A rational Republican resistance is starting to emerge

When I started writing the GOPLifer blog at the Houston Chronicle at the end of 2008, I was unable to identify Republican centrists anywhere in the country who were willing to openly challenge the party’s extremes. Over the Obama years, a few figures like David Frum began to emerge from the party’s intellectual wing, along with a few retired politicians, who offered some dissent. But primary challenges to Republican incumbents were universally launched from the rightwing fringe. Sane Republicans never fought back in ways that mattered.

That seems to be ending. Republicans have moved so far off the established political spectrum that primary challenges from the center have begun to look promising. A few candidates have taken notice of this opening and launched insurgent campaigns. A new Forbes post examines three Congressional candidates looking to replace Republican extremists from the center.

47 Comments

  1. You know that raging asshole that suddenly learns how to ask nicely when he happens to be drowning because he doesn’t know how to swim? You know, the guy that turns back into a raging asshole like nothing ever happened the instant he reaches shore?

    That’s the ‘rational resistance’ within the Republican party. A bold, desperate ruse counting on the ignorantly short memories of people who want to go back to -believing- instead of thinking. to go back to pretending they can do better than Democrats without ever having to implement their own carefully dressed, yet atrociously caustic policies. Do I believe these candidates are honest? Sure. But the mind of the party isn’t dictated, nor changed, by the few fingers gripping the rope.

    To be fair, the democrats are more the fat guy drowning who’d float just fine if he’d calm down and stop flailing at every wave.

  2. If I thought for one minute that these tariffs were well reasoned, I would at least give it the benefit of doubt. They weren’t, and the resulting roiling of international trade partners is predictable. Maybe when investors, small and large, have to pay an actual price for the mayhem coming from governing-by-the-cuff, they will understand how unstable our govern,ent is under T and the Repub majority who refuse to publicly speak out.

    https://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/us-allies-retaliation-trump-tariffs_us_5a991b85e4b0a0ba4ad21c50?

  3. EJ

    Trump on firearms reform: “Take the guns first, go through due process second.”

    This is certainly an energetic approach, although perhaps less than legal. What are people’s thoughts on what the reaction to this will be?

  4. To buoy your hopes, this piece from The Guardian offers welcome news and a realistic assessment of the state of politics in Texas. I have not read any pundit that gives Beto O’Rourke a chance in his bid to unseat Ted Cruz, and I think they could be wrong about that. O’Rourke is working tirelessly, Cruz is nowhere to be found. We’ll see. In other good news, Dems flipped two more state-level lege seats yesterday in CT and NH bringing the total to 39 “and countin'”!

    https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2018/feb/28/texas-primary-elections-democrats-early-voting-surge?

  5. This question / comment is loosely tied to the intent of Chris’ blog post. Would these “rational” Repubs vote against party lines in the case of impeachment or any bills that weaken the power of the puppet tyrant’s regime?

    A few things have come out in the past days that make me query this hypothetical.

    a. Pence announced today that abortion may be made illegal very soon.
    b. Gates and Manafort appear to be left twisting in the wind, or cutting deals.
    c. The puppet tyrant now has to sign a waiver for his son-in-law to allow him top secret clearance again, which would undermine severely Kelly, but doubt that worries the inner circle of this regime that much. That son-in-law looks to be in Mueller’s cross-hairs also.

    Now, I have come to believe, with respect to b. and possibly c., that the puppet’s handlers:

    1. Don’t think that Gates can point directly to the puppet, but only to Manafort, so no reason to pardon Gates.
    2. If Manafort looks to start folding, the puppet will pardon him and/or fire Mueller, creating a firewall around this regime.
    3. They truly believe, or know, that there is no collusion and the regime will keep on ticking.

    I have heard so many pundits say that 2. would create a “constitutional crisis”. Exactly what that is, I have no idea, since the current Congress and Senate have made it abundantly clear they will protect the puppet tyrant at any cost.

    So that leads me back to my original question. Assume some miracle happens and the House and Senate both flip in November, and say the Senate sits at 51-49 Dem’s. Say the puppet tyrant starts pardoning and firing, and the new Congress starts impeachment proceedings. Will enough “rational” Senate Repubs (I know the blog focused on the Congress seats) actually vote for impeachment as well, and is enough of them even getting elected mathematically possible?

    If not, then the puppet tyrant and his regime can do pretty much anything they want until 2020. By that I mean they can veto any bill, since none will be veto-proof. He can rule by fiat, using executive orders and the veto stamp.

      1. Is it possible to gain enough seats that his appointments, judicial and otherwise could be blocked? Limiting his damage and leaving him to tweet himself and supporters into political hell for the next election?

    1. A couple of very small quibbles. I don’t think direct collusion will ever be sufficiently proven. The real problem is conflict of interest–who is Donald Trump really working for, who has leverage over him. If we can flip the House, there’s a possibility of really digging into these things, including getting the tax returns. The second quibble is about Republicans protecting Trump at any cost. They will protect themselves at any cost, including throwing Trump out. That’s not likely to convince Senate Republicans to vote for conviction, but it’s possible, or they may go to Trump like Congressional leaders went to Nixon and convince him to leave peacefully.

      1. All those are possibilities. Certainly a thorough House investigation and potentially Articles of Impeachment being passed, would go a long ways towards thoroughly exposing the conflicts of interest, likely money laundering and tax returns. That would open up the tangled mess to public scrutiny and have other effects. It might even be enough to get a few of the Republicans to vote for conviction. I’m dubious enough would break with the party to achieve a 2/3 majority.

        Even a Democratic majority in the Senate would be enough to block the bad judicial appointments. Actually achieving a Democratic majority will be difficult given the electoral map, but is certainly very conceivable.

      2. At the time of Nixon’s resignation the D’s controlled 56 or 57 seats in the Senate as well as the House. Furthermore, at that time there was considerable bipartisanship. That made it possible for the Senior
        Delegation of Republican Senators to visit Nixon and advise him that he would certainly be impeached and probably convicted. Such a situation would not be possible at the present time.

  6. I suggest looking to “New Way California.” A few posts and months ago, I praised Chad Mayes who was the assembly minority speaker for playing ball on cap and trade, which passed.

    For his pains, he was ousted from that position. But, he has decided to make his insurgency with an un-apologetically inclusive, environmentally conservationist Republicanism, consolidating the Schwarzenegger Republicans and now Kasich.

    http://www.latimes.com/politics/essential/la-pol-ca-essential-politics-updates-schwarzenegger-kasich-to-headline-1519678891-htmlstory.html

  7. Reading through your article, I can see why you’re interested in these candidates.

    I’m not. As a naturally moderate, try-to-see-both-sides, listen and work together type of person, I distrust my own dictates, but as the current arena stands, I can’t stomach voting for anyone stupid enough to even take on the Republican label. I’ve even thought about what it would take to change my mind, and my best explanation is it would take 20 years, maybe 40, of people like the three candidates you describe defining the bulk of the Republican party AND (and this is important) following through with their promises.

    As it stands, 2016 offered the last chance for any sane person to say, “I’m a rational, moderate Republican” with a straight face. After 2016 there’s no veneer, hiding, perambulating, or dog-whistling the facts: if you’re a Republican, you’re either a bigot, a liar, a coward, or a combination of those three. There is no middle ground, moderate, centrist, rational, sane, pragmatic, useful, productive, effective Republican. It’s over.

    If these three candidates were actually smart, like actually, truly smart, they would recognize that and not even bother being ‘a Republican’ anymore. They’d run as a Democrat, Independent, or contact each other and work out some sort of new party brand name and platform to help each other out.

    They didn’t, so they’re clearly not smart. Since they’re clearly not smart, they’re not dependable to follow through with their promises.

    So even with respect for your interest to them and appreciation for them speaking out, they and people like them will never get my vote.

    1. All of them are running in one-party jurisdictions, places where the game has table has been set so that only a Republican has a realistic chance (with the exception, perhaps, of de Stefano in an increasingly unpredictable Texas). This is how you build a third party – by breaking a one-party stranglehold and subsequently establishing ties to other like-minded people, independent of the major-party label. In other words, this is how you build a sub-party, and people are already doing it on the left.

      1. The Working Families Party is shredding the corrupt old Democratic machine in the Northeast. So far they’ve won about a hundred seats, going all the way up to state legislators. And candidates for Governor now have to take them seriously. Here’s a time lapse of how they took the Philadelphia District Attorney seat last year. This is the model for what these Republican candidates are trying to do: launch a sub-party insurgency.

        https://nextcity.org/daily/entry/working-families-party-philadelphia-politics-third-party

        https://krasnerforda.com/the-latest/2017/3/29/working-families-backing

        http://www.businessinsider.com/larry-krasner-philadelphia-election-platform-trump-2017-11

        And a few others:

        http://workingfamilies.org/2017/07/2017-victories-local-races-across-nation/

      2. I recall you commenting on the Working Families Party in a prior post but felt this was a highly localized effort. Your links plus a google search reveals an effort that is expanding; however, TX is not yet on the radar.

        http://workingfamilies.org/states/

        Their issues appear to align with those of mainstream Democrats (whatever “mainstream” is these days) and their emergence undoubtedly springs from the vacuum of leadership by the national Democratic Party. It seems that political organization is becoming increasingly local on the left while becoming more centralized on the right….which is certainly consistent with “big tent” philosophy of the Democratic Party and which is both its greatest strength and a challenge in terms of cohesive effort. States are having to build a platform from the ground up and this is a very dangerous time to have to start over even as it is compellingly necessary.

      3. No – we’re not exactly celebrating our numbers in our county which went for T by the largest percentage in the nation (Montgomery), but we are working very, very hard. Some areas in the state are reporting robust numbers that actually will result in some big wins…I, personally, will feel all the effort has been worth it if we send Cruz packing. What we are doing is the hard stuff – building the organization, training people, developing a pool of candidates and the support system to help them, firing people up in the grassroots so that they not only turn out to vote, but vote in the Dem primary. For so long, there was no Dem Party, no candidates, and therefore, no organization. This is now changing but it will take time and lots of effort before it pays off with competitive races. This is the home of the Tea Party and they are well organized.

        My margueritas – when I indulge – are relaxation vs celebration. One day, that will be different. I want the Dem Party to win races because we stand for values that people identify with and will support. Lots of education there and lots more nail-biting in the interim with the changes being forced in D.C.

      4. @Chris Ladd: >] “The Working Families Party is shredding the corrupt old Democratic machine in the Northeast. So far they’ve won about a hundred seats, going all the way up to state legislators. And candidates for Governor now have to take them seriously. Here’s a time lapse of how they took the Philadelphia District Attorney seat last year. This is the model for what these Republican candidates are trying to do: launch a sub-party insurgency.

        Would it really work out that well though? The WFP’s effectively just a more unabashedly liberal version of the Democratic Party, and so one could attribute part of their success to the fact that there was always a segment of the base that felt their views weren’t being given voice to. It was a natural fit.

        Do Republicans have anything remotely like this? It’s been a long time since the GOP showed their former liberals and moderates (like David Frum and Bruce Bartlett) the door, resigning themselves to being a solely self-ordained ‘conservative’ party – which, in turn, left them without any intraparty competition, thus aiding in the inevitable corruption that followed.

        Who are their prospective insurgents actually speaking to, and are their numbers anywhere near enough to actually matter?

        @ : >] “ It seems that political organization is becoming increasingly local on the left while becoming more centralized on the right….which is certainly consistent with “big tent” philosophy of the Democratic Party and which is both its greatest strength and a challenge in terms of cohesive effort. States are having to build a platform from the ground up and this is a very dangerous time to have to start over even as it is compellingly necessary.

        That’s the way our politics should be though. Broadly speaking, a coalition should have a general consensus among a range of issues, but differ in a number of ways in approach, scope, implementation, etc. That’s what Democrats were so sorely lacking in during the Obama years and what left them vulnerable to the Republicans’ single-minded annihilation strategy.

      5. All politics should be local; however, I fail to see how that applies to the Republican Party that sets rigid issue compliance and primaries those who deviate. I was trying to point out what I believe is a strength of the current organizational effort (local) by Dems vs the seemingly more intransigent top down heirarchy of the GOP.

      6. EJ

        It is my understanding that in a First Past the Post system, to split a voting bloc is a good way of guaranteeing that neither part of that bloc will win.

        As such, third parties or splinter parties might end up acting as spoilers. In a state like Pennsylvania, which went to Trump, that might be a luxury that the American Republic cannot afford.

      7. That’s not what they’re doing, and it isn’t what these three Republican candidates are doing. They’re attacking a dominant single party from its exposed, unrepresented flank. They’ll ride that party’s primary process like an attacking parasite, then unite with others to reach an alternate set of goals. In a system like ours, it’s these kinds of insurgencies that open up something approaching multi-party politics.

      8. Koctya – Saw this article on primary turn out comparisons in TX and thought of you. My county, Montgomery, is not among this group for reasons I already explained (very red), but there is good news and my hope is that we will hold this edge through the general election. As Chris noted in his piece on how Dems could win elections, hope and fear. Dems choose hope. I’m with “them”.

        https://www.dallasnews.com/news/2018-elections/2018/02/26/texas-democrats-early-voting-totals-shock-every-conservative-core-abbott-email-says

      9. In our majority Republican County, we are asking those who are Democrats to vote in the Dem Primary to support the candidates who are running and to help us to re-build a voter data base. In all honesty, the answer to your question is, “it depends”. I have voted in the GOP primary many times in the past because I had either no or very poor Dem options. I would not vote for a poorly qualified Dem just to vote Dem. You should consider the value of your vote in your precinct. If it’s a close race between Repub candidates who are likely to win in the general and one of them is clearly a real loser, it is tempting to vote as a spoiler. Sooner or later, we Democrats and Independents need to make some hard decisions.I’m trying to do this on the front end by working to recruit and GOTV early, but we have a lot of work to do and mistakes will be made.

      10. That is an interesting question, Creigh. In Washington State, the 4th CD is very conservative. The Cook PVI is R+13. Since WA has a top two primary, that district has had two R’s facing off in the general election the last two election cycles. The District Democratic Party has actually opted to support the more moderate of the two candidates, Dan Newhouse. The other would have aligned himself with the Freedom Caucus. This year I realistically hope there will be a D on the ballot for the general election in that District.

      11. Chris, your ‘rational Republican’ candidates would have voted for the tax bill for the same reason the other ‘mavericks’ did: they had a choice between throwing a Hail Mary pass to hopefully preserve their funding and a very narrow demographic of people stupid enough to believe the tax bill would help them, the same demographic that shows itself prone to believing the not-even-coherently-delivered lies of a famous New York conman and who love to hate their own party as much as they hate the opposition; or looking like completely inept scoundrels and being firmly hated by literally everyone.

        Only an idiot would look at such an illustrious opportunity and say to themselves, “Man, I’m gonna steer this ship straight.”

        I read your post about how to create a third party (by becoming the second party). You also point out how Dixiecrats took the husk of the Republican party in the South to build it into this walking zombie the Republican party has become, so there’s one example of how you can build a party without splitting the gains with the corruption.

        Staying under the label ‘Republican’ also gives Republicans majorities, which then leads to them choosing the legislation. So you could be a climate change realist Republican but you’ll never get the chance to do anything about climate change if Republicans are in power. Fundamentally the party as a whole cannot be given the reins of the course of American (and world) history. That leads to where we are today, where we’re ruled by literally the most perfect example of a morally and fiscally bankrupt idiot you can possibly write in a Phillip Roth novel, and the so-called ‘party of free markets and fiscal responsibility’ are removing tax advantages from their state’s largest employer so that rednecks can still feel special about owning giant steel penises.

        Lastly, you said it yourself: there is no such thing as a ‘Good Nazi’.

        I will not vote for another Republican until the last vestiges of Dixiecrats are removed from the party. I don’t expect that to happen within my lifetime.

  8. In my opinion this the biggest reason why we have the current insane political situation. The rich want more of the pie. I, being in the minority, DO think we should have riots in the streets. There are a number of key points from the article. Here is one that struck me:

    The wealthiest 5% households in the US have almost 91 times more wealth than the median American household, the widest gap among 18 of the world’s most developed countries. The next highest is the Netherlands, which has a ratio less than half that.

    http://www.bbc.com/capital/story/20180223-how-rich-are-the-rich-if-only-you-knew

      1. I will give you a more thoughtful response later (heading to my spot at the polls!) but generally, I like it. It will use an existing, proven health insurance model to serve more people who are approaching a time when their health will be more vulnerable and they less insurable through medical underwriting (which the new plans will do that Trump is allowing to be rolled out without penalties and without the mandatory essential health benefits.)

        More later.

      2. Now. The Medicare Extra Plan is being developed and promoted very carefully, which is good. Frankly, anything that improves upon the mish-mash we have today and covers more people affordably with comprehensive coverage, I support. What I am hoping to get to is universal coverage – quality coverage.

        This plan fundamentally isn’t tied to one’s work. If you’ve ever been between jobs or been denied health coverage or had a major illness/accident and had to fight with insurance and exhaust personal savings, you understand what I am saying. Fundamentally, I believe health care is a necessity and not a privilege. How we get to anything close to that interests me.

        Meanwhile, what the effort to kill the ACA by a thousand cuts continues. Cuts to Medicaid and Medicare are being prepared – some are already being implemented, and the outcome is millions of uninsured and underinsured. It is morally reprehensible to me to watch it happen – especially to the poor, elderly and disabled. I almost wish I didn’t know so much (as little as that is) so that I didn’t worry and hurt so much for this group of people. It makes me angry and so very sad. Here’s a couple of links to bring you up to date as to what is happening (mostly by regulation and E.O. – not using the legislative process). The first offers an overview of changes being implemented tohealth care, and the second explains the impact of the new, bare-bones health plans. Any way you cut it, my assessment is that the cuts to medicaid (principally) and Medicare and all the other welfare programs are being made to close the deficit with no consideration for the fact that millions of Americans will either lose coverage or be forced to spend an inordinate amount of their income on health care.

        So, yes, if Medicare Extra were to gather support, that would be a very good thing.

        https://www.vox.com/policy-and-politics/2018/2/26/17055076/trump-drive-up-obamacare-premiums

        https://www.urban.org/research/publication/potential-impact-short-term-limited-duration-policies-insurance-coverage-premiums-and-federal-spending

  9. The silence from the rational Republicans has been deafening – for years, but notably, in the 2016 campaign and in the first year of this president’s tenure and that of total Republican control of our federal government. That our nation is still standing is a testament mainly to the institutions of the judiciary. Despite a cascade of actions that have defied every principle conservatives have stood for for decades, few have made a public stand in opposition to what was so clearly happening. There really is nothing left of value left to the Republican Party. The sell-out crowd led by Ryan, McConnell, Grassley, Graham, Pence and too many others to name, are raiding nation for everything they can.

    I stood out in the rain from 12:30 – 4:00 pm today as the sole Democratic poll volunteer. There weren’t many Democrats showing up but to a one, they were deeply appreciative that I was there and that for the first time in decades, Democrats were fielding candidates for every position on the ballot. This is my 5th day at the polls. If I am achieving nothing else for my party, it is the quiet acknowledgement of my persistence and my personal satisfaction that I am giving this fight everything I’ve got. It is going to take time to turn this ship around, and it likely will attract a few disgusted and disheartened Republicans, but I’m not counting on any of them. Democrats are going to have to grow our base the old fashioned way: work it. Earn it. This includes regaining the trust and votes of Dems who walked away from the party in the last election. Until then, we’ll win a few races, lose lots more (this is TX, after all), while continuing to endure more horrible changes to our democratic institutions, but change will come, because it must come or our nation will lose our democratic foundation and succumb to authoritarian rule. I’m not holding my breath to wait for the light to go on in Republicanville. I and other Democrats are working our buns off to support the Dems who are running for office and to encourage people to come out and vote for them.

      1. Until I took the training to be a clerk at the primary election, I had no idea what was involved. I’ve spent 4 hours in classroom training and will do more training online. Election day is going to be an “Ironman” challenge….set up night before, arrive at polls by 6:30 for final set up, open for business at 7am, and stay until polls close at 7:00 or until last voter in line at that time votes…Then put up all equipment. Then you go home. IOW, a very long day. So, next time you vote, please do as Creigh has always done because these people are putting in some serious time to support your right to vote.

    1. TX U.S. Senate candidate, Beto O’Rourke, is finding out the old fashioned way (to his credit), that the road to building trust of minority voters is tough. This group has been plied with promises and received mostly “sweet nothings”. I commend Beto for making the effort while noting that minority voters will not GOTV in this primary election with the same old approaches. We have to earn it, which will make Democrats better candidates and is the way our party will be able to cobble together the votes we need to overcome a highly organized, voting Republican base. We must motivate and grow our own base, not depend upon Republicans to help us – it’s just not in their DNA to vote for a Democrat.

      https://www.dallasnews.com/news/2018-elections/2018/02/28/democratic-senate-hopeful-beto-orourke-promises-shore-minority-base-trip-oak-cliff?

  10. The problem is that a lot of these “rational” Republicans are the same ones who built the current Republican party, using apologists like David Brooks to dress up the pig. They intentionally and knowingly utilized the Republican base bigots and imbeciles for money and votes, while attempting to control the candidates they could vote for.

    They lost control as the Republican base actually believed and internalized the garbage the “rational” Republicans intentionally and knowingly permitted to be broadcasted by the propaganda arm of the Republican party. The base became semi-self-aware that they had been getting used by the “rational” Republicans for their money and votes, while never getting the loud-and-proud bigot Strongman they wanted.

    So, the current Republican party label itself is done. It cannot be salvaged. It’s the only possible way that you can break the brain-grip on the Republican base voters. Otherwise, the Republican party will always attract the current base, and it will always be inherently corrupted by it. Full stop.

    “Rational” Republicans who do not want to be on the side of the loud-and-proud white nationalist fascist party need to join the Democratic party, and work on breaking off the right-wing and center of the Democratic party. Because, protip: the current Democratic party is THE big tent party, and already has the rational, reasonable conservative politicians of the US. Already, as in, right now.

    Join, or Die, in other words.

    1. Setting aside the issue of joining the Dems – everything this guy said.

      There’s no taking back *this* Republican Party from the abyss of openly pandering white nationalism and racism to which it has descended. Too many have cast aside purported principles and standards to do as the itchy Twitter finger of Herr Trump commands.

      And most importantly – as n1cholas so aptly stated – there’s no base within the current Republican coalition to appeal a moderate, pragmatic Republicanism (Roosevelt Republicanism, I’d call it) to. Say that every possibility mentioned ekes a win, and multiply that ten or twenty times over; what do you have? The Tuesday Group, that’s what you have.

      Don’t waste time on trying to save a party that’s already a zombified husk of its former self. Focus on trying to save Republicanism and honest, sane conservatism.

    2. When you really look into the granular details of what actions Congressional Republicans are planning and implementing, aided and abetted by T, I don’t see how the party saves itself. Or, maybe I should be more worried about how we save ourselves from the Republican Party. This analysis exposes the ugly plan that the GOP clearly is pursuing. I have no confidence that there will be enough brave, enlightened, disgusted, disheartened conservatives out there that will speak out much less vote for Dems in the primary.

      https://newrepublic.com/article/147057/gops-class-war-budget

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