Russ Douthat has some critical things to say about as he calls it — Republicanus Rockefellus. Understandably as a self-described Rockefeller Republican I take issue with some, but not all, of his points. Douthat is using the recent Sen. Specter debacle to make a broader point about the politics of centrists.
Political debates are often framed in binaries: Middle-of-the-roaders versus hard-liners, moderates versus ideologues. But American politics is more complicated than that. There are multiple rights and lefts, and multiple middles as well.
I couldn't agree more. There are many factions within the greater Republican party,-Fiscal conservatives, Libertarian conservatives, Moderates, National Security-oriented, Neoconservatives, Paleoconservatives, Religious Right/Theoconservatives, Social conservatives, States' rights supporters, Federalists- and we need them all.
In reference specifically to Northeast Republicans,
The Northeastern moderates tend to style themselves as fiscal conservatives, spinning a narrative in which they’re the victims of a doctrinaire social conservatism and its litmus tests. But many of them are just instinctive liberals who happen to have ancestral ties to the Grand Old Party….others, like Collins and Snowe and (until last week) Specter, are simply horse-traders and deal-cutters, whose willingness to cross party lines last month to vote for $800 billion dollars in deficit spending tells you most of what you need to know about their supposed fiscal conservatism.
I take issue with the point that I, or others like me, are instinctively liberal. While Specter and the ladies from Maine do tend to prove this point they are not the only examples of Rockefeller Republicanism. There are many fiscally conservative North-easterners who are a better representation of our brand of conservatism. One only needs to look at some of the members of the Republican Main Street Partnership for proof of moderate Republicans who are still truly conservative, members like Todd Platts of PA 19th district, Frank LoBiondo of New Jersey, Mike Castle of Delaware and Charlie Dent of PA 15th who all voted with their party 85% of the time in the last congress. They do not get the press of the Specters and Snowes of the world but are quietly working to further a center-right ideology in Washington.
Douthat goes on to make the point that centrist are needed, but in his words we need a
better sort of centrist. The Reagan-era wave of Republican policy innovation…has calcified in much the same way that liberalism calcified a generation ago. And so in place of hacks and deal-makers, the Republican Party needs its own version of the neoliberals and New Democrats — reform-minded politicians like Gary Hart and Bill Clinton, who helped the Democratic Party recover from the Reagan era, instead of just surviving it.
This I agree with and posit that moderates could lead the way here, or at the very least be a strong partner in a coalition to rebuild the party. A strong platform built around energy policy for the 21st century would be a good start; it would be pro-environment, pro-business as well as strongly pro-security. Someone like Jon Huntsman, Governor of Utah should be looked at closely as a leading voice for the new moderates. Being from Utah he is predictably conservative on many social issues, but he has been known to be more centrist in other areas. The environment in particular has been an area that he has stressed. “We as Republicans can’t shy away from speaking the word 'environment,' and we shouldn’t shy away from speaking the words 'climate change,'” Huntsman told reporters at a press conference late last year. “When you’ve got a body of science that already is rendering certain judgments about what is happening in our world, for us to shy away, say it doesn’t matter as an issue, I think is foolhardy, it’s short-sighted and it’s bound to do us damage in the longer-term.” He has also talked of reform in the areas of education, health care and energy.
The GOP needs all factions of its party to win back a majority, even neo-Rockefeller Republicans like me.
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