Sunday, October 26, 2008

Thoughtful Pols

Timothy Egan argues this morning in a New York Times op-ed ( that "It would be nice, just to keep the philosophical debate sharp, if there were a few thoughtful Republicans around." He had just built a nice case that led to that conclusion, which is wrong. There are a lot of thoughtful Republicans around. They're just not in control of anything and aren't likely to be, so long as the Party of Lincoln and TR is the party of Limbaugh, Hannity, Gingrich, McConnell, Palin, et. al.

Virginia has had thoughtful Republican leadership: former Gov. Linwood Holton being a marvelous example. Steve Agee of Salem, now a federal judge, was steamrolled by Jim Gilmore and the Christian right in their gubernatorial primary--Gilmore using abhorrent tactics. Steve would have made a thoughtful governor. Gilmore, who's running for John Warner's senate seat against Mark Warner, was simply awful as governor.

The Republican leadership in Virginia's Senate in recent years (John Chichester, most notably) has battled for fiscal responsibility against the distant right wing of the party. Those Republican leaders, you'll note, have endorsed Mark Warner. That's thoughtful. The House even had the "gang of 14" two years ago (William Fralin of Roanoke among them) who put their seats in peril in order to vote for good sense in the budget process. They blunted the Morgan Griffith (Salem) Faction, but didn't kill it.

With the shift in power throughout the United States, I suspect the Repubs will see a move to the left overall--though not a dramatic one, much as the Dems experienced a move rightward after Jimmy Carter. Even with a Senate, House and presidency in Democratic hands in a couple of weeks, don't discount the effects of legislators like Virginia's Warner and Jim Webb--both conservative Democrats--on the overall mood of the party. Democrats are more liberal in many things than Repubs, but not all Dems are more liberal than all Repubs and the natural settling place for this debate is somewhere in the center, whether that center is slightly tilted one way or the other.

The right had its way for a long time, following a domination by the left. Neither proved effective, though you can make a good argument that the right of recent Republican rule was a good bit more than ineffective.

Anyhow, let's urge caution in expectation. Radical is a fringe philosophy that isn't likely to gain a foothold with the new boys on the block.

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