The myth of moderate Republicans

Great editoral in The New Republic headlined, “Time to wipe out moderate Republicans.”  They persuasively make the point, one I've long been sensitive to, that moderate Republicans in the US Senate are basically a sham. 

Of course, maintaining that majority
has required Republicans to win the votes of many Americans who don't
support their agenda. That's where the GOP moderates come in. Unlike
the moderate wing of the old Democratic majority, they seldom do
anything without the tacit consent of the leadership. GOP moderates are
allowed– indeed, encouraged–to publicly scold their party leaders,
because that's how they hold onto their districts. 

But these displays of independence are a sham. Republicans have
invented, or perfected, numerous methods of projecting the fake image
of intraparty dissent. One trick is something they privately call
“catch and release,” whereby they let members from vulnerable districts
vote against the leadership–unless their vote is decisive, in which
case they are pressured to recant….

…Or there's the cherished method of
scheduling votes with an election year apology already in mind. So, for
instance, Republican moderates in 2001 and 2003 cast votes declaring
their support for smaller tax cuts less weighted to the affluent than
what President Bush proposed, before ultimately voting for Bush's plan.

At best, moderate Republicans have been
hapless dupes. At worst, they've been co-conspirators. In either case,
they have done almost nothing to alleviate the radical or corrupt
tendencies of Republican Washington. Extinguishing the moderates at the
polls this November is not a vote for mindless partisanship. It is
simply a vote for transparency.

In an article last year, Matt Yglesias beautifully summed it up thus:

It is only a small exaggeration to say that there
are no moderate Republicans at all. There are grandstanders who enjoy
the notoriety and media access that can be gained from the occasional
off-message statement to the press. There are vulnerable Republicans
who need to move to the left every so often in order to win elections.
But there is no group of Republicans that, through real actions with
consequences and meaningful policy engagement, makes any significant
effort to block the conservative agenda or implement a centrist one.
That people who say different things from their co-partisans
but act the same when the votes are counted can acquire reputations as
independent-minded mavericks says a great deal about the culture of our
political media — and very little about where the legislative balance
of power lies.

Basically,
each of these so-called moderates, e.g., Specter, Snowe, Voinovich,
etc., sticks their head up every now and then to stand up to the
president for show, but almost always when it comes down to brass
tacks, they vote with their party.  When their votes are not really
needed, the leadership releases them so that they can appear moderate. 
When push comes to shove, though, they are just as responsible for
passing virtually every aspect of the conservative Republican agenda.  Seems to me, that hardly qualifies them as “moderate.”

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