O Where O Where Are the Moderate Republicans?

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Asks Wash Post col and Democratic Party hack stalwart E.J. Dionne today:

With our nation's capital now under even firmer Republican domination, conservatives are claiming a mandate for everything from the partial privatization of Social Security to a transformation of the judiciary. The moderates have a choice of going along with a swing to the right or fighting for the power to influence policies in their direction.

Leave aside whether a piddling 2 percent diversion of Social Security contributions into something approaching personal accounts is of the same nature as, say, opposition to abortion or gay marriage. More here.

Meanwhile, elsewhere in the Post is a chart of congressional majorities by party over the past 100 years or so. The graphic truth: for all the talk of a historically polarized nation, we're looking at among the smallest ruling majorities in recent years. If nothing else, the chart suggests the meme that were more at each other's throats than ever before is exaggerated.

As plausible (in fact, more plausible) an explanation for the slim majority we see today: We remain at near parity in party representation at both the national and state level (don't forget that the Dems picked up seats at the state level this election) because there's vast agreement on most major issues of governance.

NEXT: Nick Gillespie Q&A in the October Issue of CEI's Monthly Planet

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  1. Of course there’s “vast agreement on most major issues of governance.” The majority has decided that nobody owns themselves, but everyone owns everyone else.

    By the way, yes, my sister is still driving me insane. I informed her that marriage licenses were created to give “permission” to blacks and whites to marry, and just whose permission was required for supposedly free adults to enter into a voluntary arrangement? Her response:

    “I’m not against marriage because I see it as a hedge against finanacial disaster upon reaching old age or the death of your loved one. I wouldn’t want to lose everything “we” have worked for all these years if things didn’t work out. Saying that, I agree that miscegenation laws were some of the dirtiest directives ever given by our government and carried out by corrupt and ignorant members of law enforcement and civil authorities. Do I agree that all law enforcement and civil authorities should therefore be bayonetted and thrown in a ditch? No. There are too many people out there who have bad intent and do bad things that should not be done, ever, and laws are to protect those peace-loving people who show ‘social
    approbrium, non-violent advocacy, and living by
    example.’ There are laws that are wrong, there are ignorant and overzealous enforcement individuals, but as a whole I think the system works much better than anarchy ever could. The peace loving examples would be trampled by the bad-hearted perpetrators of hate and violence.”

    So, remember everyone: Marriage can’t exist without government. In fact, it didn’t exist at all until government came along.

  2. Does the near tie have anything to do with gerrymandering (sp?) and the creation of safe districts?

  3. I’m with Tim. (Bastards at the Post got their chart ready before I did.)

    Gerrymandering and social segmentation have neutralized big swings. We’ve gone from when the poplation was bit more even distributed and the swings between parties were like sudden cavalry breakthroughs to something that looks like a long, grinding trench war. Replete with media machine gun nests.

    The passions at the top may be the of the sam strength and sharpness, but the armies are much larger and the foot soldiers are locked in bloody, vicious and unending combat.

    ash
    [‘After awhile, somebody will just run out of soldiers.’]

  4. Who was that lone Hispanic Senator from the 20s to the 60s?

    The notable jump in black Congressmen in 1992 is a pretty stark demonstration of the end of the effective “Southern Strategy.”

  5. I’ve got no data at all, this is just a sense I have that, aside from political junkies and loyal footsoldiers (Read that as “members of targeted and recruited interest groups attached to each of the major parties.”) most people are living their lives as if government did not exist. After they get through rendering to Caesar what is his, they simply go on with their lives. Some call this “voter apathy.” I consider it a pretty sane reaction to the political fecal storm swirling around them. And, it is the closest thing to libertarianism we’re likely to see any time soon. Where are the moderates? They are at home watching “West Wing Marathon Monday” and pretending that that is the actual government.

  6. “The graphic truth: for all the talk of a historically polarized nation, we’re looking at among the smallest ruling majorities in recent years. If nothing else, the chart suggests the meme that were more at each other’s throats than ever before is exaggerated.”

    I Just want to make sure I’m following this right. So is the suggestion here that when Congressional majorities are slim, the nation is relatively united and when Congressional majorities are larger, the nation is relatively divided? That seems counter-intuitive to me.

    I would think that when Congressional majorities are relatively slim, the nation is more divided, and it’s less divided when majorities are larger. That is, when majorities are larger, it would seem that the electorate has unified behind one party.

    I’m not saying that there isn’t any controversy when Congressional majorities are larger; indeed, looking at the timeline, the times during the New Deal, the Civil Rights movement and Vietnam had the largest Congressional majorities. The dregs of one side or the other are typically the most radical.

  7. Nick,
    Don’t you miss the Cincinnati Enquirer?
    If you don’t stop reading that Washington Post, you’re going to start growing hair on the palms of your hands.

  8. Ken said pretty much what I was coming here to post.

  9. Ruthless,

    Indeed, the Cincy Enquirer reveals itself with each passing day as one very interesting paper.

    Ken,

    I’m talking polarization, not representative majorities. We just finished a presidential election where both candidates openly agreed on virtually every major issue, ranging from the war in Iraq (yes, and continue it), taxes (keep all or most of the recent cuts), gay marriage (a big no), etc. We’re in an era where the stark choices presented by, say, Goldwater and LBJ or even Carter and Reagan, simply aren’t operative. Presidential elections have been relatively close because the differences are small, I’d say.

    Re: Gerrymandering as an answer to smaller swings. I tried to dig up a link to a Morton Kondracke col that makes this point. I think it helps explain a lot. But other moments of bigger swings had other elements of vote control in place, too, ranging from disenfranchisement of huge swaths of the population (blacks, women). So I don’t think that manipulation of the electorate explains too much.

  10. Dionne asks where the moderate Republicans are. They’re hiding from those conservatives who are trying to purge them from the Party.

  11. The notable jump in black Congressmen in 1992 is a pretty stark demonstration of the end of the effective “Southern Strategy.”

    I’m not entirely sure what you mean here, but some have argued that gerrymandering to create safe black districts actually helps Republicans rather than Democrats. Think about it: Group all of the blacks as well as some white Democrats into a single district. It’s all but guaranteed to elect a black Representative, so the plan will have some black support. But it also dilutes the Democrat vote in other districts, helping more Republicans win seats.

    So I’m not sure that the uptick in blacks in Congress represents anything other than successful gerrymandering by the GOP.

  12. thoreau, I think you’re on to something there.

  13. joe-

    I seem to recall that Salon wrote something about this a few years back. Safe seats for black Representatives are frequently a feature of GOP gerrymandering schemes, because it significantly diminishes the possibility of a court challenge under the Voting Rights Act, and it brings the support of some people who might otherwise oppose it. I don’t know if Tom DeLay did this in TX, but it’s been done in other places.

    Besides, the uptick in minority representation happened in 1992. Sure, some of it could be Clinton’s coat-tails, but it was also the first election after a round of gerrymandering.

  14. “Dionne asks where the moderate Republicans are. They’re hiding from those conservatives who are trying to purge them from the Party.”

    Sorry Eric but I think you’ve got that backwards.

  15. As Latino becomes the new black, and old blacks get older and richer, those black districts might swing Republican.

    Kind of a long-term, longshot strategy, but the Rs are allegedly diabolical masterminds. Adding some righty pork to address the socio-cultural issues Cosby is hyping, along with more high-profile blacks in Republican administrations, the odds get shorter.
    Lefties beware.

  16. O Where O Where Are the Moderate Republicans?

    They’re in Congress — pushing for tax cuts, spending increases, military action against terrorists, opposition to gay marriage, and limits on abortion.

    Sure, from a journalist’s perspective those are extreme right-wing positions, but that’s because the median journalist is a left-wing Democrat. The median American citizen, on the other hand, wants his taxes lowered, his benefits increased, terrorists hunted down and killed, the gay marriage ban continued, and abortion to be significantly more restricted than it currently is. Not all of those positions are admirable, necessarily, but they’re entirely within the mainstream.

  17. Dynamist-

    I doubt that the R’s will get a majority of the black vote in the forseeable future, but I believe that Newt Gingrich once said the GOP could rule forever if they could consistently peel off 25% of the black vote or some similar number. That is a far more achievable goal, although even there the devil is in the details.

  18. “Sorry Eric but I think you’ve got that backwards.”

    Matt,
    I have no doubt moderates would like to purge conservatives out of the Party, but that’s a pipe dream. There are too few moderates and too many conservatives. Conservatives have the overwhelming numbers and would love to make that complete.

  19. DeLay’s Texas gerrymandering did not use blacks, but hispanics. It also diluted Republican voting strength in the previously existing Republican districts from 75-85 % down to the 60-75 % range.

    Gone is Dick Armey’s old 85% Republican District, it’s down to about 65% (now held by Michael Burgess), Sessions 75% district went down to about 58%, and even DeLay’s Republcian margin was decreased. The process of altering the Burgess and Sessions districts allowed the creation of a new 60% Republican district in DFW.

  20. A better question would be “why are self-described ‘coservatives’ no longer conservative?”. The GOP believes in the same type of do-as-I-say-not-as-I-do politics that the Dems follow, they just apply it to different pet causes.

    Whatever happened to the “Contract With America” Republicans that were actually talking seriously about balanced budgets & abolishing entire departments? Could sure use those now to combat the “national greatness” types that control the gov’t…

  21. “Whatever happened to the “Contract With America” Republicans that were actually talking seriously about balanced budgets & abolishing entire departments? Could sure use those now to combat the “national greatness” types that control the gov’t…”

    They’re gone…long gone. They’re so far gone, they might show up among the Democrat the next time we see them. But for now, they’re just long, long gone…been gone so long, so long.

  22. Well Eric I guess it depends on one’s definition of “conservative.” I’m thinking Ron Paul-type conservativism here. Not Tom Delay, and certainly not Arlen Specter.

  23. From here, it seems as if all the moderate Republicans are trying to amend the Constitution so their guy, Arnold Terminator, can become Presidentinator in the near future. I like Arnold, but I think the native-born citizen clause is a good thing, and I will not support the proposed amendment. On the other hand, if California secedes and Arnold wants to be President of an independent Caul-ee-FOR-nyah Republic, he’s got my vote.

    Sometimes, I think that, with our two-party system, one party has to end up with all the marbles every now and then, thence to jettison all pretense at principle, and to disgust one and all with their naked power lust. Only then, will moderates — whether Demo, GOP, independent, or third-party — join together to create gridlock by throwing their support to, thus electing, members of the major opposition party into key offices. It’s not that they really want the people they vote for in power, as much as they understand the betrayal perpetrated by people they might once have trusted, which awakens the realization that checks and balances — even gridlock — are good. How extreme will the power-mad have to seem before this purging of the system occurs?

  24. James, I suspect it is already happening.

    Eric’s explanation fits with some anecdotal evidence that occurred in the office today. I was standing next to a fellow employee who is a self described hawk. We could hear another fellow employee talking to some people. My hawkish friend leaned towards me and asks, “when did J become such a liberal?”

    Thing is J has never been a liberal. I’ve known him for 7 years and in that time he’s always been a solid conservative. Anti-Clinton, anti-hillary, pro-Gingrich revolution, etc. He genuinely feels that the Republicans under Bush have ambandoned the positions he supported. For this he is now called a liberal. The more he gets called a liberal the more unlikely he is to support the Republican party.

    The idea that Arnold could run for national office is fine by me. I don’t think the national party will elect him though. He wouldn’t have gotten the California party to back his run for the governorship. The recall was fortuitous, but he had to endure questions regarding the color of his conservativism, and accusations of being a RINO.

    I’m starting to believe that the conservative one-upsmanship will be the death of the Republican party. The California party seems to have gone that route. The Colorado party seems to be following in their footsteps. Don’t know about the rest of the country.

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