WP Writer: Far-Right Shift Drove Out 'Conservatives' Like Chafee From 'Shrunken GOP Tent'
June 5, 2015
Catherine Rampell, Washington Post opinion columnist and previously a New York Timesbusiness reporter, wrote about "The GOP's Shifting Goal Posts" to rehash the tired old cliché that the Republican Party has shifted so far right that not even Ronald Reagan would be welcome in "today's shrunken GOP tent."
We also learn that former Rhode Island Gov. Lincoln Chafee, a liberal, anti-war, pro-partial birth abortion Republican senator turned Democrat, was once a conservative. Who knew?
It’s said that if you’re not liberal when you’re young, you have no heart, and if you’re not conservative by middle age, you have no brain.
By this standard, our Democratic presidential candidates have lost their minds.
Thanks to Lincoln Chafee’s recent entrée into the 2016 primary, it would seem that a majority of the Democratic Party’s expected contenders are former conservatives who converted to liberalism later in life...
(Chafee was actually considered the most liberal Republican in the Senate Republican caucus, voting against the Iraq War and refusing to endorse President George W. Bush in 2004.)
At first blush, this might reflect poorly on the Democratic Party by making its talent pool appear so shallow that it must poach politicians from across the aisle. But in truth it’s much more damning of the GOP.
Clinton, today sometimes caricatured by the right as a pinko commie, was once president of her college Republican Club, according to her autobiography.....for Chafee and [former Democratic Virginia Sen. Jim] Webb, the transformation seems to have been less a result of shifting views than shifting goal posts. The candidates themselves didn’t get more liberal; the conservative party these moderates once identified with got radically more conservative.
After admitting both parties have polarized of late, Rampell claimed
Republicans having moved much further right than Democrats have moved left.
Today’s Republican Party is one that would likely consider Richard Nixon -- who created the Environmental Protection Agency, championed affirmative action and advocated for national health care -- too liberal. Even Reagan -- who granted amnesty to 3 million undocumented immigrants, raised taxes 11 times and was willing to negotiate with the Soviets -- might not survive a Republican presidential primary today.
If there isn’t room for Nixon and Reagan in today’s shrunken GOP tent, there definitely isn’t space for centrists such as Chafee and Webb...Chafee...also voted against the Bush tax cuts -- on fiscally conservative grounds, mind you, since he thought they would irresponsibly widen the deficit. In a speech that I attended in 2003, Chafee lamented the rise of “right-wing fanatics” but said he truly believed Republican moderates would regain their clout, so he was committed to sticking with the party of his childhood. They didn’t, so he didn’t.
Rampell made no mention of counterevidence, like the disappearance of pro-life, anti-gay marriage, and anti-illegal immigration stands among Democrats, or the scarcity of calls, once common, from Republican candidates to eliminate large government bureaucracies like the Department of Energy or Education (Gov. Rick Perry aside).
In other words, it’s wrong to say these Democratic presidential hopefuls left the Republican Party. The Republican Party left them.
Rampell previously reported on business and politics for the New York Times, from which she wistfully wondered in 2011 where the unemployed left-wing mobs were among the unemployed: "And where, if anywhere, is the outrage?...Unlike the hard-pressed in, say, Greece or Spain, the jobless in America seem, well, subdued. The old fire has gone out....It wasn't always so. During the Great Depression, riots erupted on the bread lines. Even in the 1980s and 1990s,angry workers descended on Washington by the busload."