Forging the Middle Path while taking Friendly Fire

I’ve seen several articles in Business Week recently bemoaning the loss of moderation in the Republican Party. I wonder where these folks were when hordes of evangelicals were overtaking county parties with orders written on recipe cards back in the 1980s?  I had a front row seat to the insanity.  I couldn’t get any one to listen back then.  However, now it’s a major topic in the press. The first article showed up in May. I got a pretty good laugh out of this quote by Dwight Eisenhower who was thought to be a Communist infiltrator by Daddy Koch and his John Birch Society.  They were marginalized back then and now are front and center at the leadership table.

“Their number is negligible and they are stupid,” Dwight Eisenhower once said of conservatives, according to another panelist, Geoffrey Kabaservice, the author of Rule and Ruin: The Downfall of Moderation and the Destruction of the Republican Party, From Eisenhower to the Tea Party. Alas, moderates have all but disappeared. “They might even be forced into breeding programs to keep them alive,” Kabaservice said, citing a recent Onion article. (Worth a click for the picture alone.)

The article discussed a panel that was wondering where all the moderate Republicans went.  I have a pretty good answer for that.  There’s been an ongoing purge since the 1980s.  Most of the state parties have a litmus test on several issues.  You’re made to suffer if you don’t goose step along to the evangelicals and voodoo economics true believers.  Any one not capable of lies or magical thinking is decidedly unwelcome and hounded out.

The second article of interest interviews some senators that are exiting because they can’t take the atmosphere any more. Here’s a few choice comments from retiring pro-choice Republican Olympia Snow. I used to write a lot of good sized checks to her campaigns in the 1980s.

BBW: Senator Snowe, you’ve deviated from your party more than just about anyone. What is it really like when you go against the leadership?

SNOWE: People within your party used to understand that it is essential. People have to represent either their district or their state on the issues that matter and take those positions accordingly. But today there is no reward for that. In fact, there is this party adherence, and as a result if we don’t get past the party platforms that are offered by either side of the political aisle, then we can’t solve the problem. And we are not transcending those differences. That is a huge departure from the past.

Here’s another interesting comment on the role of money and the Citizens United ruling by SCOTUS.  The other senators interviewed include Senators Olympia Snowe (R-Maine) and Kent Conrad (D-North Dakota), and Congressmen Gary Ackerman (D-New York) and Geoff Davis (R-Kentucky).

BBW: What harms the process more, the media or money?

CONRAD: Money is a huge problem. There are really two reasons I decided not to run again. One is I really wanted to come here to do big things, and we haven’t been doing big things. The second was I saw super PACs coming and I knew as a centrist who was not particularly supported very strongly by any group, I could have [a super PAC] roll in and just dump a load of money on me and I’m not going to be able to answer.

DAVIS: I don’t believe we should check speech by any measure or merit, but left unchecked, you could end up with the 21st century version of Tammany Hall, where you have a small number of political bosses who control the flow of money around the country, limiting the discourse and debate for personal advantage, whether left, right, or center.

SNOWE: I regret that the Supreme Court rolled back 100 years of case law and precedence. It was my initial provision in the McCain-Feingold bill that was struck down a second time in the court. But then obviously they went quantum leaps further, unfortunately, and unraveled all the case law, allowing corporations and unions to dump unlimited money into these campaigns.

What Kent says is true. Because we are trying to build what I describe as a sensible center, you don’t have a base in terms of raising money. You are almost always confined to the MSNBC or the Fox News prism. That’s the way I describe it because it’s true. People see you in one channel or another and nothing in between.

ACKERMAN: We are probably the only ones who watch both Fox and MSNBC. The public watches either one or the other, and they watch one or the other hoping that the guys on my side will kill the guys on the other side. You can accuse any and every one of us, at least at times, of going for the ratings and doing and saying things that are popular or to try to raise more money so that we can get reelected. The media does that in spades. They really do.

These seem to be the same topics we spend a lot of time on here.  The media has taken sides in order to attract audiences and returns to stockholders.  The more partisan hoopla they can drum up, the better it is for them.  Fox News is nothing more than a propaganda channel and MSNBC is trying to find a niche offering up an alternative. Papers are so dumb downed and watered down these days that it’s hard to find much use for them.  Corporate money and profit seeking has completely gummed up the process and it uses the anger of specific interest groups like the fetus and gun obsessed to further its power and money grab.The Tea Party is totally orchestrated, yet, its members are so angry they can’t see the strings that pull them.

Reading basic obituaries of whatever was left of commonsense in the party of Lincoln is a saddening experience.  I say this as we watch Ron Paul’s delegates play the same game on the radical right that they played 30 years ago on the Rockefeller Republicans. Can you imagine the Republican party’s soul is up for grabs by Ayn Rand groupies now?  Basically, Republicans adhere to works of fiction and drive off any attempt to ground them in reality.

Paul has stopped actively campaigning and has conceded that Romney will be the GOP nominee. It’s unclear whether Paul’s name will be submitted for nomination; mathematically, he does not have the numbers to derail Romney. But his supporters can have an effect on the party in other ways.

“We want to have a real big voice on the platform; we want to influence the direction of the party more than anything else,” said Joel Kurtinitis, a Paul supporter who was pleased after the Saturday vote.

He was Paul’s state director in Iowa until Paul suspended his presidential bid in May, and he said that although he would love to see Paul awarded a prime speaking spot at the convention, his followers’ efforts are about more than one man.

“We’re going to hold up our values and we’re going to bring conservatism back to the mainline of the Republican Party. That’s where my hopes are at and that’s my hope for this convention more than seeing Ron Paul do X, Y and Z,” Kurtinitis said.

What exactly happens to a republic built on a two party system when one of those parties becomes captured by purists? Perhaps, the Republican christofacist army is about to have its tables turned. I still have the feeling, however, that the corporate money will rule no matter what the platform says.

By working arcane rules at district, county and state gatherings around the country, his supporters have amassed an army of delegates who will try to ensure that his libertarian message about the economy, states’ rights and a noninterventionist foreign policy is loudly proclaimed.

Paul’s backers will also try to shape the party platform as they dare Republicans to take them for granted – much as social conservatives did years ago before they ascended in importance.

“We want to influence the direction of the party more than anything else,” said Joel Kurtinitis, who was Paul’s state director in Iowa until the congressman effectively ended his presidential bid in May. He said efforts by followers of Paul, a 76-year-old who will retire when his current term ends, are about more than him or his son Rand, a senator from Kentucky.

“We’re going to hold up our values and we’re going to bring conservatism back to the mainline of the Republican Party,” Kurtinitis said.

But others say the move by the Iowa GOP is a black eye for the state’s first-in-the-nation voting status and for Romney.

“Embarrassment is the word that comes to my mind,” said Jamie Johnson, who served as Santorum’s state coalitions director in Iowa. The former Pennsylvania senator, who endorsed Romney after ending his presidential bid in April, appears to have a solitary Iowa delegate heading into the convention.

There are far fewer of these insurgents than there were die-hard Hillary supporters last presidential election cycle.  Yet, they seem to be much more fanatical and organized.  Will they up end the dominance of the party by the Guns, God, and No-Gays fanatics that have ruled the party with Torquemada  like fanaticism since the Reagan years?
How do we survive this craziness? Seriously, I’ve gotten to the point where I think voting Republican is basically voting for the end of the country as we know it.  What needs to change?  I’m going to give the last word to the last word to the departing senators.

BBW: I’m going to give you one magic power. As you leave here, you can change one thing about the legislative process, about the federal government, anything you want. What would you do?

CONRAD: I would do away with super PACs. I think it’s a cancer.

DAVIS: It is critical that those who are being regulated in various constituencies—be it the business community, the job creators, or other institutions—need to be an active part of that dialogue. Great Britain revolutionized parts of their regulatory process by actually bringing the people who were going to be regulated to the table and suddenly found that they could solve the problems at a lot lower cost by, again, going back to the thing that tends to be most uninteresting, particularly in cable news, and looking at the actual process. Solve the problem or prevent the problem from happening.

SNOWE: We are not doing our jobs, frankly. If I was in charge, I would be canceling recess and getting everybody here and start focusing on the issues that matter to this country because we are at a tipping point.

Legislating isn’t easy on these complex matters. You can’t just instantaneously come up with solutions to problems. Somehow we have dumbed down the process. Somehow we think, “Oh gosh, are you for or against?” Well, geez, it just came up. Can I give it some thought? Can I think about it? Can I read about it? Maybe I should learn more about the facts on the issue. But there is no time, no deference paid to thoughtfulness in the legislative process today. We have got to get back to spending some time here to get the job done for the American people. That’s what it’s all about. The American people understand it. They see it because they see on TV on C-SPAN and they recognize, “Well, where are they?”

ACKERMAN: Inasmuch as it’s a magical power that you are bestowing I would do away with hypocrisy. [Laughter] Looking at it a little bit more realistically, we have to try to find some practical approaches. I came here so many years ago as a rather liberal kid from New York City. I’m still pretty liberal. I changed a little bit on foreign policy and worldview, but I came here as a pacifist. I disagreed with Ronald Reagan, who was the first president that I served with, but I didn’t want him to fail. This pacifist wound up voting for war under the guidance of two Republican presidents because we only have one president at a time, and if he fails, my country fails. That is not acceptable. The Congress, both houses, both parties have to act like grown-ups and say that this is about policy. If it is about the presidency or if it’s about the majority in my House or your House, then it is never going to be about policy. Somebody is going to have to—not the four of us, but somebody is going to have to walk that back a few steps.


32 Comments on “Forging the Middle Path while taking Friendly Fire”

  1. janicen says:

    I’ve been reading one of my daughter’s communications textbooks and I’ve learned that basically, the media is the tail wagging the dog. The media is totally profit driven. They are neither right nor left wing (with the notable exceptions of the networks specifically designed as propaganda networks that you mentioned in your post), they just want to make money. They will promote war and present war in a positive light, as we have seen in the past 10 to 15 years because war means viewers. People watch more TV when there’s a war, therefore networks and local stations can sell their ad time for higher prices. When it comes to elections, the same rules apply. Do you think it’s in the media’s interest to report that econometric modeling of certain key counties indicate that Obama is going to win in 2012? Of course not! Candidates would not feel the need to buy as much ad time and people wouldn’t watch the news or any of the news-type shows. It’s in the media’s interest to make people believe the election will be close. It’s in the media’s interest to divide the country with social issues. More division means more viewers which means more profit. To my mind, breaking up the corporate controlled media would go a long way toward solving the problems in or country. I’d personally love to see a shorter campaign window like in the UK, but it would take too much thinking, planning and courage on the part of legislators.

  2. bostonboomer says:

    Interesting post. It’s hard for me to relate to these “moderates,” but I agree with them that we’re in big trouble. I’m less concerned about what happens to the Republican Party than the fact that the Democratic Party keeps moving further right. IMHO, the “middle path” is to the left of both parties at this point.

  3. Seriously says:

    With all due respect to the professional centrists of Congress there, I feel like the problem is no so much that the Republican Party insists on operating like a real party so much as that the Democratic Party steadfastly refuses to function as one. If the Democrats had gotten their act together decades ago and emulated the Republicans’ winning strategies, it would most likely have prevented the country from moving further and further right. But it’s not really in their interests to do so, as this way they can continue to feed at the same trough, continue to move to the right, and still reap the occasional benefit from Republican overreach without actually having to do anything. At this point, what can stop the madness?

    • dakinikat says:

      I think the point is that the moderate Republicans have frequently been the ones that were willing to support most of the progressive legislation in the past. This would be especially important to civil rights legislation and safety net legislation.

      • Seriously says:

        But the current moderates seem to tend overall to just talk a good game and then vote with the conservatives 99.9% of the time. If they think they’re being forced into it, they should be more upfront about the total dominance of conservative discourse in our politics instead of constantly patting themselves on the back and perpetuating these false dichotomies about “corporations AND unions” “The far right AND the far left” and all this nonsense, IMO. If they want to walk this middle ground between the left and the right, that position would to the left of anything currently on offer, and not only are they not doing much to help get there, they’ll be the first ones to start handwringing about it.

        • dakinikat says:

          No, today’s Republican moderates just bow to the pressure for the most part. It’s not like it used to be when they worked with others to craft good legislation.

      • Seriously says:

        I meant false equivalencies, sorry, having an extremely frantic day.

      • Seriously says:

        What irritates me about them is that they act like they’re passive and helpless, being acted on by outside forces. Sure, there are outside forces at work, but going along to get along is not the same as being passive and helpless. They’re part of the problem as much as anyone. We’ve always had “moderates” like Colin Powell, need someone to do your dirty work, can’t find someone to help cover up the My Lai massacre? Call Colin, he’ll do it and then he’ll play a fun game of blame shifting to come out of it smelling like a rose and sternly tut gutting at the inadequacies of everyone else. McCain’s the same way. Then you have had the people who actually will put themselves on the line to do what they believe is right, but where they are these days, beats me.

  4. northwestrain says:

    DAK thank you for writing about how the Republican party used to be — at one time the nutjobs were in the Democrat party. (The dems are still home to some nutjobs — like Stupak).

    But what happened in the 1980s was about as unAmerican as any movement I can think of. The extreme religious right began their take over — at the time I was trying to get people to wake up. No one was listening — except for the Republicans who jumped ship and turned into democrats.

    I joined the League of Women Voters in the 80s and was invited to the first grassroots Republican Christian ladies group who had aims on overturning abortion laws and basically all women’s health matters being made political. The leader of that group was a doctor’s wife. Anyway she was reading from a prepared script — she was a good soldier in what the leaders knew would be a long battle. So I knew what was coming. What good did my foreknowledge of the end of democracy and the coming theocracy based government that the religious nutjobs demand??

    Then there is 0bama who is owned by the owners of corporations who have paid his way to the white house. His religion is serving the very rich and allowing corporations a greater voice.

    What happened to the Anasazi in Chaco canyon or the people who lived on Easter Island? Big civilization and cultural movements come and go in the Americas. Will the US be just one more failed Nation taken over by religious extremists?

    • bostonboomer says:

      There have always been nutjobs in both parties.

      • RalphB says:

        There always will be some nutjobs but the Democrats have nothing like the Universal Batshit Translator of the modern conservative movement. h/t Pierce

  5. RalphB says:

    Speaking of the Republican Universal Batshit Translator …

    Yes, Iraq Definitely Had WMD, Vast Majority Of Polled Republicans Insist

    WASHINGTON — How misinformed are Republicans about world affairs? If presumptive GOP presidential nominee Mitt Romney’s assertion that Russia is “without question our number one geopolitical foe” is any indication, then the answer would appear to be very.

    A new poll supports that theory.

    The poll, constructed by Dartmouth government professor Benjamin Valentino and conducted by YouGov from April 26 to May 2, found that fully 63 percent of Republican respondents still believed that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction when the U.S. invaded in 2003. By contrast, 27 percent of independents and 15 percent of Democrats shared that view.

    That anyone believes that now is disheartening but 63%? Wow!

    • dakinikat says:

      That’s what comes from listening to Fox Propaganda Network. Nothing but lies all day long.

      • RalphB says:

        If you ever try correcting any of the misconceptions, they just get quite angry. There is no reasoning with those folks. That are beyond reach.

      • ANonOMouse (Mouse) says:

        “If you ever try correcting any of the misconceptions, they just get quite angry”

        That’s an understatement! My experience has been they get hysterical. 🙂

      • RalphB says:

        Sometimes understatement is a value judgement. 🙂

    • ANonOMouse (Mouse) says:

      Ralphb…..I’m still amazed that anyone, who was paying attention to reports from the IAEA at the time, believed that then. I think the Inspectors who had been monitoring Iraq for a number of years, David Kay and Scott Ritter (I think there were a few others) spent months telling anyone who would listen that there was no evidence of WMD in Iraq. Bush wanted a war as did Cheney. I believed then and still believe it was about oil reserves and shuffling trillions of taxpayer dollars to military contractors, infrastructure sub-contractors and oil people

      The sad truth is that those who believed and still believe Iraq had/has WMD are the same people who still don’t know the difference between Saddam Hussein and Osama Bin Laden.

  6. bostonboomer says:

    I was just thinking about the Republican Senators who opposed the Vietnam War. Mark Hatfield did. Wayne Morse did. There’s another one whose name I can’t remember. Yes, times have truly changed.

  7. RalphB says:

    Oops. Guess Jamie fucked up.

    Moody’s cuts credit ratings on 15 major banks

    NEW YORK (AP) — Moody’s Investors Service has lowered the ratings of some of the world’s largest banks, including Bank of America, JPMorgan Chase, Citigroup and Goldman Sachs.

    The ratings agency said late Thursday that the banks were downgraded because their long-term prospects for profitability and growth are shrinking.

  8. dailypuma says:

    Progressives prefer Elizabeth Warren to Hillary Clinton in 2016. Perhaps you, a progressive, should not being throwing stones at the neo cons since both political extremes have destroyed the moderate liberal and moderate republican bases with their constant accusation, anger, and hostility.

    • dakinikat says:

      You’re really very full of quick judgements aren’t you? I don’t label myself, frankly. I eschew labels. I make the best decision possible given the facts and available information at the time. I don’t see any candidates running for 2016 so I don’t think bringing that race up is the least bit meaningful to conversation. I can’t imagine either Warren or Clinton running in 2016 at this point because neither of them have expressed any interest in the race. Clinton has actually emphatically said no quite a few times so wishful thinking groupies should take note of her wishes and lay off of her. I consider myself an independent. I have a few issues that I don’t sell out. The Republicans have litmus tests that run oppositional to my values. I don’t want a theocracy. I see “progressives” as democrats that have libertarian and corporatist tendencies. I strongly support civil liberties. I don’t find any party represents my values and I don’t attach myself to candidates like some teenagers attach themselves to pop stars. This post wasn’t about neocons or progressives so I have no idea why those labels are even germane to me. I simply look for pragmatic responses to national challenges and appreciate people who do the same. Knee jerk genuflection isn’t my thing.

      • bostonboomer says:

        Why would anyone think Elizabeth Warren is running for president? She hasn’t even won her Senate race, and it’s quite likely she will lose. Massachusetts is not known for supporting women for high office.

        There sure are some delusional people running around loose these days! You’re a lot more patient than I am, Dak.

      • RalphB says:

        Most excellent response!

      • HT says:

        Yes – what you typed. I wonder why this man – dailypuma – comes to blogs and chastises people who actually believe in good governance. Odd, that.

    • Seriously says:

      I’m also wondering what’s so bad about Elizabeth Warren that she’s getting this total non-sequitor. That she’s supported by progressives (which, frankly, I doubt a bunch)? Are you saying you consider her an extremist first cousin to a neo-con with her constant anger, accusation, and hostility, or what?