Tag Archives: Identity

Reform the GOP; Not Conservatism

Commenter Bubbaquimby responds to my post on David Frum possibly leaving conservatism:

I guess instead of trying to reform conservative, I would rather have him reform the GOP. And there is a big difference between the two.
Conservatives know they can win the GOP and can also win in most non-presidential years by just being true to their rhetoric (small gov’t, fiscal responsibility, etc). Because they have such a large ID (41%).

However that won’t always be the case and Frum knows it, but instead of talking about why moderates and center-right people should become more active and start taking principled stands against right wingers, he says why conservatives should change.

I don’t think conservatives are going to change (well on social stuff I think they will but only because of time). I think the only way to help the GOP is to actually start working for moderates instead of continuing to just be a critic of the right. When you have valid conservative reasons for things, use them and if they are moderate than own that too. You need to tell why your vision is better than any Democratic vision.

For instance I tend to be a paleo when it comes to foreign policy, there is a long tradition of it in the party, I don’t have to take being called a liberal dove, their the ones that have used a Wilsonian foreign policy to get us in two unending wars and erosion of our civil liberties.

The moderates and moderate-conservatives need to man up as they all say these days, stop blaming conservatives for all the problems, stop being afraid of the RINO call. It’s conservatives that are RINO’s because they only care about the conservative movement and not the party. I guess I just tend to agree with the Douthat/Salem way (even if I don’t agree with their book) give reasons to change the party, not changing ideology.

I think Bubbaquimby is right on.  I think the problem here is that people like Frum (and I have to count myself in this mix)tend take on too big of a task in reforming conservatism and not simply the party.  Conservatism is made up a big institutions such as think tanks and media organizations which have been built up over the last four decades or so.  It is a hard to task to try to change institutions that have in effect become ossified.  Such tasks lead to disillusionment.

But maybe we need to focus on a smaller task and start looking at setting up new institutions that can provide an alternative vision.  What if there were new think tanks and media sources that provided a new vision within the GOP?  What if we stopped focusing on Sarah Palin for a moment and start working on getting credible people to run in the GOP for state and national offices. 

Bubbaquimby is right: those of us who fashion ourselves as dissidents need to “man up” and stop whining about what conservatives are doing wrong.  We aren’t going to change them, but we can change the party.

It’s time to quite complaining and start building.

Frum was Right: It’s our Waterloo

David Frum, a conservative columnist who needs no introduction to those of us who have been arguing for some time that embracing any and all aspects of extreme right wing politics whether it be extreme social conservative or libertarian conservative views, has been offering a stinging rebuke of the far-right in the last few days.

This healthcare fight, as he says, did bring us to a “Waterloo moment”.  One that he believes is politically disastrous for the Republican Party in the long-term even if not in the short term, although maybe even that is now threatened.  A few weeks ago it had seemed that the Tea Party movement had gained such an advantage over the entire debate that healthcare would not be passed and their prime goal of destroying the Presidents entire agenda for the remainder of his presidency would be achieved.  Such a political loss would then propel conservatives and especially hardcore, antigovernment conservatives back into a long term power to balance out the president and even potentially challenge him for the Presidency itself.  All that had come into question on Sunday and David Frum realizes this.  Some of us predicted early on that possibly the 2006 and 2008 elections would lead the party even further right, and that is exactly where it headed.  While it seemed for a time a viable option the only outcome has been a complete and dramatic failure, even if many provisions within the bill itself were of Republican origin such as the individual mandate and no public option.

The steadfast resolve and “stay the course” attitude that the party has taken has effectively led them over a cliff on this one, not even being able to own the ideas that the democrats had taken and made their own with many cases of, in fact, rejecting those very same ideas in order to court the Tea Party activists.  It was a zero-sum game that the Republican Party embraced, rejecting all forms of compromise and realization of their own place as a minority party for an angry, hate-filled, obstructionist fueled message.  It was a movement built upon fear, not one of ideas unless you consider saying “no” to any and all active government efforts to reform broken market systems as an idea.  In doing so the party has let the virulent element that IS the Tea Party to take control of the party apparatus by using fear itself to a point where even in defeat it still lacks the ability to do what is necessary and drop the fringe.  This was a loss that, even if the Republicans win back the house in the coming elections, will hurt the party’s ability to truly win in the future elections.  By being a solid block of “no” even when many of their own past republican ideas of healthcare were included is not a stand of principle, it is a stand for irresponsible governance and failure.  Zero-Sum.  Waterloo.  It sure as hell turned out that way, didn’t it.

Case Study for a Moderate or Liberal Republican Return

As a new election season approaches it would be good in review of some past elections that took place in order to find out how moderate and liberal Republicans can return to being actual representatives of the party instead of just footnotes in history. The article by our very own Dennis on the recent race in Massachusetts shows how moderates are not exactly extinct within the Republican Party and how even in the most liberal of places, a Republican can still win. There are many case studies, but how does a moderate Republican win in these predominantly Democratic held districts? The answer may lie in the details of the race to be considered. Continue reading

Libertarian Socialists

We have here, it seems, a split personality among many who call themselves conservatives. Domestically they are libertarians who are suspicious of the government and concerned about its expansion. Yet in terms of foreign policy, the same people tend to be militaristic, jingoistic, and apparently quite content with massive government action.

Read the rest over at Front Porch Republic.

The Alternate Universe of American Conservatism

I don’t read many of the more red-meat conservative bloggers. Very little of what they have to say is anything more than righteous anger about anything that isn’t “conservative.”

Rick Moran is one of the few conservative bloggers that stands apart. I might not always agree with him, but he always gives you something to think about. Continue reading

The Future of Movement Conservatism

Mark Thompson over at the League has a good synopsis of an event he attended yesterday on the future of conservatism. The panelists included Ross Douthat, David Frum, Daniel Larison, and Virginia Postrel. It’s worth the read and might give you some clues as to where the Republican Party is headed in the near future.

Why Moderate Republicans Suck- REPOSTED

This post orginally appeared here last summer.‚ I thought it was time to bring it out again.

Okay, that the above title might be a bit harsh.  But even so, we Moderates really are in a world of hurt.

The moderate/liberal movement in the GOP that once had the likes of Thomas Dewey and Dwight Eisenhower is barely alive these days. Some of that is due to the fact that social conservatives have driven moderates out of the party with their emphasis on issues like abortion and gay rights as litmus tests. As David Jenkins has reported, hard right conservatives have done what they can to get rid of GOP leaders that are deemed not Republican enough.

So, one important reason that there is not a thriving moderate movement in the GOP is because the party has done a good job at trying to purge us from the party.

Many a writer tends to stop at that point and not ask anymore questions. The belief is that the current Republican leadership, which tends to be made up of hard right conservatives, needs to be more open to moderates. Of course, this is true.  Even though the current leadership is far more conservative, they need to be willing to bend on certain issues, especially in those swing districts.  What works in a Republican dominated area, doesn’t work in all areas. This is what helped bring Democrats back into dominance: they ran more conservative Democrats in areas that were swing districts.  It tended to work swimmingly for them.

But this is only part of the story.  Bloggers and journalists tend to write what is the easy story: narrow minded Republicans harrassing their more moderate brethren. But there is another part of the story that tends to be missing, though some people do catch it now and then.

The missing story is the lack of a credible countermovement within the GOP, a movement for change. When one talks of Moderate Republicans, we talk of basically a loose group of individuals who are basically on their own. For example, take Senator Arlen Specter, who until recently was a moderate Republican. After he voted for the stimulus package, he recieved a fair amount of protests from Republican groups.

The image in the media was of a lone Republican Senator against a phalanx of hard right groups. In the end, Specter decided to leave.

This image has been seen again and again. A lone, moderate Republican legislator is attacked, not by a collection of cranks, but by organized groups that have the money and more importantly, the people to take down those who are not pure.

The lesson here is simple, the hard right is a movement. There are groups of like-minded individuals that come together and are able to force change in the party. A single person realizes they are part of a larger movement and that gives them the stregnth to march forward.

On the other side, moderates are at best a collection of individuals.  We tend to feel lost and alone and don’t feel a connection to anything greater than us. Because we are isolated, we don’t feel as empowered and tend to give up easily.

If the GOP is to moderate, then there needs to be an effective moderate movement within the GOP forcing change. Nothing will ever happen unless these collection of frustrated individuals come together and organize.

Hence, why we moderates suck.

What conservatives in the Republican party have done over time is to create a culture that could sustain them.  Think tanks, magazines, organizations and blogs have all been developed to foster this culture. Yes, it has been inward focus and it does have its weaknesses, but what this conservative culture is good at is empowering people, making them believe that it is in their power to change things.

The reason moderates do not feel so empowered is because we have no discernable culture or movement to back us up and give us meaning.  The result is that we feel adrift and powerless to make a difference.

There are many ways to help build a credible movement of moderate to liberal Republicans.  I want to focus on a few area where there is a weakness.

Blogs. There are many blogs on the far left (ie: Daily Kos, Huffington Post) and on the far right (ie: RedState, Hot Air) that cater to those parts of the political spectrum. Some have many readers, some have a few.  But all of them have something in common: they reinforce a person’s political viewpoint. Now, many of these partisan blogs are more heat than light on the political issues of the day. They are more cheerleaders than they are trying to think about issues.  In the past, I would have said that being a cheerleader is of little value, and to some extent, I still believe that. However, there is also a case to be made that a little cheerleading for your side can make one feel that they are part of a greater movement; that they are not alone in how they feel of think.

When one goes to look for blogs of moderate/liberal/progressive Republicans, you will tend to find a graveyard of blogs that were started with good intent, but then died for various reasons. Take for example, the Lincoln Coalition, a blog that states it’s goal as “a grassroots organization of current and former Republicans that is dedicated to building a party based on traditional Republican principles.” It has not published a new post in over two months.  They had a wonderful description that talked about wanting to return the party back to its principles.  They had a few months of post and then…nothing.

It’s hard to try to rebuild a party when you aren’t trying disseminate ideas.

There are other bloggers that have also stopped for various reasons.  Go to Charging RINO, or Plain Talk GOP or the Liberal Republican (which has since been removed), and you will find blogs that are basically dead. Now, the internet is full of blogs that are no longer in use, and there are probably a good number of conservative and liberal blogs that are also on life support, but for some reason, the ones that I see that have become ghost towns tend to be moderate Republican blogs.

I’ve been blogging on politics in one form or another for a few years now.  I don’t know how many people see my blog, but I do know it is important to keep blogging on the events of the day.  And I do know that over time people do see your work and take notice. Blogging can be about yelling, but it can also be about sharing and presenting ideas to people. It can be about getting out a message and letting others know they are not alone in the political world.  An active blog can also help grow a living movement. A dead blog can’t do that.

Lack of Strong Institutions. One of the glaring problems among moderates in the GOP is the lack of a counterpart to the Democratic Leadership Council. The DLC describes itself as a organization started to bring Democrats out of the “political wilderness. ” The goal was to moderate the Democratic Party and wrest it from the hands of the liberals who controlled the party and brought it to defeat. If you go to the DLC website, you find papers on various issues from immigration to health care, all placing a centrist Democratic spin on things.

There really isn’t a counterpart among Republicans. Yes, there is the Republican Leadership Council, and it has done some good by supporting moderate candidates. That said, it doesn’t seem to offer ideas in the way that the DLC does. The RLC does have state chapters, but the site doesn’t say a whole lot about what is going on.

That doesn’t mean that groups like RLC or Republican Mainstreet Partnership are somehow wastes of time. I think both groups have good and grand intentions, but they lack the people to help promote and fuel their agendas. If moderates feel disenfranchised and isolated, then trying to buck up worthy groups like these seem pointless.

Weak Web Presence. If you check out the website of Republican Youth Majority, you will notice that it hasn’t been updated in a long while.  Go to their Facebook Page and you will find the same thing. If IanTanner is correct and the GOP needs to reach out to younger populations that are more moderate on social issues, this group should have a live page showing what they are doing. But instead we find a very old website and Facebook page.  I have no idea what they are doing.

Take a look at the California Republican League, a state moderate organization.  Again, the website has not been update since at least 2004.  It does look like the group is still in existence because of it’s Facebook page, but other than that, I have no idea what they are doing and how they plan to help moderate the California GOP.

If an organization doesn’t bother to update its website, then it might as well not exist. The only way for a group to thrive is to have an active web presence getting its message out. Some groups like Log Cabin Republicans and Republicans for Environmental Protection get it, use blogs, and social networking sites like Twitter and Facebook and update their webpage.

Individualism. Maybe the thing that is most destructive to creating a moderate movement is that most moderates tend to see themselves as individuals and not part of a movement.  Moderates are not one to just follow someone and while that can be commendable, it can also breed a sense of isolation, so that when the cold winds of extremism blow, they are easily knocked down and they leave the party.

There is an old saying from the civil rights movement that goes, “Walk Together Children, Don’t You Get Weary.”  Maybe if we learned to walk together, to support each other in the hard times then we would see a stronger movement. Trying to change a party takes stamina and fortitude, but it also takes numbers and as they say, there is strength in numbers.

These are only a few observations. If people want the GOP to be a center-right party again, then it is up to moderates to make it happen. But we have to be able to do it as a team and make the long slog to change. We have to be willing to blog, create strong organizations, and use the web to get out the message of change within the GOP.

Then, Moderate Republicans won’t suck.

Letter from a Young Republican

From the Michigan Daily:

The Republican Party has been engaged in an image debate that has become increasingly more public since Barack Obama’s election. Should the party stick to its “core values” or potentially compromise to attract new voters? Paul Green, director of the Roosevelt University Institute for Politics, said in a profile of Chicago Young Republicans in the Chicago Tribune on Aug. 12, “Young people coming up aren’t going to be excited by a party that is against abortion, stem cell research and gay rights.”
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The Republican Party has been engaged in an image debate that has become increasingly more public since Barack Obama’s election. Should the party stick to its “core values” or potentially compromise to attract new voters? Paul Green, director of the Roosevelt University Institute for Politics, said in a profile of Chicago Young Republicans in the Chicago Tribune on Aug. 12, “Young people coming up aren’t going to be excited by a party that is against abortion, stem cell research and gay rights.”

This is absolutely true. The GOP can not and will not become the party of “No,” nor is it currently. But some members of the party seem not to mind the label. You know the ones I talk about — the ones who seemingly cheered Chicago’s Olympic loss and worsening unemployment figures on the same day, and the people who want Obama to fail so they can capitalize in 2010. This is not the way to curry favor with the electorate.

To avoid that detrimental label, the party needs to realize that people with moderate views regarding health care, abortion, etc., are still Republicans. These members should not be cast aside or labeled as not “real” Republicans — they should be embraced. These kinds of Republicans offer the best shot at growing the party and winning over independent America. And in a country where more people label themselves as independents then Republicans or Democrats, the independents hold the key to Congress and the White House.

This drama recently played out on our campus, in our own Republican Party, and the outcome saddened me. A chairman with moderate views in regard to abortion, the death penalty, gun control and gay marriage was forced out of office because his views didn’t represent those of the group. When elected members are removed from office because their views are not in accord with “the norm,” it is a cause for concern. I worry about the future of my party if this is the path we choose to take.

Matthew Schaible

The War Against Dede

Politico is running a story about how some groups on the hard right are upset at National Republican Committee for supporting New York Assemblywoman Dede Scozzafava, who is running to fill the seat vacated by John McHugh. They see Scozzafava as a “liberal,” a “radical” who happens to have an “R” after her name. Continue reading