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Monday, October 8, 2012

The (reverse) evolution of the Republican Party

Posted By on Mon, Oct 8, 2012 at 9:26 AM

MODERATE MITT: Swing voters might be misled by the new Mitt Romney, given the rest of the Republican Partys platform and base.
  • 'MODERATE MITT': Swing voters might be misled by the new Mitt Romney, given the rest of the Republican Party's platform and base.
Ezra Klein writes today from a national perspective on an issue that I've gone on tiresomely about locally — the retrograde devolution of the Republican Party. The former Arkansas governor Win Rockefeller wouldn't recognize the extremism of today's Arkansas Republican Party in every facet of its rigid agenda, from taxes to human rights.

If this is what voters want, it's what they should get. I remain unconvinced that all voters recognize the sum of all the individual parts to which various of them are responding, but that rationalization and $1 will get me a cup of coffee Jan. 1.

Anyway, Klein notes that President Reagan increased the income tax. That John McCain supported a cap-and-trade proposal on air pollution. That the last President Bush endorsed federal economic stimulus spending. These are now deadly sins to Republicans (maybe punishable by death for the Charlie Fuquas of the world.) Klein suggests readers should weigh the reality of present-day politics against the "Moderate Mitt" who emerged at the first presidential debate, repeatedly saying things at variance with party and his own past pronouncements.


The fact is that a moderate Republican today is an arch-conservative from only a few short years ago. A moderate Republican today tends to believe the individual mandate is unconstitutional, even though moderate Republicans came up with the idea in the early-90s. A moderate Republican today thinks the jury is still out on global warming, even though moderate Republicans were leading the charge to do something about it during George W. Bush’s administration. A moderate Republican today believes we should make all of the Bush tax cuts permanent even though moderate Republicans were trying to make the Bush tax cuts smaller in 2001 and 2003, when the country was much better positioned to afford tax cuts.

Why this shift? Because moderate Republicans of today fear their base more than they fear independent voters. Republican presidents have come to learn, as George W. Bush did with immigration reform and George H.W. Bush did with tax increases, that conservative anger can turn congressional Republicans against their agenda. Congressional Republicans have learned that conservative anger can lead to successful primary challenges. Swing voters, meanwhile, have fewer policy litmus tests and are far less organized.

This is why Republican leaders won't dump even cranks like Loy Mauch, Jon Hubbard and Charlie Fuqua (well, maybe they'll dump Fuqua, since his Democratic opponent is good [bad] on tax issues.) They are simply afraid they are representative of a vast chunk of Arkansas voters and dare not alienate them. This election may prove them right. God help us all if that's so.

UPDATE: This is a good point to cite Ron Rosenbaum's article for Slate on whether the Republican Party deserves the label neo-racist.

Really, just about everybody knows this—that the new solid GOP South is a gift from the legacy of racism—but few say it outright anymore, except a scattering of opinion columnists. It's been "priced in" you might say, taken for granted, or avoided for fear of offense—i.e., telling the truth.

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