Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Common Sense or Courage?

If it seems like the modern Republican Party (the elected officials and those who represent them in the media, not necessarily everyday people) is tacking further to the right by the day, you're not imagining things. It is in fact happening.

In a way, it represents a Catch-22 for Republicans; in today's political climate, being a moderate Republican isn't going to win you the party's nomination (in some districts and states, it won't even win you an election). However, being so far to the right will make you virtually un-electable for the vast majority of the population in a general election.

So you might win a nomination, but never an election. Meanwhile, the moderate Republican who might have a chance in a general election would never win a primary.

Damned if you do, damned if you don't.

Newt Gingrich found that out this week after an appearance on NBC's Meet the Press. On the program Sunday, Gingrich -- who hasn't held public office in almost a decade -- criticized the budget plan proposed by Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wisc.), which would effectively end Medicare and replace it with a voucher program. He called it "right-wing social engineering" and said it went too far.

Seems sensible enough; why throw out Medicare and leave seniors to fend for themselves in the private insurance industry, where some experts say their health care costs would double? Whatever you think of Gingrich's politics, it was a sensible argument.

Which is exactly why practically the entire GOP establishment lambasted him.

Apparently, Gingrich was hounded so much that he apologized to Rep. Ryan on Tuesday. That's right; Gingrich, essentially, had to apologize for making sense. Only in the current Republican Party would you have to apologize for making sense.

That's not even taking into account for the fact that Gingrich was once a supporter for an individual mandate for health insurance; you know, before President Obama endorsed the idea as part of his health care reform package in 2009. It also ignores a host of statements for the former Speaker of the House has made relating to President Obama that can be seen as racially-charged.

But if you want to look for courage within the GOP (which Gingrich doesn't have, since he can't seem to stick to one position), how about the Senators from Maine? Susan Collins and Olympia Snowe, both Republicans, bucked their party on Tuesday when they joined 48 Democrats to vote in favor of ending multi-billion subsidies to Big Oil.

That Sens. Collins and Snowe voted against the Republicans isn't anything new; the two women are viewed as moderates within the party -- a dying breed, to be sure. Their votes were not enough to overcome a filibuster, though, as the other Republicans voted in lock-step and had the help of three Democrats: Mary Landrieu (La.), Mark Begich (Alaska) and Ben Nelson (Neb.).

In explaining her vote, Sen. Collins wrote, "Reducing or eliminating unnecessary subsidies and outdated tax breaks is a commonsense step toward deficit reduction." Sen. Snowe added: "It is difficult to justify oil development incentives given the current level of crude oil prices, and the fact that the U.S. government has to borrow money to pay for these incentives."

It all seems perfectly sensible, doesn't it? Well, then it wouldn't surprise you to know that Sen. Snowe is being primaried from the right, nor would it surprise you if either woman threw her name into the GOP presidential race and found herself flailing at the polls, regardless of how electable either Senator might seem to the country as a whole.

To the modern Republican Party -- and its media enablers -- making sense and acting responsibly within the confines of government is not the goal. Right-wing social engineering and trying to make President Obama a one-term president are the goals, and everything else -- deficit reduction and job creation included -- be damned.

The way things are going for the GOP these days, I don't see 2012 turning out very well for them, because the party is reaching a point where even some of its voters won't want to support it anymore. And when you lose your base, then you're really up a creek without a paddle.

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