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The Problem with Republican Moderates

November 6th, 2006

There has been a lot of ink recently (original appeared in the NY Times, but no longer available for free) about how the 2006 mid-term elections have a real possibility of making the moderate Republican extinct. I’m the first to acknowledge that, in theory, this is a bad thing. Up in Washington State the moderate Republican has long been extinct. It’s a shame really, because many in the GOP are unwilling to vote for a Democrat, regardless of how moderdate they may be, so they cast their vote for the local conservative nut job.

But here’s why I’m not going to be shedding any tears on Tuesday if the Ds take the House and the moderate Republican goes the way of the Dodo. As a rank-and-file House Member there is one, and only one, vote that really matters: your vote for Speaker. The Speaker has nearly unchallenged authority to control floor votes thanks to House rules and norms. Which means if the guy you vote for cast his vote for a hardline conservative who is tied to the President’s hip it doesn’t matter how moderate they are… they won’t even get the chance to vote on your issues.

The moderates in the House Republican Caucus continue to support Speaker Hastert (maybe because the alternative in the Republican Caucus would have been worse). Which means sending a moderate to the House only furthers conservative domination. This isn’t such a problem in the Senate, where the Majority Leader has far less control and individual Senators wield greater influence.

So go ahead moderates, elect a moderate Republican (like McCain or Specter) to the Senate if you like, but if you want a more moderate House you’re going to need to send a Democrat and hope they keep their promises of returning to the fair and open rules abandoned by the House Republican leadership after the ‘94 elections.

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