James McPherson's Media & Politics Blog

Observations of a patriotic progressive historian, media critic & former journalist


  • By the author of The Conservative Resurgence and the Press: The Media’s Role in the Rise of the Right and of Journalism at the End of the American Century, 1965-Present. A former journalist with a Ph.D. in journalism, history and political science, McPherson is a past president of the American Journalism Historians Association, a board member for the Northwest Alliance for Responsible Media, and a professor of communication studies at Whitworth University.

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How the GOP can hasten its race to irrelevancy and Confederacy

Posted by James McPherson on February 11, 2009

Some influential conservatives have promised to campaign against the three moderate Senate Republicans who supported the economic stimulus bill. As a liberal, I hope they keep their promise, and that their efforts succeed. Though it’s hard to imagine many ways that Republicans can make themselves even less relevant in national politics than they are now, this would be one of them.

Conservatives have long complained about the three Senators, Pennsylvania’s Arlen Specter and Maine’s two Senators, Susan Collins and Olympia Snowe. In fact, the three are remnants of a moderate Republican Northeastern base which, as I’ve written elsewhere, began to lose influence in 1964.

The recent defeat of Connecticut Rep. Christopher Shays ended GOP representation from the New England states complete in the House of Representatives. And if the conservatives have their way, defeating the moderate Senators in future Republican primaries, the primary winners will almost certainly become general election losers.

The Democratic Party has become too conservative, in my view. But that move to a center-right position has captured the very middle-of-the road voters that Karl Rovian Republicans have abandoned in their efforts to appeal to what they mistakenly viewed as a growing conservative base.

As some Republicans, including Virginia Rep. Tom Davis and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell have pointed out, the result is that the GOP is on the verge of becoming a “regional party” based in the old Confederacy. The irony is notable in a year in which we celebrate the 200th anniversary of Abe Lincoln’s birth, especially for those of us who are fans of Lincoln but not of the party that has abandoned his ideals.

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5 Responses to “How the GOP can hasten its race to irrelevancy and Confederacy”

  1. LOUDelf said

    “The Democratic Party has become too conservative, in my view. ”

    Please explain how this has happened. They’ve moved to the left as the GOP moved further right in order to give ignorant voters and either-or appeal.

  2. Mike Ingram said

    Jim, I’ve argued the New England Three have long been secret Dems. Arlen lives left of center for 5.5 years and then runs toward the base every 6th fall. I don’t know why the GOP just does not boot them out altogether.

  3. James McPherson said

    I don’t disagree with your interpretation, Mike, but unfortunately for your side, I don’t think a real Republican could get elected in that part of the country. (Just like a real Dem couldn’t get elected in Idaho, which is why it took side-switcher Walt Minnick to defeat even the loony Bill Sali.) I would be glad to trade you a Snow or a Collins for a Lieberman, though. 🙂

    On the other hand, I don’t think it’s a bad thing to have a few outliers in both parties. It seems that overly liberal Republicans and overly conservative Democrats may help the other members of their own side deal with some issues before they become further reasons for intractability and stalemate.

  4. LOUDelf said

    The problem with most Dems and Reps in congress is their unspoken motto: Me first, party second, and oh yeah, the people.

    I like congresspeople that don’t always vote with their party — it means they’re actually looking at the issues.

    Specter I think is certifiable. But Collins and Snowe are just plain moderate, and there is nothing wrong with that as they represent most Americans. But I’m guessing that since both senators from Maine signed on, that there’s some previsions in that massive pile of text that benefits the state of Maine, and has caused them to sign on with some restrictions.

  5. […] convinced fellow Republicans to go along with a resolution declaring the United States to be “a confederacy.” The resolution “declares Idaho’s sovereignty from the federal government and ask […]

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