Danny Cardwell's picture

    Can Moderate Republicans Survive 2016?

    Many of the moderate Republicans I know are in the middle of a political existential crisis; they’ve become refugees trying to decide if it’s better to stay in their political party and rebuild it, change their party affiliation to the Democratic Party, or accept a weak middle compromise of registering as independent and support candidates for local and state offices they agree with. I’ve talked to people who question how they ended up sharing a political party with so many people who don’t adhere to their sense of pragmatism. Moderate Republicans have had to find middle ground with the hyper 2nd Amendment crowd, Evangelical culture warriors, and even the more “nationalist” elements inside their party. These factions haven’t always agreed with each other, but their disagreements have been much more civil than the banter I read in the comments sections of political websites. During the heyday of the culture wars the far-right and Evangelicals directed their animus towards the media or the liberals. That hasn’t been the case since the formation of the TEA Party and their spinoff organizations. The almost decade old fissures inside the Republican party aren’t going anywhere. Centrists want to push the Alt-right forces back underground while maintaining their electoral support, and the insurgents who have taken over the GOP want the moderates out; many of the ideological purists don’t view moderate Republicans as political allies.


    The fissures we see in the Republican Party were exasperated by the misdiagnosis of the 2008 and 2012 Presidential Election losses. These losses were incorrectly attributed to a lack of political purity; John McCain and Mitt Romney were seen as too wishy washy on issues that mattered most to the forces who took control of the GOP. The far reaches of the conservative movement have never accepted the fact that two generations of Americans have become more centrist: if not outright leftist. Instead of softening their positions on some of the social issues that have alienated large groups of Americans, they recommitted themselves to fighting culture wars that a majority of Americans have conceded are over. Republicans aren’t losing because of their positions on domestic or foreign economic policies. When you look at polling that specifically questions if the economy is on the right track you don’t find a gap that supports the electoral head start Democratic candidates start Presidential elections with. Trade is an area where Republicans have an advantage- even though the nuances of our trade agreements are usually dumbed down to make them more digestible. If the Republicans want to win the Presidency again they need to accept the fact that they can’t make America into some fantasy land from Country and Western song.


    The Donald Trump and Ted Cruz wing of the GOP isn’t a viable future for the Republican party; the John Kasich and Paul Ryan side of this battle has to win the Republican Civil War if the GOP plans on winning the Whitehouse in the near future. The 2012 Republican primaries were the canary in the coal mine. I told anyone who would listen to me that Jon Huntsman was going to make Barack Obama a one term president: I couldn’t have been more wrong.  I was shocked by his inability to mount a legitimate run for the nomination. Mitt Romney benefited from the fact that none of the 2012 contenders fit the Donald Trump or Ted Cruz mold. Newt Gingrich and Rick Santorum may very well run again, but they are just as despised by the Alt-right as moderate conservatives are. I assume Allen West or Sheriff David Clarke will compete for the role of Alan Keyes, Herman Cain, or Dr. Ben Carson, but neither of them are a threat to lead the party. Rand Paul might throw his hat back in the ring, but his brand of libertarianism doesn’t play well with large portions of the Republican electorate. Mike Pence has tried to be all things to all people: this, in my opinion, has already done him in. He wants to be the straight man to Trump’s mad man. He goes on the political shows and tries to assure moderates that he can have some influence in a Trump Whitehouse, while not pushing back too hard against the often incoherent and unconstitutional arguments that make up the Trump platform. He is going to have to choose what kind of candidate he will be for 2020 and any decision he makes will leave him worse off. He won’t be able to pivot to the middle and keep Trump’s most loyal supporters, nor will he be able to be Trump-lite and draw the big crowds. He might have ended his political career by accepting the VP offer.


    Moderation and decorum aren’t virtues in a party run by conservative radio personalities and Alt-right bloggers. Decency and civility have died a slow, painful, and public death. The GOP will solve its Alt-right problem or succumb to it. Terms like “pukes” and “cuckservatives” have no place in a substantive policy discussion, but they’ve become part of the Conservative zeitgeist. Donald Trump and Ted Cruz did a better job of harnessing Republican anger outside of the beltway than the other 15 Republicans who competed against them for their party’s nomination. Bloggers and internet trolls succeeded in hijacking the Republican party the question is can the moderates reclaim their party or do they wander the political wastelands looking for a home?



    Danny, I don't think there is a civil war going on in the GOP. A war implies two sides fighting each other, but the moderates aren't fighting. They are not willing to risk antagonizing the right wing. So they rolled over for the Tea Parties. Then they rolled over for Trump. People seem to think that they'll discover some spine after the Trump debacle, but if they had it, they would have found it months ago. After surrendering to ideologues for decades without a fight, I don't think they've got any vertebrae left in 'em.

    That's a very valid point. They thought they could control the monsters once they were created. 

    They used to. I think many realized that they were losing control when the Tea Parties erupted. Remember Christine "I'm not a witch" O'Donnell?

    Those that didn't get it then certainly do this year. But they don't have the guts to fight back. They're afraid that if they alienate the base, they'll get crushed in the elections, which is probably true.

    Do you think that this has any similarities (in the opposite direction) of Gore running away from Clinton, and in 2012 so many Dems running away from Obama?  I felt that Gore, and more recently, several in 2012 (particularly Kansas, but others also) were just cowards and were afraid of their own beliefs.  They were all wrong.  But the teabaggers screwed the mainstream GOPers in a different way.  

    Progressive Dems had the right idea for the right reasons, and the country  was better under Obama but the messaging absolutely sucked.

    The TeaParty had the wrong idea for the most selfish and wrong reasons, but they knew how to message the unhappy, angry, and fearful population.

    In both cases there was a lack of courage; a lack of vision; a lack of commitment to what really mattered.  I truly believe that if Progressives stand tall and proud we can get our goals met and our policies accepted if we simply improve the messaging.  Why?  Because it is true that everyone benefits by Progressive  policies.  Even the wealthy, although they don't realize it.  Because all communities are better off with well-educated, employed, housed, well-fed people, who plan their families and who have hope for the future.

    Then where will they go?  Certainly not to the Democratic Party, and certainly not into oblivion.  Will they rename themselves...oh, I don't know..."The Pussy Party?"  If the Trumpettes don't go down in flames (which would be the best possible outcome), what in the heck will moderates do?

    Because I see a rising tide of Progressivism despite all the GOP lies and fear-mongering.  The far-right should really be busted after this debacle, but who knows?  Hate and fear are powerful.  I hope President Clinton et al do the right things to get rid of all this BS.  The biggest problem is that the resentment that Trumpetts feel cannot be assuaged by reality.  They resent anyone (except themselves) getting "free stuff" no matter what.

    Look at the prominent Republicans who are voting for Hillary this year. If GOP continues to go populist, more will certainly make their way into the Democratic Party.

    And as a result of this migration, I'm sorry to say that the Democrats will probably become more fiscally conservative in the future.

    It sure looks like the trend will be a more conservative Democrat Party with the migration of prominent Republicans voting for Clinton.  It is still not settled yet as to what the chess board will look like for labor and the lower half of the economy in the near future.  Because both parties have not been listening or meeting the needs of that group, has led to a 40% registered Independent voters.  They are the biggest voting block. They have woke up to that fact and the push is just starting to come from that direction.    

    1) It's not a "block" - it's an undifferentiated group like "other" or "dark data". Some inside it have similar needs and wants and characteristics that might define them as a cohesive group.Otherwise lumping in the Bundys with Seattle millennials makes little sense.

    2) "needs" are different from "wants" - the list of demands this campaign season has been a bit from both. A nurses union demanding an end to fracking was one particularly bizarre request. Additionally, "needs" may better indicate a problem to be fixed, not the ideal solution. For example, a higher minimum wage indicates poor people struggling to survive. The higher minimum wage *may* make poor people less likely to get needed entry-level positions and may drive restaurateurs and other small companies out of business, shrinking the job market. So the answer to "higher minimum wage" may actually be housing supports, guaranteed minimum income, and more lower-wage entry jobs to then build up real-life skill sets. As 1 issue.

    Additionally, it seems like there's not so much problem with young people "holding their nose for Hillary" after all. Wants weren't so intractable. Surprisingly, a group that's less convinced is Hispanic millennials - in which case their "wants" might actually be "needs" related to hard-core immigration issues and jobs for survival and fear of deportation - despite Hillary's much better outreach to HIspanics over millennials, it appears the issues themselves and personal experiences dampen any concerted approach. Solution? Try even harder perhaps.

    Here are some priorities from different groups. Add in Catholics, Jews, southerners, Christian right, women vs. men, LGBT, retired people, college students, small town vs. city dwellers or suburban, etc. and that "Independent "group" doesn't seem so groupish.

    3) who exactly hasn't been listening? Here is the map of state legislatures across the country and theoretically who the people trust and expect to be listening. Notice something funny about it? Are the people demanding to be heard a bit confused as to who they're talking to and who will actually give them what they need?

    Most of the "moderates" will vote for Trump. They will blame the leadership for not having put up a fight against Trump. The truth is that the majority of the Republicans believe that Obama is a Muslim not born United States. The majority believe in massive voter fraud and that voter suppression is justified. The majority want gerrymandering that benefits the GOP. The majority believe that blacks are lazy. Moderate Republicans are rare.

    Not a majority, actually, but close enough I suppose. But we're not talking about those folks. We're talking about the Republicans who don't believe that crap.

    Republicans are the 'Party of personal responsibility.'

    No Republican or group of Republicans will ever admit responsibility for the candidacy, nomination or defeat of Trump.

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