The GOP is not a group, it's a party

As President Obama's poll numbers go south, and congressional leaders from his party continue to reveal just how far they're willing to overreach in chasing an ultra-liberal agenda, Republicans are finally seeing some light.  After months-- heck years in the dark, advocating conservative ideals is beginning to feel acceptable again.  But behind this tonic surge, a political identity crisis brews.

Amidst the hoopla concerning the floundering healthcare legislation and a beer summit, a leading Republican quietly made news last week by violating Reagan's 11th commandment, "Thou shalt not speak ill of any fellow Republican.

Ohio Senator George Voinovich, who is retiring when his term expires in 2011, casually fired shots across the bow of the party when the Columbus Dispatch asked him what the GOP's biggest problem was.  His diagnosis was simple:  "We got too many Jim DeMints (R-S.C.) and Tom Coburns (R-Ok.). It's the southerners," he remarked.  "They get on TV and go 'errrr, errrrr.' People hear them and say, ‘These people, they're southerners. The party's being taken over by southerners. What the hell they got to do with Ohio?' "

The following day Senator David Vitter struck back in an interview with the Washington Times: "He's a moderate," the Louisiana Republican said of Voinovich, "[he's] really wishy-washy."

This kind of infighting is nothing new.  Republican support has thrived in the South ever since the Southern Dixiecrats jumped to the GOP and the Nixon Southern Strategy put a lock onto the states of the Old Confederacy.  As modern conservatism took shape in the 50s and 60s, GOP leaders like Gerald Ford and Nelson Rockefeller were increasingly on the outside of the party looking in, and branded "Rockefeller Republicans," or pejoratively, "RINOs" (Republicans in name only).  It has been over seventy years since the GOP nominated a presidential candidate from north of the Mason-Dixon Line (save the incidental nomination of incumbent President Ford in 1976). That man, Thomas Dewey, championed the once-mighty "Eastern Establishment," the powerful GOP coalition made up of northeastern business professionals, pro-capitalist intellectuals, and fervent anti-communists.

That establishment is gone now, scared off by fellow Republicans for not being conservative enough; there are simply no more Reagans at the moment to hold us all together.  When dedicated conservatives -- those who have built careers championing smaller government, lower taxes, and "peace through strength"-- have the audacity to embrace a more liberal position on a social issue, the Republican bond seemingly sunders.  They are traitors, unworthy of the Republican title.

Ultimately it's not a question of region, but of ideology.  The geography just makes the point more demonstrable.  Moderates from Michigan to Maine are "wishy-washy," "RINOs," "Democrat-light," or worse still, "closet Democrats." 

At one time, the Grand Old Party, from Eisenhower through Reagan, was an expansive association -- an assembly of right-leaning coalitions.  Now, to many, the party seems more of a southern conservative hangout -- reduced to a small tent whose seats are reserved for the conservatives who fall in line on social issues.  The result: The GOP has no House presence in New England whatsoever, only three seats of New York's 29, and has lost its foothold on countless governorships, House and Senate seats throughout the Midwest and Northeast.

Out of this reality one truth remains clear: No matter how far left the Obama-train veers, or how much the Democrats in Congress overreach, the GOP can never recover, if it relegates itself to regional party status.

Senator Voinovich's comments may have been inflammatory and untimely, but they were also correct.  It's time for the GOP to rebuild in the Midwest and Northeast, and once again unite coalitions of Republican interests and values.  After all, the GOP is not simply a group -- it's a party.

Kyle Stone is a practicing attorney in Chicago, IL, and is Membership Director of Chicago Young Republicans. He can be contacted at kylestone@comcast.net
As President Obama's poll numbers go south, and congressional leaders from his party continue to reveal just how far they're willing to overreach in chasing an ultra-liberal agenda, Republicans are finally seeing some light.  After months-- heck years in the dark, advocating conservative ideals is beginning to feel acceptable again.  But behind this tonic surge, a political identity crisis brews.

Amidst the hoopla concerning the floundering healthcare legislation and a beer summit, a leading Republican quietly made news last week by violating Reagan's 11th commandment, "Thou shalt not speak ill of any fellow Republican.

Ohio Senator George Voinovich, who is retiring when his term expires in 2011, casually fired shots across the bow of the party when the Columbus Dispatch asked him what the GOP's biggest problem was.  His diagnosis was simple:  "We got too many Jim DeMints (R-S.C.) and Tom Coburns (R-Ok.). It's the southerners," he remarked.  "They get on TV and go 'errrr, errrrr.' People hear them and say, ‘These people, they're southerners. The party's being taken over by southerners. What the hell they got to do with Ohio?' "

The following day Senator David Vitter struck back in an interview with the Washington Times: "He's a moderate," the Louisiana Republican said of Voinovich, "[he's] really wishy-washy."

This kind of infighting is nothing new.  Republican support has thrived in the South ever since the Southern Dixiecrats jumped to the GOP and the Nixon Southern Strategy put a lock onto the states of the Old Confederacy.  As modern conservatism took shape in the 50s and 60s, GOP leaders like Gerald Ford and Nelson Rockefeller were increasingly on the outside of the party looking in, and branded "Rockefeller Republicans," or pejoratively, "RINOs" (Republicans in name only).  It has been over seventy years since the GOP nominated a presidential candidate from north of the Mason-Dixon Line (save the incidental nomination of incumbent President Ford in 1976). That man, Thomas Dewey, championed the once-mighty "Eastern Establishment," the powerful GOP coalition made up of northeastern business professionals, pro-capitalist intellectuals, and fervent anti-communists.

That establishment is gone now, scared off by fellow Republicans for not being conservative enough; there are simply no more Reagans at the moment to hold us all together.  When dedicated conservatives -- those who have built careers championing smaller government, lower taxes, and "peace through strength"-- have the audacity to embrace a more liberal position on a social issue, the Republican bond seemingly sunders.  They are traitors, unworthy of the Republican title.

Ultimately it's not a question of region, but of ideology.  The geography just makes the point more demonstrable.  Moderates from Michigan to Maine are "wishy-washy," "RINOs," "Democrat-light," or worse still, "closet Democrats." 

At one time, the Grand Old Party, from Eisenhower through Reagan, was an expansive association -- an assembly of right-leaning coalitions.  Now, to many, the party seems more of a southern conservative hangout -- reduced to a small tent whose seats are reserved for the conservatives who fall in line on social issues.  The result: The GOP has no House presence in New England whatsoever, only three seats of New York's 29, and has lost its foothold on countless governorships, House and Senate seats throughout the Midwest and Northeast.

Out of this reality one truth remains clear: No matter how far left the Obama-train veers, or how much the Democrats in Congress overreach, the GOP can never recover, if it relegates itself to regional party status.

Senator Voinovich's comments may have been inflammatory and untimely, but they were also correct.  It's time for the GOP to rebuild in the Midwest and Northeast, and once again unite coalitions of Republican interests and values.  After all, the GOP is not simply a group -- it's a party.

Kyle Stone is a practicing attorney in Chicago, IL, and is Membership Director of Chicago Young Republicans. He can be contacted at kylestone@comcast.net