The Purge of 2006?

Perhaps it’s needless to say that I disagree with commenter Anthony’s assessment, offered in a comment to a recent post by Marc:

I think this election will force incumbent Republicans to move left, just as the Democrats were forced to put up more conservative candidates after years of unsuccessful attempts to elect left-wingers.

The central flaw of this view, as I see it, is that it sees politics mainly in terms of degree of extremity — as if neither party aligns better with the American people’s beliefs on general principle. It leaves no room for the possibility that Americans prefer conservative policies to liberal ones. It’s not as if voters rebuffed a slate of rabid right-wing Republicans; they rebuffed Republicans, period, including moderates. Anthony continues in a subsequent comment:

In this election, I think the conservatives blew it. The ‘conservative’ GOP Congressional leadership took on the same attributes as the Democrats–overspending and a bureaucratic approach to governing. At the same time, conservatives attacked GOP moderates instead of Democrats submarining them in vulnerable districts.
While GOP moderates were attacked from within, the Democrats were recruiting moderate Democrats to run and win districts that had been drawn by Republicans during redistricting to lean Repbulican.
Conservatives should have been focusing in on bringing “conservative” leaders back into line, not helping to elect Democrats.

The narrative simply makes no sense: Republicans did not govern according to conservative principles, so Democrats moved right, and conservatives targeted moderates, so Republicans will… move left? Belief in that strange scenario of inverse consequences is not, at least, the sense I’m getting from what I’ve read about Republican officials’ reactions to their party’s loss.
I guess we’ll just have to wait and see, but if Republicans do move to shore up their base, then I’d suggest that, pace Anthony, conservatives will have been successful at “bringing ‘conservative’ leaders back into line” by means of this election.

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Will
14 years ago

Anthony’s viewpoint is perfectly illustrative of what’s wrong with how many Rhode Island Republicans think.
The problem here is that we try to be a pale immitation of our political opposition, instead of actually being in opposition. We’ve totally given up on the concept of the two-party model. We need to know what we believe in, and then stand up for it.
When politics stops being about principle, and we get so caught up about retaining power at all costs in place of that, that’s what leads to trouble. We need not only to have better ideas, but also actively recruit and financially back better candidates to run on those principles, not run away from them.

Greg
Greg
14 years ago

Maybe it’s time for Republicans to return to their roots? Let’s go back to the start, decide what we believe in, and build a whole new platform.
Do we really need to be anti-gay? How does that really help us?
Do we really need to prevent people from buying marijuana? Especially people that use it for medicinal reasons? How does that help us?
Do we care more for making big agriculture happy, or securing our borders?
Is it really right for credit card companies and big pharm to be writing laws? How does that help anybody?
Are we really on the right side of the cloning debate? Are we saving babies or just stifling technological growth?
How can we properly frame the debate on social programs so that we can all come to an understanding and a middle ground?
Most of these things aren’t hard if we put politics aside and start talking to each other like people that want to SOLVE problems.
Let the flames begin.

Hayden
Hayden
14 years ago

Will –
In theory, you’re right. Principles shouldn’t be compromised just to win an extra election here or there. However, if by maintaining the same principles you become completely irrelevant, then something needs to change.
The Republican party in RI is pathetic. Pat Morgan is dreadful, and I stopped by RI GOP HQ this weekend, but there was nobody there, except for a group of people phone banking for Chafee. How do you give the RI GOP staff the weekend off before election day? You mean to tell me there was nothing they could’ve done to help in any race? Allan Fung couldn’t have used a little extra help?
The problem with the RI GOP is that the people in power positions are in those positions because the group has become irrelevant, especially now that Chafee has been voted out of office. Do you honestly think Dave Talan should be the face of the Providence GOP?
The party needs to recruit some moderate, smart, energetic young people to make them relevant. When you can only count on 10% of the state to vote in lockstep with your ideal principles, it’s time to make that tent quite a bit bigger.

Anthony
Anthony
14 years ago

I tried to post earlier, but for some reason it didn’t go through. Justin, you’re taking my comments out of context, particularly with regards to causal relationships. I did not say that Democrats moved right because conservative Republicans abandoned their philosophies. I believe both a.) Democrats moved right and b.) the conservative Congressional leadership abandoned their ideal. I do not think the one caused the other. In fact, if I were to point to a causal relationship, I think the Democrats were able to draw moderate candidates because of Iraq, not because of economic issues. The economy is doing well, despite Congressional overspending and glib sound bites like “The Bridge to Nowhere”. I was responding to the assertion that moderates were the source of their own demise–which is untrue–so let’s put my comments in context. Most of the Republican moderates who lost were not in toss-up states and districts. They were in heavy Democrat areas. Republican moderates running in areas where registration is about even tended to win. However, conservatives running in toss-up areas lost: Talent, Allen, Burns, Harris, Santorum etc. We nearly lost Tennessee, too. The GOP can not be a national party if we lose states like Virginia, Montana, Florida and Missouri. My other point was that while some conservatives were submarining so-called RINO’s in blue states and districts, Democrats were nominating what liberals would call DINO’s–like former Repbulican Webb in VA, pro-gun Talent in Montana and pro-life Casey in PA. The sad part is that these moderate Democrats are the most junior members of Congress. The senior members of the Democrat party who will actually control things are left-wingers like Nancy Pelosi, Charlie Rangel, Ted Kennedy, etc. The way to advance the conservative agenda is to get the majority first. There were very few Republican moderates in… Read more »

Anthony
Anthony
14 years ago

I tried to post earlier, but for some reason it didn’t go through. Justin, you’re taking my comments out of context, particularly with regards to causal relationships. I did not say that Democrats moved right because conservative Republicans abandoned their philosophies. I believe both a.) Democrats moved right and b.) the conservative Congressional leadership abandoned their ideal. I do not think the one caused the other. In fact, if I were to point to a causal relationship, I think the Democrats were able to draw moderate candidates because of Iraq, not because of economic issues. The economy is doing well, despite Congressional overspending and glib sound bites like “The Bridge to Nowhere”. I was responding to the assertion that moderates were the source of their own demise–which is untrue–so let’s put my comments in context. Most of the Republican moderates who lost were not in toss-up states and districts. They were in heavy Democrat areas. Republican moderates running in areas where registration is about even tended to win. However, conservatives running in toss-up areas lost: Talent, Allen, Burns, Harris, Santorum etc. We nearly lost Tennessee, too. The GOP can not be a national party if we lose states like Virginia, Montana, Florida and Missouri. My other point was that while some conservatives were submarining so-called RINO’s in blue states and districts, Democrats were nominating what liberals would call DINO’s–like former Repbulican Webb in VA, pro-gun Talent in Montana and pro-life Casey in PA. The sad part is that these moderate Democrats are the most junior members of Congress. The senior members of the Democrat party who will actually control things are left-wingers like Nancy Pelosi, Charlie Rangel, Ted Kennedy, etc. The way to advance the conservative agenda is to get the majority first. There were very few Republican moderates in… Read more »

S. Weasel
14 years ago

I’m so depressed and demoralized, I haven’t even been able to approach analysis yet. We lost a lot of races by a little margin, which adds up to a big loss but not a repudiation. But that’s not how it’ll spin, is it?
I’m going to get rained on or stuck in a traffic jam for sure…I haven’t been able to bear turning on a radio since yesterday.

Rhody
Rhody
14 years ago

Greg and Jon have the right idea. The GOP needs to be open to disaffected liberals like me who are tired of the good ‘ol boys running the R.I. Democratic Party. We’re willing to consider moderate Republicans who are more interested in keeping government small and taxes low rather than simply demonizing “interest groups.” We may sometime disagree on those goals, but we’re willing to listen. No straight-ticket voting here.
I actually voted for more Republicans than Democrats this time. I don’t need a legbreaker in the secretary of state’s office or a corporate prostitute in the AG’s chair, and I am so over Patrick Kennedy. I don’t need more acolytes for Bill Murphy or Joe Montalbano, either.
As for Congress, if the Democrats handle being in the majority in a responsible manner, they’ll keep the numbers. If they don’t, their stay will be pretty short.

Anthony
Anthony
14 years ago

Jon,
I agree with some of what you said and disgree with other parts.
Being a Republican is about more than just fiscal conservatism. If all we stood for is small government and lower taxes, we might as well all be libertarians.
And I take issue with the assertion that we abandoned our core principles for social conservatism. Social conservatism is PART of our core values. In fact, there is overwhelming evidence to suggest that were it not for social conservatives, Bush wouldn’t be president (recall Bush’s close Ohio win in ’04 is universally atttributed to the presence of a same-sex marriage amendment on the ballot). Personally, I would not support a party that was pro-abortion.
Now I do agree with Jon on several other points. The GOP Congressional leadership lost its bearing and this led to many disaffected conservatives. I also agree with Jon that we need to focus on what unites us, not what divides us.
This is why I can support individual Republican candidates whose views differ from my own. I’m under no illusion. While I’m socially conservative, I realize it is a rare social conservative who can win in RI.
But let’s talk about the elephant in the room. We lost this election, not because of overspending, but because 1. voters wanted to see something, anything, different in our approach to Iraq and 2. voters were tired of hearing about scandals.
Congressional overspending had little to do with the average voter choosing the Democrats. Perhaps it had an indirect effect. Maybe congressional overspending disaffected some conservatives who sat out the race. In a year when Republicans needed all hands on deck, those hands weren’t there. Or they were too busy attacking RINO Republicans. But we won’t know that until the turnout numbers are studied.

SusanD
SusanD
14 years ago

“We lost this election, not because of overspending, but because 1. voters wanted to see something, anything, different in our approach to Iraq and 2. voters were tired of hearing about scandals.”
Yes. And I for one am peeved about that.
At every level (local, state, national), Republican candidates, regardless of conservative or moderate, were voted against by an additional 6%-7%. To take this personally for a minute, that means I lost at least one Republican Town Council candidate, one state legislator and a good Secretary of State. Because voters refused to distinguish between our foreign policy and our candidates. Exhibit A is Lincoln Chafee. No one could take him for a war monger.
Chafee, Stenhouse, Haldeman and others did not come in second because they ran bad campaigns. They came in second because they started six percentage points down.
Keep your damn foreign policy away from our local and state candidates.
Thank you. I’ll try to stop being selfish now.

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