May 07, 2006

Jonathan Chait Is Not Paying Attention

via Yglesias, Jonathan Chait (in an article about Joe Lieberman) makes a claim that won't hold up:

Republicans only tolerate political moderates if they hail from states or districts that won't elect staunch conservatives. It's a pure strategic calculation. The GOP supports Republican moderates such as Arlen Specter and Lincoln Chafee because they represent "blue states." Those who come from "red states" are expected to toe the line.

The bit about Specter makes no sense, on two levels. First of all, though Pennsylvania is a blue/swing state presidentially, its other senator is Rick Santorum, whose conservative credentials are unimpeachable to a fault. Santorum is in trouble this election, but there's hardly proof that extreme conservatives can't be elected in Pennsylvania.

Second, Specter came very close to being defeated in a primary by the extreme right-wing Pat Toomey. The national GOP apparatus, including Santorum, did support Specter, but that's most likely because Specter is an incumbent.

As to why the GOP tolerates moderates, the answer is that it doesn't. There are no real moderate Republicans in the Senate any more. Specter, whose reputation for moderation is largely based on his nominal pro-choice credentials, used his role as Judiciary Committee Chairman to ensure confirmation of the paternalistically anti-choice Samuel Alito. Not for nothing does Yglesias call Republican alleged moderates The Fraud Caucus.

And that's the truly disturbing thing about Chait's remark. He covers Washington for a living, and he still hasn't figured out how the GOP works. It would be nice if there were true GOP moderates, but there aren't, and Chait should get used to it.

Posted by Matt Weiner at May 7, 2006 06:21 PM