Public Nuisance

Random commentary and senseless acts of blogging.

The first Republican president once said, "While the people retain their virtue and their vigilance, no administration by any extreme of wickedness or folly can seriously injure the government in the short space of four years." If Mr. Lincoln could see what's happened in these last three-and-a-half years, he might hedge a little on that statement.
-Ronald Reagan

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Thursday, October 17, 2002
White Elephants

With all the talk about Chafee possibly switching parties, the question that strikes me is: why not? I truly can't think of a single good reason for any centrist/liberal - and Chafee, with an ADA rating of up to 70% is quite liberal - to remain in the current Republican Party. Liberal Republicanism, generally northeastern or midwestern, is a great American tradition, but it's gone and not coming back.

Moderate/liberals have no noticable influence in determining their party's legislative agenda - even though the party would have no chance of a majority in either house without them. The centrists lack even token representation in the party leadership, either in House or Senate. That leadership now openly backs the "Alliance For Growth", whose function is to run right-wing candidates against moderates in Republican primaries. A President of their own party snubs them systematically, even though he needs, expects, and actually gets their votes.

No moderate Republican has been on a national ticket since 1964. The last one to actually head a Republican ticket was, I believe, Wilkie. The last who had a real shot at winning, instead of being a sacrificial lamb, may well have been Teddy Roosevelt. It's literally inconceivable that a Chafee or Snowe, or even Specter, could win the Republican nomination today; none has even bothered trying for years. No moderates other than Colin Powell have been seriously considered for the second slot in recent years, either. Powell gets consideration for his military background and race, and in spite of his actual beliefs.

By contrast, moderate or fairly conservative southerners have been on all recent Democratic tickets except for 1984 and 1972 - and 1972 was only because the border state southerner nominated for VP by the Convention hid a history of mental illness. Southerners have headed 7 of the last 10 Democratic tickets, and not improbably will head the next one.

Bill Clinton appointed two moderate northeastern Republicans to visible, prestigious posts, William Weld and Bill Cohen. Weld was blocked for confirmation - not by Democrats but by his own party. George Bush hasn't given a single good appointment to a moderate Republican. Christine Whitman is cited as an example, but other than being pro-choice she's pretty much orthodox on the rest of the party line. And her job, where she apparently isn't allowed to set policy and has to be the public face of some of Bush's least popular moves, is no great plum.

That's hitting the real bottom rung of the ladder in American politics. To have any hope, even a remote one, of a decent appointed job, you first have to hope that your party loses.

The major national organization for moderate Republicans, the only one that I know of, is the Ripon Society. I literally can't remember the last time I've seen a representative of theirs appearing as a talking head, or even seen a mention of them in the media. It's probably been over 25 years. Their web site looks barely active.

So go ahead and ride the donkey Lincoln, Marge, and the rest of you. What on earth have you got to lose?