So why does almost no one in America, neither conservative Republicans nor liberal Democrats, feel like we have “won” anything in the last couple of decades? In America things have flatlined economically for many during the last several decades, while for others the perception that America’s power is in decline and it’s infrastructure crumbling provokes anxiety.
Part of our troubles are attributable to the fact that today we live in a country where infighting has become the principal activity of the people who govern us. Compromise is viewed as weakness or betrayal. Sure, we are muddling through, but this constant political infighting is wearing us down and making us poorer. Just as constant infighting weakens families, sports teams, religious congregations and businesses, the constant infighting and gridlock that characterizes our Federal government today weakens America.
Resurrecting a Liberal Republican branch of the Republican Party (call it the moderate branch if you must) would be a means to return to cross-party, consensus-driven, pragmatic politics. While Americans today do not self-identify as Liberal Republicans, a large number adhere to what are basically Liberal Republican beliefs. This is the space where Americans have a decent chance of finding common political ground.
For our children’s and grandchildren’s sakes, it’s time we began the decade or two-long task of rebuilding this wing of the Republican Party. It took decades for people like Clif White to use Communist Party “take no prisoner’s” tactics to turn the Republican Party into the political party it is today. (See Chapter 6, Political Reform, for that story [here].) It isn’t going to be turned back without a lot of hard work.
Of course, especially if you are in your Forties or younger, you are unlikely to know how diverse the politics of the Republican Party were when your parents and grandparents were young. In fact, you may be flabbergasted by how many prominent liberal Republicans there were and for what they stood. While the Party always included conservatives, conservatives did not dominate the Republican Party, let alone control it.
Progressive and moderate Republicans had an even greater voice in the Republican Party than conservatives. These Republicans aligned with like-minded Democrats on an issue-by-issue basis to enact major civil rights laws, major infrastructure legislation and laws and policies that underpinned America’s foreign policy in defense of democracy and liberty around the world. For example, the two Twentieth Century landmark civil rights laws, the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Voting Rights Act of 1965, were supported by a greater proportion of Republican Congresspersons and Senators than Democratic ones. These liberal Republicans included Nelson Rockefeller, Margaret Chase Smith, George Romney (Mitt’s father), Edward Brooke, Mark Hatfield, William Scranton, Charles Percy and Jacob Javits. Google them or take a look at Chapter 2 on this website [here]. You will be astonished by their politics. And there were dozens more like them.
When Republicans today accuse Republicans they regard as too liberal of being RINO’s (“Republicans in Name Only”), they ignore history. It is important for the American people, especially young people whose involvement in politics will increasingly determine America’s future, not to ignore political history and cede control of the Republican Party to its conservative members. As many young people who have recently become familiar with the Republican Party’s liberal heritage recognize, it should be easier to bring Liberal Republican politics back than it would be to invent it. And there are many of us here to help.