Archived Story

Where have all the GOP moderates gone?

Published 10:25am Friday, April 6, 2012

Column: Notes From Home

There’s a song from the old TV show “Hee Haw” that went something like this: Where, oh, where, are you tonight? Why did you leave me here all alone? I searched the world over and thought I found … You probably know the rest, if you’re of a certain age or older.

Where, oh, where are the moderate Republicans? Where, oh, where did the Republicans go who used to believe that the heart of a true conservative lay in being a good steward of public resources, not in bankrupting the government?

Moderate Republicans were very influential presidents, moving the country forward economically and socially. But judging from the accusations and counter-accusations flying around in the Republican primaries, moderate Republicans are either dead or hiding.

I know, I know, local Republicans have heard this whine and dance from people like me before; it’s all crambe repetita as far as they’re concerned. And so they dance their dance of opposition to gay rights, contraception and labor unions while turning voting into a privilege.

The ones on the national scene controlling the party from their pulpits or media studios have a story they tell about moderate Republicans: They never really existed. Theodore Roosevelt? Dwight Eisenhower? They were really just Democrats wearing Republican suits. Herbert Hoover’s list of basic rights for all American children? Socialism! Even poor old Ronald Reagan is just a figurehead for a party that now believes taxation of any kind is theft and unions are enemies of the people.

The Republican Party in 2012 appears to want a government so small and weak it can’t even guarantee the rights of shareholders to know what company executives do with company money. The only proper role for the state in their view is to defend the country’s corporations from hassles that come from other nations (military action) or the country’s workers (law enforcement). And they’ll make the middle class and poor pay for both of those.

The most troubling tendency of this version of the GOP is that they are putting the whole country’s future success in the hands of the rich — that 1 percent of Americans candidate Mitt Romney isn’t worried about. In their view, the role of Congress is to take away taxes from millionaires. In their view, the role of the president is to ease workplace regulations, end enforcement of environmental laws and void financial rules that get in the way of making more money.

The Republican Party of 2012 clearly is no longer interested in moderates like me. They deny we ever were part of their ranks. They slam the most moderate of suggestions by candidates, like when Romney was asked whether, as president, he would support a law that makes it very difficult for people to pay for or even find contraception.

He answered that he doesn’t think it’s the president’s job to interfere with family planning, an honest answer that shows he sees limits to how far his administration would come into our homes. But the rest of the party goes ballistic, and he retracts his answer. Does the leadership of this party really expect someone like me to vote for him now?

So I’m stuck. I’m suspicious of President Barack Obama and the power of public employee unions. I don’t particularly like the health care compromise that was cobbled together two years ago but also don’t see a serious solution from Republicans. I think that the size of both deficits and debt are major problems, but I’m not going to make the poor and people like me bear the heaviest burdens in solving it.

Wealthy Americans benefited just as much from government overspending as the rest of us — in fact, they probably benefited more — and it’s only fair to expect them to help out. Faith in God is a central value for me, but I’m not going to make beliefs about God’s expectations for me mandatory for my neighbors, too.

Go ahead and mock my “progressive” ideas all you want, but there’s no way I’m voting for people who rise to the top in this version of the GOP. Perhaps they can find a way to stay in power without me, but can they do that without the millions like me around the country?


David Rask Behling teaches at Waldorf College in Forest City, Iowa, and lives with his wife and children in Albert Lea.