More on the Fate of Republican Progressives

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Below, Clara ponders the fate of moderate Republicans, using Governor Schwarzenegger and his new universal health plan as a way in. I think Arnold’s the best place to start such a discussion, because he’s the only national player in the GOP that, in my opinion, embraces moderation with any authenticity.

Clara argues that the progressive sweep in the 2006 elections should signal a change in fortunes for progressive Republicans. I’m dubious. First off, I don’t think America is any more progressive than it was five years ago; I think midterm voters were weary of George Bush’s mishandling of Iraq and the Republican Congress’ mishandling of its ethical responsibilities, and voted for change. A lot of Republican voters who stayed home and a lot of swing voters who enthusiastically voted Democratic could easily revert to their normal states.

The second reason is that most moderate Republicans, unlike Arnold, don’t seem to see any value in embracing their own progressivism, such as it is. In reality, we’re discussing John McCain, Rudy Giuliani, and Mitt Romney here. (Let’s pause to note that these three aren’t the GOP’s real moderates: that would be folks like Olympia Snowe, Susan Collins, and the ousted Lincoln Chafee.) Look at their recent actions: John McCain has embraced the leading figures of the Religious Right and denounced his previous support of Roe v. Wade. Mitt Romney is opposing gay marriage even though he’s been very accepting — and even supportive — of gays in the past, and has just declared his support for President Bush’s surge, citing the advice of “Generals, military experts and troops who have served on the ground.” That’s funny, because the Generals, military experts and troops on the ground all think a surge is a bad idea. Romney’s statement probably should have read, “Look, I’ve had my disagreements with George Bush in the past, but now that I’m running for President, I stand with him. I’m a real Republican, okay? I’m willing to support the escalation of an already disastrous war to prove it.” These actions speak for themselves: Republicans believe they have to move rightward to win.

As for Giuliani, he’s got a record he can’t really back away from. He’s long been pro-gay rights, pro-abortion rights, pro-gun control, and pro-immigrant rights. Sure, he’s tough on crime and would inspire all the right emotions on national security, but a Baptist minister once called Giuliani (what with his earlier marriage to his second cousin, his cross dressing, etc.) an “insult to the pro-Christian agenda.” It’s a much tougher road to hoe when you’re a moderate Republican with an interest in actually getting elected as a moderate — and an interest in actually being yourself.

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