Thursday, February 02, 2012

Where are the GOP Moderates?

I often disagree with much of what columnist Nicholas Kristof has to say. But in a column in the New York Times, he provides a good history of the Republican Party and makes the case that it is today's far right extremists in the GOP who are the aberration and "Republicans in Name Only" a/k/a RINO's. The far right and hate-filled "family values" crowd have perverted the GOP into something ugly and Kristof wonders if there's any chance that the party will be able to return to its moderate past. The GOP of today is certainly NOT the party that I and most of my family once belonged to. Today, its hallmarks are the embrace of ignorance, a hatred of anyone who's not a white conservative Christian, and constant attacks on the religious freedom of all but the most extreme Christianists. Here are some column highlights:

The most embarrassing moments to watch this political season have occurred as Mitt Romney has pretended to be an angry, fire-breathing true conservative. The evidence suggests that in his soul he’s a moderate pragmatist . .

Newt Gingrich, Romney’s main rival for the Republican presidential nomination, is denouncing Romney with one of the ugliest slurs in the Republican lexicon: a Massachusetts moderate. Other moderate Republicans are savaged as RINOs — Republicans in name only — as if they emerged from an ugly mutant strain.

Yet, in fact, as a new history book underscores, it is the Gingriches and Santorums who are the mutants. For most of its history, the Republican Party was dominated by those closer to Romney than to social conservatives like Rick Santorum, and it is only in the last generation that the party has lurched to the hard right.

“Much of the current conservative movement is characterized by this sort of historical amnesia and symbolic parricide, which seeks to undo key aspects of the Republican legacy such as Reagan’s elimination of corporate tax loopholes, Nixon’s environmental and labor safety programs, and a variety of G.O.P. achievements in civil rights, civil liberties, and good government reforms,” Kabaservice writes. “In the long view of history, it is really today’s conservatives who are ‘Republicans in name only.’

[T]he original Massachusetts moderates were legendary figures in Republican history, like Elihu Root and Henry Cabot Lodge. Theodore Roosevelt embraced progressivism as “the highest and wisest form of conservatism.” Few did more to promote racial integration, civil rights and individual freedoms than a Republican, Earl Warren, in his years as chief justice.

Dwight Eisenhower cautioned against excess military spending as “a theft from those who hunger and are not fed.” Richard Nixon proposed health care reform. Ronald Reagan endorsed the same tax rate for capital gains as for earned income. Each of these titans of Republican Party history would today risk mockery for these views.

What happened? That’s a long and gradual story beginning with Senator Joe McCarthy’s success in galvanizing working-class suspicions of government elites and continues with an angry backlash at changing mores and liberalized abortion laws. Conservative Southern whites moved into the Republican Party. Newer media voices like Rush Limbaugh and Glenn Beck made extremism seem congenial — while making bipartisanship feel treacherous.

[S]ocial conservatives staged a grass-roots overthrow of the moderate Republican apparatus in the late 1970s and early ’80s, and focused on abortion and gay rights. “Moderates simply gave up participating after being ostracized,” Bladine remembers. “It became almost impossible to nominate a Republican for statewide office who had any chance of winning in a statewide vote.”

The question becomes one of when and how - if it's even possible at this point - the GOP can be wrenched back from the haters and ignorance worshipers of the so-called "social conservatives" and Tea Party morons who are now the core of the GOP base. The recapture of the GOP needs to happen for the best interest of the country and a positive future. The current GOP only seeks to drag the nation backward in time.

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