By Dale Bowling
Indulge me for a moment while I tell you about my best friend. My best friend is a smart guy who thinks deeply about issues. He is a Republican, but we agree on maybe 80% of issues, more or less. He's a firearms enthusiast, but supports universal background checks. He's a farmer, but is concerned about the environmental impact of agricultural run-off into drainage ditches. He believes in evolution, a woman's right to choose, and marriage equality. He likes to know the facts of the issue and positions of the candidate before he votes.
Conservatives have a word for people like my best friend: RINO (Republican in Name Only). They're implying that you have to be like Bush, Cheney, Boehner, and Ryan with a touch of Limbaugh to be considered a real Republican.
In the Good Ol' Days there were both middle-of-the-road Republicans and moderate Democrats. The work of the country got done primarily because they shared more similarities than differences. These similarities allowed them to easily reach across the aisle to compromise on most issues.
But the moderates have been slowly turned out of the Republican Party. Centrist Republican lawmakers lose primary battles to Tea Partiers more often than not these days and extreme positions have replaced more measured ones across the board. I remember in 1996 when then Republican presidential candidate, Bob Dole wanted a plank in the GOP platform permitting one to be both pro-choice and Republican. Guess what did not get added to the Republican Party Platform in 1996? That was seventeen years ago and the situation has become much worse since then.
I wrote last week that the main problem with the House leadership is how out of touch with American public opinion they have become on practically every issue. The abandonment of their own centrists is one of the principle reasons for this. Conservatives increasingly portray the moderates of their own party as Democrats in Elephant's clothing. And in a weird way, they're right. Independent voters and moderate Republicans increasingly vote with the Democrats because as the GOP has retreated to the Right, the Democratic Party has come to represent those left behind in the middle. Moderates want their voices heard and they know that only one party is listening.
So I would exhort all of you to work on your moderate Republican friends. Gently point out that their opinions are more in line with ours than with their own party. They may resist somewhat. They probably have an nostalgic attachment to the Grand Old Party of yesteryear. Remind them that they're not leaving the Republican Party, the GOP left them - a long time ago.