Can the Republican party represent moderates?

Friday, October 07, 2005
Last spring George Bush took a real hit to his overall popularity by supporting the cause of Terri Schiavo. The pro life movement and people such as myself are simply squeamish at the thought of cutting off food and water to any human being, we're in agreement with the pro life position.

But the overall majority of Americans were not. If one looks back at the numbers that is when Bush really began to see an erosion in his approval numbers.

Likewise the majority of Americans are in support of embryonic stem cell research. But again, the socalled base of the Republican party is not.

In regards to the Supreme Court, most people support the notion of an up or down vote for nominees but do not support the notion of a nuclear option. This would indicate to me that most people prefer compromise over confontration when possible.

Since the awful death of Terri Schiavo I have not really changed my mind on a personal level but I have come to realize that on a national level it was a mistake.

I think most Americans would view a long drawn out and contentious battle over the Supreme Court in much the same way. They don't want luminaries or stars running the Court, they want intelligent fair people with a sense of their place and purpose.

Will the right wing of the Republican party do the same thing to their party's chances of national domination that the left has done to the Democrats?

Both extremes believe they are entitled to final say and they have a special place in each party...could we find ourselves with a dysfunctional political system?

And what part do pundits and the press play in this?

Are the Krauthammers and Wills and Dowds and Krugmans really that important?


flenser said...

Good post and great questions, terrye.

I'm pretty optimistic about the answers myself. I'm heading out for an evening of drinking and debauchery, so I'll have to elaborate tomorrow. But I don't think things are as bleak as you portray them.

For example, its forgotten now, but it was a large bipartisan majority in Congress that voted to intervene in the Schavio affair.

The MSM may have spun it as a black eye for the GOP, but that is just them being themselves. We can quibble over the definitions, but the majority in the country is "pro-life", properly defined.

Knucklehead said...


I, perhaps even moreso that normal people, tend to get bogged down worrying about what the extremists are up to.

The the more pertinent question, however, is what the "moderates" want and from which party are they more likely to get something approximating that. A related, but different question might be "if the extremists of whichever party were to get what they want, would I be better or worse off?" A third question, it seems to me, is "what are the relative risks that either extreme will achieve their wishes?"

Or, perhaps, to ask which party is likely to give us what we think we might want but from which we might suffer those ever present, and often nasty, unintended consequences. In that case how much damage might be done by giving us what we want and can the damage be undone.

The Democrats are surely every bit as extreme as Republicans. This applies also to "liberals" and "conservatives".

My journey to becoming an "anti-Democrat" is a long one - roughly three decades.

To further this discussion I think we need to go into some of what the extremes on either side would like to accomplish and what the effects would likely be.

So, as an example, take "embryonic stem cell research" I don't even know what that is for certain. What gains are possible and what losses are possible to society as a whole?

I'd hope others will join this discussion. I'm unfortunately short of time at the moment.

I will, however, toss out "taxes" as one issue. Taxes, among other things, are often designed to "rob Peter to pay Paul." One of my favorite silly little platitudes is, "If you wish to rob Peter to pay Paul you will invariably have Paul's support."

Can the Republicans represent "moderates". Idunno. But they are less inclined, as imperfect as the inclination may be, to give all we "moderates" everything we want. Resitance may be futile but that doesn't mean it ain't worthwhile.

For the foreseeable future I shall remain an anti-Democrat and a mildly uneasy Republican.

Knucklehead said...

Good grief! How could I forget one of my other favorite silly little platitudes that is directly related to this topic!

Moderation in all things, especially moderation.

Rick Ballard said...


I think you got the title wrong, "Can the Republican Party represent purists?" would be closer to what I perceive as the reality of the situation. I think I understand your irritation with the punditry but as far as I can tell, the head of the party made a decision based upon what was possible that is acceptable to a strong plurality, if not a majority, of the party. Vnjagvet's recall of Bismarck's quotation "Politics is the art of the possible." is a rather perfect fit in this instance.

The purists who've thrown all their toys out of the playpen and are now holding their breath 'til they turn blue are not the center of the Republican party. They may like to think that they are the most important or influential part but they ar neither of those either.

You're not mad at the President for his choices and you're not mad at the political advisors who aided him in determining the manner in which his choices were presented to the elctorate. So, in fact, you're not mad at the party.

The pundits and purists will breathe again soon enough and the people who actually do make the decisions will pay as much attention to them in the future as they have in the past. That's not a bad thing, is it?

terrye said...


you dog.

alas my party days are over.

terrye said...

rick and knucklehad:

Thanks for the responses.

I think Americans tend to be sensible people and I think that we know by and large that we can not always have our way.

I believe in the sincerity of many of those purists in both parties.But sincerity is not enough.

As for the pundits I am coming to realize that ego has a lot to do with what they say. They just don't like to look like they aren't calling the shots. and of course they aren't.

I suppse we must keep faith in the ultimate wisdom of the people.

vnjagvet said...

I think in the last analysis, the moderate center is where the action is. Witness last year's presidential election.

Given the country was at war, what were the choices? The "war hero" who made his name serving a short tour in Vietnam to punch his ticket to lead the anti-war movement, and then became a career Senator who could talk a fair game vs. a jet pilot who had no prior combat experience, but who was tested by an attack on our country which caused the greatest number of civilian casualties in its history.

Each end of the political spectrum picked its man, while the great American Middle watched, and in the end went with the one who had been most recently tested.

Hindsight makes it clear to me the middle made the right choice.

Since then, Bush, Rove et al understand that the middle is still the only thing that is realistically in play. When you understand that, you understand why the professional conservative punditry, think tankers and "intelligentsia" are in a twit.

This site, folks, is a laboratory where wise politicians should be concentrating. They just don't know it yet.

RogerA said...

As usual, the redoubtable Terrye lays out the larg issues--Flenser, the puritan in me suggests you should refrain from debauchery, but, what the hell--its fun, go for it.

Great comments all--I am with the majority of posters who really dont know specifically where the center is but do know that BS walks--thus the rejection of Kerry's candidacy. I guess that gives me a bit of solace in the native intelligence of our friends and neigbors.

Having said that, one of the things I note with extreme regret is that the modern media no longer ever recognizes the importance of a center in american politics.
This is not a good thing, IMHO--it simply fails to recognize that the majorit of americans could probably accept many of the planks of both political parties, but yet still retain an ability to distinguish what is most salient at any time.

I know I have been down on the media, but it really really has not served its role in the American system. what a tragedy.

Syl said...

Okay, this is my fourth try at a comment.

And all I'm left with, after the first three were scratched, is a feeling of disgust at the current hysteria of the elitist conservatives.

They're blowing it big time. I just don't see how moderates will tolerate their behavior.

And this snit will give them nothing in the end. Miers will be confirmed by Democrats because the elitist right hates her.

terrye said...


I think what they fail to recognize is that moderates will accept many of the over all objectives of conservatives.

In fact I myself think that Roe v Wade has created too many problems and that the issue should be decided in the state legislatures.

I do not think judges should be legislating from the bench.

I do not think people should back down from a fight because they are afraid.

But I do think that it is a mistake to fight if you can achieve the same ends without one. This partisan bickering is making it impossible to do the business of the country. Why else are those guys on the Hill even there? For their own egos' sake?

I do think that if an issue like abortion is handled by the states the prolifers in the end will not be any happier with the results than they are now. Except in maybe a handful of states...and even then people can just cross the state line.

Like flenser said, they believe it is murder, plain and simple. I am not going to argue that one way or the other but suffice to say moderates are not going to want to send women to back alley abortionists. And the purists will just start fighting this fight somewhere other than the Supreme Court.

So I think that the yammering has weakened Bush far more than the pick has. Not to mention the elititism and undemocratic nature of the attacks has made many of the conservatives look like the snotty, intolerant fanatics that liberals are always saying they are.

I think Frum and Kristol and Krauthammer and the rest of them should realize that people like me, who do tend to swing elections, just put them on my mute when they come on TV list.

And if Evan Bayh could somehow manage to get the Democratic nomination I will be listening.

Six months ago that would not have been the case.

terrye said...

BTW, Newt Gingrich has backed Bush in the current "crisis".

Now, if Newt is not conservative enough for them..

Syl said...


"Not to mention the elititism and undemocratic nature of the attacks has made many of the conservatives look like the snotty, intolerant fanatics that liberals are always saying they are."

There's a danger of that, yes. But what really upset me was that I yelled at Krauthammer and switched channels. And I really do value his opinion, but I was yelling at him in my own kitchen.


On the abortion issue, I really don't want to go there but my feeling is that overturning Roe v Wade would be a mistake and have as many unintended consequences as the decision itself had.

What makes the abortion issue so much more difficult is that the only solution for some people seems to be...


terrye said...


Unintended consequences are what got us here, aren't they?

I had a friend hwo adopted an abused child. The girl was slow and eager to please. She got pregnant. Her parents were older people by then and the father was a very bad man. The girl was 15.

They took her to a clinic and were assaulted outside the clinic by a screaming mob.

Nothing good in that story. nothing.

I yelled at Krauthammer too, only in my living room. The audacity and the malice is stunning. Think of all the times Bush went out on a limb for these people and this is how the repay him.

If guys like that want to call the shots they need to run for office.

I know a lot of people are mad at the gang of 14, but then again how many conservative judges have gotten on the bench in the months since they forged their agreement?

More than in the years before.

BTW, the Supreme Court Justice Robert Jackson who presided over the Nuremberg Trials never went to college.

He was the man who coined the phrase "The bill of rights is not a suicide pact".

We need more not fewer people like that.

Syl said...


"We need more not fewer people like that."

And people like you.