Progressive Revival

Republicans have a problem… they don’t know who they are.


The 2006 and 2008 election cycles were devastating for the GOP. They went from the Roveian-based belief that they had basically won the political war and Democrats would be no more to more of a “what the hell happened?”

In Washington today, Republicans basically control nothing including the great American conversation of ideas. They’ve lost their center. And their battle, this little sideshow, for who they are going to be must be decided before they can offer any vision and ideas.

Battle Lines

The battle for the soul of their Party is turning out to be a real donnybrook between two warring factions. This battle takes on many patinas:

– a return to old, reactionary ideology vs. a modern, more moderate conservatism,

– some are sprinting to the traditional base vs. some calling for new outreach to minorities and others, and

– social and cultural rightwingers vs. economic conservatives.

Recent History

These polar worlds have been in the Republican Party for a long time managing to build fragile bridges and hold things together with duct tape.

But the previous election for President brought these intra-mural battles to the surface and now an all out battle is taking place with the winner likely defining the future of the Republican Party.  

Sarah Palin offers the embodiment of one part of the Republican Party. Sadly, she adopts the darker side of politics telling vast parts of the nation they aren’t “real Americans.” While spiraling downward into the dark hole of divisive politics she manages to rally the social and cultural rightwingers. Talk about “gotcha” politics. No wonder Joe Six Pack, in large numbers, chose to vote Democratic.

Peggy Noonan and other Republican types, in their cardigans and classic loafers, largely embody the other side. They roll their eyes at the cultural conservatives. Instead of making an honest case for their beliefs and claimed disdain for narrative-based politics (probably a disdain for just values-based narratives) instead manage to belittle those who think differently from them. These Republicans just can’t quite stomach alter calls and a raised hand during prayer… bless their hearts. 

In other words, Republicans have retreated to their corners leaving very little connective tissue to bind them together.

Who Will Follow

Chris Cilliza of “The Fix” fame over at the Washington Post today brings to light a memo from former Republican Congressman Tom Davis… a true moderate in a Party devoid of his ilk.

I encourage you to read all of Chris’ post. Here is some of it: 

Losing 54 House seats, 13 (or 14) Senate seats and the presidency over the past four years has effectively pushed Republicans into the political wilderness with no obvious guideposts to help find their way back…

Given (Tom) Davis’s reputation — and the current morass in which the GOP finds itself — we were intrigued to come across an essay penned by the former Virginia member titled “The Way Back.”

In it, Davis convincingly make the case that the alleged takeover of the party by social conservatives has worked to its electoral detriment.

Writes Davis:

“We talked to ourselves and not to voters. We became more concerned with stem cell policy than economic policy, and with prayer in schools rather than balance in our public budgets and priorities. Not so long ago, it was easy to paint the Democrats as the party of extremists. Now, they say we’re extremists, and voters agree.”

It’s likely the few moderate Republicans around right now, even if they embrace the Davis memo, are not going to have any impact on the battle for control of the Republican Party. 

The social and cultural conservatives won’t embrace this memo… Davis dismisses their issues.

And even those remaining Republicans are engaged in their own partisan quests… one of them being to weed out the social and cultural conservatives. They may articulate Davis’ message but they won’t embrace it. It’s not who they are either. They are not moderates.

Disdain for social and cultural conservatives does not a Republican moderate make.

The upcoming election for Chair of the Republican National Committee will be the first and key test in who will control their Party. It’s worth watching.

Faithful Progressives

Those of us who have toiled in the vineyards as progressive faithful would do ourselves particularly well to pay attention. Not to smirk or gloat, but rather to watch for lessons to learn. Engineers have learned much over the years by studying the Titanic’s demise.

I agree with Davis on the focus on economic issues, especially during tough times like this.

The progressive faithful can’t be seen by others in the Party, or, more importantly, the electorate as carrying on “culture war” battles while millions lose homes, jobs and livelihoods.

There is a moral and spiritual dimension, during this economic decline, in the lives of our families that needs support. And there is a moral and spiritual voice that speaks to average, everyday challenges needed in Washington.

Let’s be the voice of all Americans.

Let’s respect all who want to come to Washington next week and pray.

Let’s find collaborative and working relationships with our fellow progressives in the secular world.

Let’s lay off the labeling of each other.

Let’s pull the nation together as one.

Let’s practice the Golden Rule.



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