Lincoln Chaffee former Senator from Rhode Island quietly changed his registration to NAV sometime last June or July. Chaffee lost his seat, held by himself or his father for a total of 30 years, in '06 to Sheldon Whitehouse (D) who pounded Chaffee for supporting the Republican leadership. Chaffee was one of the Republicans to vote against the Iraq war resolution.
As you watch this happen within the Repubican Party as a Democrat you may feel encouraged, the Hagels and other moderates retiring obviously opens seats and it is easier to not have to run against an incumbent. This may well mean more Democratic seats and this is the good news. There is bad news.
Moderate Republicans have seats because the voters of the states see things that way and if the Republicans run more Right they hand that seat to a Democrat. What this means is a narrowing of the Republican influence sector and that is bad news. The surviving Republicans will be from the Right areas and their agenda will be Right. Not the traditional Conservative 'Goldwater' type of right but the modern theocratic starve the beast nut case right. The Republican opposition will not be a reasoned principled opposition based on disagreement, it will be the hate spewing cartoon caricature of a Party so well portrayed by DeLay, et al. This puts the onus of responsible debate on the majority party, a load the Democrats should not have to bear and probably can't actually manage for long. It is extremely important to the political process to have reasoned opposition and debate and finally compromise.
I'll return to Chaffee for a moment, The Providian Journal has some rather telling quotes:
'He said the “starve the beast” strategy that Republicans have used in an attempt to shrink government has undermined social programs that bolster a strong American middle class. He mentioned Pell grants, which help needy students attend college, and Head Start programs, which support the education of low-income children. Instead of supporting those “good social programs,” he said, the party’s approach was “squeeze, squeeze, squeeze.” '
Whether or not I am in agreement with Republican policies or Chaffee's stated viewpoints, this form of opposition works in the country's benefit. Balance this sort of thing with Rep Boehner's view, "...progress on the ground that some Democrats are so desperate to ignore," and further, It's apparent that some Democrats and the far-left wing of their party are deeply afraid we are winning in Iraq now, and it's clear they will do anything they can - including making false representations - to ensure our troops come home after defeat, not victory." I hope I'm making myself clear, I am a Left Democrat and there are very good reasons beyond just George W Bush and BushCo that I am one; but I also recognize that as good my intentions may be, allowing me free rein is a bad idea and a worse idea is to only oppose me with nuttiness. That is the road I believe we're headed down.
At some point Parties are replaced in the voter's enthusiasm, the Republicans had a run, they abused it to the point where their politics are so disjointed from the electorate that it may be quite some time before they make a come back. Do the Democrats wish to follow that road again? Do the Democrats wish to find their replacements what the Republicans have become? The Democrats will be replaced, that is sure (why the Republicans ever thought otherwise about themselves is a mystery), and when that replacement happens it would be very good if there were a history of reasoned debate and a certain collegiality.
As long as they are the way they are now, I'll keep the gloves off and come out swinging.