Sunday, April 19, 2009

"Moderate" vs. "RINO"

I’ve been doing a lot of thinking lately about the brewing hostility between moderates and conservatives in the Republican Party. Not only does it look like “RINO-hunting” is back in vogue, but we now have “Charging RINOs” to go with them. Meghan McCain, for instance, seems almost giddy about the prospect of a civil war over the soul of the GOP.

Now, personally I fall firmly on the conservative side of this skirmish and there are people who I think the party can do without. On the other, I’ve never been a big fan of “RINO-hunting” or even the term “RINO”. There are a lot of center-rightists in this country, and in many cases they are a great asset to the GOP (and at the very least we need their votes). In fact, I’ve realized just how two-minded I am on the issue by examining my own opinions on two potential Senate primaries in 2010.

On one hand, I would love to see Pat Toomey knock off Arlen Specter in Pennsylvania. On the other, I have openly advocated taking out Louisiana’s conservative-yet-tarnished Senator David Vitter and replacing him with the extremely moderate Rep. Anh “Joseph” Cao. So, why take out one centrist while working to elect another? For me, the answer lies in defining the difference between what I would call a “constructive moderate” and a “destructive moderate” (or, if you’re not into tact, a “true RINO”) - and I can find no better prototypes than Specter and Cao.

We’ll start with Specter. He’s not necessarily a liberal, and he votes with us most of the time - so it’s hard to make the case that he’s in the wrong party. Furthermore, he seems pretty strongly rooted in his socially and fiscally moderate beliefs. He’s not a guy who operates with his finger in the wind, and I respect that. However, there is a serious problem with his attitude. He has no problem labeling himself as a Republican, running on our tickets, and cooperating with our legislators when we happen to agree with him on something. However, when there are disagreements (and they occur often), he goes completely AWOL.

Not only does he vote with the Dems, but he makes a show of shoving it in our face and kvetching about what a horrible party we’ve become. Yes, he’s with us more often than not, but he only gets excited when he’s poking us in the eye - and he is happy to soak up press that results from being the guy tearing down GOP plans from within. He’s not interested in building the party as much as he is in being the kicking, screaming voice of an otherwise long-dead brand of Rockefeller Republicanism. He has become a cancer, and he needs to be cut out - period.

Now, let’s look at Rep. Cao. He may be almost four decades younger than the Gentleman from Pennsylvania, but like Specter he seems to be a moderate if there ever was one. He’s been a Republican less than two years, he’s open to working with Democrats, and he flirts with breaking ranks on every single budget vote. Furthermore, he is more than happy to request lots of earmarks for his district. Now, in his defense, I would note that he always comes down right on those budget votes and that, as the representative of New Orleans, he has more justification for those funding requests than any other Congressman. Still, we can safely say that he is clearly a moderate on everything but the life issue.

However, Cao’s attitude is radically different than Specter’s. He’s the type of guy who got into politics because he genuinely wanted to help people, and he talks constantly about the fact that his goal is always to do what is best for his district. And whereas Specter is bridge-burner, Cao is a bridge-builder. He’s there to build consensus solutions, and while he sticks firmly to his center-right principles, he’s willing to work with both parties to make sure things get done. That, in my opinion, makes him a class act and the very definition of a statesman. Far from being a cancer, he could be a productive coalition builder in Congress for years to come.

This brings me back to my original point about the rise of moderate voices like Meghan McCain, who not only claim to be the only future of the GOP, but are ready to go to battle for their cause. I happen to have a good deal of respect for Miss McCain, but people like her need to decide whether they are with Specter or Cao. They can work with us to help acheive our common goals - in which case, I’m ready to support them wholeheartedly. However, if they continue the march toward some sort of apocalyptic ideological confrontation between the various wings of the party - they will find themselves significantly outnumbered and doomed to failure.

So, Meghan, shall we build bridges or burn them? The choice is yours.


  1. Great post Adam. Another great example of a good moderate Republican is Rudy Guiliani. The explination you gave is pitch perfect: moderates who understand and respect conservatism who are interested in building the Republican Party hand in hand with conservatives, these are good moderates. Moderates who take pleasure in thumbing their fellow Conservatives in the eye, well those are more undesirable.

    Rudy is loved by the Conservative base in the party, whereas (since I operate on the West Coast) John McCain and Arnold Schwazenegger are not.

  2. Excellent points, Adam! Often McCain seems destructive to me, too, Josh.

    Make that BOTH McCains. I haven't decided what to make of the report that Meghan disses Gov. Palin and her family.

  3. Rudy is definitely a good example as well - though I'm not sure he really counts as a true "moderate" considering that the majority of his positions are extremely conservative (obviously not on social issues, but fiscally and on national security).

    As for McCain, I think he was somewhat destructive during the Bush years - but is becoming far more constructive now that he is seen as a preeminent leader in the party.

  4. Not a bad assessment, but it leaves out the role of religion in the Republican party. It's one thing to be conservative on social issues and another to call anyone giving or getting an abortion a murderer. It's one thing to be a conservative and another to insist that science be subordinate to religion. Unless you guys can deal with this in a nuanced way, you're going to continue to have problems.

    Re David Vitter, I wouldn't want him in my party, either. Specter is a different matter. Do you want Pat Toomey to defeat Specter knowing that Toomey is an almost certain loser in the general election, whereas Specter would remain formidable? Even if you don't believe that Toomey loses the general, realistically his chances of winning are less than Specter's. Considering the makeup of the Senate and the Democrat's nearness to a filibuster-proof majority, are you still for Toomey?

    As for whether or not you guys have a Civil War, the answer to that question lies as much with the social conservatives as it does with Meghan McCain.

  5. Liberals insist that conservatives adopt "nuanced positions," but never notice that nuances ALREADY EXIST concerning many conservatives' beliefs!

    Good Lord, K., there's a HUGE difference between noting that abortion IS murder (ie., killing an innocent human being----a position, btw, that requires NO religion to notice!), and calling "anyone giving or getting an abortion a murderer," as you put it.

    Remember the whole concept of INTENT? Most women who have abortions never realize they are inadvertently committing murder; they are usually under pressure from a boyfriend/spouse OR their jobs or finances, and they do what they believe will resolve the situation best for everyone involved.

    I am a conservative (as is Sarah Palin) who can understand how women make this choice for abortion, WITHOUT realizing the long-term emotional and moral implications, as well as the short-term ones, and the FACT that abortion IS murder: their child is NOT to blame, and is thus innocent.

    As for your comment:
    "It's one thing to be a conservative and another to insist that science be subordinate to religion."

    How DENSE! You are ignoring what conservative believers (not just Christians!) ask of scientists: that they acknowledge the difference between FACT and THEORY. Evolution is a THEORY, and yet it's taught as FACT, which is incorrect. Global warming is a THEORY, yet it's hailed practically as a RELIGION itself----or haven't you noticed the passion, rigidity, and thought-policing of global warming fanatics?

    Okay, I'll grant you this, K.:
    No two conservatives agree about every issue, so you are correct that we conservatives need to get our act together in order to survive and thrive. But PLEASE notice: nuance ain't just a liberal thang!

    It's one thing to be a conservative and another to insist that science be subordinate to religioan

  6. A scientific theory is not an opinion. It makes an assertion about the underlying reality of a set of empirical observations. A theory must be stated in a way that makes it disprovable by other scientific tests, i.e. tests that apply the scientific method. Evolution -- or more precisely, Darwin's Theory of Natural Selection -- is not an opinion. It is a theory bolstered by literally millions of data points. It has been tested time and again for 160 years now, and every test furthers its acceptance.

    Natural selection is the cornerstone of modern biology and chemistry and is as accepted as fact by the scientific community. The game was pretty much up when Darwin's observations were combined with Mendel's discovery of genetics. (Incidentally, Darwin himself guessed at the existence of genes.)

    Intelligent Design, by contrast, calls itself a theory, but isn't one: ID has not been stated in a way that makes it provable or disprovable. In fact, no scientific research has been done on ID. It has no place in any class room, as it is pure conjecture that flies in the face of accepted empirical and scientific reality.

    For an excellent popular history of the idea of evolution, I refer you to Edward Larson's Evolution: The Remarkable History Of A Scientific Theory. It is not a polemic and treats religious fundamentalism with respect. Among other things, Larson's book explains that -- prior to Darwin -- evolution was widely regarded by Christian scientists as a valid explanation of Creation. The controversy arose when Darwin proposed a specific evolutionary path, i.e., natural selection, in which all living things descended from common ancestors by way of a process that required adaptability and randomness.

    I point out that not all religions reject Darwinian theory. The Catholic Church, for example, has long held that there is no contradiction between Catholic dogma and Darwin. But let me make this simpler: We still talk about Copernican Theory and Newtonian Theory, but no one thinks that the earth is the center of the universe or that an apple won't fall to the ground because Copernicus and Newton expressed their findings through theories.

    Darwin was one of the towering figures of the 19th Century, a scientist on a par with Galileo, Newton, and Einstein. To deny his conclusions is to deny reality.

  7. Okay - Let me try to wade gingerly into this rats nest.

    1) Yes, I would want Toomey to beat Specter even if it means losing the election. I see Specter as more destructive than a Democrat from a publicity standpoint. That said - I have yet to see a viable Democrat emerge, and I would not count Toomey out in the general. He is far from a sure loser.

    2) I really don't want to get into the religion in politics/creation vs. evolution debate. It's not as big of an issue as most people think it is because frankly the hard-core theocrats are not as big a part of the conservative movement as those on the other side like to think.

    3) Even the most hard core religionist will not say science is subordinate to religion politically. The staunchest creationist would still say that science works in favor of their theory just as much as it does evolution (I happen to see a lot of holes in evolutionary theory myself - and I think it takes a good deal of FAITH to believe such a scientifically flimsy idea).

    4) Intelligent Design is not a scientific theory - it's philosophy. Creationism, on the other hand, would meet the qualification to be a scientific idea. I've seen a lot of data to support it, and I see no reason whatsoever why it should not be taught ALONGSIDE evolution (note: no creationists want evolution thrown out of schools). What's the harm in presenting conflicting theories if both are plausible? Especially since you CAN present creationism without advocating any religion (theoretically - all it posits is the existence of a creative mechanism).

    5) The only people debating a massive religious conservative focus on evolution and theocracy are liberals. Note that you hardly EVER hear the subject come up in GOP debates - because it's not part of the plan. This is not an legitimate issue that conservatives talk about often - it is a phony non-issue cooked up by the opposition as a scare tactic.

  8. Note:

    Evolution has not been scientifically tested - not once. Testing would require the replication of the event in a controlled environment.

    To test Evolution, you would need a time machine.

  9. The Discovery Institute promotes ID as a theory.

    As far as teaching evolution and ID in schools, Sarah Palin herself advocated teaching both in a debate while she was running for governor.

    And while I agree that it wasn't a matter of religion, the Bush Administration politicized science to an astonishing degree, suppressing reports and refusing even open emails. This did not do conservatism any good.

    I must say that you have either a very fragile or very narrow grasp of scientific testing. At the risk of sounding like a liberal, it is not especially nuanced.

  10. K.,

    I generally have a hard time including "nuance" in the same sentence as "science". Empirical data is black and white - something either is or it isn't.

    You generate a hypotheses, you test it, and you try prove or disprove it. If you use "nuanced" definitions of decide what it means to "prove" or "disprove" something, then you undermine the very definition the scientific method.

    So, yes, I take a "very narrow" of science that is "not especially nuanced". Another way of putting it would be to say that I like empirical data and rigid testing methods. Essentially, I like my science to be scientific and I don't like to mix it with philosophy or blind faith - which is what I would be required to do if I were to accept that evolution has been tested.

    If evolution can be considered to have been "tested", then you would have to alter the most basic definition of the Scientific Method.

  11. This little tidbit will be news to every biology department in the world.

  12. Oh K, why is it that all these liberals insist on having a say in a fight in which they clearly have no dog? (at the present time anyway)

    How do you know that Toomey is unelectable? For christ sake do we know who the Democrat is? It isn't "Thriller" Matthews we know that, but what makes whoever it is an automatic electable? If you respond with party affiliation I'll keep that in mind the next time you talk about how conservatives have no principles.

    Let's drop the charade, why do the Ks of the world like Specter, McCain, and the like? Because they're "moderates"? They like them because they're easy marks for execution.

    That's EXACTLY what happened in this state (K supposedly you were around then so you'd know) when Gary Locke was elected governor. Liberals propped up the weak moderate Ellen Braswell, bane of WA conservatives to the hills, and then took advantage of a flawed primary system to knock out her opponents, and then, come the general election, POOF! Matter of fact, feel free to stop me anytime it sounds like I'm describing Obama/McCain.

    If the future of conservatism is a leftward shift, count me out (I've always been more of a small-l libertarian anyway*). If winning is all at the expense of principle, same deal.

    (*OK, actually not always. I accept plenty of blame, because, much like President Reagan, for many years I was a Democrat)

    It's all about winning when the rubber hits the road (for them, they know it), and for all of McCain, Newtered, Benedict Arlen, and so on's talk about how "conservatives need to go back to being conservative" again the bottom line is the bottom line. After all, it's not like when the GOP was at its last big peak on Inauguration Day 2005 McCain was out there reading The Conservative Manifesto.

    #80 never made many mistakes during his career, whether it be in the NFL OR Congress, but Armey wasn't the one he should have tried to revolt against, it was Newtered. Oh how I've seen through this fraud. I ALMOST fell for it when he hitched onto the American Solutions bandwagon. Then you turn around and pal with Bull Pelosi on climate change, are you KIDDING me?

    The fact that MY governor (no, K, it's not Grego) barely registers within the Beltway GOP is just fine by me. The Beltway Republicans apparently think the reason for their last two drubbings is that they didn't go left enough. Well they'll get their way and have "their" candidate against the Not-That-Great One three years from now to OUR peril. Maybe putting Newtered, the Huckster, or Mittens up as sacrificial meat isn't such a bad idea after all (in the context of it's the best we're gonna get, the RINOs need to be purged before we can take the liberals down).

    But I'm glad that our resident lib (at least the one for now) has decided to chime in. Why Democrats feel it necessary to have a presence where they shouldn't, I can't come up with any good reason why unless they see the "red meat" side of the aisle (Rush/Sarah) threatening to destroy the "centrist" side (McCain/Specter) and they really have stake in the centrists, because after all they can beat THEM. They never beat Reagan, they couldn't beat Bush; but they COULD beat McCain, Dole, and Bush 41.

    Besides, the Peanut Man might have had a shot against the revival of the Nixon/Rockefeller GOP (and his second term wouldn't have had to wait 28 years).

    So admit it K, we know what it's really all about. That's why Rush and Sarah have born the brunt of the left's attacks. After all, why put so much into attacking a "non-threat"?

    To use an old-school wrestling analogy, you didn't see the Four Horsemen ganging up on Rocky King, George South, and the Italian Stallion on a weekly basis (although I really should use the vastly inferior NWO here).

  13. I was in Philly yesterday and there are signs everywhere that say "If you don't have a job blame Arlen Specter". I didn't get close enough to see what group posted them so I can't elaborate. I thoroughly agree with you about Specter. He really is a cancer to our party and I have felt pretty much the same way about John McCain for years- which is why I hated voting for the man. I voted for Palin and against Obama, not for McCain.

  14. K.,

    Unfortunately, you might be right on that one. But it could probably be validated by most physics departments.

  15. "Sarah Palin's worst nightmare"? Hardly.

    That describes the left's latest weapon in their quest to crush Sarah, young Mr. Levi Johnston and his new forthcoming tell-all, early O/U (over/under) at five copies. Guess we've gotta learn our lessons, and the one LJ will find out is that the British never really accepted Benedict Arnold, Sadly, this can't end well, and could end up in a suicide down the road when the libs have long abandoned him and LJ essentially has no flag, country, or family left (and you know the media is going to pin this one on Sarah when it happens, nevermind the fact that they mocked him as "loser white trash" in the first place)

    Again, I'm at a loss to explain why Soros, Axelrod, Carville and co would waste all this effort. If the goal is to ensure a second Obama (third Carter) term, then, as we've discussed, there's a whole bunch of milquetoast "convenient conservatives" that will do just that in three years. I'd spend as much time building them up as I built up the Straight Talk Express last year. But hey, who am I to argue with the genius of James Carville?

    The left has an investment in the moderates (Repubics as TGO calls them, PANSies for me) because that's essentially their meal ticket, it's their automatic W. They're their Lions, their Cardinals, no way they want to give that up for the Patriots or Colts (in the form of a strong opposition in 2012/2016)

  16. Oh, it gets better (Alaska Report)

    "Another ethics complaint is to be filed today against Alaska Governor Sarah Palin alleging wrongdoing.

    Press release:

    An ethics complaint against Alaska Governor Sarah Palin will be filed this afternoon asserting that Palin’s involvement with SarahPAC constitutes "outside employment" and "misuse of official position."

    Anchorage resident Sondra Tompkins, child disability advocate and mother of a special needs child, is filing the complaint after observing Governor Palin repeatedly display "a pattern of unethical behavior." Sondra believes that the tipping point for her was Sarah Palin's most recent abdication of her role as Governor and apparent conflict-of-interest when she spoke at two outside events in Indiana rather than work with the Alaska Legislature during the most critical time, the end of the session.

    The complaint alleges:

    a) Governor Palin has entered into a contract outside of her official duties with the donors, employees, partners and any or all other participants involved in Sarah PAC.

    b) The recent partisan trip to Indiana by the Governor was purely to benefit personal interests, had no benefit for the State of Alaska and was in direct conflict with her official duties.

    c) The Governor left the State to participate in these events during the most critical end-of-session Legislative activities, at a time where the legislators themselves are not permitted to leave."

    At what point does this (officially) just become flat comical? You know I could file all sorts of these bogus "citizen complaints" against Grego and I'd be well within my rights. But I don't because I don't fight that way. Pick your battles, and they mean more.

    I like that "rather than work with the Alaska Legislature during the most critical time" touch. I didn't know when they were busy shutting down all of her nominees so they could get their leader Beth-a-bama into Elton's spot that they were doing any
    "critical work" themselves.

    Hmmm, Grego went to D.C. a few months back for a meeting that may have played a hand in the appointment of Gary Locke. Think I should file? That would be much more valid a complaint too. I won't do it, I'll go for bigger fish thank you--like her oh-so-fine management of our budget, six months after essentially campaigning against George Bush(and also tying Dino Rossi over his 2003 budget) over it.

    And here I thought that "Palin news" bit that I posted a while back was satire..................