Wishes Won’t Change the GOP

gop elephantFellow Leaguer Tod Kelly wrote a post a few days about his doubts that the GOP would change from what some see as a self-destructive path.  I have to say that I have come to agree that the party isn’t going to change after a few losses. Many a moderate or independent hopes the party will lose big in some election that would scare the party to relevance.  Think a political version of “scared straight.”

I don’t think this will happen, but it isn’t simply because of the so-called crazies.  No, its the same moderates and independents who are constantly wringing their hands that don’t care enough to do anything about it.

As someone who has been involved in GOP circles for a decade or so, I’ve seen my share of fellow travelers who are upset at the current direction of the party.  The whine and moan, but seldom do they ever get involved in party politics to change things.  When the party loses big in a presidential election, they quietly hope that this time the party leaders will get it right and the party will be steered in less strident path.  It’s a hope that outside forces will magically bring the party back from the brink.

 

A few years ago, I wrote a post with the insightful title, “Why Moderate Republicans Suck.”  The thrust of the article is that if there is to be change in the party, it will come from activists who are willing to roll up their sleeves and do the hard work of forging a more moderate conservatism.  Here’s a bit of what I wrote:

 

 

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.

 

I would also add that the more moderate members in the party are good compromisers, but terrible in coming up with a competing vision of what the Republicans party should do and be in the 21st century.  The Tea Party’s views might seem ridiculous, strange and downright scary at times, but they at least have ideas.  Crazy ideas, yes, but ideas nevertheless.

Earlier this year Republican consultant Liz Mair discussed what was wrong with moderate Republicanism:

Everyone knows that Todd Akin, Christine O’Donnell and Sharron Angle were not good candidates. What a lot of people don’t seem to recognize is that their opponents, even though they looked like they would perform better based on on-paper attributes, were even worse candidates. How do I know this? They lost to Todd Akin, Christine O’Donnell and Sharron Angle. I’m serious. Think about that for a minute.

Now, I come from the more moderate end of the GOP, and cut my teeth as a blogger as an advocate for moderate Republicans. A lot of people in that part of the party will be inclined to respond to this criticism by saying, “no, they weren’t worse candidates, it’s just that the party is so extreme that more moderate/mainstream candidates can’t win over the base.”

And it pains me to say it, but this is simply not true, and I’m going to throw out several names to prove it to you: Mark Kirk. Kelly Ayotte. Carly Fiorina. Dan Coats.

Kirk, Ayotte and Coats not only beat primary opponents widely considered to be more conservative than them, they also won in the general. Fiorina (for whom I consulted—full disclosure) won decisively in the primary besting an opponent generally regarded as more conservative than her (and for the record, California Republicans are more like Kansas Republicans than New York City Republicans). While ultimately losing in blue California, Fiorina lost by a lesser margin than did gubernatorial candidate Meg Whitman. She also beat the registration gap between Democrats and Republicans.

Now, not all of these people started off running campaigns that might be described as A+ (side note: In my experience, most campaigns suffer road bumps and hiccups on a fairly phenomenal scale for the first 2-8 weeks, anyway).

However, they did not assume they would coast to a victory and they took the job of campaigning very seriously.

That means they hired good staff (not just whoever was already familiar to them or in their entourage or who that one guy who won big 10 year ago used, or some big name consultants who talked a good game but didn’t have a record of putting points on the board).

Sarah Steelman, one of Akin’s opponents, basically failed to raise any money, making it hard for her to beat Akin on the day (one dreads to think how she would have stood up to Claire McCaskill, who wasn’t exactly running the world’s cheapest, crappest campaign).

Mike Castle, who I would have infinitely preferred Delaware Republicans nominate, just couldn’t fathom that his party would nominate someone as nutty as Christine O’Donnell (lesson #1 in life: Never assume, because when you do, you make an “ass” out of “u” and “me.”) He also spent time campaigning at, say, art fairs—probably a very good thing to do in the general, but probably not that helpful in a Republican primary. (Note: Castle did turn things around in the final weeks of the campaign, though by then it was too late; so he does deserve some credit for his efforts.)

If estranged Republicans really want to see change, then it’s time to get busy. There needs to be candidates that can articulate new ideas, connect with the base (and not always assume they are all nutjobs) and well, actually give a damn about the party they claim to want to be a part of.

But if none of that happens, if we are left with the Ted Cruzes of the world, then we will have a party that will continue on the path it has set because it’s the only game in GOP town and frankly because no one was willing to take the time to actually stand up and offer something different.

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158 thoughts on “Wishes Won’t Change the GOP

  1. But if moderate Democrats are offering a reasonably acceptable alternative product out on the political market, it’s so much easier to go there than to put in all the hard work of opposing the Tea Partiers!

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    • They aren’t, and they will never be (NSA among other things dooms them. Democrats are kinda cowardly on gun control. Maybe Republicans can split the baby there?).
      HOWEVER, the moderate republicans you want are busy remodeling the Democrats right now.
      or at least, that’s what they’ve been doing for a while (think devilstower, kos, etc).

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  2. Yes, what Burt said. If enough moderate GOPers leave then the party will truely become a marginal regional rump incapable of presenting a national challenge.
    The interesting question then is whether the Dem’s would schism to form two national competative parties or whether they’d just enjoy a long period of domination with the big electoral fights being intra-Democratic party nomination fights.

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      • (Laughing) No they bloody well don’t. A libertarian is the buzzkill at any party. Let the GOP have ’em all. They can’t even stand together, much less ally themselves with any working political party to get anything done.

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      • Blaise,
        I think we might have different working definitions of libertarians.

        I want a party that will go defang the NSA (and actually think before heading to war, or giving defense appropriations carte blanche).

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      • We sure do have different definitions. I’m still waiting for any two libertarians to agree on anything beyond what they aren’t. You can wish to defang the NSA, as Frank Church attempted to defang the CIA back in the day. This sort of problem isn’t going to be legislated away any more than the Church Commission stopped the CIA. Congress and the courts knew what was going on, it was all perfectly legal, not that anyone has once bothered to note the obvious, that everything the NSA did went through an actual, factual judge.

        Yet you want to defang the NSA. That’s just precious. It’s so dumb I don’t even know where to start. 9/11 comes along, American leadership goes apeshit, all manner of terrible things are done in the name of National Security — and you’re going to blame the people who carry out the orders and not the order-givers and the lawmakers and the feckless judges, going back to 1977, who allowed it all to happen — when all this was decided in SCOTUS.

        NSA is not the problem, not that people like you will ever be told anything from the facts. We’re a republic, remember? You might fear some tyranny of technology, you witless wonder, the tyranny you should fear arises from corporations who sell your data, not the government trying to find the next jihaadi. As long as America can be scared stupid, as long as fearful bunnies run around and thump their feet, thinking NSA conforms to some goddamn Hollywood Movie stereotype, you miss the obvious, that America stopped believing in itself some while back and now views The Government as something beyond its control.

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      • I’m still waiting for any two libertarians to agree on anything beyond what they aren’t.

        Come on, now, Blaise. We’ve been getting along pretty decently lately. Please don’t go down this road.

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      • You and I, two guys who’ve read more politics and philosophy than’s strictly good for either of us — we can get along fine. Mostly, it comes down to admitting the obvious, that we agree more than we disagree — on a factual basis — and if we don’t agree on conclusions, that’s fine, too. I am no cleverer or insightful than you, Hanley. And if I take you seriously, I actually learn a few things.

        The Libertarians are highly unwelcome in any political gathering. They don’t know how to cooperate, politically. They aren’t willing to be a mere plank in a winning platform, they need to be the whole megillah. Where they might make a difference, they’re unwilling. They’re too much a class of purists who don’t even get along with each other. People outgrow Libertarianism. It’s the kiddie pool of politics. Beyond a certain point, it’s about winning.

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      • Yeah. And I disagree with every one of Jason’s conclusions. Because I know about how data collection and dissemination works in the real world, both in the land of government and in the private sector. Governments hoard it, private concerns sell it, to anyone who wants it, friend, foe, employer or voyeur. Federated datasets in the private world are far more sophisticated and intrusive. Courts don’t regulate their activities.

        Demonising the government is not reforming it. It’s childish. It’s kiddie pool stuff. It’s totally unserious.

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      • ,,, and what’s more, what’s Jason’s thesis? Why State Surveillance is Worse. Where, in any of that, is he saying how NSA ought to be reformed? The establishment line is completely false. Okay, how does that contradict my assertion that Libertarians are anti- this and anti-that and what they’re for is Nothing? Where does it start being pro-anything, James? You tell me.

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      • Blaise,
        Quit moving the goalposts. The issue was not whether you agreed with Jason, or what you think of his thesis. The issue was your claim that you can’t find two libertarians who agree on anything except what they’re not.

        I showed you two libertarians agreeing on something other than that. If you can’t just accept that, but have to shuffle the discussion off onto some tangent, that’s on you.

        Ball’s in your court. Are you going to continue the rapprochement, or are you going to insist on playing games?

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      • Let’s presume you believe, with Jason, that State Surveillance is Worse, parenthetically stipulating to State Surveillance being worse than Private Surveillance. I don’t agree with the conclusion. But what have you agreed with? That State Surveillance is worse?

        Where are the Libertarians on reforming this process? What concrete suggestion did Jason make — clearly you haven’t made any such suggestion — that might reform the process? That’s not moving the goalpost. It’s putting up a goalpost.

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      • Where are the Libertarians on reforming this process?

        Exactly where all the rest of us, I’d say: arguing for their views and challenging people who disagree to provide a good defense of their own views.

        Isn’t that what politics means for all of us on the voting side things?

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      • Being against something is pointless unless and until you have something you’re for. That’s the problem, whole and entire. It’s not about elections. It’s about governing. Not one word said about the intrusiveness of private surveillance, it’s all this childish ranting and stomping about the Big Bad Government.

        And that’s why the Libertarians are unwelcome in the political parties. There’s plenty they’re against, but they offer no solutions. It’s also the GOP’s problem at present and it’s why they’re not going anywhere on the deficit issue. When all is said and done, more is said than done. And the gods answer the prayers of the stupid, giving them what they want.

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      • Being against something is pointless unless and until you have something you’re for.

        Limited jurisdiction?
        Individual sovereignty?

        It’s like saying “OH MY GOD, THERE’S A FIRE! PUT IT OUT!” and hearing someone else ask “what will you replace the fire with?”

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      • Limits? On jurisdiction? What does that mean? What does that translate to in plain English? It’s just what you’re against. Says nothing about what you’re for. You want less intrusion into your private life? You’d need government to pass some laws to that effect. Undo a host of other laws, such as Smith v Maryland, which gives the government every right to look at your call log — and why is this so? — because it’s already in the hands of a third party, your telephone company.

        And absolutely none of this is registering with the Libertarians. Private intrusion, public intrusion, you need laws to make such things illegal and bureaucrats to arrest people who violate such laws, like Peeping Tom laws — it’s so fundamentally asinine — that you’re attacking the only agency capable of preventing such intrusions. You can’t get people elected to high office, you can’t even come up with something substantive. Individual Sovereignty is a contradiction in terms. You aren’t a sovereign entity until you can enforce the writ of your own laws. And since you can’t, you Libertarians might get a clue and ally yourself with some entity which can enforce your privacy. And it sure as hell isn’t going to be Voluntary.

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      • Limits? On jurisdiction? What does that mean?

        It means that there are parts of your life that are none of my business.

        I understand that people who aren’t libertarians have a lot of trouble with this concept but, seriously, it’s a very important one to grasp.

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      • It is flat earth theology. In the real world, your every move is tracked by entities both public and private. That information is bought and sold . How do you propose to keep your business private? Declare yourself the Emperor of the Sovereign State of Jaybird?

        I’m a Liberal. I want government out of your life, too. The difference between us is pretty simple. Liberals know how to do it. Get someone elected who will get some legislation passed which will crack down on the trade in personal information, to the government or anyone else. Like HIPAA laws, only extending much farther. Open up these secret courts, force this trade into the open. And that will require some heavy lifting, fighting Experian and Trans Union and Equifax will be a bigger fight than ACA.

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      • Long game, you say. No. Every game is played to win. Libertarians condescend to everyone else, telling us we have trouble with their concepts. They’re not playing the game to win. They’re playing Calvinball.

        Here’s a concept for you: personal privacy. How do Libertarians intend to get it? By telling me the government is worse than private industry? That fails the most elementary test of logic — from whom are these Government Fiends getting that information? From private industry, the very people who buy and sell that information? And I’m supposed to blame whom — again?

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      • And I say thee “nay”.

        You can probably keep saying that, sure, you have jurisdiction over every inch of my life… and I’m going to tell you that you don’t.

        And you can point out that corporations are in my house.

        And I will still tell you that you do not have jurisdiction over every inch of my life.

        You can point out that I’m obtuse and not playing to win.

        And I will still tell you that you do not have jurisdiction over every inch of my life.

        You can wail and scream about how I need to be different…

        And I will still tell you that you do not have jurisdiction over every inch of my life.

        It’s really quite simple. You will either realize that you do not have jurisdiction over every inch of my life and you will fight to get others to realize it… or you will wonder why the government didn’t pay attention to that law you passed oh-so-very carefully.

        My question for you, Blaise… has it been demonstrated that the government *HAS* ignored laws passed oh-so-carefully?

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      • That’s fine. I never argue with a man’s religious convictions.

        You are certainly entitled to fly the flag of the Republic of Jaybird on your front lawn and I’ll be the first to defend your right to do so. Also to keep me off that lawn.

        Have I made the claim to jurisdiction over your life? I have not. Nor have I probably said that.

        I do say, with every fact on my side, that the corporations in your house are not your good buddies, however voluntarily you let them in the door. Me, I want to make them at least ring the doorbell. With a law to that effect, since they aren’t your good buddies and would sell every scrap of information to not merely the highest bidder but to anyone asking, including me, which I could do at present and nothing would stop me.

        However you propose to roust them, or me, or anyone else who might make a buck off of you, prying into your private life — out in the Republic of Jaybird, that’s your problem. I think it’s a problem. A problem for which you don’t have a ready answer, not even a particularly good question. The very idea, that I can probably keep on saying that. I never did and you know it.

        The government has scrupulously adhered to the tenets of Smith v. Maryland. Your data is for sale. That’s the Free Market for you.

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      • Perhaps you and the liberals could pass a law that the government will actually follow this time.

        I kinda suspect that I’ll change the culture before you’ll figure out the wording of the law that will get the government to pay attention to it.

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      • what have you agreed with? That State Surveillance is worse?

        Yes.

        That’s not moving the goalpost. It’s putting up a goalpost.

        Dude, your statement–that you’re “still waiting for any two libertarians to agree on anything beyond what they aren’t”–was the goal line. I crossed it.

        Your other questions, worthy as they might be in their own right, are just a distraction from this point.

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      • Liberals know how to do it. Get someone elected who will get some legislation passed which will crack down on the trade in personal information, to the government or anyone else.

        Heh, that’s a good one. I thought for a moment I was reading another great Mike Schilling one-liner.

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      • Whatever, James. If two guys yelling It’s Worse constitutes agreement, then you’re absolutely correct. (2 * No) = Yes in Libertarian mathematics. And there’s no arguing with that sort of logic.

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      • Beautiful, Blaise. Three bits of bullshit in that short comment.

        1. You’re still not man enough to just admit that your original claim was utter nonsense.

        2. Pretending that someone saying, “I think government surveillance is worse than corporations tracking your purchases” is “yelling.”

        3. Reinterpreting “I think X is worse than Y” as “no.”

        I suspect you know damn well you’re being an ass, but that just brings us back to my point 1.

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      • Haven’t I stipulated to your axiom that (2 * No) = Yes?

        I’ve already pointed out that saying “X is worse than Y” is not, “No.” So it’s not my axiom, you haven’t stipulated to any of my axioms, and you know it.

        Just stop, please. Just be big enough to say, “OK, I’ve heard two libertarians agree on something other than what they are not” without any would-be clever embellishments.

        Come on, you respect people who are just honest and plain-spoken. So how can you respect yourself for playing such verbal games to avoid just being honest and plain-spoken?

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    • Schism — the Democratic tent is pretty wide. I mean, it included Joe Lieberman and Bernie Sanders, and gets a lot of votes from people who think it’s quite a bit too right-leaning (but are realistic enough to laugh at the idea of voting third party, at least in current circumstances).

      It’d be interesting to see where the new center ended up, and what the GOP base does — do they realign to the new ‘conservative’ party and start yanking it rightward, or band together into a third party on the far right that basically just screws the new conservative party until they realize their viewpoint (the Bachmann-esque viewpoints) are marginal enough that, no, there really ISN’T a silent majority and either quietly stop voting in protest or adjust back to consensus.

      The ‘silent majority backs me’ isn’t exactly a right-wing only delusion — you can see variations of it everywhere (including “they’d agree with me if they knew what I knew”), it’s just the GOP base has had that pumped into them since the 80s. It’s pretty foundational. If it gets broken, the fallout would be..interesting.

      I suspect that mythos is a lot of what’s keeping them together.

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      • it included Joe Lieberman

        Past tense. It reached a point, though, where his kind weren’t needed anymore. Not in Connecticut, anyway.

        Note, I agree with the vast majority of what you vote. But if the GOP slides to irrelevancy, it won’t just cause change in the Republican Party, I don’t believe. Which is why I think fracture would likely become a part of the realignment. Maybe not along the lines in Connecticut, but along some lines when more liberal voters think “Hey, we don’t have to tolerate that anymore…”

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  3. Or to slightly change what Burt said, why should minorities and women get actively involved and invest in a political party that seems to actively hate them? There is no evidence that they could actively change the party from within and they won’t have the resources that the Tea Party people have.

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  4. I know that the Republican Party is nothing but old white racist antiabortionist men.

    I know this because when the TV shows me a Republican, they always show me an old white racist antiabortionist man.

    Therefore I know that the Republican Party has nothing for me, because I hate old white racist antiabortionist men.

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      • The post went exactly as I expected.

        My reply is to the fundamental issue of the post–the claim that moderate Republicans don’t exist. The reason you don’t see many moderate Republicans is that moderate Republicans aren’t entertainingly stupid and thus don’t get to be on TV as often. There are millions of Republicans in the country who are not Todd Akin, but none of them ever said that they could see Russia from their house, so we don’t know who they are.

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      • “My reply is to the fundamental issue of the post–the claim that moderate Republicans don’t exist.”

        So this is one of those, “didn’t have time to read the OP but really had something to get off my chest” comments, I assume.

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      • Jim,

        I’m curious. How could you determine that the post went exactly as you expected it without having read it?

        If you’ve got some special technique for understanding posts without having to trudge through them, will you let me know? It’d sure free up some extra time for me.

        (By the way, do you quite understand the political leanings of the author? I hardly doubt he’s claiming he himself doesn’t exist.)

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      • The post was a lengthy complaint that there are just so few “moderate Republicans”.

        The post is based on a failure to understand the situation.

        There are plenty of moderate Republicans. The problem is that a moderate Republican and a moderate Democrat look the same to a superficial glance. People think via soundbites, and when someone says “I think there’s a way to reduce medical costs” the listener hears “supports healthcare reform” and thinks “Democrat”. The idea that the speaker might say something other than “I support the ACA as passed” never even enters the listener’s conciousness.

        Conversely, when someone says “I’m a Republican”, the listener immediately thinks “ban abortion, repeal Obamacare” because that’s what they see Republicans saying on TV. The idea that someone could both be a Republican and support reductions in military deployments, support improvements in the social safety net? Not possible. Not acceptable. Republicans want to ban abortion because banning abortion is what Republicans want, and if you don’t want to ban abortion then you support the ACA as written because supporting the ACA is what Democrats do and if you’re not a Republican you’re a Democrat.

        Moderate Republicans exist. We’re just told by the people who tell us what to think that there is no such thing. And so we get posts like this, wondering why there aren’t any moderate Republicans.

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      • Erm (coughlaugh) — There are moderate Republicans and Democrats. Superficial glances won’t do: they just will call themselves Democrats or Republicans. You may think in soundbites, most of us around here don’t — and don’t appreciate being told we do. People around here think in paragraphs. Long ones. Threads, too.

        Did you read the post, Jim? Let’s review: I would also add that the more moderate members in the party are good compromisers, but terrible in coming up with a competing vision of what the Republicans party should do and be in the 21st century.

        Alas for the world, so full of unheard moderates, that the crazies have seized the microphone and won’t give it back. Me, I think you could be one of those crazies. That’s just me, working with what you’re writing. I’m not alone, either.

        The Lunaticks are running the Asylum in the GOP. They were sent to Washington to do the nation’s business, by many sorts of people. Who voted for those Lunaticks? Were the moderates so numerous, they’d be electing one of their own. But that’s not how things worked out. Dennis is correct: moderate Republicans are terrible in coming up with a competing vision of what the Republicans party should do and be in the 21st century.

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  5. It’s not the GOP leadership, Dennis. It’s the rank and file. You want conservatism with a human face. You will not get it because that’s not how conservatism works. Conservatism wants a face, but a demigod’s face, some Aeneas — or Reagan. Which isn’t a bad thing, to emulate someone’s virtues, to say “Here was a great man”.

    You seem to want Conservatism to produce a Tiberius and Gaius Gracchus, men who gave a damn about the common man, who believed in the concept of Rome, who opposed the moneyed classes. You will never get such men. Either you will stick with the Conservative part of the label or you will stick with the Moderate part. You may not have both, not these days. The Gracchi came to a bad end and so have all the Moderate Republicans. They’re extinct. Back when the Gracchi could have fixed the broken Republic, the Conservatives made sure they didn’t. The Roman Republic sank down like some wounded animal and died.

    The GOP, like the late Republic, features two kinds of maniacs: the moneyed sort and the mob sort. Both lay claim to the spirit of Reagan. They cannot both have him. It’s hard to see, in our times, how important the figure of Aeneas the Founder was to the Romans, but everything intrinsically Roman was attributed to this largely-mythical man.

    When ideals are embodied in people, nothing good comes of it. Reagan was a cipher, his friends and enemies alike could project whatever persona they wished upon him. Seen from afar, Reagan’s figure still towers over the GOP. No new hero paragon has emerged to replace him. None ever will, for all their wishing and hoping and prayers for Reagan’s return. You are left with the Ted Cruz-es because the mob wants such maniacs and the moneyed classes cynically back the likes of Ted Cruz.

    The GOP is not done with Hero Worship. That’s how Conservatives work: their ideals are forever bound up in personae and not in abstract principles. That’s not going to change.

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  6. I’m going to concur with Burt and the others as well.

    The Democratic Party is a fairly big-tent party. The DLC-Clinton wing represents the old Rockefeller wing of the Republican Party and depending on who you ask is slightly more liberal or conservative than the Rockefeller Republicans. There are also real and serious liberals in the Democratic Party like Elizabeth Warren and Al Franken and Barbara Boxer.

    The Democratic Party actively seeks women and minority voters. Not to create a “culture of dependency” like the National Review suggests (check out their rants after Obama was reelected) but because the Democratic Party has policies that women and minorities and city-dwellers find preferable to what the GOP has to offer.

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  7. ” For example, take Senator Arlen Specter…”

    please. (bah-doomp)

    “…who until recently was a moderate Republican. After he voted for the stimulus package, he recieved a fair amount of protests from Republican groups.”

    Well, “recently” being “the mid-2000s when he realized that the whim-voters of Pennsylvania were pretty riled up and ready to downvote anyone with an ‘R’ next to their name”.

    Also, voting for the stimulus package? Not a “moderate Republican” thing to do. “go along to get along” is not what “moderate” means.

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    • Hiya. I’m from the state where we elected a senator from saudi arabia.
      You aren’t.
      You’re just being a troll.

      Spector switched parties because his voters switched parties.
      Check the voter rolls if you don’t believe me.
      The republicans switched to democrats, and they are NOT switching back.

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      • “I’m from the state where we elected a senator from saudi arabia.
        You aren’t.”

        dah-DAH dah DAH dah-DAH dah-DEEEE!

        “Spector switched parties because his voters switched parties.”

        Hello, that’s what I said.

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      • Jim,
        “Well, “recently” being “the mid-2000s when he realized that the whim-voters of Pennsylvania were pretty riled up and ready to downvote anyone with an ‘R’ next to their name”

        does not mean “Republican primary voters wanted him GONE, because only the Toomey fans were left”

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  8. I think it’s great that Dennis is talking about something that a lot of people don’t want to admit, which is that in many ways it’s the moderates’ own fault to the extent that control of the party lies on the other half. Not just because we don’t put in the time and effort as do the True Believers, but also because we tend to embrace people with marginal loyalties like Specter and Huntsman.

    That said, while wishes won’t change the GOP, and greater involvement is the most pro-active thing that can be done, I think it’s important not to get too nihilistic at least past the short term. While people like myself can’t change much, there are people with a vested interest in the GOP actually succeeding in winning elections rather than just rattling cages. And when they get involved – or they start threatening to stop getting involved – that does change the dynamic. The firebreathers are sucking up a lot of oxygen. Eventually, more will be needed that they cannot provide.

    That could take several years, though. And even that might not be enough, and the implosion of the Democratic coalition may ultimately be what’s required.

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    • Do you think greater involvement will make a difference? I don’t. Okay, I’ll stipulate to this much: if the Romney/Paul election is any guide to what we’re likely to see from GOP activism, involvement from the likes of Dennis Sanders is pointless.

      Dennis is a great guy. If I was doing GOP marketing, I’d seize on him and put him in ads immediately. “I’m a Christian man of color, I’m in a same-sex relationship, I’m a pastor — and I’m a Republican. The GOP is a big enough tent for me to find a welcome. It’s big enough for you, too. I’m Dennis Sanders, Republican”

      But we both know how that would go over….

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      • It would make a huge difference. Maybe not in Maine, New England has its own political dynamic at work: the concept of a New England Republican is a study in contrasts. Nixon was profoundly influenced by Rockefeller Republicanism. It was Nixon who created the EPA, after all. But that was admittedly a long time ago.

        Romney Republicans are around in great numbers: Romney knew how to get things done, a point his people never really conveyed to the voting public. They never managed his message effectively. Sure, he came from a sorta-patrician family, sure he made some big bucks, but he was able to work with his opponents effectively. The message got out of hand: the Democrats were allowed to paint him as a Robber Baron and it stuck. Wasn’t fair and it wasn’t true. I opposed Romney because I knew he was pandering to his extreme wing.

        The GOP’s best friends are being quietly shoved off the stage. Dennis thinks activism will change that. It won’t. He thinks the moderates are terrible at coming up with a competing vision of what the Republicans party should do and be in the 21st century. That’s not true. His own vision is hardly unique. Nobody’s listening to it. It could win elections, break the spell of the Tea Parties, wrestle the steering wheel away from these jihaadi types, intent upon smashing the GOP into some skyscraper to save it.

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      • WhitePeopleMourningRomney (it’s a tumblr).

        I’d say the meddlers are doing their damn job,
        which is demoralizing the money people.

        It doesn’t take but a few good PR folks
        to really screw over a company… or
        a political party.

        Laughter is always the Democrats’ friend.
        Makes the hidebound conservatives seethe
        (they don’t get jokes, only insults masquerading as “jokes”).

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    • “the implosion of the Democratic coalition may ultimately be what’s required.”

      Which I think is exactly the case, and ties in with what ND said above. As long as Democrats remain sufficiently bourgeois, moderate Republicans are redundant.

      The question becomes how long are key factions of the Democratic coalition going to put up with an overall bourgeois sentiment of the party.

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      • I originally thought that the Democratic coalition was the fragile one, between the two parties.

        Get the environmentalists to leave, get the occupiers to stay home, get the this or that or this other 3-5% bloc to be alienated and, WHAM, the Republicans are in by default.

        It didn’t occur to me that one of the three legs of the stool might decide “Eff It” first.

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      • Out of curiosity which sections of the Democratic faction do you think are anti-bourgeois? Organized labor? Minorities? Women?

        The only really anti-bourgeois people I know tend to white, tend to come from upper-middle class circumstances or above, and tend to be very far radical left in their politics. In short, they are people who were never happy with the Democratic Party in the first place and want something really radical. I don’t think these people number very high electorally and were never too much a part of the Democratic calculus.

        In my view (not studied super-hard): The key aspect of American liberalism since the New Deal was to expand the middle class and bourgeois by definition. The Democratic Party promises and seeks a middle-class or above lifestyle for women, minorities, Jews and other religious minorities, homosexuals, bisexuals, the transgendered, people with disabilities, etc. The whole message of Gay Marriage is expanding a bourgeois concept of freedom and liberty to homosexuals. It is not the radical isolationism and non-assimilation of the Harry Hays of the world.

        In short, the Democratic Party succeeds by creating a mass bourgeois/middle and I suspect that this is what many people want. Freedom and Acceptance is when Volvo and Cereal companies feels like they should make ads featuring interracial and gay couples.

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      • The three legged stool was always important to Republicans in the late 20th century, but the rug that really tied the Republican room together over that period were high crime rates and gross mismanagement of urban centers, with a simultaneous shift of the political center of gravity to city suburbs.*

        Now that crime is down and city government is more competent, the Republicans don’t have a go to boogeyman (Chicago notwithstanding). And for at least the last two election cycles, Republicans have deliberately and overtly dismissed anything within 20 miles of a city center as worthy political ground to put up a good fight. (to wit, one of McCain’s spox during his 2008 campaign saying that she didn’t live in ‘Real’ Virginia because she lived in Fairfax or Prince William or something)

        But the flip side of this are fairly sizable rifts coming to the surface in Dem intraparty municipal election fights.

        *a shift that was partially caused by crime and urban government malpractice, (and racism) but was really overdetermined with the gasoline-automobile post-Depression & war economic nexus.

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      • I’ve said it here before but I am a bit further to the left than most of my friends in that I support policies like a national vacation law and other goodies from Social Democratic Europe.

        Most of my friends think this should be left to the person and I am a bit nanny-state here. My friends will never vote for the Republican Party because of the rabid courting of hardcore social conservatives on issues like pre-marital sex, teaching evolution in schools, and homosexuality, abortion, the environmental denialism, etc.

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      • Will,

        Nope. Maybe I am being a little dense but I am still not seeing it.

        To be sure, I do have friends that get fed up from time to time with the DLC wing and we do have fights in SF between the Clintonesque Democratic Party and the more liberal wings but I don’t think anyone is seriously considering breaking away to join the Greens or founding a new party or even the Republicans for the business minded social liberals. The social liberty is very important to Democratic voters as far as I can tell including the business-minded ones.

        De Blasio won among all demographics in the NYC Mayor Primary. He won the rich, the poor, the middle class. He won among gays, blacks, women, men, etc.
        De Blasio’s cultural tastes are pretty much unrepentant Park Slope upper-middle class. He is also not rich enough to afford NYC’s private schools. A lot of people feel this way. He ran on a campaign of economic populism for the middle class and below and social liberty (no stop and frisk). Quinn failed because she seemed to only court the billionaires like Bloomberg.

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      • A bourgeois / prole debate only arises when the economy is particularly bad, when rabble rousers can stir up resentment. When times are good, as in the era of the Clinton Boom, lots of people rise from petit bourgeois to haute bourgeois, from merely middle class, living (pretty well) from paycheck to paycheck — into the realms of folks with an investment portfolio and a jumbo mortgage — all that sort of talk disappears.

        Times aren’t good just now. Young people, even children of supposed Privilege, WTF that meaningless phrase might entail has been much bandied about to no good conclusion — are now let loose upon the world, burdened with debts and their prospects are not good. They’ve come to see themselves as Have-Nots. They’ll never have it as good as their parents. They might have once espoused bourgeois values. Now they’re proles and they know it.

        Republican Bourgeois are too anti-intellectual to ever aspire to haute bourgeoisie, though the upper crust does back the GOP, knowing the GOP is the party of deregulation. The Dem bourgeois and Republican don’t overlap much. The Republican is a philistine.

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      • ND, eventually people like you will get tired of not having things like national vacation and get impatient. That’s the sort of fracture we’re talking about. The more irrelevant the GOP becomes, the less “We have to stick together or they win” is a disincentive to fracture.

        The theory goes that as the left becomes more impatient, they’ll push for things that the moderates don’t like, leaving the moderates with tougher choices than they have now.

        That may not be how it goes at all. I lean towards believing the fracture will occur along different lines – that the GOP’s road back to power will be among the economically disaffected but socially conservative-leaning and family-oriented working class. I think a lot of the assumptions that it’s social conservatives that they need to dump comes from the fact that most of the people talking think that the GOP needs to reach out to people like them and those that they know.

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      • ND, I think basing perceptions on national political coalitions on anything happening in NYC is a mistake. Residents there face a set of circumstances that most of the rest of the country just doesn’t face. And of course it is a leftward outlier more generally. A bad data set to extrapolate from.

        The economic tensions within the Democratic Party are real (DLC vs OWS, as someone put it). At the moment, they are secondary to fear of Republicans. That’s not a permanent condition. Especially the further and further away that Democrats get from actually having competitive Republicans. As well as the further and further Republicans get from being competitive, necessitating a re-evaluation of their coalition.

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      • ND, it might help you understand what (I think) Kolohe is saying if you replace bourgeois with “Business-interested upper and upper-middle class”

        Yep. Even more precisely, ‘salaried professionals’, which, until essentially the 1990’s have always been exclusively part of the Hamilton-Adams-Whig-Republican party apparatuses (even when – especially when, that faction became the center of gravity for Progressive reforms in the early 20th century)

        In short, the Democratic Party succeeds by creating a mass bourgeois/middle and I suspect that this is what many people want.

        Though there is a fairly straight line between post WW2 prosperity and the re-emergence of the Republican party achieving electoral success after 2 decades in the wilderness.

        There is also a fairly big tension between governance that works for the established middle class, and governance that works (or tries to work) for (for lack of a better word*) the underclass.

        And this tension is most visible in big city politics (and in internet fights accusing people you don’t like of being ‘neo-liberals’).

        The Democratic Party promises and seeks a middle-class or above lifestyle for women, minorities, Jews and other religious minorities, homosexuals, bisexuals, the transgendered, people with disabilities, etc. The whole message of Gay Marriage is expanding a bourgeois concept of freedom and liberty to homosexuals.

        This I agree is the key differentiator and advantage the D party has over the R party these days. (besides also being morally correct)

        One could also make the cynical observation that it’s possible that gay rights have come so far so quickly because gay people have money the way that some of the other groups you listed don’t.

        But yes, insofar as the left has accepted a traditional (i.e. 2 adults plus dependents) basis of societal organization (vice more atomized or more communized arrangement), that represents the ultimate victory of bourgeois values and renders large segments of reactionary politics obsolete.

        *maybe Les Misérables, but that’s only because I saw the movie the other day.

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      • basing perceptions on national political coalitions on anything happening in NYC is a mistake.

        What’s that we’re told about NYC mayors? They come from nowhere and that’s where they return.

        The Urban versus Rural dynamic was firmly engineered in favour of Rural with the notion of the Senate. As more people move into the Blue Cities and out of the Red Countryside, it will be ever-harder for the Rural Types to make headway. Even out in the boonies, corporate farming has made a hash of the debate. Lots of small manufacturing has gone rural, what with tax incentives and suchlike.

        All the notable Romans used to ape the fashions and virtues of the Doughty Farmer. Well, towards the end, things got quite urban and weird, but we see the same in all this aw-shucks I’m an Outsider come to reform those scheming Washington bureaucrats rhetoric in our times, too.

        The Conservatives haven’t been able to translate their message to the city folk. The Democrats have always countenanced divisions in their ranks: they’ve largely betrayed the trade unions and walked within the boundaries established by Reagan and observed by Clinton, half-‘o-this and none-o’-that. Nobody’s happy with their half-measures. But it’s been a long process of triangulation, navigating out of the wilderness. The ranks of the City Dwellers are growing and the Conservatives have no message of hope for them, leaving the Democrats to pick them all up by default.

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  9. I dislike the comment stacking and lack of reply buttons on some comments.

    Will,

    I think I am overstating how much my friends feel about national vacation policies. They don’t hate it with an “OMG Socialism” kind of response like it is a bridge to far. And they will still concur with me when I state that I think the GOP calling for “personal responsibility” is just a canard.

    As to your thesis, how many people like that are left to be courted by the GOP? I think those that care deeply about social conservatism already vote GOP.

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    • Those for whom social issues don’t dominate, but aren’t unimportant, who presently cannot stomach voting for the party that’s too busy complaining about freeloaders to notice that people are really struggling to get by. A lot of voters in the midwest and suburbia. There’s a stop-aggressively-alienating-people-on-social-issues component to it, too, but mostly a re-evaluation of their economic views.

      Most likely, whenever the tide turns, it will actually be a combination of both social and economic discontents within the Democratic coalition, primarily outside of the urban cores. Or put more simply, whatever it takes to win back smaller cities and suburbia.

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    • Re: comment stacking. Sorry, but we have only three levels of comment stacking now, so commenters who want to make references need to make a special effort to use the symbol to refer to previous comments.

      The alternative
      is to go back
      to the Bad Old
      Days when the
      stacking got so
      tight we had only
      three or four wor
      ds in a line.

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      • Random remarks, well after the fact… I find replies that lead off with an italicized bit from the comment to which the reply is referring more useful than the notation; in some of the threads, Cain could refer to any number of dumb things I’ve said at the final level of indenting. The blockquote treatment used chews up more vertical space than seems really necessary. Slashdot and The Oil Drum manage/managed quite deep nesting by using graphics to help keep things straight. Much as I like the gravatars, they do force each step of indenting to be rather deep. The “Gifts of Gab” and other stuff that appears in the right-hand column up by the top forces a considerable amount of white space when you get down to the comments, especially if the discussion gets lengthy. The combination of the site layout plus the constraints I enforce on my browser yields fairly wide empty margins.

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  10. Will,

    I am going to agree in part and disagree in part.

    Agreement in Part: The costs of NYC make it in someways a special case.

    Disagreement in Part: No member of the House Democratic Caucus voted for the cuts to food stamps even the most blue dog and DLC among them.

    http://nymag.com/daily/intelligencer/2013/09/republicans-we-were-too-nice-to-the-hungry.html

    I might not like everything the Ben Nelsons of the world stand for but they vote reliably Democratic often enough and are closer to me than the most moderate Republicans.

    Agreement in Part and Dissent in Part: The real split is probably going to be between the Michele Rhee types and the anti-Charter school types. This is where I see real tensions developing.

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    • Do you really think “Didn’t vote to cut food stamps” is always going to be enough? That, at some point, the left-left won’t want to expand them beyond the point where conservative Democrats are comfortable? I think that, right now, they decline to primarily because the alternative is Republicans. But what happens when the Republicans aren’t such a big threat anymore? Or Republicans, having been out of power, start re-evaluating their hard line on food stamps?

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      • 1. I think you are overestimating the size and importance of the Occupy Wall Street faction. Or other furhter-lefts like Critical Mass and Food Not Bombs.

        2. I think you are overstating their radicalism. Most of Occupy are people who did as they were told: they studied hard and went to school and then found out that there were no jobs. They just want their chance.

        3. You might also be underplaying how important business is to the upper-middle class professional Democratic person and underplaying how important social liberty is. The truth is I think it exists in many Democratic people in a very complicated way that is not easy to untangle.

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      • I don’t think Democratic voters really priortize their policy preferences or are single-issue voters in ways that the GOP seems to do. They are totality of the circumstances type voters.

        People who strongly favor business over social issues already vote GOP. We might be hitting peak factions. Some things change but studies show that political preferences form early and young and largely stay. Today’s Republican Party were members of Young Americans for Freedom in the 1960s or Youth for Reagan in the 1980s. They formed their politics during their early years.

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      • You don’t think that, if the threat of the GOP falls by the wayside, there won’t be a push to expand foodstamps? Expand unemployment? Expand Medicaid? Some of these things are things that the Democrats are already doing.

        How many people on this blog have said “What I really want is single-payer, but that’s not politically possible so we will have to make due with PPACA.”?

        What happens when single-payer is a possibility? What happens, I think, is what happened to Joseph Lieberman. They didn’t need his kind anymore, and so they chose Ned Lamont. Once they don’t need the moderate voters anymore, I don’t think they’ll be as worried about compromise.

        Why accept the guy who declines to cut food stamps when you can instead get the guy who wants to expand them? What’s the point in having a majority if you can’t actually get what you want? Because (and this should worry Republicans) in between the Democratic majority and the fracture, liberals are going to get a whole lot of the things they want passed. And when Lieberman-types and Nelson-types eventually bolt, it would still be an improvement because the new Republican coalition would be less righty than the current one.

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      • ND, the only people who don’t prioritize are those who agree with their preferred party (or are in closer to agreement) on every single issue. Otherwise, they’re saying “This party’s views over here are more important than the other party’s views over there.”

        And a lot of Democrats vote the way they do precisely because of the Republican positions on a specific issue or set of issues. Abortion isn’t a dominant issue for just one side.

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      • I think you’re both right. ND is pertinent in his observation that, its odd incoherent ramshackleness notwithstanding, the current Democratic Party coalition is rather solid and resilient right now. Trumwill is entirely correct, however, in positing that the demise of the GOP would create a new political environment and one that could cause different wings of the current Democratic coalition to grow apart and potentially part ways.

        This is actually a pretty good spot for the Dems to be in as compared to the GOP situation; several of their major interest groups are literally shriveling up and dying and another of them is in utter disarray.

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      • The Democrats have always been obliged to cooperate. The GOP excommunicated its moderates years ago. Now it’s stuck. All the GOP ever understood was Intellectual Purity. Its only technology for achieving unity was paring away dissenters.

        Trotsky once said ends might justify means — but there had better be an end in mind to justify those means. The GOP has no End in mind.

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      • Yeah, success to the point of fracture is the ultimate victory. It means that there are so many of you that you don’t even have to all be on the same side anymore. Each faction can more comfortable pursue its own policy preferences.

        I personally don’t think that’s what it’s going to take for the GOP to become competitive again. But it’s certainly a best-case scenario for the liberals, and a worst-case for conservatives.

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      • It’s trivial for the GOP to reinvent itself. Look at Bill Clinton reinventing the Democratic Party. The GOP needs a new Reagan, with a big old concert projection screen behind him, a meaningless cipher. Look at Obama. Who was this guy that he could trounce the established politicians like Hillary Clinton.

        See, the less we know about these guys, the better. Allows us to project our hopes and dreams onto them. Reagan was hardly an establishment figure when he stepped into the spotlight. He was smart enough to keep on grinnin’ and keep on sinnin’ and nobody could touch him.

        America’s where people came to reinvent themselves. These political parties don’t mean a damned thing. They’re just mechanisms to get people elected. They can change policies on a moment’s notice. They care about winning, not idealism — or they shouldn’t. Ideals are great. They form the basis for political positions. People might have ideals. Parties don’t.

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      • Will,
        Lieberman was made an example of. But it was done by rightwing Democrats, not lefties. Besides, nobody was really after Lieberman. They were after his backers, and scaring him but good was a good way to see who they were.

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      • Judas Lieberman’s head swelled to where every time he poked it up, it became a better and better target, silhouetted against the background. Ridiculous creature, the apotheosis of Senatorial hubris, what every Senator secretly thinks of himself but is too circumspect to actually say.

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      • Will,
        Sure can. The online forces that pushed hard for Lieberman to be ousted have pushed for some very right wing Democrats (granted, in other parts of the country) — and in general have pushed hard against corrupt democrats, as far as they can find local support for that, at any rate.

        You listen to kos talk, you listen to Devilstower, you listen to half a dozen other people helping lead the charge — they aren’t crazy lefties. Not anarchists, not “crazy ecofreaks” — yes, maybe they want to raise the minimum wage. They’ve got citations to prove how it won’t reduce employment (yay economists!).

        Yes, they’re antiNSA and antiwar (that puts them closer to the libertarians, as far as I’ve seen)

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      • I know Devilstower, personally. He’s preaching to the choir. Beyond the Great Orange, he influences nothing. I got sick of the breathless preachments of Kos et al. The Democrats don’t take them all that seriously, either. They want everything all at once. No sense of proportion. No recognition that facts don’t take sides. Almost no outreach to moderates even less to conservatives on the issues they might have in common. Whiny, mawkish, angry people, best left in their own echo chamber.

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      • Blase,
        Influence is as influence does.
        The democrats have a great and ugly stallion
        in the netroots — enough people willing to donate
        that the politicians might be free of the “elites”
        control.
        It’s worth nothing, of course. Not a single dollar,
        while someone lets the NSA be in charge.

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    • ‘s prophecy — the result of the GOP’s self-destructive “I purge thee because thou art less conservative than I” contest could very well be a rump party, producing an expanded Democratic party with strong inroads into unregistered moderates. Then the Democrats suffer the same problem: liberal activists are no longer content with (to use his example) holding food stamps steady but insist on expansion, and clash internally with other Democrats more concerned with budget balancing. (Meanwhile, some red-faced Republican off in a corner is jumping up and down saying “Benghazi! Benghazi!” or its latter-day equivalent while frothing small bits of spittle, but no one pays him the remotest bit of attention, enraging him further.) The internal clashes eventually result in a mirror image: to forestall or survive primary challenges, Democrats start having “More Liberal Than Thou” beauty contests and then squeezes and purges like what the GOP is doing now.

      But consider this: from about 1815 to about 1835, there was effectively only one party in this country. But soon enough there wasn’t anymore. And then the opposition party pretty much collapsed again by the 1852 election. But soon enough there was another party after that. No reason to think something like that won’t happen again: if the GOP collapses into irrelevancy, and the Democrats proceed to expend all their energy stabbing one another in the back, something new will arise. Who knows, maybe we’ll all like it better than either the Coke or Pepsi available today.

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      • For the record, I don’t have a firm prophecy on how it will shake out, only that it will involve a vaguely competitive Republican Party. Said Republican Party could make inroads among the technocratic or portions of the populist contingent of the current Democratic coalition. Having gotten that out of the way…

        What you say very well could happen. I think that things are different now than they were back then, though.

        Most particularly, the party system has become so formalized, both officially and unofficially, I have a hard time seeing that change. Back in the day, parties were regional hodgepodges. Today they’re not. Back in the 19th century, the opposition party just fractured in a way that would be difficult to happen today. The indicator I would use for this is the Roosevelt-Truman wilderness years. The Republican Party at that point was pretty much begging for there to be a Taft Party and a Dewey Party. But they hung together because the disincentives not to are enormous.

        Since the Civil War, third party challenges have been gobbled up by one or both of the existing parties after a cycle or two. The Progressives, the Dixiecrats, the Greens and Reform. Some of these were obvious (Greens) but one case had the Republicans becoming the Party of the South, which was unthinkable when it happened. The system now knows how to deal with this sort of thing, and people have proven more malleable than one might have expected. Anyone who argues that Latinos (for example) voting for the GOP as a majority is impossible would need to explain why that’s less unlikely than the South joining the Party of Lincoln.

        Having said all of this, I could be wrong. If I am, it’s because of a new dynamic that changes things. The most likely answer to that would be the media machine. If the GOP is stunted for long enough, one of two things will happen:

        (1) the red state Republicans will basically form a Bullmoose Party where the Republican brand is so toxic that not even Chris Christie or Susan Collins can get elected if they wear the (R) label. At that point, with our two party system, there’s no reason not to coalesce with like-minded people. The Republicans in those areas will vote for them just as they voted for Lieberman and Fenty. Then bam, you have a third party. Then I think it’ll be somewhat like the two conservative parties in Canada (PC and Reform/Alliance) that held each other down until they became the Conservative Party. Which is really the long way around what I think will happen. But it would resemble your prediction more than mine.

        (2) The Republicans remain hopelessly inept and the Democratic Party fractures… but the moderate/technocratic faction actually wins! The liberals push for more food stamps and welfare, but just can’t make any headway because their guy keeps losing the primary. Because in congress, the moderate faction plus the few remaining Republicans always seem to have a majority. Then I think you see the left start splintering off, convinced that between the voters they have and the non-voters they can get involved (Young people! The disaffected!) they can actually win. A tipping point might be, for instance, a closely contested primary where the loser has enough support and little to lose by running independently or is approached by the Greens or something. Most will decline for the same reason that Fenty declined the Republicans’ offer, but at some point you’ll have someone for whom it is their last chance to make history. If that person runs, and that person gets significantly more votes than the Republican, they are officially the new second party. Republicans move over to the Democratic Party. More Democrats move over to the new party (objecting to the new Republican influence, or maybe they were more sympathetic to the Pumas all along but voted D out of caution).

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  11. Kolohe,

    I think that and often forgotten part of the Hamilton-Adams-Whig-Republican view is that they did believe in a strong and centralized federal government and spending for internal improvements. The early Republican Party also created the Morrill Act for Land-Grant colleges.

    Something weird happened in American politics and the Jefferson and Jacksonians went to the GOP and the Hamilton-Adams branch went to the GOP.

    I don’t think my upper-middle class Democratic friends (which are most of my friends) see any contradiction in policies that help them and policies that help the poor. My facebook feed can often be filled with earnest pleas for wanting to pay their fair share and wanting universal pre-K and Universal Healthcare even if my friends don’t need it. They also think that public services help improve the economy. They don’t see any problem with food stamps.

    I think the GOP overplays the radicalism of the people they describe as the poor or the underclass. Most of these people are not looking for radical communal lifestyles.

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    • I think you’re over-relying on a sample set from San Fransisco and the Bay Area. Furthermore, a sample set that excludes a silent minority who don’t want to broadcast their heretical nature. As far as people who knew me when I was in the Pacific Northwest were concerned, I was of course liberal because who wasn’t. The only contra-indication was that one day when I had my John McCain 7-Election cup. But even then, once I got it in the building, I didn’t broadcast it.

      Back home, though, I know a lot of different voters with different patterns. Those that vote for the Democrats in large part due to their moderation. That, if that moderation were to evaporate, would jump on the Republican ship (back on it, in some cases). Of course, this sample set is similarly limited.

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    • The key question, to build on what Wil Truman just said, is how close the (stipulated) modal voter that are your friends is to the marginal voter, who in my mind is just a Dem (or rather has pulled the lever consistently for Obama and certain senators) because that voter is pro-choice and pro-gay rights, and most critically deems that he or she currently gets enough value for the taxes they do pay.

      The key promise Obama made in the 2008 campaign is that he wouldn’t raise taxes on anyone making less than 250K a year. (which actually was broken, but hey, smokers aren’t real people anyway). That, in my mind, defines the marginal Dem voter these days – and the only way to get the full basket of stuff that the neo-New Deal Dem side wants would be to start taxing more, all the way down to the sub-100K range.

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      • I think there’s probably more than one marginal voter to look at. One is as you describe. Those are the people I know. Those are the people the media likes to report on because those are the people they know. But I think there is another subset of voters who are center-right or conservative on social issues (the ones who were anti-gay marriage until recently, and in some cases still are) but hate the fact that the GOP is the party of the rich man. I think this is a bigger part of the problem of the GOP in much of the midwest. As well as a lot of minority voters who for one reason or another would be sympathetic to the GOP if the GOP didn’t define itself in such a way to loudly exclude them.

        I don’t know what the numbers are on these various groups of voters, but the GOP needs to find out. If I were Rance Priebus, I’d be paying someone to do that right now.

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      • But that’s the tricky part. On the one hand, those people for a long time *were* the Progressive Republicans (or weakly for the reconstructed Wilson-era Democrats and later, a big part of the the New Deal coalition. The rise of living standards in the post-war era and the rise of the counter-cultural left put them slightly back in the Republican column. (but never really, in say, Iowa).

        On the other hand, midwestern Republicanism has been fundamentally altered. No longer are there large numbers of presidents of the local savings bank or heads of the family business of a 5 county chain of appliance sellers. All (ok not really all) of the traditional mid-size county seat and regional hub businesses have been turned over to national (and international) corporate entities. Which creates a lot fewer ‘ownership’ class people, though there are a fair number of professional class – but only insofar as there still there, and not gravitated toward the larger metro areas. It’s a big reason why Indiana is a far more purple state now.

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      • Kolohe,

        There is probably an irony here. In Before The Storm: Goldwater and the Unmaking of the American Consensus, Rick Perlstein writes that those medium level owners were the initial backers of the Goldwater revolution and also the John Birch Society (Robert Welch was a successful confectioner). They always had a resentment for East Coast Bankers and Wall Street but many of those companies are now gone or became global like Kohler. So in some ways, they might have created their own undoing.

        I suspect professional classes tend to vote Democratic in many areas for a few reasons:

        1. They probably recoil at the anti-Intellectualism of the GOP. Professionals still pride themselves on their education.

        2. They probably have somewhat cosmopolitan-bohemian tastes and like things of cities.

        3. Income wealth is a bit more precarious than ownership-wealth. Many might make six-figure salaries but they could still be the victims of lay-offs or at-will decisions. They work for their lifestyles even if they do save a good bit every year.

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      • “So in some ways, they might have created their own undoing.”

        I disagree that they sowed the seeds of their own destruction. The national corporatization of (previously mid level, at most regional) commerce* in America was the result of the rise of the automobile and switch from rail to trucking as a primary freight transport mechanism. The economies of scale given the new technological paradigms made centralization inevitable.

        Notably, the big ones to resist this trend were automobile dealers, who have long punched above their weight in state legislatures, normally on the Republican side, (but not always) and still do so to this day. And thus maintain anti-competive legal regime that gives them significant incumbent advantages.

        *the national corporatization of finance is a different issue, granted, because it has always been more highly regulated – deregulation did indeed lead to the big coast to coast banks we know today

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      • 4) Taxes are, generally, low. So the prospect of cutting taxes (further) has less appeal and the prospect of raising them is less scary.

        5) Crime rates tend to be low, depriving the GOP of a significant issue.

        Of course, we say all this, and who got more votes among those who make more than $100,000 last year and four years before that? Which brings us back to what ND said about “in many areas.”

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      • Kolohe,

        Rick Pelstein writes that as early as the 1950s, the small chain banks were not able to loan the money required to improve the local small factories because the technological advances were too expensive.

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      • With low taxes — not only are taxes quite low, by historical standards, but the GOP has been selling “Cut taxes and increase revenue” for decades, and the despite it being an excellent marketing tactic — who doesn’t like the idea of more stuff for less — the bloom is off that particular rose.

        People don’t buy it anymore. The link between ‘government services’ and ‘taxes’ may have been deliberately blurred (to the extreme ends of ‘Government hands off my Medicare’), but it still exists — and you reach a point where reality has to kick in.

        It turns out people, in general, are generally really uncertain as to where their tax money actually goes. So when tax cuts ‘starved the beast’, the public reacted with extreme displeasure at the thought of actually shrinking government once specifics started to get mentioned. (Which is why the GOP budgets have been even more full of magic asterisks and ridiculous numbers of late. The truth is unsellable).

        The GOP has, basically, shot their wad on tax cuts — to the point where it’s a running joke that “cut taxes — especially on the rich” is the GOP answer to everything, including a case of the flu.

        Between that, the real blows Iraq and Afghanistan did to GOP’s foreign policy and military edge….there’s not much left for the GOP to rally around but xenophobia and social warfare. Tax cuts and foreign adventurers just don’t appeal to anyone but the faithful right now.

        The former has simply done nothing but make the deficit worse, and the latter has…really just gotten a lot of people killed and made the deficit worse and we’re still taking off our shoes at the airport.

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  12. When the party loses big in a presidential election, they quietly hope that this time the party leaders will get it right and the party will be steered in less strident path.

    I don’t think Mitt Romney was exactly strident. He had trouble finding disagreements with Obama, other than claiming he would do basically the same thing and do it better.

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      • That was just Romney’s equivalent of saying “And it’s not surprising then they get bitter, they cling to guns or religion or antipathy to people who aren’t like them or anti-immigrant sentiment.”

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      • Mitt Romney was an illusion, a cipher. People saw in him what they wanted to see in him. And my god, the endless “What Romney REALLY thinks” stories and articles — even here, on this website, if I recall.

        All saying the same thing: “Ignore what he just said, he really means THIS” and all coming to completely different conclusions.

        You’re a BAD candidate when your own supporters best case for you is, literally, “Don’t listen to anything he says or does, let me explain to you the Secret Mitt Romney and how he totally agrees with me on everything”.

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      • Romney was not a cipher. Romney had a track record of legislation, one which didn’t square with his rhetoric. Romney thought he could run on what he thought others would want him to be. Plastic Man I called him back then.

        When Romney stood there, abasing himself to the Big Donors in Boca Raton, saying 47% of Americans were dependent on government and thought themselves victims, that wasn’t the Mitt Romney, Governor of Massachusetts. Romney wanted to be a cipher, saying what everyone else wanted to hear. Had he run on his record, he would never have gotten the GOP nomination.

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  13. Dennis makes a good point. If the “adults” in the GOP establishment want to take back their party, they need to get serious about recruiting good primary candidates and throw some real weight behind them. And they need to ensure it’s one per primary so they don’t split the “sensible” voters, allowing a Tea Partier to come up the middle, even if that means strong-arming some decent person to “get the fish out of the race now and throw your support to our guy.”

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    • Yeah, but um…what happens when they run into the problem that there are more crazy primary voters than sane ones?

      Money can buy you TV time, but in the end — you only get one vote per person, and to vote in a primary requires either deep civic and/or party commitment — or deep, deep passion.

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      • I think Dennis’s point is that he doesn’t think that’s necessarily true. I’m not sure if I lean more to his side or yours, but my comment’s accuracy requires that he be right.

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    • I’d think a prerequisite for recruiting good primary candidates would be defining an platform for moderate Republicans to stand for that is more compelling than “Basically what the Tea Party wants – now with less Nihilism”.

      As Dennis says, these candidates need to articulate NEW ideas. There are some ideas out there – Sam’s Club Republicanism, Sen. Mike Lee’s new tax proposal – that could find purchase with a compelling messenger. But, a sterling candidate selling the same old, same old stuff that the party is known for now (as notes above), but selling it more reasonably, won’t mean a thing.

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      • Maybe, but there are other elements to being a good candidate. I think an awful lot of politics is personality driven, so that’s an important part of it. And then there’s sheer hard work. Dan Quayle, for all his lack of actual smarts, won a House seat and then a Senate seat against good incumbents by vigorously outworking them, driving all around the district/state to meet and greet as many potential voters as possible.

        I’m not saying it’s an automatic, in any way, but the message isn’t the only thing.

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      • No doubt there can be some number of good candidates winning on the basis of personality and hustle. But, winning the off seat that way doesn’t move the GOP to a more moderate point on the political spectrum, which was how I took Dennis’ ultimate objective per the OP.

        I’m affirming where Dennis notes in his post that more moderate Republicans are “terrible in coming up with a competing vision of what the Republican party should do and be in the 21st century.” If the final takeaway from continued Republican defeat in national elections is “it was the messenger and not the message” as it was in 2012, half of the problem is being ignored.

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      • You run into a wall there — the GOP, in general, doesn’t think they NEED new ideas. They keep selling the old ones, occasionally changing the packaging a little, but in the end it’s always the same: Deregulation, lower taxes (mostly on the rich and business, but they won’t sneer on a cut that accidentally hits the middle class), cuts to social programs, more military spending.

        And then the social warfare stuff peaks and collapses on it’s own timing, but the fervor for “tax cuts and deregulation” is always there.

        And the public by and large is sick of it. It seems…irrelevant…to current problems. In 1950 or 1970? That’d be different. Right now muscular foreign policy and tax cuts don’t seem to have ANYTHING to do with the problems people actually worry about, and pushing them as “solutions” to those problems basically says “We don’t care about your problems. At all. We just care about tax cuts and we think you’re stupid enough to buy it again”.

        The GOP can’t come up with “new ideas” until the GOP, by and large, accepts that some of it’s current ideas are kinda unpopular or have run their course.

        But they’re convinced a silent majority is behind them, so why should they change?

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      • And the public by and large is sick of it.

        But John Boehner says the public doesn’t want Obamacare.

        Whenever someone tries to tell me what “the public” wants or doesn’t want, or loves or hates, I don’t even bother checking their party credentials.

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  14. Moderates have been running the Republican Party since Reagan left. Bush Senior, Dole, Bush Jr, McCain, Romney…all from the moderate wing of the party. But as Dennis pointed out, they are devoid of ideas. The think tanks and the activism are all on the conservative side of the GOP.

    So I’ll just sit and wait for moderates to come up with some new interesting policy ideas.

    I think I’ll be waiting a long time.

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  15. North said: “If enough moderate GOPers leave then the party will truely become a marginal regional rump incapable of presenting a national challenge.”

    Can you expand on what you mean by “regional”, please? At least to me, the word implies some sort of compact area (compact in the mathematical sense, not small). But the areas where the GOP is currently strong pretty much span the country, from Arizona to North Dakota to Texas to South Carolina. Even here in Colorado, most of the state by area is GOP territory. If regional is intended to denote “Southern” in the sense of the Old Confederacy, where do the GOP supporters from North Dakota or eastern Oregon wind up?

    The real divide doesn’t seem to be regional in the traditional sense of that word. This is a divide between rural and urban. Consider that there have been three “secession” movements that have gotten publicity this year, in Colorado, California/Oregon, and Maryland. In all three cases, the leaders haven’t been shy about stating their reasons: they want to live in a state that doesn’t have big cities.

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    • In this context, I take regional to mean South, Great Plains, and upper Mountain West. While true that they also have support in rural Oregon, California, Colorado, Illinois, etc, their support in these states can be too low to put electoral college votes or senate seats in play. If ruralia is only enough to win (statewide) in states in a couple regions plus a few other states (South+Utah), they would in effect be a regional party.

      You’re right that in the less broad (statewide) sense, rural vs urban is more significant. That said (and this part isn’t a response to you specifically), such analysis doesn’t place sufficient emphasis on (a) the suburbs and (b) small cities, which we often leave out in our urban/rural dichotomy. A lot of small cities, and a lot of suburbs, vote like ruralia while others vote more like their urban cores and/or larger brethren.

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    • Keep in mind Michael that I posited on the GOP continuing on its current track and losing many more moderate or squishy supporters. In that scenario I suspect the mountain west would slip out of their grasp and the regional part of their nature would be the old Confederacy and the low population plains states.

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      • Yeah, I have my own set of reasons for why an “old confederacy” regional Republican Party can’t hold on to the interior Mountain West, but they are not about losing “moderate or squishy supporters.” I think over the next 25 years there will be “material” policy issues — as opposed to the social issues — on which the regions will disagree about urgency and priorities.

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  16. I remember hearing Grassley on the radio long ago, and he was saying that low primary turnout is the main culprit for the undue polarization of parties. (personally, I think both sides get a bit too heated on their rhetoric, because everything has to be of HUMUNGOUS importance, just to compete with Jersey Shore (a show of typical Democrats))

    At any rate, there’s been a lot of focus on voter access in the general, but relatively little done to expand voting in the primaries. Early voting and mail-in ballots would undoubtedly help. Maybe a small tax credit to people who vote in both the primary & the general.

    I tend to have more faith in people that institutions; but I also tend to have more personal loyalty toward persons than institutions.
    Considering that many people are generally inept, this speaks volumes concerning my attitudes toward institutions.

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    • This is exactly what I see around me, what I saw when I reported.

      It can be a real challenge to get enough people engage to be delegates at state conventions, too.

      I think (please correct me if I’m wrong) that the voting rules vary by both party and by state, as well, so it’s a patchwork of policies. I haven’t looked, but I wonder if there’s a link between open primaries and bipartisanship.

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      • Note: I’m using ‘bipartisan’ to be the opposite of ‘polarized,’ but it doesn’t feel quite right, but I didn’t want to use negative-polarized constructions. Anyone got a good word for that, I’d be obliged. Cooperate didn’t quite do it, either; because party difference is okay; but difference that represents something close to the majority preference amongst those who typically vote for the party.

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      • I think the problem is one more of that “the majority” really isn’t though.
        The intra-party regional differences assure that.
        What we call “Republicans” around here wouldn’t pass for Republicans in a lot of places.
        Personally, I think the outside money coming into states have a lot to do with skewing results. Sometimes those people don’t have a clue as to who’s actually electable in the recipient state. Cf. Tod Akin / Sarah Steelman.*

        But I get your drift, and I think it’s an interesting question.
        I just don’t have any data on that, and I don’t want to venture an uninformed opinion.

        * I remember voting for Steelman for something-or-other; some state office.
        I would have voted for Akin as well, but that’s more or less because I would have voted for Timothy McVeigh over Claire McCaskill.

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  17. Will Truman: “Do you really think “Didn’t vote to cut food stamps” is always going to be enough? ”

    Well, “HE WANTS TO BAN ABORTION” is enough to get people to vote the other way.

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  18. I was a moderate Republican once.

    They told me to piss off for being a RINO.

    Your argument is invalid. It’s not that we don’t give a damn. It’s that we aren’t welcome in the racist shitfest the GOP has become.

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    • I think it’s one thing to say my argument is wrong. It’s another to say it’s invalid.

      I don’t like what the party has become anymore than you do. But washing our hands of the matter doesn’t change things and in fact is part of the problem. If we aren’t willing to “own” the party, to see it as our responsibility to work for change from the inside, then we allow the other side to dictate the terms.

      But of course, it’s far easier to sit around and lob cheap shots like calling people’s argument invalid instead of actually doing something about it.

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      • I tried staying in the party. I tried volunteering for the lesser of two evils and voting in the primaries. My final straw was when at an election night party, the local party chair came over and told all of us that those of us who had backed the primary-loser were not real republicans. He told us we were a bunch of wishy-washy RINOs who had no place in the GOP until we learned how to support the Conservatives.

        I can take a hint, I’ve tried it your way already. Your argument is invalid because you are trying to tell us about a GOP that doesn’t exist.

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      • DP, to be clear, you’re lecturing at least a couple of moderate Republicans (at least one with one foot out the door) on how the party treats moderate Republicans.

        You made one choice, Dennis made another (I am somewhere in between). It’s rather arrogant to call only your perspective the valid one.

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  19. I can take a hint, I’ve tried it your way already. Your argument is invalid because you are trying to tell us about a GOP that doesn’t exist.

    DP, I think it’s interesting that you’ve basically become what you despise: someone that isn’t tolerant of others views.

    Listen, it’s not like I’m all into the party either. I tend to sit at the edges of the party for some of the same reasons. But I don’t stay because people like me. Politics is a rough game. It isn’t a popularity contest.

    I think part of the problem with moderates is that we expect the rest of the party to just accept our views as the wise and sensible choice. But moderates have to fight for their place in the party. To twist a popular phrase around politics is war by other means. It’s not supposed to be nice. Factions within a party will not just accept one another. Politics is about a fight for ideas. If you want to be liked, then get damn dog.

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    • I’m not tolerant of others views? Now I know you can’t be serious. Don’t piss in my face and tell me it’s raining and don’t try to tell me the party that treated me the way they did is suddenly all happy-inclusive and would welcome anyone who doesn’t agree with them in lockstep on every issue.

      It’s because I am tolerant of others views that I am not welcomed in the racist dirtfest the GOP has become. I don’t care who someone marries, I agree with Justice Kennedy that the basis of discrimination against gays in marriage comes down to gender discrimination. I don’t care about the method by which someone came to the USA 20 years after the fact, I care if they are committing crimes today, if they are contributing to their community today, if their kids are citizens, high schoolers or college aged, likely to marry citizens, likely to settle down into adult life and become what we all hope Americans want to become. I care about acting christian towards the poor rather than demonizing the poor because I have family members who’ve been there through no fault of their own. I care about making sure that people have access to health care when they get sick and I care about trying to make our communities stronger so that people don’t get forgotten about when they fall on hard times.

      For having those views the GOP calls me a “RINO” and tells me I’m not welcome. This is not me being “intolerant of others views.” This is the GOP being intolerant of anyone that doesn’t agree with their fuck the poor, fuck the middle class, fuck anything not lily white attitude.

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      • fuck the poor, fuck the middle class, fuck anything not lily white attitude.

        We have a term around here called “fish” that us decent folk here use instead of the word “fuck”. Although I do swear like a sailor, I try to use the former and not the latter when gracing the League with my presence.

        Yes, we have regular commenters that get away with this, but I am as sure as I am short that when I get around to dealing with them, they will not like the taste of soap. ;)

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