Thursday, April 27, 2006

The Future of the GOP

I was reading a recent book review in Reason Magazine about the 10 year anniversary of the Weekly Standard. The day before, I was reading an article in Slate called "Why Republicans are Screwed." The last paragraphs of that article had an interesting viewpoint that made my ears perk up:

If Republicans manage to hold on to their majorities, it will be because they have perfected the ability to use gerrymandering, pork-barreling, and other toll-keeping powers to maintain themselves in office, much like the Democrats they turned out of office in 1994. Retaining control by a narrow margin will do nothing to solve the struggle at the heart of the party between moderates and social conservatives, neoconservatives, and realists, and between fiscal conservatives and big spenders or fanatical tax cutters. In some sense, if the GOP wins ugly and keeps control, they'll be worse off, retaining undivided responsibility, without much actual ability to do anything, heading into the 2008 election. Even the nomination of Hillary Clinton may not unite the factions. Antipathy toward her husband didn't keep Republicans from a debilitating primary struggle in 1996.

Change may come only if a more bruising internal fight between these factions breaks out into the open. During Ford's presidency, the ideological thicket was cleared by Ronald Reagan, who spoke out against the sitting president of his own party, declaring that the national government had "become more intrusive, more coercive, more meddlesome, and less effective." Perhaps no Republican can make a broad assault on GOP leaders while the country is at war. And it may be harder for, say, John McCain, to moderate a reckless, radical party than it was for Reagan to radicalize Ford's limp, idealess one. But if the GOP doesn't have that fight this year, it's going to have it in 2008.

These two stories have made me think about the intellectual state of moderate Republicanism, if such an animal exists (I tend to think it does). The rise of the conservative movement in the GOP was because of think tanks, radio talk show hosts, and magazines, that spread ideas that helped give rise to the ascendancy of Ronald Reagan. Back in the early 70s, moderate Republicanism was on the wane. In 1976, Reagan gave then President Ford a run for his money during the presidential campaign. By 1980, the conservative movement was unstoppable and Reagan became president.

It seems that for the moderate movement to become strong again, it needs to be producing some ideas. There are many advocacy organizations such as Log Cabin that uphold certain values, but there isn't really a moderate Republican think tank or magazine.

In many cases, the conservative movement in the GOP has run off the rails. It's swung too far to the right and has scared the public. But moderates won't get far if we don't present moderate ideas.

There has to be some rich old Rockefeller Republican who could bankroll a magazine or something.

2 comments: said...

Agreed that there isn't a powerful, and well funded, moderate GOP movement out there. But there are a few good starts, and I think it's growing. Check out,, and of course, my very own

Transplanted Lawyer said...

I'm reminded of the last scene from Animal Farm, when Napoleon and the other pigs are playing poker with the neighboring farmers, walking upright, smoking and drinking -- and the other animals looking in the window can't tell the difference between the pigs who promised them revolution and utopia, and the farmers who formerly oppressed them.