by John Hawkins | December 22, 2004 6:30 am
Of late, Christie Whitman & Arnold Schwarzenegger have come out for moving the GOP to the center.
Here’s what Arnold had to say,
“In an interview with Germany’s Sueddeutsche Zeitung daily, Schwarzenegger said that “the Republican Party currently covers only the spectrum from the right wing to the middle, and the Democratic Party covers the spectrum from the left to the middle.”
“I would like the Republican Party to cross this line, move a little further left and place more weight on the center,” he was quoted as saying. “This would immediately give the party 5% more votes without it losing anything elsewhere.”
Whitman was a bit more strident in her comments,
“The main focus of Whitman’s book “It’s My Party Too: The Battle for the Heart of the GOP and the Future of America,” is on her desire for moderate Republicans to regain control of the party. The more conservative wing of the party has claimed much credit for Bush’s re-election.
“A clear and present danger Republicans face today is that the party will now move so far to the right that it ends up alienating centrist voters and marginalizing itself,” Whitman writes in the book, obtained Friday by The Associated Press. The book is to be released by The Penguin Press in late January.
Whitman says fellow moderates, such as former New York City Mayor Rudolph Giuliani and California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, were instrumental in Bush’s re-election win, often campaigning with him in battleground states.
The role of moderates is to bring the party back to its center, she says.
“It is time for Republican moderates to assert forcefully and plainly that this is our party, too, that we not only have a place but a voice, and not just a voice but a vision that is true to the historic principles of our party and our nation, not one tied to an extremist agenda,” she says.”
Before I respond to Arnold & Whitman, let me make it clear that moderates certainly play an important role in the GOP. Arnold, Rudy, and to a much lesser extent, John McCain, were assets during the 2004 election cycle. Moderates help keep the GOP competitive in more liberal states, and of course, neither the GOP nor the Dems could win national elections without moderates putting them over the top. So moderates do certainly have a role in the GOP.
That being said, moderates are not the driving force in the Republican Party; to the contrary, they played a relatively minor role in the success of the Party compared to conservatives. Let me break it down for you like this: in my view, there are three men who have been most responsible for the GOP’s success: Reagan, Gingrich, & Limbaugh.
Reagan was an enormously successful, popular President. He rebuilt the military, got the economy rolling, broke the Soviet Union, and really helped turn the GOP and the country around after Vietnam and Watergate. Of course, Reagan was a conservative, not a moderate.
Next up, there’s Newt Gingrich who helped engineer the GOP takeover of the House that we’ve managed to maintain to this day. Gingrich is a conservative, not a moderate.
Then there’s Rush Limbaugh, who was the real pioneer of the “new media”. By proving that there was a huge market out there for an alternative to the mainsteam media, he helped make talk radio, Fox, and the right side of blogosphere possible. Sure, it would have probably happened without him, but it may have taken a lot longer. Rush Limbaugh is a conservative, not a moderate.
Name a moderate in the last 25 years who’s made half as much of a positive impact for the GOP as any of those three men…go ahead, I’m waiting…you can’t do it, can you?
Then take a look at talk radio, where GOP supporters have built large audiences that are starting to rival the power of the MSM. Who are are the ultra-successful “moderate” Republican talk radio hosts? Look at the big boys of talk radio: Limbaugh, Hannity, Hewitt, Medved, Savage, Ingraham, Prager, O’Reilly, Boortz, Elder…which of those hosts are “raging moderates”? You could probably make the best case for O’Reilly, but even he’s about as much of a fire-breathing social conservative as you’re going to run across.
Now, take a look at the Senate and tell me how many “moderate” Republican Senators there are? There are what, maybe 6-10 of them…and that’s being generous…out of 55? The ratio of moderates to conservatives would be even lower if you took a count in the House…but, how can that be if Arnold and Whitman are right?
If the GOP is constantly in danger of “alienating centrist voters and marginalizing itself” because of conservatives, as Whitman seems to imply, why hasn’t it happened already given the conservative make-up of Congress? If being moderate is worth 5 points as Arnold said, why isn’t the party dominated by moderates instead of conservatives? It’s not like they’re going to vote for a liberal right?
Well, 2 things…
#1 Sure, conservatives aren’t going to vote for a liberal, but are they going to show up on election day to vote for a moderate? Are they going to contribute money? Are they going to be a campaign volunteer? Are they going to talk up the candidate to their friends? Is the conservative media going to defend a moderate when the liberal media attacks them?
Roughly 36% of Americans self-identify themselves as conservatives and they overwhelmingly vote Republican. If you’re under the impression that Republicans are going to win by ignoring what these people want and catering instead to moderates, who tend to lean Democratic anyway, then you’re setting the Party up for failure. Just think back to the “bad old days” when “moderate” Republicans like Rockerfeller, Nixon, and Ford dominated the Party and ask yourself if we really want to go back to that? My guess is that most Republicans today wouldn’t just say “no,” they’d say “Hell, no”.
#2 The money, the energy, and the ideas in the Republican Party are overwhelmingly generated by conservatives and how could it be otherwise?
Christie Whitman can talk about the “moderate vision” all she wants, but the fact is that there is no such thing. Individual moderates may have a certain philosophy, but what is a “moderate” when you really break it down? For Republicans, being moderate means voting more like a Democrat. For the Democrats, moderates are people who vote like Republicans. Moreover, the issues on which each moderate differs from his party vary from person to person.
For example, you may be consdiered a “Republican moderate” if you’re pro-abortion, pro gay marriage, and pro gun control, yet are for cutting taxes, are tough on crime, and are for tough measures against illegal immigrants.
On the other hand, you can be against gay marriage, anti-abortion, and a strong advocate of the 2nd Amendment, and yet you’re for raising taxes, being soft of crime, and for open borders. Sure there are ideological differences between groups of conservatives and groups of liberals, but moderates as a whole have no coherent political philosophy, so how can there be a moderate “vision”?
Summing it all up, I again want to say that I’m happy to have moderates in the GOP. But, it’s also important that people understand that moderates are the back end of the dog in the Party. If you start thinking it doesn’t matter which end is which, the dog, or in our case the Republican Party, is going to end up in a world of hurt.
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