Saturday, November 20, 2004

Why Are You Pushing Me Away?

As some of you know, I've transformed over the past few years from a hyper-liberal quasi-socialist to a moderate center-leftist. But at times, I still feel the tug of the left wing of my party calling me back. Since my centrist shift has been almost solely a function of national security issues (which, incidentally, are also why I'm radically opposed to the current administration), the "old" leftist stances, on social issues and (to a lesser extent) economic issues, still hold weight in my internal debates. At the same time, my disdain for party politics and my intensely pro-intervention position on foreign affairs keep me honest and moderated.

One of the more interesting thought games I've had with myself lately though is: "can a moderate Republican win my vote?" After all, presumably centrist moderate Republicans would appeal to many of my sensibilities: liberal on social issues, moderate on economic issues, and strong on national defense. I do have alot of respect for Republicans like Lincoln Chafee, John McCain, and Arlen Specter (though his recent prostration before the GOP leadership isn't helping his image in my eyes). And with my well known hatred of partisanship and blind party loyalty, it should presumably follow that I will vote for any candidate that appeals to my conscience, regardless of political affiliation. This election cycle, I was geniunely torn in the local state senate race, which pitted moderate incumbant Republican Ray Cox and seemingly moderate Democrat David Bly. I didn't decide until I was in the voting booth, but I ended up going for Bly, on the grounds that I preferred his tax policy (Cox's high rating from the National Taxpayers Union was worrisome to me) and, more importantly, that I didn't trust the Republican LEADERSHIP in the Minnesota congress.

This same logic applies nationally. I can respect individual Republican politicians, if they show some backbone. But voting for them means voting for Bill Frist and the ever-repulsive Tom DeLay, which I refuse to do. It isn't that I disagree with them more. Its that a) I can't trust the "moderates" to stand up to them or beat them in getting stuff done and b) the WAY they conduct business I find morally offensive (notably, neither of these caveates really applies to the Democratic leadership, which is far worse at silencing its moderates (or perhaps more tolerant, to be generous to them), and doesn't engage in nearly the same level of politically trickery as the GOP does (not that they have clean hands either, but their work pales in comparison)).

If you want the real reason that I probably will continue to vote straight Democratic party tickets for the near future, read this press statement by DeLay on the Bell ethics dismissal and "DeLay rule" vote. I almost didn't link to it, because I was literally shaking after I read it. I don't know if I've ever been that upset from reading a politicians remarks. I thought I couldn't underestimate DeLay's vileness, but I had. He is a LOATHESOME human being. I've discovered DeLay is my "anti-Obama." For the most part, I am jaded with politicians that I support, viewing it as a "lesser of two evils" deal. Obama was the first politician in a LONG time to actually inspire me when I listened to him. On the flip side, with politicians I oppose its gotten to the point where I'm more prone to depressed resignation than actual anger towards them. So DeLay is one of the rare politicans who can actually infuriate me on a regular basis.

Why are Republicans pushing people like me away by clinging to oppressive, virtually autocratic leaders like DeLay? Possibly its because they feel they don't need me. The current 50% + 1 philosophy of the GOP means that they not only are willing to piss off any unneeded centrists, but they actively TRY to so they can push a more radical conservative agenda while making the center and left seem irrelevant. In the long run, though, I don't think they can hold their coaltion together. It just isn't stable enough. The Republican party has no coherent ideology anymore, just blind feality to a ruling class committed to power at all costs. That scares me, but I have to believe that it isn't a tenable situation, lest I lose all faith in the democratic system. I could see myself voting for the moderate Republican philosophy, but I don't think the GOP represents it, or even listens to it, anymore. At least with the Democrats, I feel confident that my colleagues will listen to and consider what I have to say. As a disaffected moderate, that's all I can ask for.


N.S.T said...

The reason congressional republicans are rallying behind delay is because he was played a big part in winning them their elections. he raised a lot of their money and redistricted them so they could win. I do think that a moderate republican candidate is a pollster's dream. look at the Guvernator in California, who has widespread support as a republican in the most liberal state(besides Mass.)in the nation. And I think that you bring up an interesting point. What's wrong with Bill Frist? The Democratic party doesn't have this problem because the Lieberman wing of the party is all but dead and the Howard Dean/Michael Moore wing of the party has won. Arlen Specter, coming from my father, who has had to spend a whole day witht he guy, is a repulsive politician type who just wants to WIN at all costs. McCain just likes to stroke his own ego by doing the "I'm gonna challenge the party to look like a maveric" thing, but he doesn't mean it seriously(See the fact that he still chiared Bush's re-election campaign in Arizona). There's another side to this coin, as well. If I lived in connecticut, I would be tempted to vote for Joe Lieberman. Centrism cuts both ways. But, quite honestly, partisan identification, gotten from, in large part, one's family, is the biggest predictor of how people vote. While this ignorance has its obvious faults, it also shows a high level of satisfaction with our Democracy.--Tell

rightonthemark said...

David -

You wrote: "I almost didn't link to it, because I was literally shaking after I read it."

What exactly caused you to shake in the Delay press statement? The game is politics and if it upset you, well you obviously don't understand how the game is played.

You wrote: "Why are Republicans pushing people like me away by clinging to oppressive, virtually autocratic leaders like DeLay?"

My question is how can they push you away when you've never been there in the first place. You state, "As some of you know, I've transformed over the past few years from a hyper-liberal quasi-socialist to a moderate center-leftist. [...]I probably will continue to vote straight Democratic Party tickets for the near future..."

Now, I ask you, where in that discourse can you ever find a hint of a moderate Republican?

You wrote: "The Republican party has no coherent ideology anymore, just blind feality to a ruling class committed to power at all costs." How about less government and fewer taxes? This ideology has been something the Republican Party has espoused for decades and seems to be working quite well.

May I suggest more soul searching?

David Schraub said...

ROTM: your comments oversimplify some very complex issues. First of all, one can "understand how the game his played" and still be upset by it. In 1855, I could "understand" that slavery is how the racial game is "played," but still find it to be morally abhorrent. My anger at DeLay's comments isn't due to ignorance of the status quo, rather, its a statement on my part that the status quo of hyperpartisanship is morally unacceptable and that DeLay, more than anyone else, exemplifies the elements of the status quo that are anti-democratic and dangerous to America.

Second, its quite possible to be "pushed away" from something I haven't joined. I can be "pushed away" from a door I haven't entered yet, whomever is pushing me away is perpetually keeping me on the outside. My current philosophies (socially liberal, economically moderate, hawkish on foreign policy/homeland defense) theoretically could match me equally well with moderate Republicans as well as moderate Democrats, but I can't vote for the Republicans because their MO is ethically offensive to me.

Now, as to the "coherent republican ideology." I'm not particularly enamored of the "small govt, lower taxes" ideology. But that's immaterial, because the modern Republican party DOESN'T ESPOUSE THAT IDEOLGY anymore. From the FMA to the PATRIOT act to NCLB to the Medicare/caid overhaul, the contemporary Republican's closest thing to an ideology is "tax cut and spend." This is beyond incoherent, its non-sensical. In taking this tact, the GOP has managed to offend every one of my policy positions. By pushing the FMA, rejecting the Lofgren Amendment to the UVVA, and other similar tactics, they're not socially liberal (or even moderate). By pushing unaffordable Tax Cuts, they're not economically prudent or moderate. By running the deficit up, they make it impossible to even pay for the liberal programs I LIKE that they're nominally supporting. And the only area where the Bush administration has shown any willingness to cut costs is on Homeland Security of all things, the one area in which we can't skimp on. There's a reason why many prominent libertarians (Daniel Drezner, Andrew Sullivan, for example) endorsed Kerry this year. If you're still buying the myth that the modern day GOP still cares about "small government," then I have a bridge to sell you.