Monday :: Jan 12, 2004

Christie Whitman's Blast At The GOP Right Wing

by Steve

Christie Whitman penned an interesting op-ed for the New York Times this morning, taking a few shots at those in the GOP who only want to pander to the right wing base for electoral purposes , rather than expanding the party to reach out to the center and cement the GOP as the majority party (paging Karl Rove, white courtesy phone). Along the way, she predictably takes a few shots at the environmental community and Democrats for not seeing that the Bush Administration was actually trying to do some good things early on arsenic. But aside from such delusions, she makes some good points.

A few snippets:

When President Bush, arguably one of the more conservative presidents in recent history, is under attack from the right wing of the party for his proposal regarding immigration and migrant workers, is it any wonder moderates feel out of sync?

It doesn't seem to matter to conservatives that moderates share their views on the vast majority of those bedrock principles that have always been the foundation of Republicanism: smaller government, the power of free markets, a strong national defense. Because we disagree on a few issues, most notably a woman's right to choose, many conservatives act as if they wish we moderates would just disappear.

Some might ask why Republicans should be concerned about broadening their appeal to moderate voters; many in the G.O.P. believe it already is the majority party. And it is true that we have done a better job than the Democrats of winning the votes of a larger number of the shrinking percentage of voters who actually go to the polls.

But that doesn't mean Republicans have a lock on the electorate. We control Congress and the presidency, but a switch of fewer than 21,000 votes in two states in the 2002 elections would have denied Republicans control of the Senate. Had Al Gore been able to carry his home state, Tennessee, in 2000, today he'd be preparing for his own re-election campaign.

A true majority party should not be in such a potentially precarious position. We find ourselves in this situation in part because we too often follow the advice of political consultants to appeal not to a majority of the electorate but only to the most motivated voters those with the most zealous, ideological beliefs. Both parties now concentrate largely on turning out greater numbers of their most fervent supporters.

As a result, candidates tailor their appeals to those who already agree with them. The inevitable outcome is rhetoric that precludes a sensible discussion of issues. Those with the most shrill voices are increasingly dominating our political discourse.

Some Republican consultants say that since we're not going to win the votes of environmentalists anyway, we needn't worry about what they think. Yet there are plenty of voters who care about the environment, even if it's not the first thing they mention in polls. Politics that writes off large parts of the electorate is both counterproductive and short-sighted. Yet both parties seem determined to pursue that course.

What too many Republican strategists seem to have learned from the 2000 election is that the states which voted for Al Gore the entire West Coast, most of the Northeast, much of the Upper Midwest aren't worth fighting for. It's the wrong lesson.

Although it is nice to see Whitman take issue with the Rovian approach to political leadership, I doubt she expressed much of this dissatisfaction to Rove's face or to the president one-on-one while she had the chance inside the Cabinet. But if she did, perhaps we will be seeing her own book, like O'Neill's, but only after the 2004 election. The biggest difference between the two is that O'Neill doesn't care what Rove or Bush think about him, while Whitman pitifully still seeks approval from those who would run over her in a minute if it helped them.

Steve :: 7:02 AM :: Comments (4) :: Digg It!