The conservatives in the party stamp out any member who shows any sign of moderation which them makes the party candidates increasingly unpalatable to suburban moderates who might otherwise vote R.
Ron uses the excellent example of Lindsey Graham,
Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina is an ardent, unwavering supporter of the Iraq war. In the House of Representatives during the 1990s, he served as a manager of the Republican majority's impeachment case against President Clinton.And while it's hard to imagine that the Dems could pick up a senate seat in SC these days, Chuck Hagel is another matter. He has a serious challenger from the right and in this environment a good Dem candidate could snatch that seat up. House member Chris Shays is the last remaining Republican house member in New England, and he faces a challenge from the right.
Yet for Marty Eells, an emergency medical services training officer here, Graham is an insufficiently reliable conservative. Eells is angered by Graham's criticism of President Bush on issues like the treatment of detainees in the war on terrorism.
"He's made remarks and comments he doesn't have any business making," Eells said.
Other conservatives in this dependably Republican state are unhappy with Graham for supporting the failed Senate effort to legalize illegal immigrants and for his role in the 2005 bipartisan compromise that preserved the right of the Senate minority to filibuster judicial nominees. In the midst of this unease, several local Republicans -- including the lieutenant governor -- have floated the possibility of challenging Graham from the right for the GOP Senate nomination next year.
And as conservative as the Republicans in the Senate are becoming, the House is already there. "In the House, for instance, only 20 Republicans (out of more than 230) voted against a majority of their caucus even as much as 15% of the time during the last Congress."
...the Democrats today are much more of a coalition party than the Republicans: Polls show that only about half of Democratic voters consider themselves liberals, while three-fourths or more of Republicans call themselves conservatives. That means to win elections, Democrats depend more than Republicans on the votes of moderates -- which compels them to accept more dissent from party orthodoxy.The Democratic left really faces the same question. Will they accept moderates for the sake of winning national elections or encourage third-party candidates? It's hopeful to see that the Big 3 for the Dems are all moderate despite how Republicans try to cast them.
The question for Republicans, as they try to dig out from the collapse of Bush's second term, is whether they can rebuild a majority coalition without tolerating more dissent and diversity as well.
Correction: Maura from My Left Nutmeg corrects me on Chris Shays. He doesn't have a primary challenge from the right. His problem so far is Democrat Jim Himes. Sorry for the screw-up and thank Maura for bringing this to my attention.