"The spotted owl is in good shape compared with liberal Republicans."The other day I reported over at Running Scared about Sherwood Boehlert's (R - NY 24th) upcoming retirement, and why I felt that he was long past his "best served by" date anyway. Today, E.J. Dionne decided to take pity on Sherry and write a bit of a glowing article about him. I still disagree, but he does make a very good point about the fact that the moderate to liberal wing of the Republican party has been on a respirator since the days of Barry Goldwater, and how it's now effectively dead. Makes me less sad every day that I left that party to join Ron and the rest of the "screw all these idiot politicians" independents.
Dionne's analysis may look like a "what else is new?" sort of obvious take, but he makes an excellent point in discussing why it's actually good to have a bunch of moderates, along with liberal Republicans and Conservative Democrats, provided they are in balance.
It's been downhill for his brand of Republicanism from the moment he set foot in Washington as a congressional staffer in 1964. That's the year Barry Goldwater won the Republican presidential nomination and the great flight of the Republican liberals began.
After Goldwater's landslide defeat, two Republican progressives who later became conservatives, George Gilder and Bruce Chapman, wrote a brilliant book called "The Party That Lost Its Head," detailing how and why the party's liberal wing responded so anemically to the conservative challenge. But it was too late. The party of Abraham Lincoln and Theodore Roosevelt was destined to become an annex of the conservative movement.
I hate articles like this because they highlight exactly why I'm slowly becoming more and more ambivalent about politics. It just seems like nothing we do or say can possibly matter. The career pols in Washington have turned it into a bloodsport, and sacrificing the welfare of the people who elected them is simply another casualty of the political war.
But it turns out that a Republican Party dominated by conservatives is no more coherent than the party that left room for progressives. The huge budget deficit is conservatism's Waterloo, testimony to its political failure. The conservatives love to cut taxes but can't square their lust for tax reduction with plausible spending cuts. Oh, yes, a group of House conservatives has a paper plan involving deep program cuts, but other conservatives know that these cuts will not pass, and shouldn't.
Paradoxically, because the liberal Republicans didn't pretend to hate government, they were better at fiscal responsibility. They were willing to match their desired spending levels with the taxes to pay for them. It didn't make for exciting, to-the-barricades politics. It merely produced good government.