When thinking about the state of the Republican Party, I defer to a point that the Democratic consultant James Carville made the other day: “When I hear people talking about the troubled state of today’s Republican Party, it calls to mind something Lester Maddox said one time back when he was governor of Georgia. He said the problem with Georgia prisons was ‘the quality of the inmates.’
The problem with the Republican Party is the quality of the people who vote in their primaries and caucuses. Everybody says they need a better candidate, or they need a better message but — in my opinion — the Republicans have an inmate problem.” The political obsessions of the Republican base — from denying global warming to defending assault weapons to opposing any tax increases under any conditions, to resisting any immigration reform — are making it impossible to be a Republican moderate, said Carville. And without more Republican moderates, there is no way to strike the kind of centrist bargains that have been at the heart of American progress — that got us where we are and are essential for where we need to go.
Republican politicians today have a choice: either change your base by educating and leading G.O.P. voters back to the center-right from the far right, or start a new party that is more inclusive, focused on smaller but smarter government and market-based, fact-based solutions to our biggest problems.
But if Republicans continue to be led around by, and live in fear of, a base that denies global warming after Hurricane Sandy and refuses to ban assault weapons after Sandy Hook — a base that would rather see every American’s taxes rise rather than increase taxes on millionaires — the party has no future. It can’t win with a base that is at war with math, physics, human biology, economics and common-sense gun laws all at the same time.
Do you know how troubled this party is? Two weeks ago, the former G.O.P. Senate majority leader Bob Dole, a great American, went to the Senate floor in his wheelchair to show his support for Senate ratification of the U.N. Convention on the Rights of People With Disabilities. Nevertheless, the bill failed to win the two-thirds needed for ratification, because only eight Republicans dared to join Democrats in support of the treaty, which was negotiated and signed by George W. Bush! It essentially requires other countries to improve to our level of protection for the disabled, without requiring us to change any laws. It has already been ratified by 126 countries. But it failed in the Senate because Rick Santorum managed to convince the G.O.P. base that the treaty would threaten U.S. “sovereignty.” Santorum stopped just short of warning that space aliens would take over our country if we ratified the treaty…
The G.O.P. today needs its own D.L.C. The Democratic Leadership Council was founded by a group of Democratic governors and activists, led by Bill Clinton, in 1985 to lead the party back to the center from a failing leftward course that had resulted in it being repeatedly shut out of the presidency, except after Watergate…
Republicans need to go through a similar process of building new institutions and coalitions to support candidates who can move the party back to the center-right. Today, all their institutions, from think tanks to Fox TV…“are reinforcing the trends that are marginalizing their party.”
Unfortunately, we don’t have a decade to wait for a G.O.P. D.L.C. Some leaders in that party need to stand up for sane compromises right now.
Please RTFA. I agree with what Friedman is trying to say – if for no other reason than we could use more of a consensus-oriented crowd in Congress to achieve anything while we’re still stuck in the TweedleDeeDumb two-party farce. I don’t think the rightwing sect within the Republican Party will allow that. The Center-Left amalgamation in the Democrat Party will be able to get change accomplished – most likely – by a definitive majority of American voters kicking out more of the cowards along with the nutballs. They’ve already done that with over half the so-called Blue Dogs that dumbed-down the Democrats.
I also think it’s foolish to make direct comparisons with Clinton and what preceded the DLC. Control of the Democrat Party may have painted itself into a Leftish corner – only because the popular revolt against American warlords settled on Democrats to win the final push against everything from the draft to the VietNam War. And succeeded on the issues. Trouble is – settling on a Center-Left clown show without building a nationwide grassroots organization left that party twisting in the veritable wind, hanging by a red-white-and-blue parachute.
I expect the Republicans to do the same. If I had faith in anyone’s crystal ball – and I don’t – I’d expect to see a center-right party like that proposed by Mike Bloomberg to take over the role of the traditional conservative Republican Party and leave what’s left of today’s Republicans alone to finish screwing up the economy of the Confederacy.