Did Crist Leave the GOP or Did the GOP Leave Crist?
Did you know Ronald Reagan, the most celebrated Republican President of the last 50 years started out a Democrat? When asked why he left the Democratic party, Reagan responded: I didn’t leave the Democratic party, the Democratic party left me.
Is that what we are starting to see with the Republican party? Its latest defection, Florida Governor Charlie Crist, was on John McCain’s short list for Vice President in 2008, when Crist was a popular Republican moderate. Now the term “moderate”in the Republican party is worse than the word “liberal” in the 1980s.
The GOP is continuing its march to the right– far right. With some few exceptions, Mark Kirk being one of them, moderates are a dying species of Republican. Think about what we’ve seen over the last two years: Republicans sucking up to Rush Limbaugh and when one gets out of step with Mr. Limbaugh, they are forced to genuflect and apologize. I’d have more respect for Republicans if they didn’t care so much about what a talk show host says.
Along with the rise of Rush– and Beck– has come the fall of the moderate Republican. John McCain (the real one) is polling behind a right-winger in Arizona GOP U.S. Senate primary and has had to plead to Arizonans that his Maverick label– bucking the GOP at times– is misplaced. What about Arlen Spector? Remember the Pennsylvania Republican who had to switch parties and is now a Democrat?
Granted, some of these moves are politically calculated to keep their seats, rather than due to ideology– but going back to what Reagan said about the Democratic party, maybe it does have something to do with ideology. The Republican party’s ideology is moving so far to the right that the party is leaving moderates behind– forcing moderates to leave the party. Like Reagan left the Democrats.
The party moving to the right is not a good thing for the GOP. Look at New York’s 23rd Congressional district, where a tea party candidate forced the GOP candidate out of the race, giving it to the Democrat. That Congressional seat had been Republican since 1873. Finally, look at Scott Brown. The nation thought Senator Brown was going to be road block against Democrats and instead, he has voted for proposals that were in his constituents best interests, which, to the chagrin of tea partiers, led him to cross the aisle at times.
And crossing the aisle really is what this is all about. Charlie Crist lost his mojo when he supported President Obama on the stimulus package. That upset conservatives and the Rush groupies because, by rule, Republicans must vote against Obama on everything. That doesn’t serve the country well– finding out one particular man’s position and voting opposite it. Maybe that’s why Charlie Crist’s new slogan is “People Above Politics.”
Although Rush Limbaugh gets millions of listeners daily, these listeners will only give candidates 20% of the national vote– which loses elections. Once the GOP learns that, it will be a party to reckon with again. And the GOP will learn. If the economy continues to improve, that lesson will come early in November 2010.