Those Republican “Moderates”

I have frequently noted how far today’s GOP has traveled since my days as an active Republican. I’m not alone, of course, in describing the differences between the party of Eisenhower and even Reagan, and today’s radical Rightists–Facebook posts routinely include surprising quotes from former Republican presidents, and one recurring item contrasts the party’s 1955 platform with the party’s more recent–and far more “anti-government” iterations.

One result of this steady move rightward is a change in meaning of the term “Moderate.” Republican elected officials are now considered moderates if they refrain from explicitly racist and sexist rhetoric, occasionally smile, and exhibit social skills.

Before awarding a “moderate” label to today’s politicians, however, it is instructive to visit Nate Silver’s blog, where he tracks how often every member of the House and Senate votes with or against Donald Trump, who–whatever he is–is certainly no moderate.

Demonstrating how utterly meaningless the “moderate” label has become, the blog contains an excellent example from central Indiana’s Fifth District. Representative Susan Brooks is often favorably compared to some of our more outlandish and vocal elected troglodytes; she is certainly more pleasant in public. She is intelligent, and she discharged her prior government service (as a Deputy Mayor and U.S. Attorney) with competence.

Whether her voting record reflects her political philosophy or her desire to avoid being primaried is an open question. What isn’t in question is the utter lack of moderation in that voting record.

Here is the summary from Silver’s blog:

Trump score
How often Brooks votes in line with Trump’s position
Trump margin
Trump’s share of the vote in the 2016 election in Indiana’s 5th District minus Clinton’s
Predicted score
How often Brooks is expected to support Trump based on Trump’s 2016 margin
Trump plus-minus
Difference between Brooks’s actual and predicted Trump-support scores

As the scores indicate, her support for Trump exceeds what the demographics of her district would predict. (A list of the specific votes follows the reproduced chart on the  website.)

Lest I be accused of picking on Brooks, let me acknowledge that she is only one example of a supposed “moderate voice” whose actions fail to match their public demeanor. Jeff Flake is an example of someone who has gotten laudatory press for his recent book criticizing Trump, but when it came time to vote on the ACA’s “skinny repeal,” he obediently fell into line. John McCain regularly earns plaudits for being a “maverick,” but McCain has been only slightly more likely than the average senator to vote against his party.

As usual, Paul Krugman cuts to the chase:

When we look at the degeneration of American politics, it’s natural to blame the naked partisans — people like Mitch McConnell, with his principle-free will to power, or Ted Cruz, with his ideological rigidity. And Trump has, of course, done more to degrade his office than any previous occupant of the White House.

But none of what is happening right now would be possible without the acquiescence of politicians who pretend to be open-minded, decry partisanship, tut-tut about incivility and act as enablers for the extremists again and again….

Consider, for example, Senator Shelley Moore Capito of West Virginia — whose state has benefited enormously from the Affordable Care Act. “I didn’t come here to hurt people,” she declared not long ago — then voted for a bill that would quadruple the number of uninsured in West Virginia.

Or consider Rob Portman of Ohio, who cultivates an image as a moderate, praises Medicaid and talked big about the defects of Republican health plans — but also voted for that bill. Hey, in Ohio the number of uninsured would only triple.

There are only two Republican Senators one can truly label moderate and principled–Collins and Murkowski. If there are any genuine GOP moderates in the House, they sure don’t come from Indiana.


  1. The era of mindless, shallow politicians was ushered in by the unscrupulous and dishonest Mike Pence, who has demonstrated he has no beliefs, no convictions and even morals when it comes to politics. Others have seen Pence escalate to what is perceived to be the top tier of the political system so of course Brooks will follow his lead. I have never supported any Republican and I find it hard to speak well of any of them, but Lisa Murkowski has changed my mind.

  2. Anyone who chooses to wear the label ‘Republican’ is nothing more than an enabler. The term ‘moderate’ makes no sense in our current political environment, well intentioned or not.

  3. I, also, only count the same two Republicans as Moderates. I would like to point out they are both women of true compassion and backbone. The rest of the so-called Moderates are all wind and noise like the glib Johnny-come-lately Jeff Flake (living up to his name). Sens Collins and Murkowski, thank you for standing up for protecting Healthcare for Americans while rejecting the people and policies that would abandon us.

  4. Since January 20, 2017, the word “moderate” has not been evidenced in the Republican vocabulary. Nor has the word “conservative”…in fact…the word “Republican” has not been evidenced in the Republican vocabulary or anywhere within the party. I am not referring to the drastic changes within the party that began 2-3 decades ago but the party as it was known before the GOP opted to nominate Donald Trump as the party candidate in 2016. Compare their campaign foundation one year ago with the actualities of today. We are on the verge of nuclear war and still, no one in the party appears to be making the least attempt to rein in our mentally unstable president…with a pseudo Christian waiting to take over if Congress ever sees fit to take action to protect this country. Is Pence why they hesitate? If so; they should have reconsidered their decisions before pushing these two into the presidency and vice presidency, their individual personal foundations were set in stone and made public long before the Republican National Convention.

  5. I reside in the gerrymandered district of Rep. Brooks. I live as a moderate Democrat — yes, we do exist. Time and again, I receive my Countable email update, alerting me to my legislators’ registered votes. Time after after time, I shake my head at Rep. Brooks’ abysmal voting record when it comes to women’s rights, healthcare, and the environment. I can only presume she sleeps well at night knowing her position is protected by her unwavering loyalty to party assignation. God only knows what her thinking is when it comes to actually comparing her party’s politics with her constituents’ voices. However, we do not know her thoughts, as she has not appeared down in “our neck of the woods” here in Marion County to answer for her votes. So, perhaps, it’s out of sight, out of mind….

  6. No person of any political persuasion, previous or current, including Dwight Eisenhower, Ronald Reagan, Senators Collins and Murkowski, who buys (or bought) into trickle down economic policy can claim the descriptive moniker of “moderate”.

  7. Susan Brooks doesn’t hold town hall meetings, she hosts events where a small number of people get to speak with her one on one. You must register and have your questions pre screened. How is this hearing from the people you represent! I for one pray that we have another qualified candidate to vote for……

  8. Why do you continue to describe Susan Brooks as intelligent? She is absolutely deplorable.

    She absolutely KNOWS/IS WELL AWARE of the havoc she wreaks. And she wants so badly to exploit and receive the subsequent dividends from developing such havoc.

  9. “The era of mindless, shallow politicians was ushered in by the unscrupulous and dishonest Mike Pence.”

    I agree,Pence is shallow and mindless….But he did not usher in anything. Mindless,shallow,unscrupulous and dishonest politicos have been with us for a long time. And on both sides of the aisle.

  10. I, too, am in Brooks’ gerrymandered district in northern Marion County. And, yes, we do exist in far greater numbers than she would like. Her voting record is right in line with the far right wing. She controls the interactions with constituents by limiting groups to less than 10, limiting the time allowed to interact, limiting her own presence, using staff instead. She achieves two goals with this strategy. She controls the message and keeps like-minded constituents from recognizing their shared interests and common concerns.
    Redistricting reform is absolutely the top priority for changing the way the political system has been used to suppress and disenfranchise voters across the state. We city dwellers are a community of common interests with needs that are very different from our majority suburban and rural district members. Because we are split out from the rest of the county, our voice and our votes carry no weight at all. Brooks is in lockstep with the McConnell/Ryan directed dark money initiatives of this administration. Pence is their figurehead lackey in the WH.

  11. Murkowski was primaried from the right and lost the Republican primary. She ran as a write-in candidate and won re-election to the Senate. She cannot be threatened as easily as most Republicans in office.

    If all registered voters would turn out in both the primaries and the general elections, it might not be so easy for the crazies to remain in control of the Republican Party. It seems that some in the Democratic Party want to assure the same type of political purity. I have seen attacks on Kamela Harris for being too tied to big money to be pure enough to run for President. I know nobody asked for my advice, but here it is anyway. Don’t go there. Stand for something, but understand that politics is the art of the possible and requires pragmatism, not purity.

  12. What can I add here, but how proud I am to be living in a state where we DO have a true Republican moderate for our senator in the name of Susan Collins. Sadly, all the talk up here is she might run for governor when our term-limited nutcase, Paul LePage, is done in 2018, but what’s this? He says he might run for her senate seat! I say we need her to stay right where she is for the good of not only we Mainers, but the country!

  13. of course the Republican government of 1955 was considerably more moderate than the ultra aggressive, super authoritarian government of recent years. Think of (Alice?) Lerner, the senior federal official at the IRS who “took the fifth” for using the IRS to punish non left wing groups, and realize Obamacare went through IRS control. meaning she might have been able to attack your taxes and (eventually) determine your medical care. I can’t imagine many “moderate” Republicans (or Democrats) thinking recent trends are in any way acceptable. Thus, the reactions of many Republicans.

  14. There are some ‘new’ Republicans (who are really the ‘old’ Republicans) throwing their hat in the ring and challenging the Tea Party-ers. One of them is Corrie Meyer who is taking on Mike Delph in Indiana State Senate District 29. Info at ‘’. (This from a dyed-in-the-wool liberal.)

  15. I was going to say… O but for the days of Ike! However I don’t think we can go home again. The innocence is lost – the honesty out the door – and civility checked out a LONG time ago. We are now stuck in a world of political ideologues who shout a lot – but haven’t brought us to the grand scheme we seem to believe is the ‘American Dream’. I say let’s rename our purpose to “The American GOAL.” Dreams are aetherial – a Goal is a real purpose! Perhaps some day we can all sit down and argue like adults, despite being Moderate, Extreme Right, Liberal or whatever nomenclature we seek to pin on ourselves.

  16. Are there any free thinkers remaining? Are there any people remaining who do not, who cannot in good faith ascribe to accepting either the Republican or the Democrat bill of fare?

  17. Is there a path to recovery? So many traditions have been tossed out of the door, are there enough left for any future three branches?

    It seems the model has been trashed and the very idea of an exceptionally functional country has been wrecked in service of “only me”. We have become a wild herd of Limbaughs.

    Why is that appealing to so many? Will they just die off?

  18. I’m sorry, but Trump was the most liberal Republican in the GOP field. (Of course’, he’s be on the both side of virtually any issue you could name so we’re talking about a moving target.) Apparently you’re assuming some of his most outlandish positions with conservativism. As a lifelong conservative, I could not agree less.

  19. Trump defied labels during the campaign, even being liberal on health care issues. However, since his election, he went far to the right on health care, doing whatever Paul Ryan and Mitch McConnell wanted. (He did veer off track once to call the House proposal ‘mean’.) He has just reversed an executive order which helped women gain equal pay for equal work from employers who contract with the federal government. There was NO outcry for this whatsoever. As I’ve had to ask several times, where is Ivanka when we need her?

  20. Thank you Marv for your very timely advice – very glad that I remember the drill so well! We need to be neat for the benefit of the cleanup crew provided that there is one.

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