Friday, June 12, 2009

The Case for Moderates in the Republican Party

There is a growing feeling among conservatives in the GOP that moderates should "get out." People like Rush Limbaugh and [neoconservative] Dick Cheney seem to be leading the charge.

I've been told the same on many occasions, especially here on this blog.

On many occasions I have stated that the GOP needs its moderates. People like me. People like John McCain. And people like Colin Powell.

A few posts back I talked about what Colin Powell should do if he truly believes the same; he should help found a Republican counterpart to the Democrats' DLC.

Here's another parallel we need: The Democrats have the Blue Dog Coalition: Fiscally conservative Democrats who strive for bipartisanship and balance out the far-left.

Such a group is sorely needed within the incredible shrinking GOP.

Reagan, who pushed for a "big tent party," had many traditionally Democrat voters in awe of him, as well as many Democrats in the Government (including the Blue Dogs, who supported his tax cuts):
From wikipedia:

The term Reagan Democrat also refers to the vast sway that Reagan held over the House of Representatives during his presidency, even though the house had a Democratic majority during both of his terms.

The GOP needs its moderates just as the Democrats need theirs.


Many in the party, hard-line conservatives for the most part, are calling for a return to the roots of the Republican Party. Fair enough. I think that is precisely what we should do. And to do this, the facts that can be bothersome to some must be brought to the forefront of this internal debate. The roots of the party, of course, must be from the very beginning of its conception.

The Republican Party was formed in the late 1850’s in response to the democrats who supported the expansion of slavery into the new territories, which the new party was vehemently opposed to. The party was from the beginning, a progressive party and by no means a conservative one. It was a party that sought to modernize the country, not to keep the status quo especially if the status quo was not working for Americans. They sought to modernize the country by supporting higher education, free homesteads to farmers (a rather non-conservative thing to do), free soil policies against slavery, banking, railroads, industry and cities. This was a party that not only was aiming for the rural vote via homesteads, but also one that had a heavy lean towards urban America. Again something that is not apparent with today’s conservative controlled Republican Party. It was a party that believed industry and free markets were superior to slave driven ones. These were the founding principles of the party and it is these principles that should define real republicanism instead of what has crept into the party over the last few decades. Taking into account these founding ideas must also include Abraham Lincoln himself who was a man of principle as well as pragmatism in being the first iconic leader of the Republican Party. Lincoln from his early years warned against the slave holding southerners continuing power growth of the government...

...With Lincoln and his “pragmatic idealism” being at the beginning of the Republican Party’s creation, we can now look at how the party can return to its actual roots that we have slowly abandoned over the years and that we centrists as the “true” republicans must realize and stand up for. The party was a party that stood against slavery because it easily recognized the obvious evil of human enslavement, but also easily recognized the potential of industry to transform the nation towards progress and to end the inefficient slave driven agriculture of the south. This would have the potential therefore, to not only do a great good for a people suffering injustice but also to possibly lead America down a path of modernization and prosperity never before seen before. This would be a prosperity that would be aimed towards all Americans and not merely a small segment of the population. With Lincoln at the beginning and at the helm for those important years, he along with the other beginning Republicans set the stage for the party to drive this thrust for progress, prosperity and justice and the flexibility needed to accomplish this for many years to come.

In other words, Republicans used to be progressive, which is different from liberal. The Republicans came into power by being progressive. By shifting right and becoming hard-line conservative, the GOP will wither and possibly die, much like the Democratic Party withered for a time before the centrist "New Democrats" came onto the scene.

The Republican Party needs its moderates and centrists in order to survive.


Dave Miller said...

As I agreed with this principle for the Dems in the 80's, I believe in it for the GOP today.

But we will see how many GOP supporting bloggers go with this.

I suspect the response will be pretty minimal.

Patrick M said...

It's a reasonable case, although I haven't figured out how progressive and moderate go together.

There are a couple of counterpoints I have, though.

First, Reagan's big tent wasn't about getting moderates in as moderates, but getting them to go along with his conservative fiscal policies (which is where the Blue Dogs came in). This means conservatives swaying the moderates to the "right" side of the issue.

Second, while there are some places where moderates do benefit the party (social issues, mostly), the party does need to have a core set of principles it follows. The current chaos in the party is because they stopped following some of those principles (as in growing government).

Third, the party leadership (and not the whole party) does need to be opposition for the leadership of the Democrat party.

The argument has never been whether moderates can be in the party. It's whether moderates should lead the party. And when we looked to moderates to lead, one played to the Democrats and liberals and lost (McCain) and the other supported the Democrat (Powell).

It's these attempts to muddy the lines the GOP used to draw in the sand that have inspired the suggestion they "get out" and not just their presence.

My reasons for ditching the GOP were because the party stopped standing for anything, except maybe the few social issues I've sort of shifted on (not left necessarily but libertarian).

So if the GOP is to return to being both progressive and conservative (as the Democrats could easily be described as liberal), how do they do that? And what does moderate have to do with taking a position?

James' Muse said...


I agree (mostly) with your counterpoints. I think the GOP should still be Conservatively based, but have the moderates there to provide counterpoint. Not THE leadership, but definately part of the leadership as the Blue Dogs are for the Dems.

Lately its been too much of a shift to the right in all the wrong areas, especially being led by one of the worst perpetrators (Cheney). While the deficits run up by Obama are projected to be larger than Bush's, Bush (& Cheney) DID triple the existing national debt, all while acting as "conservative." Obama at least isn't pretending to be conservative.

The party has seemed to stop standing for anything indeed, Patrick. Except for anti-abortion and anti-gay social causes, and against ANYTHING Obama does.

The GOP needs to not just be against Obama, but needs viable, [conservatively] progressive solutions.

TRUTH 101 said...

Whether or not the Republican Party ever stands for anything again, timing will be in it's favor somewhere down the road.

Timing was good for Reagan. Mickey Mouse would have beaten Carter. (No insult intended to President Carter)

Obama also benefitted from running as the person that replaces Bush. Poor Mccain never had a chance.

Dave Miller said...

I read a great term this morning from GOP strategist Mike Murphy.

He calls for a more libertarian GOP on the social issues.

I wonder what the base thinks of that. I like the sound of it, as I am pretty sure Patrick will.

Anonymous said...

What's wrong with the voices from People like Rush Limbaugh and as you call him, [neoconservative] Dick Cheney?

Don't get sucked in by the BS from the likes of Shaw and Toothless, I mean Truthless..

James' Muse said...

I'm getting "sucked in," Bob. Neocon Cheney pushes for a, well, neoconservative GOP. That ain't healthy, Bob.

As for Limbaugh, you know, I don't hate him anymore, I just don't agree with his ideology. His ultra-conservatism and the way he preaches it with hate aren't doing the GOP any favors.

James' Muse said...

*I meant NOT getting sucked in.

Patrick M said...

Dave: That's exactly what I think would help the GOP. Because the social issues are polarizing, and don't do much for the already-committed base.

The only danger there is that a full-on libertarian would drive away some of the social conservatives.

The real divide is on economic issues. I tolerate the uber-social conservative Republicans because, while I may disagree with them on policy, I can at least reasonably understand why they want what they want, whereas economic liberals are the true antithesis of what the GOP needs to be.

James: I'm getting "sucked in...,

*I meant NOT getting sucked in.

Sounds like your subconscious trying to tell you something.... :)