I think that some of us may not be truly aware of what is happening within the Republican Party. Comment is Free yesterday published my article about the Republicans who’ve defected from the McCain-Palin ticket to endorse Barack Obama. As Democrats, we’re tickled and flattered by the embrace of former foes. But I think more is going on that just that.
First, let’s note that besides the major figures like Colin Powell, Lincoln Chaffee, Christopher Buckley, Jim Leach, Bruce Bartlett, and others I mentioned in my earlier posts, there are new “turncoats:” yesterday Scott McClellan endorsed Obama as did CC Goldwater, Barry’s grand-daughter. Today, former Republican Massachussets governor William Weld endorsed. As did former Republican Minnesota governor Arne Carlsson. Former Regan solicitor general, McCain advisor and eminent Republican legal scholar Charles Fried endorsed. Shockingly, neocon former NSA advisor Kenneth Adelman endorsed. This guy worked for Ronald Reagan for Pete’s sake! American Conservative Magazine editor Scott McClellan endorsed the Democrat. Republican Hollywood actor, Dennis Hopper has endorsed.
I wouldn’t be at all surprised if before November 4th Richard Lugar (who has already spoken highly favorably of Obama) and Chuck Hagel (his wife already has) endorse Barack. Can Olympia Snowe be far behind?
I can remember in past presidential elections Democrats who turned tail and ran by endorsing Republicans. Zell Miller comes to mind and of course Joe Lieberman, not to menon Ron Silver. But we viewed them as strange anomalies who didn’t signal any serious challenge to the prevailing ideas of the Party.
But is what is happening now to the Republican Party something different? Is this merely a strange, interesting footnote to an amazing political campaign; or does it denote a major shift occuring within the Republican Party? Dare we hope that with the end of the Bush reign, those Republicans who can no longer stomach it are turning against the Party for embracing the worst excesses of Bushism? Might this signal a possible break between the Party and neoconservatism? Might a new Republican leadership emerge from the McCain-Palin debacle which will chart a different path than the one chosen over the past eight years and even farther back?
Or even more interestingly, might the Democrats recruit some of these former Republican faithful to come on over to our side? This would stun the remaining neocons on the Republican sinking ship even further.
I don’t hold out much hope for the Republicans reforming their Party from within. The second scenario may be more possible. I think in effect, this has been what the Democrats started in recruiting Congressional candidates in 2006. They deliberately chose more centrist, conservative candidates in districts where this was necessary for a Democrat to win. Perhaps Republican moderates have noticed this and the defections are part of that process. Certainly, the fact that Democrats picked off Lincoln Chaffee in the last election has to be a message to the moderates that they have little or no future in their Party as presently constituted. This may’ve played no small role in Chaffee’s endorsement of Obama. As long as such moderates remain they will be isolated on the “left” of an increasingly marginal & extremist Party; and Democrats will gradually pick them off like low-hanging fruit.
I don’t want to make the mistake that Republicans like Karl Rove made in claiming a major “realignment” of political power in the offing. Democrats could do much to ensure their own downfall if they play their cards wrong in the next two or four years. But it’s clear that “something’s happening here and you don’t know what it is, do you, Mr. [GOP] Jones.”