What will we do about Iran? What about Hamas? How do we fight terrorism and not lose our civil liberties? How do we bring about affordable health care? How do we rebuild the Gulf Coast? What about Social Security and the Baby Boomers? What about Avian Flu?

America has a lot on its plate and the last thing we need is to talk about impeachment or trying to save the "life" of a brain-dead woman.

I worry that the loss of moderates in our nation's public life means that less will get done. More babies, less grownups.


Monday, January 30, 2006

When Politics was Humane

The summer between my junior and senior year, I interned with my congressman in Washington. I was 20 years old and spending two months meeting people that I had seen only on TV. The highlight? Getting the chance to hear Nelson Mandela, who had only be released from prison a few months before, speak before a joint session of Congress. But that's another story for another day.

What I remember most is meeting a fellow intern, named Dan. He was from Arkansas and a diehard conservative. (I was more liberal back then.) Instead of pigeonholing him, I got a chance to really know him. I didn't always agree with him, but he changed my opinion of people who were far more conservative than I was.

I think about Dan because if you look at the political climate today, we live in a very different world. Today, we have winners like Ann Coulter joking about poisoning a Justice of the Supreme court. People like Coulter, Micahel Moore and others are basically pugilists that are spoiling for a fight. They see those who disagree with them as pure evil that needs to be removed.

David Broder opines in Sunday's Washington Post about the relationship between President Ronald Reagan and Speaker of the House Thomas "Tip" O'Neil. The two didn't agree on policy, but Broder describes a relationship where both men cared and respected each other greatly.

Somewhere along the way, the partisans of today stopped thinking of those who might have another view as human beings. Maybe it's that we have created such safe partisan universes where ideolouges can feel safe and secure and never have to actually listen to another viewpoint. Conservatives can read magazines like the Weekly Standard, listen to Rush Limbaugh and watch Fox News. Liberals can read The Nation, listen to Al Franken and watch CNN. Conservatives read blogs like Powerline, while liberals read blogs like Daily Kos. Conservatives saw President Clinton as liar and worse. Liberals see President Bush as a liar and... you get the idea.

(Hell, there are even dating services for the politically like-minded.)

Twenty years ago, it was not as easy as it is now to cocoon yourself into a world where everyone believes like you do. And maybe back then people weren't so damn self-righteous. These days, people don't think they are right, they know they are. And if you know you are right, then you don't need to really listen to anyone else.

In a way, the highly partisan atmosphere we are in tells me that we are a less critically thinking society than we used to be. If you believe that you have the truth, owning it lock, stock and barrel, then you don't really have to think about things. Everything is black and white. However, if you believe that they truth is not so easily attainable, that the truth is something that you have to search for, and that you can find the truth in some unexpected places, then you are opening your mind up for different viewpoints. You start to think about things in different ways.

The relationship that Reagan and O'Neil had seems like a distant memory. I pray that we can see that kind of political friendship someday soon.

Wednesday, January 25, 2006

The United States and Iran: Together at Last

The US and Iran agree on something: that gay-rights groups shouldn't have consultative status in a UN agency. Alan Stewart Carl blogs about the decsion of the US to join such other freedom-loving societies like China, Cuba and Zimbabwe to block two gay organizations from joining the UN Economic and Social Council.

At the time, Alan reported that the story was only found on partisan media sites. I did some checking and found that the gay media is picking up the story with stories by The Southern Voice, The Advocate, and 365gay.com.

It should be noted that according to Human Rights Watch, Iran has a record of arresting, flogging and excuting gay men. Our own government's country report says basically the same thing. The US government also has some not so nice things to say about Zimbabwe's president, Robert Mugabe, who has blamed gays for Africa's problems and that they were without rights.

So, with all this, why does the US side with such rogues?

I have no answer. I think Alan says it best:

If true, this is disgraceful. What possible motivation would we have to deny gay rights groups a spot on a council that includes 3000 other groups? Is the current administration so hostile towards gays that it prefers to side with countries that execute homosexuals rather than allow gay groups to discuss issues important to them?

How disgusting.

Thursday, January 19, 2006

It's Getting Hot in Heeeeere...

...And that's not a good thing.

About a decade ago, I was someone who would have said we don't have all the science in to know if global warming is happening. I wasn't against doing something about it, though. I tend to follow the elder George Bush and side on being prudent. Better to be safe than sorry.

These days, it's hard not to find some news report about how the habitat is changing...rapidly. [If you want to hear an interesting, yet scary report, check out this weeks "Quirks and Quarks," Canadian Broadcasting's (CBC Radio) science show. Host Bob McDonald talks with scientist Ian Stirling about the decline of polar bears in the Artic because the North is warming.]

And what is the Bush Adminstration doing about it? Not very much. They aren't supporting the Kyoto Protocol and were quite intransigent at a recent meeting on global climate change.

Would the Administration listen if they heard some criticism from their own?

Joe Gandleman writes about a recent gathering of six former administrators of the Enviromental Protection Agency (five of them were Republicans). To a person, they blasted the Bush Administration for not doing enough on global warming.

Let me state that again: five former heads of the EPA who severed under Republican presidents are criticizing the current Republican president for not doing enough on global warming.

This isn't something that one should dismiss. Bush probably will since he is basically a handmaiden to the far right that talks a lot about God and values but then trashes the earth God created.

While I don't expect the president to listen to these former EPA heads, I do think there is some hope in the fact they were willing to speak up. It's my hope that there are more Republicans willing to speak out about global warming and push our elected leaders to remove the blinders from their eyes before it's too late.

The Lowdown on Shadegg

Arizona Representative John Shadegg, a member of the 1994 "Contract with America" class, has thrown his hat in the ring to run for House Majority Leader after Tom DeLay formally relinquished his desire to get regain the position in the wake of his ethics mess.

I have to say, I haven't heard much of this guy, but what is coming out seems good. He is a staunch conservative that I probably wouldn't agree with some issues, but his approach and tactics make him the standout over the others running, Roy Blunt of Missouri and John Boehner of Ohio. Blogger Stacy Holmstedt wrote in Tuesday's Arizona Republic why Mr. Shadegg should be majority leader:

1. He's the man behind the GOP's Unity Dinners, which have sought to build consensus between moderates and conservatives on issues like Social Security and immigration. From many reports, they're working.

2. He has refused highway pork for his own district, showing that he walks the walk on cutting earmarks.

3. He was one of only 12 Republicans to vote against this term's flag desecration bill, legislation that is political pandering at its worst and a waste of floor time.

4. He cares about health care reform, a good strategy for stealing the Democrats' thunder in the upcoming elections. No, his proposals are not going to appease the left, but they're a good start in breaking up the hegemonies that are making health insurance companies fatter by the year. Plus, his high-risk insurance pool legislation passed both the House and Senate this term, showing that he has efficacy.

5. Integrity. There's been so much easy media hay to make out of the immigration issue . . . and Shadegg has stayed out of it. That shows class.

Those all seem like good reasons to me, especially his willingness to tackle health care reform. I'm also impressed by his seeming willingness to work with moderates in the party instead of treating them like outcasts. Today's editorial in the Republic tells the GOP not to be fools and ignore this "gift:"

Arizona's Shadegg is one of the last revolutionaries standing from the insurgency-minded GOP Class of '94, the one that argued for smaller government, lower taxes and a newfound sense of ethics.

Like them or not, the principles Shadegg arrived with in Washington are the same ones he espouses today. Shadegg's efforts to combat skyrocketing health care costs by infusing free-market reforms should have made him a star in his party all by themselves.

What's more, he is articulate, well-liked on both sides of the aisle and, as chairman of the conservative-minded Republican Study Committee, he already holds a lofty position in House leadership. Best of all, he has never met disgraced former lobbyist Jack Abramoff.

Repeat: Shadegg has never met Jack Abramoff.

They continue:

the same party that once hailed the tenets of the "Contract with America" today judges Shadegg, one of the last remaining advocates of that contract, an outsider. He is a conservative-minded "underdog" in the race to lead his party members in the House of Representatives. Can there be starker evidence than this to explain why Republicans are in the ethical fix they find themselves in today?

Actually, yes.

Republican abandonment of smaller-government principles only partially explains the current mess. Their political road to perdition - the nasty taint of ties to manipulating lobbyists; the corruption-enhancing business of "earmarking" billion-dollar goodies to each other - is far uglier in the pubic eye than the ephemeral consequence of those scandals: the loss of their cost-cutting spirit.

I don't know enough of Shadegg to say he should be the choice, but the fact that he seems to be untainted from the recent scandals and laspes in judgement that have plauged the GOP, makes me think that Republicans in the House should take a long, hard look at him if they are really serious about reform. If they pass him up? Well, I'll let the Republic finish this post:

Shadegg constitutes a gift to his fellow GOP members of Congress. They may not deserve it. They may never truly appreciate what benefits it brings. But they will be damned fools not to open it.

Tuesday, January 17, 2006

The Next Conservatism Update: Crunchy Conservatism

Every so often I will have a post about the "contercultural" movements taking place with in the spectrum of conservatism. Today, I want to share an article I read a few weeks back about "crunchy conservatism." The author is Rod Dreher, a former writer with the National Review. He coined the term "crunchy con" in an article back in 2002.

So what is a "crunchy conservative?" Dreher defines them this way:

All I can tell you is that the crunchy-granola lefties are often right about little things that make life richer. Take food, for example. After we married, Julie and I had to teach ourselves how to cook. We quickly discovered how much better food tastes if it hasn't been processed. We'd go to farmers' markets in the city to buy produce, and before we knew it, we were making and canning our own apple butter. Not only did the stuff taste dramatically better than what was on offer in the supermarket, but there was a real sense of pride in knowing how to do these things for ourselves, like our grandmothers did. We realized one day that pretty much the only young to middle-aged people we knew who cared about these things were ... lefties...

...The music we like — jazz, hard country, bluegrass, Cuban son — is something you can only hear on, umm, public radio or see on public television. When we began talking about buying a house, we realized we wanted something old and funky, in the sort of neighborhood that your average Republican would disdain. We found that though the Shiite environmentalists drive us nuts, there was also something off-putting about the way many conservatives speak with caustic derision about environmental conservation. Two weeks ago, some conservative friends were driving me down the Pacific Coast Highway, and I was overwhelmed by the beauty, as they are. "I'm afraid we have to tip our hats to the tree-huggers," said one. "If it weren't for them, much of what you see would be covered with tract houses and malls."

Here's something else I've noticed: The Granola Conservatives I know tend not to be wealthy, but labor in the creative and intellectual vineyards as writers, professors, and artists. They also tend to be religious. It's foolish to go too far in metaphysicalizing questions of taste, but a big part of it, at least for those of us who are part of older Christian traditions, comes from learning to see the world sacramentally. In the sacramental vision, which is shared by Catholics and the Orthodox, the spirit world is mediated through the material world, which is another way of saying we experience God in creation. To someone imbued with a sacramental vision, qualities inherent in things — from the food we eat to the buildings we live in — matter in profoundly spiritual ways.

When I read the orginal article a few years ago, I realized that I was a "CrunchyCon" as well. I tend to buy organic foods. I bought a 1920s style bungalow in North Minneapolis, instead of getting a bland McMansion in the burbs. I like public transportation. I bought a car that is extremely fuel efficient. I'm also a Republican that is pro defense, pro gun rights (to a point) and all that.

If you have the time, read both articles. I don't know about you, but I tend to think that the current state American conservatism is in a wasteland. The current scandals plaguing the GOP is proof positive of the point.

Conservatism can be more than what it is right now. I think the love of money and power has diluted its strength. Maybe, just maybe, this movement could revitalize it. Who knows.

Monday, January 16, 2006


Saluatations and welcome to my little corner of the web. Most of you already know me; my name's Dennis and for the past four years I've written at a little blog called The Moderate Republican. In November of this year, I was let go from my job and just didn't have the energy to write about my take on the world. So, for the last two months, I've basically focused on finding a new job and not even looking at a blog for most of that time.

After two months, I feel ready to come back. However, I decided to come back in a different way with a new blog. I'm still writing and sharing my views as a centrist Republican, but I've decided to be more of a "fighting moderate" shall we say. Hence, the new blog, NeoMugwump.

Okay, so you're asking: what is a mugwump?

Well, according to Wikipedia, mugwumps were independent-minded Republicans. The wiki entry states that a number of Republicans refused to support the 1884 presidential candidate, James Blaine. They found him "untrustworthy" and "fraudulent." The term has found new cache today, with the term, now badged as Neo-Mugwump, referring to centrist Republicans who are out of the step with the larger, more reactionary GOP mainstream.

So, why did I name this blog NeoMugwump?

The reason is that I wanted to reflect the spirit of the Mugwumps and state that I am an independent Republican committed to limited government, the free market and a strong national defense. I also stand for the tolerance and equality of gay Americans, as well as strong ethic of conservation.

This blog isn't about much more than the musings of one Republican who refuses to be forced out of the party. I simply want to say that there is more than one way to be a Republican.

Most importantly, I'm here to have fun. So that means I won't blog everyday over every little thing. Sometimes I will blog on things that aren't the big issue of the day.

So, enjoy this new blog. Stay tuned.