Tuesday, April 13, 2010

In Search of a Moderate Republican

Are there really any moderate Republicans in office anymore?

Clive Crook is beginning to doubt it , and to be honest, so am I. John McCain is trying to pretend he never was a "maverick" and as Crook notes, thoughtful leaders like Mitt Romney are running away from their more moderate stances. It seems that there is a spirit running within the GOP that crushes any differences and imposes a soul-killing conformity that screams meaningless phrases like "secular socialist machine."

Crook notes that the passage of Obamacare should have prompted a more reasonable response that would have captured fustrated centrists. He writes:
Republicans are right to say that the Obama administration has over-reached. Democrats failed to convince the country that their healthcare reform was the right solution to an obvious and pressing problem, yet passed their law anyway. Many voters are angry about this, and entitled to be. Also, despite the administration’s denials, the reform will most likely add to public borrowing, which was on a dangerously high trajectory to begin with. Again, they are right to be concerned.

Disenchantment with Mr Obama and the Democrats is especially pronounced in the political centre. (Conservatives, of course, were dismayed before the evidence was even in.) You might have thought this would commend a centrist platform to the Republican party approaching November’s mid-term elections. Swing voters decide who wins, and they were up for grabs. Why are Republicans steering to the right?
Crook then says the culprit is the Tea Party. The GOP sees this still forming movement as its salvation and has focused all its energy on that movement. Populism is always more sexy than the usually dowdy centrism. Right now, GOP leaders either feel forced or want to try to go for the sexy sizzle of the Tea Party partriots, than the steady and boring centrists.

Crook also notes that the current incarnation of the GOP is many things, but one thing it is NOT is fiscally conservative, which might spell doom for us all:
There is a good chance that control of the House will switch. In narrow electoral terms, the Republicans’ militant posture is working. This dynamic has disturbing implications. A populist-right Republican party is not a party of fiscal conservatives. It is a party of tax-cutters and middle-class entitlement protectors – budget deficits be damned. A populist-right Republican party has no trouble calling for lower taxes, opposing cuts in Medicare (the programme that poses the greatest fiscal danger), and deploring public borrowing, all at the same time. This, in fact, has been its line on healthcare reform.

That reform, with its $1,000bn of extra costs over 10 years, is now law. Democrats may flinch, like Republicans, at cutting Medicare to pay for it, but they have no strong objection to raising taxes once that becomes inescapable. A Republican-controlled House would have strong objections. It might very well refuse to do it, preferring possible fiscal catastrophe to higher taxes.
It's funny that this party that seems to talk about the spectre of socialism and about "a government takeover of healthcare" are also the ones that want to protect entitlement programs. Because raising taxes is a no-no and we are too chicken to make meaningful cuts, if the GOP gets back into power, we will just go back to "borrow and spend," which of course is so much better than the Democrats "tax and spend."

Crook thinks the GOP is basically a narrow sect instead of a "broad church." I would agree. The GOP is dazzled by the Tea Party, but what happens when reality sets in? The Tea Party is not America, after all. What if the GOP doesn't do as well in November? What if they lose big time in 2012? What if the Tea Party goes and creates a new party? What if the economy goes south again and the public demands some kind of government action?

Most moderate groups like the Republican Leadership Council or Republican Mainstreet Partnership, which were calling for a bigger tent in the GOP after the 2008 elections have either grown silent or have gone along to get along in wake of the new environment, lest they be targeted. The same goes for moderate politicians. After Dede Scozzafava, very few moderates dare tout their centrist credentials.

My own guess is that there will be some breaking point where the current strategy will fail. It might be that the economy gets better and the Dems pick up more seats than expected. It might be a landslide election in 2012. Whatever it is, there will come a point where the moderates in hiding will be tired of hiding.

I'm looking forward to that day, but it will be hellish in the meantime.


Mike at The Big Stick said...

There are plenty - you just have to look for them.

Start with Paul Ryan. Then look at Mitch Daniels. Continue from there.

As for terminology, you're mixing metaphors a bit. You say 'moderate' but then mention 'centrism'. Not the same thing. There are plenty of 'moderates' who are slightly right of center. If you want a true Centrist, we're back to putting an (I) next to your name.

Anonymous said...

I agree with you Dennis about the silence of the moderates. When you goto websites like Republican Main Street there is no blog that proudly articulates ideas from Centrist Republicans. Other websites like Republican Youth Majority haven't been updated in years. This gives you the impression these organizations, like centrist republicans themselves, are dead and buried.

Mike at The Big Stick said...

I would also say to Charles - do you want moderate conservatism or Centrism? They aren't the same thing.