Before I blogged here, I and a friend tried a blog at blogspot on moderate Republicans under W. Here is the ‘manifesto’ (Sept. 2005), which I think bears repeating now, as Glenn Beck and Rush are taking the Right over the edge and driving away moderates like Arlen Specter.
“The national Republican Party today is slipping away from principles that once appealed to moderate and independent voters. We are concerned that the GOP has aligned itself closely to interest groups as powerful as those we dislike in the Democratic party. We recognize the legitimacy of interest articulation, but sharply conservative interests – from social and religious conservatives, as well as corporations – have seriously reduced the room necessary for moderates to comfortably co-exist. We do not believe that the GOP’s interests in becoming a permanent majority party are suited by the ideological narrowness of today’s leadership and strategy. While we do not blame President Bush entirely for this, he is the foremost example. His “instinctual” leadership style has empowered anti-modern and nepotistic elements in the GOP. We are concerned that short-term electoral interests have driven him to adopt highly contentious, unnecessarily conservative positions. Neither the religious right nor big business are fully consonant with the general will. In a two-party system, big tent parties are inevitable. For conservative activists who view us as “squishy” or “RINOs,” our response is that pluralism too is an American value.
We are, broadly speaking, classical liberals – or perhaps just Midwest moderates. For many years, a proper skepticism toward government and a preference for individual self-determination formed the principled core of the Republican Party. We were comfortable moderate Republicans for several decades. But today’s national GOP, with its untenable opposition to such clear requirements of good governance as accountability, empirical science, and balanced budgets, has left us profoundly alienated. Both of us felt compelled to vote for John Kerry in 2004.
We are deeply concerned that the Bush administration seems to have forgone a genuine trust in markets and individuals to embrace “big government conservatism.” We support necessary government capacity to rectify market failure and provide modern, humane safety nets, but not to reward market winners at the expense of challengers, nor to empower political cronies close to office holders, nor to shower programs on preferred electoral constituencies. We support individual freedom to make private sexual and cultural choices, and a balanced constitutionalism against the Bush administration’s breathtakingly expansive view of executive power.
These are hardly radical ideas. We do not believe the majority of Americans, or even Bush voters, share the social-conservative notion that the state should punish “immorality,” nor lobbyists’ view of public budgets as a windfall to be exploited. There is a modern, neoliberal/centrist way similar to the Free Democrats of Germany or the reformed Labor Party of Tony Blair. Such neoliberals and moderate conservatives exist here too – John McCain, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Christie Todd Whitman, George Voinovich spring to mind. We do not believe they share the divisive social conservatism, regressive fiscal propensities, and general opacity of the Bush imperial presidency.
So we invite all of you centrist and alienated Republicans to post here and engage in our debate. If you think we are Democrats, we are not. As bloggers, we feel close to grounded, moderate conservatives like Andrew Sullivan or The Economist. We generally trust the use of American power in the world. We support legal universalism against the multicultural opt-outs so dear to left. We admire the efficiency of the market and trade. But these sympathies are consonant with modernity. Increasingly the national GOP rejects the Enlightenment. We call it back.”