Tag Archives: republican

“What Are We Going To Do About This?”

My apologies for going so long without a post.  Part of it has to do with me being a bit more cynical about politics these days.  But something has made me want to write a post, so I’m back at least for a little bit.

As the Romney campaign seems to be behind in the polls, there has been a raft of articles about the state of conservatism and the Republican party.  Here’s David Brooks talking about the loss of traditional conservatism. There’s Rod Dreher talking about his losing faith in the GOP after Katrina. Here’s Conor Friedersdorf talking about how conservative media is not helping the GOP. Doug Mataconis talks about how to fix the Republican Party.  Economist Scott Sumner calls the GOP “the stupid party.” I could go on.

There was a time that I was invested in articles like this and would write blog posts talking about how the GOP needed to change and so on.  I still believe the GOP is in trouble and needs to change, and I don’t disagree with what these writers and others have to say about the party.  But I can’t say that I’m excited enough to run to my computer nodding in agreement.  Acutally, reading some of the articles leave me more annoyed than anything.  I’m annoyed because I know these as much as these cris de coeur make sense, I know that they won’t really lead to any real change.  There were a number of these articles four years ago after McCain lost the election and nothing much came from them.

In an email I wrote to Rod Dreher, I explained what I think is missing in these denunciations:

Rod,

I’ve been reading your posts on how the GOP should change with some interest.  I’ve been involved at some level of Republican activism for about a decade now, mostly through Log Cabin Republicans and Republicans for Environmental Protection.  Politically, I am probably a mix of the old Rockefeller Republican with a healthy dose of libertarianism mixed in.  While I found your articles engaging, I also came away frustrated.  I believe its important to read some of the great conservative philosophers but I am left feeling that reading Kirk and ignoring Fox is not enough. 

What has frustrated me the most about heterodox conservatives is how much they complain about what is wrong with conservatism and how much these folks disdain the give and take of everyday politics.  It’s as if people want something different, but they don’t want to get their hands dirty in trying.  Over the years, I’ve seen people who seem to have some passion in changing the GOP get fired up for a bit and then leave.  There’s no will to stay and change things for the better. 

The thing is, if people want a Republican Party that has a less hawkish foreign policy, is fiscally conservative and is interested in the common good and not just the self, then people have to get involved.  Yes. we need an intellectual foundation, but we also need other organizations that can support and put forth candidates that can carry these ideas and bring these ideas to fruition.

But all of this means getting involved and having to actually persuade people towards this vision of conservatism.  And that’s something we don’t want to do.

So keep up the writing on this topic.  But unless folks move from thinking to action, don’t expect the GOP or conservatism to change.

I’ve written about this before.  I’m not saying things are great in the GOP.  There are a lot of problems.  But I am reminded of something I said a few years ago to a colleague as she complained about the lack of a children’s ministry at the church I am serving at.  I basically told her in my usual subtle way, “What Are You Going to Do About It?”

“What Are You Going to Do About It?” Yes, I know you have aren’t crazy about the GOP. Good for you for sharing it.  But, so what?  Do you really think the Eric Ericksons of the conservative blogosphere give a rip what you think?  Do you really think just bitching about how wrong the party and the conservative movement is will make things change?

The thing that bothers me is not that these folks are complaining: it’s that they aren’t really offering ideas on what should happen next, let alone how to refashion American conservatism.

In 2010, I wrote about “Why Moderate Republicans Suck.”  What I wrote back then applies to those heterodox conservatives as well:

…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.

If we want to see the GOP reform, there has to be Something more: think tanks, political PACs to help hetrodox candidates run for office, committed activists.

I don’t expect Brooks or Friedersdorf or any other the other writers to take up the busy work of a countermovement.  But I would like to hear them urge folks to be “mad as hell and not take it anymore.”  I want them to urge people to run for office or organize a bunch of people to go to the next state caucus.  I just want something that will move this beyond the complaining stage.

“What Are We Going To Do About This?”  It’s a question I fear we are afraid of answering.

On RINO Hunts

The blogger known as the Moderate Republican wonders aloud why the GOP is so intent to go after fellow Republicans:

That giant sucking sound you hear is all the independents being sucked out of the Republican’s grasp due to our own short sightedness. First Obama, predictably tacks to the center to once again appear the honest broker. Then the Tea Party pushes the newly relevant GOP-lead Congress nearly off a cliff, and now this:

Former Alabama Gov. Bob Riley (R) is raising money “to defeat candidates who wear the GOP label but are Democrats in disguise,” the AP reports.

They plan to raise $2-3 million to target RINOs who they describe “as Democrats trying to run in the Republican primary in hopes it will be easier to get elected to the Legislature with the GOP label.”

Sigh

See Mitch Run?

David Brooks sends some love to a certain Midwestern governor:

On Feb. 11, Gov. Mitch Daniels of Indiana met with a group of college students. According to The Yale Daily News, he told them that there is an “excellent chance” he will not run for president. Then he mounted the podium at the Conservative Political Action Conference and delivered one of the best Republican speeches in recent decades.

This is the G.O.P. quandary. The man who would be the party’s strongest candidate for the presidency is seriously thinking about not running. The country could use a serious, competent manager, which Governor Daniels has been, and still he’s thinking about not running. The historic moment calls for someone who can restrain debt while still helping government efficiently perform its duties. Daniels has spent his whole career preparing for this kind of moment, and still he’s thinking about not running.

Or so Daniels says.  While my heart leans towards a Huntsman or Johnson, Daniels is the candidate of the mind, one that can bring together Tea Party-type conservatives as well as those that might be outside the GOP tent.  I think the GOP is in need of someone that’s not a bombthrower (see Walker, Scott) and that can put for the a more intelligent and disciplined conservatism.

Why the GOP Needs Centrists

A lot has happened since the blogger known as the Moderate Republican wrote this back in 2009.  Scott Brown added to the number of New England moderate Republicans and the GOP won back the house and won increased numbers in the Senate on the strength of the Tea Party movement. 

So here is the question for you all this weekend: is this essay still true?  Does the GOP need to change to be more appealing to centrists, or can it win by being more ideologically pure?

This is what the Moderate Republican said in 2009:

If you talk to a large number of average, everyday people you will find they do not fit into the ideological boxes that many political activists like to put them in. There are such things as pro-life liberals and environmentalist conservatives. Talk to enough people and you will see evangelicals who think the government should offer universal health care, and left-leaning teachers who think school choice is the best option to fix schools. This is where the political fight is. How can Republicans make a convincing case to this vast and fertile middle ground in America?

Discuss.

Christine Brings Down Da House

Noah Kristula-Green reports on how Christine O’Donnell’s election might have brought down the Delaware GOP:

O’Donnell had a consistently negative effect on the close down-ticket races in Delaware. Republican Party officials in the state who spoke to FrumForum on and off the record expressed great frustration with the damage she caused. O’Donnell did this in several different ways. She cost the GOP several candidates in the Delaware State House, giving the Democrats a super-majority. She hurt the campaign for the Republican nominee for State Treasurer. She boosted a Democratic party which has been growing stronger in the state, and solidified in the minds of many voters the view that the Republican party was an atavistic and unserious party, which the mainstream had rejected. In a year when Republicans had a wave to take advantage of and the opportunity to grow across the entire country, O’Donnell failed her party and brought it down.

The election results show several close Delaware State House races where Democrats won by incredibly small margins. Not only were the percentages that separated these races very small, they were also small in absolute terms. The closeness of these races speaks to the success of the Democrats’ get out the vote efforts, which were driven largely by motivating voters against O’Donnell.

There were seven State House races where the Democrat won by less than than 1,000 votes. In three of those races, the Republican candidate had been recruited to take on a Democratic incumbent. The power of incumbency is hard to defeat in any election cycle, and a wave election is a rare chance to counter it.  Yet in the races for the 6th, 9th, 10th, 14th, 18th, 32nd, and 41st districts, the GOP candidate lost. The vote margins were very small: 407, 282, 734, 879, 438, 296, and 939 votes respectively.  (The race for the 7th was also close, decided by 1,364 votes.)

Many of the candidates who were recruited to run in this cycle did so with the expectation that Mike Castle would be on the top of the ticket. Not only did the Republicans have a weak candidate on the top of the ticket, Democrats (and independents) were given more motivation to vote against O’Donnell and the entire GOP ticket. Neither Chris Coons nor any of the other Democrats on the ticket were considered exceptionally inspiring among the Democrats. One Republican told FrumForum: “There really was no motivation for Democrats to vote in this election until the O’Donnell thing happened.”

In a year when Republicans made gains in state legislatures across the country, the Republican caucus in Delaware’s State House got smaller, going from 17 Republicans to 15. This has given the Democrats a super-majority in the State House. They can now write revenue related bills without the Republicans if they choose.

One of the things that Frum Forum has done well is having some folks on staff that are able to do some actual reporting.  Noah’s looking into what a Tea Party candidate might have done to a state Republican party might give the GOP pause as it gears up for 2012.

Of course, they could just ignore this and keep on, keeping on, putting forward crappy candidates.

Another Case for Jon Huntsman

Taylor Marsh:

The thing is that Republicans know Barack Obama is vulnerable in ‘12, but they’ve got no one in their roster right now who can come close to doing the job. There’s an opening, with whoever it is that takes on Obama needing to be a heavyweight in order to win. Ambassador Huntsman fits that description, plus has the resume and stature that the gang of Tea Party politicians trying to grab for the lowest rung simply cannot match. However, Huntsman won’t be a favorite among the feverish primary crowd, with no one yet able to explain what happens with Sarah if she doesn’t run and who’ll get her nod if she doesn’t, because it will matter. At least he’s a deficit hawk.

Jon Huntsman Returns

Ever since President Obama named former Utah Governor Jon Huntsman as ambassador to China, many people thought that the moderate Republican was taken out of the running for the GOP presidential nomination in 2012.

Not so fast.

Newsweek has a long article on Huntsman and the chances that he might run next year after all.  McKay Coppins, the article’s author, notes that “the cable new crowd” would dismiss a Huntsman candidacy and like Pavlov’s dog, some major pundits started pooh-poohing a Huntsman run.  First up, James Fallows:

Huntsman is part of the Obama Administration. He is right in the middle of dealings with America’s most important foreign-policy partner/challenge. So in the GOP Primaries, how exactly is he going to out-anti-Obama anyone else in the field, given that he has served Obama (and, yes, the country) so loyally? The retorts from all the other Republicans are almost too easy. “If Ambassssadorrr Huntsman is so concerned about the Obama threat to America, then why,…?”

And if he got through that process, he would run against his current commander-in-chief …. how? And why? What is the issue of principle so important that it compels him to challenge Obama’s continuation in office, but has not justified any disagreement while he’s serving now? “Huntsman 2016” would be a very logical inference from his current position. “Huntsman 2012” would require suspension of basic laws of politics and common sense.

Then there’s Matt Yglesias. He tends to think there is something to be said about running even if the outcome might mean losing:

“The Manchurian Candidate” is an excellent headline for an article about the hypothetical presidential campaign of an ambassador to China. So on those grounds alone I think you have to run with the story. Second, I do think that if you look at the history of Republican presidential nominees there’s something to be said for getting in the game and running even if the time isn’t right. Ronald Reagan, George HW Bush, and John McCain all ran and lost before they got the nomination.

Fallows isn’t totally off that having a former Obama official run in the GOP primaries in 2012 is a suicide mission.  So why would Huntsman run in 2012?  Back to the Newsweek article:

The cable-news crowd will undoubtedly scoff at Huntsman’s prospects in a Republican primary. After a right-wing resurgence flooded Congress with Tea Party Republicans, the field doesn’t appear particularly inviting to a moderate Obama appointee. But an increasingly vocal segment of the GOP is worried that the conservative populism of 2010 is distracting the party from its more pressing priorities. “We may be confusing a clearing in the forest for being out of the woods,” says Republican strategist John Weaver, who notes young voters’ disapproval of some of the party’s social agenda. “There is a ticking demographic time bomb working against us, and if we don’t correct that problem very soon, we could wind up back where we were four years ago.” What the party needs now, argue supporters like Weaver, is a leader who can negotiate a treaty of sorts between the right-wing base and forward-thinking moderates. The GOP, in other words, needs an ambassador.

So, the idea here is not as much to win, but to provide a voice within the GOP that’s not the Tea Party.  Does that make sense?

I think it might.  Back in 1976, conservative Ronald Reagan ran against President Gerald Ford in the primary.  Ford was the standard bearer for the moderates in the party. Reagan’s insurgent campaign didn’t beat Ford, but it did leave him in a weakened position going into the general election and it also laid the groundwork for Reagan’s winning campaign in 1980.  The reality is that Huntsman is a better 2016 candidate than he would be a 2012 candidate.  But if the campaign is about ideas and leading on movement within the GOP he could lose in the primaries and yet lay the foundation for a winning campaign that would be more David Cameron-like when it comes to social issues and the environment and be fiscally conservative and pro-business.

As for the he-worked-for-Obama charge, well the fact is it will hurt him in 2012, but the fact is it will hurt him in 2016 as well.  There are always going to be folks that will rule out any Republican that even smiles at a Democrat.  I think the issue at hand is how to present better ideas than your former boss.  It’s all about making lemons out of lemonade.

If Huntsman and Mitch Daniels and Gary Johnson consider running next year, it might be a good year for moderates in the GOP.

…And Haley Barbour As Forrest Gump

I haven’t said much about the remarks made by Mississippi Governor Haley Barbour regarding the Civil Rights movement.  I really didn’t think there is much to be said that wouldn’t already be said:  that is conservatives would rush to defend the GOP governor (and 2012 presidential hopeful), liberals would denounce him and those in the middle would quietly run away from him.

But I guess I will throw in my two cents about this issue and how it relates to race.

First off, I don’t think you can grab a few quotes from an article and then say a man is a racist.  I think too often the Left is quick to paint any conservative as a klansmen in sheep’s clothing and they stand at the ready for any slip of the tongue as proof that conservatives don’t like anyone one other than straight white men.

But while I don’t judge Barbour as a racist, I do think something is afoot that reveals a bit about his character and how he views race.  I also think it might speak to a problem that has plague conservatism for decades and will continue to do so until they come to terms with it. Conservative journalist and author Linda Chavez nails the problem:

No doubt there are double standards when it comes to judging Republicans, but conservatives are not blameless in the process either. It isn’t just a matter of flubbing their words — many conservatives are either unaware of the pervasiveness of racial discrimination prior to the enactment of the Civil Rights Acts of the 1960s, or they choose, like Barbour, to engage in selective memory.

To put the era in perspective, Abby Thernstrom, in her seminal study of the 1965 Voting Rights Act, Whose Votes Count?, notes that fewer than 7 percent of voting-age blacks were registered in Mississippi prior to federal registrars being sent in after the Act was passed; by 1967, the number of registered blacks had jumped to 60 percent. And it is hard to imagine that Barbour wasn’t at least aware of the murder of three civil-rights activists in 1964 in Meridian, Mississippi, just 140 miles from his hometown of Yazoo City, not to mention the segregation that permeated every facet of public life. Haley and I graduated high school the same year, and even though I was living in Denver at the time, I was very much aware of what was going on in Mississippi. To ignore this history requires an act of will.

And that’s the problem with Barbour and many conservatives- it’s not that they actively hate black folks or another other persons of color; it’s that they engage in a game of willful ignorance.  All too often, white conservatives take on a “Forrest Gump” mentality when talking about race- which means, they live their lives ignoring the larger events taking place around them.

In read some of the accounts of Barbour’s adolescence, which took place during the turbulent sixties, he tends to wax nostalgic about those days.  Of course, that’s what older men of any age do- they remember the days of their youth with some fondness.  But it’s a bit surprising that the racial issues never enter his consciousness, or if they did, he chose to ignore them.

This is a problem though, not just for Barbour, but for the GOP as former southern Democrats (who had long supported segregation) made their way to the Republican Party starting in the 1960s.  The Republicans are dominated by Southern men who are now in their 50s and 60s who lived through the Civil Rights era.  Most of the men are not white supremacists.  They are not actively trying to demean persons of color.  But most of them grew up in a white society that at least tolerated segregation and racism.  They may have in many ways never encountered black folk growing up and can remember as Barbour suggested that life was rather tranquil in the 1950s and 60s.

They way forward for Barbour and the GOP is not to engage in some kind of mea culpa tour and wearing sackcloth and ashes and saying how sorry he is.  But I think folks like Barbour need to at least listen to the struggles of African Americans of that time period (and today) and at least acknowledge what happened and talk about a way forward that is inclusive.  As Washington Post writer, Jonathan Capehart notes, ignoring the sentiments of 13 percent of the population is not going to get you elected President of the United States.

Governing In A Partisan World

Christine Todd Whitman has a good op-ed in the latest Ripon Forum on bipartisanship.  Here is what I think is the take away:

One challenge that demands Congress’s full attention, for example, is energy. The United States has not had a national energy plan in decades, and the need for one has never been greater. With the U.S. Department of Energy estimating a 28% increase in electricity demand by 2035, energy companies have to start making decisions now that will affect ratepayers down the line – and even now is bordering on “too late.”

For the environment and energy, it’s clear that societies cannot thrive if the people don’t have clean air to breath, clean water to drink and open space to access. Similarly, the environment needs a thriving economy to fund the next round of clean technologies or to preserve precious open space. And both the environment and the economy need reliable, affordable energy to thrive. Yet, over the course of the past 20 years, Congress has passed into law only one piece of major environmental legislation: the Brownfields Revitalization Act in 2002.

If we look back 40 years, to the early days of the modern environmental movement, we see that Republicans and Democrats came together to enact the environmental laws America so badly needed. It wasn’t easy – many Republicans were wary of too much regulation while some Democrats thought there couldn’t be enough. But recognizing the urgent need for national action, the parties worked out their differences and put into place the foundation of what still largely defines environmental policy in America today.

Indeed, the vast majority of those laws were passed by a Congress controlled by Democrats and signed into law by Republican presidents. The votes on these measures were rarely close. And our economy experienced robust growth. Today, opposing every environmental regulation seems to have become an article of faith with Republicans. Many have forgotten that the EPA was created by President Richard Nixon in response to rivers that were spontaneously combusting due to the dumping of pollutants into our waterways and people were dying every summer from bad air quality.

Now political polarization infects too much of public policymaking. We live in a time where political compromise has become a source of ridicule. We have forgotten the lessons of our Founding Fathers; men of great principle who – while disagreeing on a host of issues, including even whether or not to secede from Great Britain – realized that they were being called upon to act and, so, came together to forge the compromises that gave us our Declaration of Independence, our Confederation of States and, ultimately, our Constitution.

The highwater mark time of bipartisanship that Whitman is referring to in the above paragraphs took place in 1960s, 70s and 80s.  Most skeptics on the loss of bipartisanship say that it was during this era that the parties were still somewhat mixed ideologically, with liberals and conservatives found in both parties.  If we look at environmental issues, we would say that liberals in both parties basically got together and passed legislation that they liked.

While there is some truth to this, such analysis is all to easy.  I have done some reading by what would be called Liberal Republicans of that day, and I can tell you they didn’t always care much for the ways Democrats governed.  They supported (or at least, accepted) the welfare state the came about as a result of the New Deal, but they tended to be more pro-business than their liberal counterparts in the Democratic Party. The long and the short of it is that life was not all hunky-dory as some centrists like to remember it and as some on the left and right want to deride it as.  Bipartisanship was hard work.

Partisanship has been around forever and it’s not a bad thing.  What has been bad lately is the unwillingness to never compromise with others and work together.  It’s easy to stand and make speeches about never surrendering to the other side; it’s a lot harder to sit down and hammer out policy.  No one ever said democracy was easy.

Politics, War, Civility and No Labels

I’ve said before that I have my doubts with the new centrist group called No Labels.  There has been a lot of talk about the orgainzation in the blogosphere and most of it is predictably negative.  Conservatives tend to think this is nothing more than liberals in drag, while some liberals want to remind people that labels are important.  Christopher Beam’s article in Slate is able to mix my concerns about the groups with some of the same criticism about the name and the need for partisanship in American society.

I agree with a lot of what Beam said.  There have been lots of attempts by well-intentioned (or not so well-intentioned according to some) people who want to foster a more gentler politics and most of those efforts have amounted to nothing.  Beam is also correct in stating partisanship, or at least having beliefs is important and he is spot on in stating that part of the reason liberals and conservatives can’t cooperate is because they have less and less in common:

No Labels sounds noble in theory. But the group misunderstands what bipartisanship is. It’s not two parties deciding to be nice to each other. It’s a moment when their self-interests happen to align—moments that are increasingly rare. Washington does not have a “civility problem.” It has a polarization problem. Politicians aren’t any meaner now than they were 30 years ago. It’s just that over the last few decades, the two parties have become more ideologically coherent. Back in the 1950s, some Southern Democrats opposed racial integration, and some Republicans in the North favored a robust social safety net. Opposition to abortion was a bipartisan affair. There was a Christian right, but there was a Christian left as well. (The first Catholic president was a Democrat, after all.)

All of that changed in the ’60s and ’70s. Small-government libertarians aligned themselves with social conservatives under the Republican umbrella. Social liberals and economic interventionists joined the Democrats. In the 1980s, there was still enough overlap between the parties to beget phrases like “Reagan Democrats.” But every year the parties drift further apart. In a conversation with NPR about “No Labels,” Charlie Crist trotted out the old saw about Ronald Reagan and Democratic Speaker Tip O’Neill. Those men “probably didn’t agree on a whole lot of things … yet were able to get along and at the end of the day, go out and have a cold one and understand that it’s important for them to be civil.” Sure. But by today’s partisan standards, O’Neill and Reagan had a lot in common. What stops Barack Obama and John Boehner from taking smoking breaks together isn’t that they’re jerks. It’s that they don’t agree on as much.

The parties have become more ideologically coherent, which has led to the current problem.

But where Beam and other detractors of No Labels fall short is on how to solve this issue.  It’s as if they don’t seem to care that important issues are not being discussed.  Of course partisan wrangling is part of the deal in a democracy.  An open society is not supposed to be a nice society.  I have no doubt that Democrats and Republicans were arguing back during the halcyon bipartisan days of the 1960s and 70s on the issues of the day.  Continue reading