Friday, October 23, 2009

Moderate Republicanism: Is It Worth Fighting For?

Fellow Republicans United blogger, Bill Golden had this to say earlier today about moderate and/or centrist Republicans:
And for moderates — you need to find some principles quick. Being “moderate” or “centrist” is a mode. If you keep standing in the middle of the road whining that no one is stopping to give you a kiss … then you are just going to get your arse run over. Become a liberal, libertarian or conservative or whatever, but get some principles and go with it. Defend them. Live them. Be “moderate” when it comes to time to work out agreement but please stop standing in the middle of the road.


It made me think a lot about the fate of the so-called moderate Republican, a moniker that I have long used to describe myself. I have been long frustrated with my fellow moderates for some the reasons that Bill has argued, specifically, that we tend to stand in the middle of the road whining that no one will give us a kiss. And because we sit there whining about the state of moderates in the party, we ended up getting our asses handed to us again and again.

I know that I might hurt some feelings here, but I am starting to think that a lot of moderates are some of the most feckless, flighty and downright cowardly people. We do not stand up for our convictions. At times, I wonder if we even have convictions. We whine about the dwindling state of the GOP, about how it is being taken over by extremists, but when it comes down to making a difference, we offer no solutions other than pleading for the Republican leadership to love us.

Right now, Dede Scozzafava is losing a race she should have won. For those not in the know, Scozzafava is running for a seat in Congress to represent the 23rd Congressional District in New York. The GOP leadership in Washington has realized it needs moderates in order to win and has backed her. But this has enraged many on the far right because she is more an old-school conservative or Northeastern Republican. They don't like that she is pro-choice and supports gay marriage. So they have rebelled and supported Doug Hoffman, a candidate for the Conservative Party. Because of this, Bill Owens, the Democratic candidate is now in the lead and could well win the race, the first time a Democrat has won in that district since before the Civil War.

The far right has attacked Scozzafava with everything they've got. And it is working. So where are the moderates? What are they doing? Well, the answer is not much. There are other moderate bloggers, but few have taken up the cause. Here is a fellow moderate that is being assaulted by the far right, and all we can do is....well nothing.

Moderate Republicanism has along and proud history. It has shown a more humane conservatism. Geoffrey Kabaservice has done a wonderful series on New Majority on the role of moderates in the GOP that you should read. But even Kabaservice tends to drift into a territory of wallowing instead of calling people to action.

But wallowing in the past and whining about the future will not change the GOP. What will change the party is when good people of conviction have the balls to fight for change.

But that means that we have to have principles. And sometimes I wonder if we do. Sometimes I think that moderates are more about going along to get along than in acutally believing in something enough that they will defend it.

I didn't grow up as a Republican. I came to Republicanism after doing a lot of thinking and reading. I came to the conclusion that I believed in some of the values of conservatism as preached by people like Edmund Burke. I knew there was a place for government, but I believed that it could not and should not solve every problem. I believed in the equality of opportunity but not the equality of outcomes. I'm a Republican because of the values I came to believe in. I am a moderate Republican because while I hold these values, I also am pragmatic. Being a moderate to me means holding both in balance.

My guess is that too many moderates have not given much thought as to why they are Republicans. Maybe they just grew up that way. And along the way, they lost any reason to fight for their party. It became such a part of them that the party became nothing to them.

Earlier this year, when Arlen Specter left the GOP to sit with the Dems, there was a lot of handwringing about how the GOP treats its moderates. I think that was a worthy thing to chat about, but I think Specter showed a lot more about the soul of some moderates. As David Broder noted back in April, Specter is one of the most opportunistic politicians out there. And it has shown itself in the fact that since his primary challenge, he has voted with the Dems 97 percent of the time.

The whole Specter affair at times seems to sum up some of what is at the heart of what is called moderate Republicanism: it is too opportunitistic, too willing to abandon any belief in order to get approval.

In short, moderate Republicanism at least in 2009 seems to be hallow, with little substance. We don't care enough about the GOP to be willing to put up a fight. If you don't really have any strong beliefs, then why in the world would you fight?

This is why Dede Scozzafava has very little support from fellow moderates. If you are lukewarm, well why would you lift a finger to help anyone?

You want to know the sad thing here? It's that those Tea Party folks, the ones that make us squirm, at least have their convictions. They at least believe in something worth fighting for. I might dislike them, but I have admire their energy. I can't say they same for my fellow moderates. We are lazy.

Those of us who call ourselves moderate Republicans (and those that call themselves former moderates) need to ask ourselves: is the work to make the GOP a truly Big Tent party, worth fighting for? Is moderate Republicanism worth fighting for? If it's not then, we should just give up. If it is, then we need to get off our asses and get to work. As Bill noted, we need to pick a philosophy and defend it.

Otherwise, quit whining. You're wasting my time.

1 comment:

Paul Wartenberg said...

I might have mentioned awhile back that I gave up on being Republican a long long time ago.

The thing is, when you look at the polling numbers, how many people identify themselves as Republican dropping to their lowest points since Watergate (ABC poll at 20 percent, Gallup at 27), that's a lot of moderates fleeing a sinking ship.

Does that make us whiners? Well, not as bad a bunch of whiners as the Far Right is getting ("oooh, Obama is picking on us because we've been so MEAN to him! Waaah!"). The problem is, being out of the Republican Party as I am, as a lot of moderates have become over the years, I'm in no position to do anything about it anyway.

I'm out. That's the whole point. And if you're thinking I need to come back to the GOP, forget it. I had little say in what was going on anyway when I was there. The people I backed kept losing... because the deeper pockets (Club for Greed) and the crazier advocates (the pro-lifers) kept rigging the games. If that sounds like whining, it's not. Take a good hard look at how candidates get chosen: who gets paid off, who knows whom, whose asses need to get kissed, etc. Any fight I'm going to get involved in if I come back to try and get more moderates into positions of authority within the party machine will go nowhere.

Being moderate doesn't mean being stuck in the middle of the road getting hit by cars - that's a terrible analogy. It also reminds me of Eisenhower's retort that being Left or Right on that road means you're in the gutters. Being moderate is supposed to mean being reasonable, capable, respectful, level-headed. Something the GOP doesn't want right now... hasn't wanted since 1992.

Being moderate means getting leaders who are trustworthy, honest enough to admit something isn't working and to switch to more practical efforts, and following through on their proposals. Point to someone, anyone in the current GOP that fits that description please.

The GOP right now is led by those who won't EVER admit tax cuts were/are a bad idea, who think neocon war plans to bomb everyone else is a worthy goal, and who tend to work 2 days out of the week and spend the rest on vacations planning their future gigs for lobbying jobs. And anyone who comes along to say otherwise ("Gee, guys right now tax cuts won't help our deficit problems, let's say we hold off on that kind of talk until unemployment gets down below 5 percent") gets heckled and tossed out of the party (where have you gone, Paul O'Neill?)

So I left. So a lot of moderates left. Yes, it's killed the Party in terms of numbers. But that's what the Wingnuts wanted when they started RINO-hunting. Let them have it. Let them kill the party. They'll do it whether we're there or not. And they'll never cop to it either. The only thing that will happen if we moderates do come back is that we'll remain accomplices to the wingnuts' madness. It will only encourage them into thinking there's more people supporting them than truly are.

Fight's over. Norquist and Armey won. Let them go.

It'd be nice if we moderates have a new home (a viable third party) to go to, truth be told, but we don't. You are right about one thing: we moderates are as bad as the Democrats in trying to get together to form ANYTHING. At least the Dems have a 200-year plus organization in place: we moderates are gonna have to start from scratch.

Tell you what: if you can get people on the Moderate Voice and other moderate-leaning blogs to get financial backing for a third-party Moderate Party, I'll sign up, pay the dues, work the party machine, what have you. We moderates NEED to get organized. And it's gotta start somewhere.