GOP moderates ponder their lost influence

GOP moderates ponder their lost influence
GOP moderates ponder their lost influence
Richard Hanna/Flickr

By the standards of some GOP moderates, the Republican Party is already “so far overboard that we are beyond redemption.”

This is not an uncommon sentiment. As the radicalization of the Republican Party has intensified, some of the party’s more notable moderates, including Arlen Specter and Charlie Crist, have been driven from the party, into retirement, or both.

But while a meeting of GOP centrists could be held in a phone booth, they apparently still exist, and they seem unhappy. Judd Legum flagged an interesting item in the Syracuse Post-Standard, in which Rep. Richard Hanna (R-N.Y.) expressed his concerns.

“I have to say that I’m frustrated by how much we – I mean the Republican Party – are willing to give deferential treatment to our extremes in this moment in history,” he told The Post-Standard editorial board. […]

“We render ourselves incapable of governing when all we do is take severe sides…. I would say that the friends I have in the Democratic Party I find … much more congenial – a little less anger,” he said.

Hanna’s comments coincide with a new BuzzFeed piece, noting that House GOP leaders, bringing yet another anti-abortion bill to the floor today, are “facing a rising tide of frustration from Republican moderates angry over the rightward tack the conference has taken under his leadership.”

The piece didn’t specify exactly how many “Republican moderates” exist on Capitol Hill, and I’ll concede it’s a subjective question. By my count, the total of genuine GOP centrists struggles to reach double digits – that’s a combined total from the House and Senate – and if we’re evaluating Republicans’ ideologies by the standards of a generation ago, even these moderates are pretty far to the right and only appear reasonable because of the broader trajectory.

What’s more, as much as I’d welcome a forceful moderate contingent within the GOP reasserting some degree of influence within the party, I’m having a hard time finding much sympathy for Hanna and his allies.

Where were the Republican moderates during the debt-ceiling crisis, when their party threatened to crash the economy on purpose unless Democrats accepted non-negotiable demands? They were silent. Not one was willing to step up and say, “What we’re doing is wrong.”

Where were the Republican moderates during the repeated threats of government shutdowns? Where were the Republican moderates when the House voted 32 times to destroy a moderate health care reform law?

Where were the Republican moderates when President Obama pleaded with Congress to engage in some bipartisan policymaking? Where were the Republican moderates when GOP leaders prioritized abortion over job creation? Where were the Republican moderates when the GOP decided it was against its own proposals on immigration, energy, health care, and the economy?

These centrists have been a non-entity because they’ve chosen to go along with an extremist agenda, sitting on the sidelines and voting how they’re told to vote.

If they’re frustrated about the radicalization of their party, maybe they should have spoken up sooner.

Indeed, I suppose the question for Richard Hanna and those who share his concerns is this: are you genuinely disappointed by the extremism that dominates the modern GOP or are you looking for some positive election-year headlines that puts some distance between you and your unpopular party?

GOP moderates ponder their lost influence