Rubio and Toomey Senate campaigns highlight Reagan approach to moderates.
Ronald Reagan would have loved Marco Rubio.
Not to mention Pat Toomey.
Rubio, the current State House Speaker is the conservative challenger to liberal Republican Governor Charlie Crist’s U.S. Senate bid in next year’s Florida GOP primary. Toomey, famously, came within a whisker of beating Republican U.S. Senator Arlen Specter in the 2004 Pennsylvania primary when Toomey was serving as a Republican Congressman from Allentown. The challenge was renewed for 2010. Taking a look at polls that showed Pennsylvania Republicans finally fed up with his liberal views, the final straw being a vote in favor of the Obama stimulus package, Specter chose to switch to the Democrats — guaranteeing Toomey the GOP Senate nomination.
The challenge to GOP liberals by GOP conservatives has set off the usual teeth-grinding about demands for party “purity.” Snapped Michigan Republican Congressman Thaddeus McCotter to The American Spectator’s Jim Antle recently: “I’ve seen the game of trying to purge Republicans of those who are ‘RINOs’ or not pure enough…I have one question: How’d that work out for us?”
Well, now that you mention it, pretty well, actually.
But let’s go back to if not to the beginning but the middle of the beginning on this old chestnut of an argument.
The time? December, 1976. As the story opens on this fifteenth day of the month, ten days before Christmas, the Republican Party is at a crossroads. The dominant force in American politics for generations since its beginning in the 1850’s when it came into being around the premiere social issue of the day, the “right” to own another human being — slavery — the GOP of 1976 is in trouble.
How did it get here?
Up until 1932, as the late Jack Kemp loved to note, the Republican Party was “the home of black Americans, the party of Lincoln, of economic growth, of equal opportunity.” The so-called “progressive movement” — really a rallying cry for economic redistribution and the politics of envy — swept through the nation in the form of Franklin Roosevelt’s New Deal. While liberal historians love to ignore the fact, Republican Herbert Hoover was enamored of progressives and, unlike his conservative predecessor Calvin Coolidge, considered himself to be one of them. Coolidge took a dim view of Hoover, whom he had kept on as Commerce Secretary in order to preserve a sense of stability following the sudden death of President Harding. Later, Coolidge would gripe that Hoover had spent their entire time together in government giving Coolidge advice “all of it bad.”
In fact, Hoover was one of the first of what would become known as the “me-too” Republicans, picking up on progressive movement ideas of the late 1920s and early 1930s and saying “me too” — only a little less so. Whether the issue was the historic Lincoln beliefs in economic growth and equal opportunity, best expressed in the 1920s by Coolidge’s Secretary of the Treasury Andrew Mellon, or the idea of a permanent “gift tax” — Hoover was as one with progressives, believing that there was only so much wealth to go around and a bigger government had a distinct and ever growing role in managing this wealth. In what would become a familiar pattern with Republican liberals, he was Franklin Roosevelt only less so.
As Amity Shlaes records in The Forgotten Man:
Both preferred to control events and people. Both underestimated the strength of the American economy. Both doubted its ability to right itself in a storm. Hoover mistrusted the stock market. Roosevelt mistrusted it more. Roosevelt offered rhetorical optimism, but pessimism underlay his policies. Though Americans associated Roosevelt with bounty, his insistent emphasis on sharing — rationing, almost — betrayed a conviction that the country had entered a permanent era of scarcity. Both presidents overestimated the value of government planning. Hoover, the Quaker, favored the community over the individual. Roosevelt, the Episcopalian, found laissez-faire economics immoral and disturbingly un-Christian.
In one fashion or another, through Hoover’s election in 1928 on through to the mid-December of 1976, some variation of this argument had gripped the Republican Party. A string of me-too GOP presidential nominees had faced off against Democrats using this argument to persuade the electorate — and failed repeatedly. From Hoover himself in 1932 to Wendell Willkie in 1940, Thomas E. Dewey in 1944 and 1948, on through Eisenhower and the Richard Nixon of 1960, only Eisenhower the World War II hero had managed a win — a win for heroism, not moderation. Scores of self-described “moderate Republicans” had won state and congressional elections in this period, managing with a liberal national press to give the impression that “me-tooism” was the wave of the future in terms of building the GOP.
The argument finally sundered the GOP in 1964, with Arizona conservative Barry Goldwater’s victory over GOP liberal New York Governor Nelson Rockefeller. Reagan himself was launched politically during this particular battle, his October, 1964 speech for nominee Goldwater electrifying the blossoming conservative movement.
Nixon appeared to momentarily bridge the gap in 1968 — presenting himself as a middle road between the views of now Governor Reagan and Governor Rockefeller. Governing as a moderate, Nixon still campaigned relentlessly as a red-meat conservative, the Nixon campaign winning a landslide over liberal Senator George McGovern in 1972 in part on charges the Democrat was representing the party of “acid, abortion and amnesty.”
A man of faith in a godless age is hitting Americans where it hurts.
Mr. and Mrs. American Spectator Reader, let P.J. O’Rourke talk sense to your kids.
In Britain, defending your property can get you life.
It won’t take long for conservatives to scratch this presidential wannabe off their 2008 scorecard.
Was the President done in by the economy, or by the politics of the economy?
H/T to National Review Online