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A Moderate Republican Is There…If You Want It!

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Shorter David Brooks: “A Republican presidential candidate who represents the values of “working-class populism, religious compassion and institutional reform” must by definition exist, and we shall project these qualities onto whichever non-Trump or Cruz candidate does better in New Hampshire, their staunch opposition to all of these things notwithstanding.”

Brooks can get ahead of the game by just joining the “Hillary Clinton is a Republican in my imaginary political universe” racket.

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  • Pseudonym

    In some ways you could argue (unconvincingly) that Hillary Clinton is sort of what a moderate Republican should look like. Perhaps in many foreign countries she would qualify as a moderate center-right politician. You might also make the argument that Jon Huntsman was what counted for a moderate Republican in the last election cycle, but he was an utterly hopeless candidate. The problem, as I’m sure is obvious to you and most readers here, is not with the lack of moderate Republican candidates but with the lack of moderate Republican voters.

    The odd part is watching certain friends and family members, whose values might make them moderate Republicans in some other era (social liberal, fiscal conservative style), voice their utter disbelief and disgust with the modern Trumped-up GOP.

    • Becker

      Useless hypothetical: wouldn’t Clinton, if you transplanted her and her positions into a foreign context, be one of the furthest-right members of either the British or Canadian Conservative parties?

      • Malaclypse

        No. Canadian conservatives are wallowing in tar sands; British conservatives are embracing austerity and tax cuts for the rich.

        • N__B

          Canadian conservatives are wallowing in tar sands

          Rule 34 is stickier than usual today.

          • The Temporary Name

            I have a friend who got paid to write mud porn. I’ll bet tar sands porn will go over big.

            • brownian

              They’d better include something about F-350 extended cab duallys with TruckNutz™ if they want to tear the tar sanders away from their Kudatah fantasies.

      • ajay

        It’s useless because you have to ask “starting from what”? Many of Hillary Clinton’s current policy beliefs are way to the right of anything proposed by anyone in UK politics. “Defence spending should be 3% of GDP” counts as centrist in the US – in the UK it means you’re calling for a 50% increase. Similarly health care. Only the furthest right UK politicians are calling for anything other than a nationalised single-payer, single-provider system free at the point of use.
        But then on immigration she’s way to the left of anyone in the UK. There’s no significant political backing in the UK for, say, a rule that illegal immigrants ought to have a “path to citizenship”.

        A different question would be: if actually-existing Hillary Clinton were to go into UK politics, where would she position herself? Say she and Bill decide to emigrate and get citizenship, and she decides to get involved in the politics of her new motherland; where does she go? I suspect the answer is not “she buddies up with Gove and Osborne on the Conservative right”.

        • Rob in CT

          Right, this runs into similar trouble as “Nixon was the last liberal!” Nixon wanted to pull US policy to the Right on most if not all issues, but was constrained by the political realities of the time.

          On most if not all issues, Hillary wants to move US policy to the left. She is not a radical and wants to be President, however, so the moves she proposes tend to be fairly small. This doesn’t necessarily tell us what her ideal policies would be, free of constraints.

          In an alternate reality in which the USA had single-payer universal healthcare, I can’t imagine her lining up with people who wanted to privatize it. If the US had a more progressive tax structure, I doubt she’d be fighting for upper-end tax cuts.

          However… the point of the comparison is not about what’s in Hillary’s heart. The point is really about “hey, these specific ideas are not radical – in other countries that are in many ways similar to our own, these ideas are not only mainstream but right of center. This isn’t wild-eyed radicalism here: it’s been done, right over there.”

          • Becker

            Your last paragraph is a much better version of my poorly-worded thoughts. It was mainly health care policy I was thinking of when I wrote that.

          • ajay

            However… the point of the comparison is not about what’s in Hillary’s heart. The point is really about “hey, these specific ideas are not radical – in other countries that are in many ways similar to our own, these ideas are not only mainstream but right of center. This isn’t wild-eyed radicalism here: it’s been done, right over there.”

            Agreed.

        • Manny Kant

          I thought Osborne was on what passes for the Conservative left.

    • Hercules Mulligan

      Right. I have no patience for “Hillary Clinton is actually a moderate Republican, so vote Trump,” but “moderate Republicans, if they exist, should admit to themselves that Hillary Clinton (or indeed Barack Obama) is the type of candidate they want to support” is a perfectly reasonably position.

      • Rob in CT

        There is so much denial/tribal affiliation going on with that group (which has dwindled).

        I remember trying to get the head blogger over at Outside the Beltway (James Joyner) to admit that, based upon his stated issue positions, he was actually far closer to being a Democrat than a Republican (and should vote accordingly). Eventually, he ended up admitting that his self-identification as a Republican and his ties to other Republicans made this really hard, even though intellectually he knew the GOP wasn’t what he wanted it to be. I don’t know if he ever came around, because I got tired of having the same arguments over there and left.

        Shorter: a lot of people are, by the issues, Democrats but won’t admit it because to them “Democrat” triggers an immediate reaction of disgust. I remember it, because that was me ~15 years ago.

        • Hercules Mulligan

          Very good discussion of this exact topic over a Dorf on Law for the past month or so. Basically reached similar conclusions: “moderate” Republicans admit that, policy-wise, they should support Democrats, but when pushed, start ranting about Benghazi and Fast and Furious and the IRS and other tribalistic “scandals” that prove that they could never, ever vote D.

          • Rob in CT

            Except that everyone has their breaking point.

            I guess for me it didn’t take all that much because I was young and non-religious. I didn’t have a strong R identity (rather, I had antipathy towards D) to turn my back on.

            Somebody who has been voting R for decades and really IDs that way… yeah, it’s gonna be hard. For many, too hard. Even if they call themselves Independents in embarrassment, they’ll still mostly vote R, and come up with some fig leaf excuse for it.

            • ajp

              It certainly can be hard. Especially in a Cuban family like mine. I remember my father saying things like “I used to be a democrat but then I got tired of giving my money to people who didn’t want to work.” This was pre-Reagan I think. And I think my mother was basically a Reagan Democrat although she still enthusiastically voted for some Dems. She still loves Bob Graham.

              But anyway, if I hadn’t gone to college in such a liberal town I…well I still would’ve gone D but it would’ve taken a few more years. Iraq, the 2006 wave didn’t break me. It wasn’t until the Obama-Clinton stuff really started to heat up in 08 that I really dropped the reluctance to call myself a D. I was raised with so much antipathy towards them. And worship of Reagan. I was like Jesse Eisenberg in the Squid and the Whale, repeating all the stupid talking points I didn’t understand. It wasn’t until I got to college that I realized that people actually didn’t think St. Reagan was the greatest president ever. I was raised in that kind of bubble.

              Anyway, I was only 18-19. Takes plenty of people longer. Voted for Obama (although I am embarrassed to admit that I actually agonized over Obama vs. McCain when I got my absentee ballot). Still never voted R though.

              • Rob in CT

                You were ahead of me. I didn’t start to figure it out until I was in my mid-20s.

              • Phil Perspective

                This was pre-Reagan I think. And I think my mother was basically a Reagan Democrat although she still enthusiastically voted for some Dems. She still loves Bob Graham.

                Speaking of Bob Graham, a certain someone would be president today if they had listened to him! Go figure, since Graham was no DFH.

                • ajp

                  Well it’s not my intention to start a debate about 2000. But I know my mom at least might’ve seriously considered voting for Gore (in Florida, natch) with Graham on the ticket. But she’s just one person.

        • howard

          this is exactly why i expect trump or cruz to do fine in the presidential election: sooner or later, gop voters will say “i can’t let the she-devil or the socialist in office, i guess trump/cruz isn’t so bad after all….”

          • junker

            This is exactly correct. The Republican base is going to engage in the literal definition of cognitive dissonance – and it is going to be resolved by changing their opinions on Cruz/Trump. You are already seeing this with evangelical voters talking themselves into Trump.

      • Manny Kant

        I’ve had no end of puzzlement at the fact that Thomas L. Friedman is paid to write in the Paper of Record about how amazing it would be if we only had a centrist third party in the US whose positions on issues were identical to those of the Democratic Party.

        • Rob in CT

          By many in the media, Dems are treated as if the leftward fringe of the party was in control (hah), and Republicans are treated as if fantasy Republicans/70s liberal Republicans were in control.

          • keta

            Exactly. It makes the “consider both arguments” dynamic go down a treat!

        • junker

          I think that is less a reflection on those policy preferences and more a desire to dissolve partisan politics.

          I think if Friedman ever admitted that his policy views were similar or identical to say, Obama, he would still be advocating for a third party to be “above the fray.”

  • JMP

    Of course, now days Mickey Dolenz is a crazed teabag-supporting wingnut, while Davey Jones is dead. Though “Daydream Believer” is still one of the greatest songs ever made.

    • steverinoCT

      …and Mike no longer strums his neck scarf(?) tie(?).

    • Downpuppy

      John Stewart wrote it as a member of everybody’s favorite group, the Kingston Trio, but by the time he recorded this version he was more Tom T Hall. I like the way by the second half of the song he’s singing whatever silly words pop into his head.

      • Kathleen

        I loved the Kingston Trio and yes, they were my favorite group. John Stewart was a treasure.

  • MacK

    Most uninformed and ludicrous sentence:

    With their emphasis on anger and shutting people out, Trump and Cruz are more like European conservatives than American ones

    Angel Merkel is CDU, Germany’s main Conservative party; Cameron, though hardly an enthusiast for Emigration has condemned Trump and is very far from Cruz politically. I cannot think of a mainstream European Conservative party where Trump or Cruz would be welcome – some far right parties, but no mainstream ones. And I don’t support European conservatives, or have a high regard for most – but that’s libelous.

    Brooks is supposed to be “informed”

    • IM

      I assume he is talking about Farage and UKIP, Le Pen and Front National or indeed the PiS. governing Polsand right now.

      He should have been clearer he is not talking abut main stream parties, though.

      • MacK

        I don’t think anyone in the UK, German or the Netherlands and France describe these parties as “conservative” not even those of the fairly far left. Radicals, far-right, neo-facist – but not conservative.

        Also, while PiS is on the right of conservatives in Europe, it is far from the same as UKIP and the National Front. Indeed most European conservative parties – at least economically are to the left of US Republicans when it comes to the welfare state, health care, etc.

        • Murc

          Indeed most European conservative parties – at least economically are to the left of US Republicans when it comes to the welfare state, health care, etc.

          European right-wing populism tends to take the form of “the welfare state, but not for those people.”

          This is what people mean when they say Trump is importing European-style conservatism. To the extent that he has a coherent economic policy, he’s in favor of the welfare state for old, white folks.

          Cruz, though, is completely foreign to any European political model. His brand conservatism is purely American.

        • Phil Perspective

          Also, while PiS is on the right of conservatives in Europe, it is far from the same as UKIP and the National Front. Indeed most European conservative parties – at least economically are to the left of US Republicans when it comes to the welfare state, health care, etc.

          You haven’t been paying attention to Europe lately, I can see. Why, exactly, do you think Corbyn is now the leader of the Labour Party in England?

          • MacK

            Oh – I don’t deny that the Cameron government wants to reduce the welfare state and make sweeping changes to the NHS – but they are not proposing to abolish it.

            • Murc

              They don’t propose abolishing it, no.

              Paul Ryan also wasn’t proposing to abolish Medicare. There’s still have been a program with that name after he’d got done with it, after all!

              One of the goals of the Cameron government absolutely is to demolish the NHS in all but name. These are the people who privatized the mail service. Do not mistake the fact that they won’t talk about their real agenda with an absence of said agenda.

              • “Eviscerate” it.

              • MacK

                Murc:

                Let’s be clear, I think the Cameron administration want to change in major ways the NHS, to privatise parts of it, etc. However, they are very clearly and openly on the record as supporting the principle of the NHS and of public health provision. I don’t agree with what they are doing to the NHS and I am very suspicious of their agenda – but that is still well to the left of even mainstream Republicans.

          • ajay

            You haven’t been paying attention to Europe lately, I can see. Why, exactly, do you think Corbyn is now the leader of the Labour Party in England?

            Get the name of the country right first, then start telling other people they haven’t been paying attention.

    • timb

      Right.

      Brooks is able to ignore the 20th Century of the conservative movement, including the refusal to accept immigrants in the ’20’s and the xenophobia of the Birchers. It is less a function of geography than ideology that conservative find themselves hating them those Mexicans

    • The Temporary Name

      Most uninformed and ludicrous sentence:

      Or is it simply a targeted insult?

  • Derelict

    Among old-line Republicans, there’s more wishful and magical thinking than you’d find in day-care classes. My mother-in-law, who has voted Republican in every election for the last 67 years, is completely freaked out by Donald Trump. Yesterday’s Palin endorsement has led her to vow she’s not voting at all this year.

    Brooks’s column is pretty much in line with the thoughts of people like my mother-in-law: Wishing, hoping, praying that SOMEONE will arise to save the GOP from what it has spent the last 35 years creating.

    • efgoldman

      Brooks’s column is pretty much in line with the thoughts of people like my mother-in-law: Wishing, hoping, praying that SOMEONE will arise to save the GOP from what it has spent the last 35 years creating.

      I don’t read Bobo, but my understanding is that the piece is remarkable because it’s the first time he’s ever said in print that he’s a Republiklown. Not that it was a secret.
      To Bobo, Georgie Porgie, Zombie Bill Buckley…. as ye sew… it can just take decades. But this is what you get for worshiping at the altar of Sanctus Ronaldus Magnus and those that followed.

      • Thom

        Several years ago I saw Krugman speak at a Democratic fundraiser, and he said they were not supposed to be open about party affiliation in the columns (which he clearly thought was stupid).

    • DrDick

      Brooks and reality cannot coexist. He has always lived in a fantasy world shrouded by his elite privilege.

  • Hells Littlest Angel

    Oh, there are lots of moderate, non-racist Republicans. I run into them all the time at the Applebees’ salad bar.

    • CrunchyFrog

      Yep. And driving taxi cabs.

  • efgoldman

    All the Massachusetts Republicans I voted for in my misspent youth would be Democrats now given their positions and ideology at the time
    John Volpe initiated the sales tax in MA
    Ed Brooke, the first African American senator since reconstruction.
    Leverett Saltonstall, considered “conservative” (fiscally) at the time, a strong voice for civil rights.
    Frank Sargent, who cancelled major road projects in favor of expanded rapid transit and was an environmentalist before it was fashionable.
    Hell, even George Lodge, who ran for the Senate against young Ted Kennedy, was an anti-communist hawk (typical of both parties, then) was a liberal on civil rights.
    Sargent was the last Republican I voted for, in ’72.

    • Davis X. Machina

      Frank Hatch, last Republican ditto.

      No way I’m voting for Ed King…

  • twbb

    Hey, if Republicans start promoting the narrative that Hillary Clinton is really a moderate Republican and thus they can vote for her you all need to close your mouths and just nod encouragingly.

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  • Friends don’t let friends read David Brooks.

    • ColBatGuano

      But you could feel the flop sweat through the screen. The slow dawning realization that he has enabled a pack of sub-literate mouth breathers to lead one of the major political parties.

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