What’s a ‘mainstream Republican?’

Remember this David Brooks piece I called to your attention yesterday? I continue to be fascinated by the way "conservatives" are pulling their party apart, to the point that pundits not of their persuasion have trouble describing the viscera thus exposed.

Mr. Brooks wrote of how a nouveau kind of guy like Mike Huckabee can take on the various aspects of the GOP coalition embodied by "Rush Limbaugh, the Club for Growth and even President Bush" and prevail. In today’s paper we have David Broder and George Will trying to describe the same GOP elephant from different angles.

David Broder, a man whom I greatly respect even though he has an unshaken faith in the importance of the political parties that I believe are the ruination of America, is clinging to the definitions and alliances with which he is familiar. For instance, he uses the term, "mainstream Republicans," as though it is a term that is still easily understood, and therefor meaningful to the reader. He uses it here:

    …But McCain and Huckabee have yet to build broad constituencies among
mainstream Republicans. Huckabee’s following is centered among
evangelical Christians, who dominated the low-turnout Iowa caucuses.
McCain’s greatest appeal is to Republican-leaning independents who
powered his 2000 victory and who remain loyal to him….

And again here:

    …That opens at least something of an opportunity for Rudy Giuliani and
Fred Thompson to demonstrate their ability in Florida, South Carolina
and other states that were part of George W. Bush’s political base. The
mainstream Republicans in those states are still looking for a

What do you suppose he means, in the Year of Our Lord 2008? Is a "mainstream American," in his usage, a mainstream American who happens to be a Republican, or a Republican partisan who happens to be at some ideological midpoint in his own party — which is not the same thing at all? I suppose he means the latter. In any case, he seems to be speaking of some theoretical type who remains loyal to "Rush Limbaugh, the Club for Growth and even President Bush," and is untroubled by any of the associations — if such still exists.

Or maybe he’s thinking of the folks, to be found commenting on this post, who see Fred Thompson as the last Paladin of a "conservatism" which I have asked them to define, because the word by itself means little nowadays.

Or maybe he’s talking about George Will, as being among the Old Guard of pundits. Here’s part of what he wrote for Sunday:

    Like Job after losing his camels and acquiring boils, the conservative
movement is in distress. Mike Huckabee shreds the compact that has held
the movement’s two tendencies in sometimes uneasy equipoise.

conservatives, many of whom share Huckabee’s desire to “take back this
nation for Christ,” have collaborated with limited-government,
market-oriented, capitalism-defending conservatives who want to take
back the nation for James Madison. Under the doctrine that
conservatives call “fusion,” each faction has respected the other’s
agenda. Huckabee aggressively repudiates the Madisonians.

    He and
John Edwards, flaunting their histrionic humility in order to promote
their curdled populism, hawked strikingly similar messages in Iowa,
encouraging self-pity and economic hypochondria. Edwards and Huckabee
lament a shrinking middle class. Well…

Mr. Will (whenever I type "Mr. Will," I hear Sally Field addressing John Malkovich in "Places in the Heart") misunderstands the difference between Huckabee’s and Edwards’ brands of populism, between hope and anger. He just knows he doesn’t like populism. Neither do I, generally speaking, but I can tell that there’s a chasm the happy kind espoused by Mr. Huckabee and angry kind pushed by Mr. Edwards.

In any case, conservatism, like liberalism, ain’t what it used to be. And considering the way those ideologies have been defined for the last three decades or so, that’s a good thing.

14 thoughts on “What’s a ‘mainstream Republican?’

  1. Todd Schuller

    There is absolutely nothing more to be gleaned from the fox debate that was not addressed in last night’s debate. The republican candidates with the exception of Ron Paul are insistent on continuing the warfare/welfare state. The democrats are offering up their version of the healthcare/welfare state. Some candidates from both parties are offering up the warfare/healthcare/welfare state.
    I was listening to Rush Limbaugh earlier today and he is a bit concerned the republican party does not know what conservatism is anymore, really at a loss for words how to explain this dilemma. Well it was kind of obvious to me that instead of trying to explain what conservatism is how about defining what it is not. Herein lies the dilemma.
    One of the points Rush made was that the healthcare/welfare that the democrats are proposing is wrong, which I think it is also but the problem is the republicans have created the warfare/welfare. So, yes it is very easy to lose the vision of what conservatism is especially when the republicans in the debate last night were offering warfare/healthcare/welfare. Simply put, welfare is welfare whether it is for war or healthcare.
    This may not be easy to understand but to put it in as simple terms as possible. With this undeclared war there are numerous companies profiting from it which makes it a very expensive form of welfare. Some estimates show the cost could run as high as two trillion dollars. So yes Rush is right republicans are jumping ship to throw in with the democrats to get some, healthcare/welfare that is. So rather than defining what conservatism is as Rush would like to do, it would be more appropriate to take a hard look at what welfare is and understand the republicans sent America on its current course with the warfare/welfare. And yes Rush, even you have lost your way as to what conservatism is.
    Now you or some may ask which candidate I support. Ron Paul of course, he is not a politician but rather a statesman. The rest of the candidates, republican and democrat candidates alike are small, narrow minded, intellectually flawed, with no vision except for their own glory. Conservatism 101.

  2. bgbest

    Brad what is your definition of Conservatism? Do you believe in the three legs of the movement? Do you know what they are? Curious.

  3. Phillip

    Either Edwards has genuinely gotten passionately angrier about inequities in our society or he decided that he needed to find his own niche in which to position himself in this race. I agree with George Will that if the latter, he picked the wrong time to run as angry populist.
    However more appealing a “happy face” is to an “angry face,” surely there are some things worth being angry about. As devoted as you and your editorial board have been to the cause of public education in this state, wouldn’t you say the appalling conditions in some school districts in this state, and the glacial pace at which those are or aren’t being addressed, are the kinds of things that are worth getting angry about?

  4. Frederick Paxson

    FRED THOMPSON is the best person to lead this country. He is a true conservative and has been his entire life. All one has to do is check his record to see this.
    During my time in the Army as an Intelligence Analyst, I served under both Presidents Carter and Reagan (as my commanders in chief). Without argument, President Reagan was the best commander-in-chief a military person could ever have served under. Fred Thompson possesses the same qualities and vision as President Reagan in that he is strong on national defense and sees a dire need to secure our borders and control immigration.
    I can think of no better person to lead this country and fix the problems we have. He is the only candidate from either party who has specific and detailed plans on border security and immigration reform; revitalization of America’s armed forces; saving and protecting Social Security; and tax relief and economic growth. These are detailed on his Web site at http://www.fred08.com . I challenge you to find any other candidate who has laid out specific plans to fix anything.
    Fred Thompson has published his first principles, some of which are mentioned above. In addition to those, he strongly believes in individual liberty, personal responsibility, limited government, federalism, traditional American values, the rule of law and is a strong proponent of the Second Amendment — all concepts established during the birth of our country and documented in our Constitution.
    Again, try to find any candidate who has laid out their plans to “fix” this country. You will find they all speak in vague and abstract terms on their plans.
    For those who have heard Fred Thompson speak, you will usually hear him say that the Fred Thompson you see today is the same Fred Thompson you saw yesterday and is the same Fred Thompson you will see tomorrow. He stands by his principles and values and doesn’t shift his positions based on polls or public opinion; in other words, he doesn’t say what the voters want to hear just to get elected, but remains steadfast on his views and convictions.
    During his time in the Senate he focused on three areas: to lower taxes, strengthen national security and expose waste in the federal government. Fred Thompson has foreign policy experience, having served as member of the Senate Foreign Relations and Senate Intelligence committees.
    As chairman of the Senate Governmental Affairs Committee, he opened the investigation in 1997 on the Chinese government’s attempt to influence American policies and elections, and this investigation identified connections with the Clinton administration (documented in the committee’s report).
    As a member of the Finance Committee, he worked tirelessly to enact three major tax-cut bills. Fred Thompson remains steadfast and even though a person may not agree with all his views and he understands some may disagree with him, you can count on him to be consistent and unwavering.
    Don’t be fooled by his laid back approach and what critics call his “laziness.” As a former assistant U.S. attorney, he earned a reputation as a tough prosecutor and he possesses the toughness this country needs in order to tackle today’s and tomorrow’s issues.
    I ask that you take a hard look at what this country needs, then take a hard look at all the other candidates’ views, policies, their records and their track record on consistency. Fred Thompson possesses integrity, loyalty, commitment, energy and decisiveness, all traits of an effective leader, and will emerge as the best person to take this country boldly forward.
    Please help Fred win in South Carolina:

  5. weldon VII

    A few years back, my wife and I had dinner with a couple of mainstream Republicans several times.
    I know they were mainstream Republicans because they said they were.
    They were nice people, but entirely too serious, and all but artless. They may have been the only card-carrying Republicans in Asheville.
    That was back when there was a Republican movement. These days, there’s so little motion in the Republican mainstream it has become a mainpuddle.
    Last week, it froze over, and Huckabee walked on it.

  6. Larry E. Creel

    I think all this talk about “mainstream” or upstream or liberal or conservative isn’t the conversation we need to be having. We need to be talking in a very clear way about what we expect government to be able to do for us; when I say “us”, I mean those of us[most everybody] that do not have great riches[big money]. We know there is a portion of every society that is so rich that they have little need for any kind of support from the government except maybe to protect them from the “angry masses.” But the rest of us need support for good health, jobs, secure retirement funds,schools for our children, passable roads, breathable air, drinkable water, and a minimun level of protection against the sky falling. For one, I really don’t care what you call the political philosophy that supports the needs I have listed. We just need to get on with it.

  7. SBenn

    I, too, have looked at the candidates and closely watched the debates. Fred Thompson stands above the rest, not only in height, but also in integrity. Go to factcheck.org which is an agency that checks for deceit and dishonesty in the politians in office and running for office. It is amazing that many of the candidates are on there after every debate or after every new TV ad runs for error, at the least, and downright lies at the most in their positions. Not Fred Thompson. He is straight with the American people. He was recognized by many commentators as the adult on the stage in the last 2 debates. His answers come from both his head and heart. He does not have to think about what he said a week ago because he does not change his position with the wind to please us. While in the Senate he served on various committees. As Chairman of the Senate Governmental Affairs Committee, Thompson enacted a law that required federal agencies to calculate and report the cost of regulations on taxpayers and businesses. His efforts saved taxpayers more than $2 billion in 2005-06 alone at the Department of Health and Human Services. He published a report, “Government on the Brink,” (Volume 1 and Volume 2) detailing the waste, fraud, and abuse of federal agencies as well as the management challenges facing the incoming Bush Administration. Paul Light, a New York University professor and leading expert on government, said, “I consider him to be one of the most dedicated overseers of the executive branch of the last 25 years.” He now has a plan to save social security. He often says we are bankrupting future gererations and has laid out written plans to make our country economically sound and safe. He has written plans (white papers) to improve the military, lower taxes, stop illegal immigration, make healthcare affordable, limit federal government and too many to list hear. You can see these plans, his stance on issues and his principles spelled out on his website http://www.fred08.com so please visit it and become informed. You will quickly see why I support Fred Thompson for president!

  8. bud

    What is a mainstream Republican? Simply put, that is someone who puts the welfare of the rich above the welfare of the country. That’s why we have these endless wars that serve only to enrich the owners of companies like Halliburton, Blackwater and Exxon-Mobil. And we have domestic policies that favor big Pharma and big insurance over the health of the American people. Mike Huckabee is not someone I could ever vote for but it’s refreshing to see someone in the GOP who doesn’t cow-tow to the likes of the Rush Limbaugh sleaze machine.
    In the final analysis, however, we need a Democrat in the White House to turn things around. Despite all the negative press about the Democratic controlled congress they’ve at least stopped the disasterous march away from the hard-earned gains of the Clinton years.
    And perhaps we should also give some credit to the declining carnage in Iraq to the Democratic congress. The various factions in Iraq see hope for something other than endless occupation with the Dems in charge. And they’ve decided to pull back from all-out violence. With a Democrat in the White House perhaps we can see the peace process through to the end.

  9. bud

    Here’s a really good article in Buzzflash about the rank hypocricy of the GOP presidential front runners. It appears that war-mongers Romney and Huckabee have not served in the military nor have their sons. It’s a shame when these natering Bush wannabes can send other’s children to die knowing full well they won’t have to deal with a visit from a military officer informing them of their son’s death in Iraq.

  10. Richard L. Wolfe

    To understand what a “mainstream” republican or a “mainstream” is about you have to watch the movie FIELD OF DREAMS. The Roosevelt liberals knew that if you offered something for nothing you could win. They created the welfare state because they knew that “if you build it they will come.” They built it and the republicans and democrats have been coming for almost 70 years.

  11. bud

    This guy would seem to be a “mainstream” Republican. (The Republican party is just full of these creeps. There is simply no comparing the hypocricy of the GOP to anything the Dems have done recently) From Buzzflash:
    Chuck Rosenthall – Harris County District Attorney – is yet another Christian conservative Republican who got elected down here in Dumbutt, Texas by screeching about Family Values and that he would execute more people than any other DA in America (he has been true to his word in that anyway.)
    Rosenthal’s emails to his secretary Kerry Stevens went public a few weeks ago. Though not sexually explicit they were full of romantic “love you” and “miss you” and “Kiss you” poo. Though he admits he had an affair with Stevens back in the 1980’s when he was married to his first wife, he contends the relationship is now platonic.
    When the story broke, local church leaders and GOP operatives asked him to withdraw from the coming election. Rosenthal became angry and refused, but soon gave in and said he would not run, then got angry again and said he would run, but now says he won’t run. Add Republican flip flopping to the hypocrisy!
    The story here – as it was with Congressman Mark Foley, Senator Larry Craig, Senator Tom Vitter et al – is the Republican hypocrisy of going down on all fours for the intolerant Christian Evangelical vote while they refuse to walk the walk in their own personal lives. WHILE they not only attack others and make laws to throw people in jail for the same thing they do under the table.
    Chuck Rosenthal is perhaps the worst of the bunch regarding the crazyass disconnect in American Christianity.
    Rosenthal presides over the county which sentences more people to death than any other in America. He is probably most famous for not only fighting the Andrea Yates insanity plea for drowning her 5 children – because she did not want Satan to get hold of them – but also seeking the death penalty for the obviously and legally insane woman. Texas is no place for children.
    A religion founded upon mercy, compassion, love, forgiveness and a bad execution has somehow been turned on its ass to become the loudest voice in America for merciless, callous, revenge and executions. How any religion could be so upended is a wonderment to human psychology. Though I suppose it is expected as those not able to think for themselves listen to false prophets like Jerry Falwell, Pat Robertson, Mike Huckabee and such. The Antichrists.
    Rosenthal’s second brush with infamy came with his 2003 journey to Washington to argue in front of the Supreme Court to keep Texas’ 19th century Sodomy Laws so we down here in Dumbutt could throw homos in jail at our whim. Though he lost that case and made a national and international fool of himself, he came back to Dumbutt a big hero.
    To add insult to the hypocrisy, Rosenthal – who argued the Sodomy case regards there being no right of privacy in the constitution and who as a good Republican has pushed that reactionary line of crap for his seven years as DA – has been screeching about his right to privacy being invaded by the emails going public. Texas is no place for children.

  12. rick campbell

    to answer the question: what’s a mainstream republican?…one that wears his red tie at all klan functions…one who is against the draft in all forms , god forbid skippy get drafted to fight a war that chickenhawks started…one who champions all tax cuts for the wealthy but oppose SCHIP FOR POOR CHILDREN…one who would spend 55million dollars to figure out who got a BJ,but could care less if haliburton lost thousands of weapons and 5billion dollars in iraq…that would be the mainstream republicans who make up about 23% of americans…

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