Thursday, 10 May 2012
Moderate US Republicans: where have they all gone?
While we've been navel-gazing in the UK about our local election results (well, all right then - while I have been busy reading the runes) far more serious electoral news has been emerging on the other side of the Atlantic Ocean.
I've written here before about the dearth of moderate Republican conservatives in the US Senate. But now they've taken another blow, with the defeat of Senator Richard Lugar (above) of Indiana by a right-wing opponent who basically condemned him for working with Democrats. You know - actually governing, compromising, bargaining, treating other people with respect, conducting politics with dignity, that sort of thing. Now Indiana should probably be moved from 'safe Republican' to 'likely Republican' in terms of November's elections.
Well done, Republicans. They've done this before, of course, dominating Sharron Angle in Nevada and Christine O'Donnell in Delaware in 2010 - losing two seats they might have taken. So they have form in this respect.
But much more seriously, the entire constitution is being threatened by these right-wing insurgencies. The founding fathers - whose name Tea Party activists take so breathtakingly in vain - never intended that there should be two parties in the state. While the two parties that did emerge were great big-and-baggy coalitions, the system Washington and Adams built could just about rub along. But now? What are Americans going to do if - for instance - Republicans start vetoing every single Obama judicial appointment on principle? It's become a constitutional crisis just waiting to happen.
I don't think I would have voted for Senator Lugar. He's a bit right-wing for me. But he has lots of sensible ideas over the years. He's worked for arms control for over two decades, and he's the sponsor of the (bi-partisan) Nunn-Lugar Act which helped to fund the dismantling of Soviet-era weapons across the Eastern bloc. And he grew in my eyes by refusing to take on his Tea Party opponents on their own terms.
Without politicians like Lugar, the US Government is threatened with near-permanent gridlock. In 2007 27 'moderate' Republicans, who actually wanted to do crazy things like pass legislation, sat in the Senate. After primary defeats, retirements and deaths, at most six will be returned to Congress in November.
As sage observers have noted, even if the Democrats in the House started to vote tax cuts for millionaires, Republicans would oppose even that on the basis that they don't go far enough. If the Republicans in the Senate follow suit, I fear that nothing will get done in Washington - ever, ever again.
Want the Americans to pull the rest of us out of economic crisis? Don't hold your breath.