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Chris in Boston

Great analysis. One quibble though:

The Arizona hard-right hates John McCain and would love to run a primary challenge against him, but they can't, because of his larger-than-life stature in the state. The same is true of Olympia Snowe in Maine, Lincoln Chafee in Rhode Island and several others.

Actually the dynamic is quite different. The hard right in Rhode Island is miniscule and beleagered. The Ocean State, and to a lesser degree Maine, have Republican senators out of historical inertia.

The very use of these as examples makes me wonder if you might be too optimistic: are there all that many other Republican moderates in Congress, especially the Senate, that you can think of? To what extent is McCain's or Snowe's moderate strategy reproducible in other states?


I've just started reading Rick Perlstein's Before the Storm, and I've been amazed at how far back this goes. The Birchers and YAFers of the 50s and 60s were equally ruthless in attacking moderate Republicans. Their long ascendency in the party since 1980 may indeed be generating, finally, some anger on the part of less ideological true-believers in the party. But, alas, there may not be enough of them left to mount any serious push-back.


Damn. Chris from Boston already made my point. I'm a native Rhode Islander, grew up there and still spend time there now and then. Never met one wingnut Republican ever. I just don't think they exist in the Ocean State.

As to whether a moderate Republican strategy is vialble in other states: I can only attest to what's going on in California. And the answer would be yes, but with a huge caveat. The California GOP insists - as a rule - on nominating frothing rightwingers for statewide office. Movie stars, of course, are the exception. Tom Campbell, moderate GOP congressman in the 80s/90s from silicon valley, would be a senator today if not for his party voting in wingnuts like Herschenson and Huffington in the primaries.

In fact, I'd argue that California is the blueprint for GOP politics nationwide if the Club for Growth manages to wrest control of the party apparatus. They'd run hard right candidates everywhere, and lose more times than not. As we see with Schwarzanegger, Californians are more than happy to vote for moderate republicans. We just rarely if ever get the chance.

Frank Wilhoit

The Republican coalition is not "teetering". It is shedding a few flakes of dead skin.

The predictions that the Republican coalition would at any moment disintegrate have been coming in a steady stream since 1976 at any rate, and, to within the labelling of the constituent strands, much longer. It hasn't happened and it is not going to happen. I don't know why. I don't think anyone else knows why either.


Just a point about hard-left challenges to moderate or conservative democrats:

I don't know if it's happened on the federal level, but the SEIU just spent $200K trying to unseat the Appropriations chair of the Washington state assembly. Of course, this is easy to defeat, since the challenge was based solely on one issue; the failure to negotiate an immediate $2.07 raise for state home care workers[ they instead got a $1.25 raise over 2 years].

So it does happen, from time to time. Several of the Dean endorsees have challenged "establishment candidates", most notably in Dick Gephardt's old district, and in Oklahoma, and Brad Carson's old seat as well. These were not challenges to incumbents, but were at least challenges to other more established candidates.

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