G.O.P. Debate: A Broader Party or a Purer One?

On today's New York Times website an article appeared (see here) which outlined the debate going on within the Republican Party about how to recover from recent electoral losses and the defection of Pennsylvania Senator Arlen Specter to the Democratic Party.

Of all the quoted opinions contained in the article, I am going to lift two. Those of Senators Lindsay Graham and Jim Diment, both Republicans from South Carolina. I pick these two quotations because both come from dark red South Carolina and I think it is appropriate to point out how two men hailing from the same state have such differing opinions.

These quotes are:
Senator Lindsay Graham, Republican of South Carolina, said: “We are not losing blue states and shrinking as a party because we are not conservative enough. If we pursue a party that has no place for someone who agrees with me 70 percent of the time, that is based on an ideological purity test rather than a coalition test, then we are going to keep losing.”
Senator Jim DeMint of South Carolina said ideological purity was the road to success. “The best way to get to 60 is to have a core group of Republicans who really do what they say and stand for their principles,” Mr. DeMint said.
I believe these two opinions accurately represent the two sides of the debate currently underway in the GOP.

First let me explain where my comments are coming from. I describe myself as a moderate. Many conservatives dismiss me as a liberal and many liberals label me a conservative. It is for this reason I describe myself as a moderate. With some of my opinions, I agree with the left and with some I agree with the right. Often I sit in the middle and would rather see compromise then an all or nothing victory by either side.

So where would I like to see the Republican Party in the future? I'd like to see them head in the direction of nominating more candidates that I would consider voting for. I would hope they would come to me rather then heading further to the ideologically pure right. I want choices when I go to the ballot box, and I would rather not be forced to always vote for the Democratic candidate.

Now let me explain that I understand that I am never going to get everything I want in a candidate unless I were to run for office myself. My opinions are so varied, that it is highly unlikely that a candidate will always agree with me. I also am not claiming to be the voice of the moderate voter. I will state that if another voter has opinions diametrically opposed to mine, that this voter too is a moderate because that voter will have a variety of opinions.

I view very favorably someone who has a variety of opinions. If someone always agrees with the most extreme portions of their party on everything, that person is unacceptable to me. I realize that both parties are going to have some of "those types" serving in government because both parties do contain sizable numbers of voters who prefer them as representatives. However, I do not want to see these types representing me.

But what does a voter like me do when faced with candidates for office, both of whom are what I would call extremists? When the Democratic nominee is from the far left and the Republican nominee is from the far right? How do I choose whom to vote for then? Do I just abstain? Maybe, depending on the candidates, some of my opinions are more important to me then others. However I am also then strongly influenced by which party is most inclusive of moderate voices in other races for other offices, in races in other districts, and in races throughout the nation. In other words, if I vote to add one more vote up on Capitol Hill to one party or the other, are there enough moderate voices within that party so that I can at least hope someone will still be open to debate and help keep things from spinning out of control?

It is my hope that the Republican Party seeks to appeal to more moderate voters by broadening its appeal rather then narrowing its focus by fielding only ideologically pure candidates. I hope the party changes and comes to me rather then narrowing its focus and trying to force me to come to it.

I believe the recent successes of the Democratic Party are at least partially due to the signaling by party leadership that they valued and welcomed moderate candidates who often disagreed with majority of Democratic party members and that if these candidates were elected they often might vote against party leadership in order to represent the opinions of those who elected them. I do know that is how the Democratic Party increased its appeal me, an independent voter.

The Democratic Party has been so successful with me, that I have considered abandoning describing myself as an independent, and affiliating myself with the Democrats (although I would describe myself as a Blue Dog Democrat). However I think it is better and safer for me to continue to stick with being an independent. I value my freedom to vote for what I consider to be the best candidate no matter which party that nominee runs under. I do not want to have to deal with being described as being disloyal for sometimes voting for the nominee from another party. However if it looks like the Republican Party is going to circle the wagons around the extreme right wing core? Well then I might be forced to abandon my independence, become more active in the Democratic Party and just do my best to ensure the Democrats nominate as many moderate candidates as possible. (Since I live in Virginia where independents are allowed to vote in whichever primary they wish, I can do some of that already.)

As far as I am concerned, the choice is up to the Republican Party. If the wagons are tightly circled, that will send to me a strong signal they do not want my vote, and if they do not want it, they are not going to get it.


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