Green Shoots of Moderation

This is how Geoffrey Kabaservice, the author of Rule and Ruin: The Downfall of Moderation and The Destruction of the Republican Party, describes what is happening in America. See his op-ed, “Moderate Republicans aren’t dead. They’re hiding in plain sight.” in the November 9 Washington Post [here].‎

I am so glad that there is FINALLY some press about moderate Republicans and their popularity. For most of us, such press generates hope, rather than more fear and polarization. America certainly doesn’t need any more fear or polarization.

A couple of weeks before this month’s elections, I was writing friends and folks engaging with the Lone Liberal Republican website and Facebook page that there is no better evidence of the discord the media sows than FiveThirtyEight’s recent poll of the most popular governors in America, their party affiliation and the political demographics of the state they govern [here]. Number one most popular governor in America was Republican Charlie Baker of Massachusetts.  At the time Massachusetts was a +24 Blue State by FiveThirtyEight’s reckoning. The number two most popular governor in America was Larry Hogan of Maryland, also a Republican in a +24 Blue State. Both were reelected by large margins last week. There are also important signs of Republican Party moderation coming out of states like Oklahoma and Kansas. Last time I looked Oklahoma and Kansas were neither on the East Coast nor traditional bastions of liberalism…

Neither my politically-engaged university student friends nor my politically-engaged contemporaries had any awareness of these facts or, by and large, had even heard of Governors Charlie Baker or Larry Hogan. Yet every bit of Trump nonsense blazes onto their radar and then their social media feeds, just like ridiculous left-wing stuff lights up the media (mainstream and social) of people on the political right.

For years the media has stoked people’s fears and anger, rather than highlight consensus where it exists. Too mundane I guess…doesn’t build readership or sell ads. But it’s gasoline on a fire that is dangerously close to ripping America apart, and it should stop. In the words of the late Senator John McCain, “Stop listening to the bombastic loudmouths on the radio and television and the Internet. To hell with them. They don’t want anything done for the public good. Our incapacity is their livelihood.”

In addition to Geoffrey Kabaservice’s Washington Post op-ed mentioned above, there have been several other pieces regarding moderate Republicans published in the last month. These include a couple of Atlantic pieces by David Frum [here] and Parker Richards [here], and a piece by George Packer in the New Yorker [here].‎ It’s a start…”

I Really, Really Want My Politics Back

I thought American politics were divisive when I was young. Which they were. (Just watch a short video about civil unrest in America in 1968, like this one here)

But if you look at a Liberal Republican from those times like Senator Edward Brooke (the subject of this week’s repost of leading Liberal Republican politicians), or a conservative Republican of that time like President Ronald Reagan (see the entry about Reagan in W.H. Brands’ Reagan: A Life in the Bibliography With Commentary section), you realize how much more extreme and uncivil American politicians have gotten since those days.Shrek.jpg

Most of us, as passionate as we might be about politics today, really, really don’t want to continue on our current political trajectory. Because like it did in the USSR (Russia) and Nazi Germany, such politics often ends really, really badly for millions of people. And while we thankfully aren’t likely to end up in either of those places–though there are dozens of commentators on this website from both ends of the political spectrum who think we will–we could end up living in a nation of disgruntled pessimists. Which is an utterly un-American world view…and a terrible future to bequeath to our children and grandchildren. Really really.

Click here to read about Edward Brooke.

George Romney–Speaking Truth To Power

As we get close to the November elections, it is important to remember that there are some politicians who have the courage and principles to speak truth to power. Mitt Romney’s father, George Romney, was one of them.
George Wilcken Romney (July 8, 1907 – July 26, 1995) was an American businessman and Republican Party politician. He was chairman and president of the American Motors Corporation from 1954 to 1962, the 43rd Governor of Michigan from 1963 to 1969, and the United States Secretary of Housing and Urban Development from 1969 to 1973.

romney_georgeRomney ran for Governor of Michigan in 1962 as an independent-minded reformer defending the individual against the power of “Big Labor, Big Industry, and Big Government.” He was elected and then subsequently re-elected in 1964 and 1966 with increasingly large support. He succeeded in attracting businesses to the state and in cutting unemployment to below the national average. Romney had also inherited a substantial budget deficit, but he left office with a surplus. Romney also led the way for a large increase in state spending on education, and Michigan thereby began to develop one of the nation’s most comprehensive systems of higher education. (I went to the University of Michigan — Go Blue.)

In the 1964 U.S. presidential election, Senator Barry Goldwater quickly became the likely Republican Party nominee. Goldwater represented a new wave of American conservatism, of which the moderate Romney was not a part. Romney declared, “If [Goldwater’s] views deviate as indicated from the heritage of our Party, I will do everything within my power to keep him from becoming the Party’s Presidential nominee.” During the Fall 1964 general election, Romney cut himself off from the national ticket, refusing to appear on the same stage with Goldwater. When pressed at campaign appearances about whether he was supporting Goldwater, he replied, “You know darn well I’m not!” Romney was re-elected as Governor of Michigan in 1964 by a large margin, despite Goldwater’s landslide defeat to President Lyndon B. Johnson that swept away many other Republican candidates.

We need more politicians like George Romney in both parties, and we need them to work with each other to produce the kinds of results that George Romney produced in Michigan.

Click here to read more about George Romney and other historic Liberal Republicans.

We Are All In This Together (Including Around the Thanksgiving Dinner Table)

The website and associated Lone Liberal Republican Facebook page are intended to make Americans aware that liberals and moderates are as much a part of the Republican Party’s heritage as conservatives‎–prominent as recently as the 1970’s and for most of the party’s history, starting with Abraham Lincoln. Such an awareness is a first step towards enabling Americans to believe that such politicians could play a significant role in the party again. If, like me, you believe that such a rebalancing could stop the increasing polarization in this country–and we are increasingly divided not only by politics, but by race and now by gender too–you might welcome this, even if your personal political beliefs are more conservative or progressive. (I have toyed with adopting as a motto for the Lone Liberal Republican project, “I could live with that.”)


To this end, as the holiday season approaches, I will be reposting weekly one of the seven biographies of liberal Republicans that I posted this Summer, as well as a few new ones. And, for the first time in the history of this website, I have a request of readers. Please share these biographies with your children, grandchildren, students and friends. Help build awareness of what the Republican Party has been, and can be again. Perhaps sharing these biographies will generate some less-heated political discussions around the Thanksgiving dinner table, some discussions around the concept of “I could live with that.”

Thanks much and all the best for the holiday season.


Circus Maximus

Ludi–public games in Ancient Rome’s Circus Maximus, were sometimes sponsored by politicians competing for divine and popular support. Horse and chariot racing, beast hunts, gladiator fights, public executions–all took place in Ancient Rome’s Circus Maximus.
circus maximuss

Today in America, television, talk radio, sensationalized print media (even the traditionally not-so-sensationalized print media) and social media ‎have created a gigantic, twenty-four hour Circus Maximus that increasingly envelops us all. And it is tearing at America’s social fabric in increasingly problematic ways, dividing us not only by politics, but by gender and race. If it continues, it’s hard to imagine things ending well.

I am not a hundred years old, but old enough to remember when American heroes were astronauts. Our most famous astronauts comported themselves as unlike most of today’s leading public figures as imaginable. Rather than grabbing attention, they deflected it. Rather than creating the atmosphere among their followers of a Circus Maximus, they endeavored to “maintain an even strain.”

Click here to read more.

No value to reaching across the aisle?

Senator Flake stated on 60 Minutes that “There’s no value to reaching across the aisle.” And that if he were running for reelection there was “no way” he could have successfully called for further investigation of Judge Kavanaugh. This has got to change if we are to be governed effectively.

Journalists should encourage readers and watchers to ask their elected officials about successfully sponsored bipartisan legislation. If the answer is “none”, send them home. Because in such case the elected officials have conclusively evidenced that their focus is on their own re-election, not on any of our or America’s welfare.

To read more on the subject click here.

The Disuniting of America

The cartoon shown below by Joseph Keppler entitled “Looking Backwards,” hangs in the museum on Ellis Island. The caption at the museum reads: “In a Puck cartoon entitled “looking backward,” the shadows of their immigrant origins loom over the rich and powerful who wanted to deny the “new” immigrants from central and southern Europe admission to America. The caption on the cartoon reads, ‘They would close to the newcomer the bridge that carried them and their fathers over.’”

looking backwards

In the book ‘The Disuniting of America,’ the late historian Arthur Schlesinger asks what is it that holds a diverse nation together. His answer is acculturation and integration–and he advocates for the continuation of one of America’s founding principles, “E Pluribus Unum.”

Trying to advocate for “E Pluribus Unum” (“Out of Many, One”) is no easy task in America today. I hope that if you are reading this post you will do so in the spirit in which it is written–to make E Pluribus Unum more real for more people in America than ever before–not to subsume anyone’s identities in anyone else’s, but to create an inclusive nation of opportunity for all, that is accepting and respectful of our differences.

Sadly, at the moment America is moving in the opposite direction, with more people on both sides of the political aisle questioning the worth of loyalty to common values and ideals. Thankfully the majority of us, of all races, ethnicities and religions, still recognize that we are all in this together.‎

To read more, click here.

Generation Unbound and The Decline of the American Two-Parent Family

“Roughly half of all pregnancies in the United States are unintended.” (Generation Unbound, Isabel Sawhill)

This week’s post describes a straightforward Liberal Republican poverty reduction platform. It is centered on what Isabel Sawhill, one of America’s leading social welfare economists, calls “having children by design, not by default” (that is, by accident).

In her book Generation Unbound, Sawhill sets forth some sad facts regarding the decline of the American two-parent family and its often-devastating effects on children. She explains that over forty percent of all children in America are now born outside of marriage, in contrast to as recently as 1950, when almost all children in America, whether rich or poor, grew up in two-parent households.

These single-parent families, which Sawhill describes as ‘merry-go-round households,’ can be particularly unstable, as children will experience “the constant comings and goings of new boyfriends (or girlfriends) or the addition of new half-siblings.” Such children also experience poverty much more frequently than children growing up in more stable environments. Sawhill states that 47% of children living in single-mother families were living below the poverty line in 2012.

According to Sawhill, political conservatives have generally avoided the issue of how to deal with so many single parent families because they believe separating sex from childbearing and marriage is morally wrong or undermines responsible behavior. Sawhill states that political progressives also have avoided this issue because they are overwhelmingly focused on what happens to children once they are born, “ignoring the fact that the circumstances of a child’s birth matter, too.”

Sawhill believes that government has a role to play but that, without more personal responsibility, it will be impossible to turn the tide. To reduce poverty we must slow down entries into poverty, not just speed up the exits.” Sawhill states, “[Progressives] are asking voters to support an agenda that is more expensive and less consistent with the American value of self-sufficiency than ‎most American voters will accept.”‎

Sawhill explains the relative ease of avoiding poverty in America. She states that she has long argued that “To stay out of poverty, individuals need to follow three steps: graduate from high school, work full-time, and wait until after age 21 to get married and have children (in that order)…[I]f people followed these three simple guidelines, only 2 percent would be poor.”

These do not seem to be unachievable goals; in fact, while achieving them would not be easy, they are remarkably straightforward and politically uncontroversial.

Click here to read more.

Looking Back to Move Forward

Given the continued growth in our readership (thank you), we will be reposting some of our early posts. Hopefully they will make interesting reading this election season.

As always, thanks for reading, sharing and commenting.

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“The Founding Fathers, steeped in classical history and morality, feared that America might fall as the Roman Republic had if it failed to guard against the corrosive forces of corruption, petty interests, and the unrestrained zeal of faction. George Washington called upon his fellow citizens to show ‘mutual forbearance’ and follow ‘a middle course.’”
(Kabaservice, Geoffrey, Rule and Ruin: The Downfall of Moderation and the Destruction of the Republican Party, From Eisenhower to the Tea Party)

During the last few decades American politics has changed in very destructive ways. These changes must be reversed for American government to function again at a level that can effectively address the problems that we face as a nation.  Regardless of whether our government implements traditionally conservative policies, traditionally liberal policies, or some of both (as has been the case through most of American history), our government needs to function well.

I don’t know anyone who thinks that we have good government in America today. This website maintains that resurrecting a Liberal Republican branch of the Republican Party would be a means to return to consensus-driven, pragmatic politics and good government. ‎But how do we do this?

Three steps that I think are necessary to do so are described in the post linked below. The post includes stories I hope you will find interesting about Singapore, University of Alabama versus University of Southern California football history, and a man named Clifton White who played a significant role in reshaping the Republican Party to its current take-no-prisoners form (ironically, using Leninist tactics, and to the shock of President Eisenhower and baseball hero Jackie Robinson, both prominent Republicans of the time).

Click here to read more.


Jill Leovy’s great book Ghettoside

The link below will take you to a discussion of Jill Leovy’s book Ghettoside. Leovy knows from experience–she covered crime for the Los Angeles Times for many years–that poor minority communities are too often harshly policed. But she also laments that the majority of poor minority residents of these communities, who are law-abiding souls just trying to live life like the rest of us, must live among murderers and other predators, and that our society has been unable to provide them with something so basic to a civilized society as personal security. (In Chicago last year, the police department’s clearance rate for homicides fell to about 17%. See, “Chicago Police Solve 1 in every 20 Shootings: Here are some reasons why that is so low,” Chicago Tribune, August 8, 2018.) Leovy argues that the alienation in many poor black communities today is as much a result of under-policing as over-policing.

ghetttosidedetective john skaggsblack and white

Pictured: John Skaggs, a 30-year veteran of the LAPD who retired in 2017. He is a central character in Ghettoside. Staffing police departments with more detectives, and more detectives like John Skaggs, would go a long way towards providing security to people living in impoverished communities, as would a return to a “to serve and protect” ethos, rather than one of “us versus them.”

Leovy documents the bona fide fear of physical harm that people have in these communities if they agree to testify in court. Perhaps a good place to begin to rebuild trust of the police in these communities is for the state to expend the resources to consistently protect potential witnesses. Wouldn’t doing so be an opportunity to find some mutual understanding and common ground among Blue Lives and Black Lives supporters?

Both the harsh policing and the mortal danger to the residents of the communities Leovy describes are shameful. But so is the fact that so many Americans only seem to see one or the other of these two, very related problems.

black lives matter     blue lives matter

Click here to read more.