April 6, 2006
Perhaps a better question is Should they defect? I have largely overlooked the FY 2007 budget introduced by President Bush in February, already disgusted with fiscal imprudence. Public awareness of the growing budget deficit is putting increasing pressure on the Republicans in Congress, many of whose members are vulnerable to challengers in the November elections. (Imagine that: competitive elections!)
One of the moderates who is leveraging his faction's clout to get $7 billion in additional Federal funding for popular labor, health, and education programs, is Rep. Michael Castle of Delaware. See Washington Post. I tend to be extremely skeptical of such programs, and much as I would like to maintain a Republican majority in Congress, it may be for the best in the long run that the Republicans slough off a few wayward members. Voters need clear choices when they go into the voting booth, and blurring distinctions on basic policy choices, as many centrists in Congress are prone to do, is not necessarily a good way to attract moderate voters. "Who cares, politicians are all the same!"
To understand the Republican squabbling, it is necessary to grasp that many Republicans wrongly equate loyalty to President Bush with being a true conservative. This tendency is related, in turn, to an unseemly eagerness to use harsh campaign rhetoric against liberal Democrats, ironically emulating the dirty tricks that used to keep the Democrats in power. Until more of the Republican activist base adopts a more reflective attitude about the very real dilemmas in terms of the substance of public policy, as a prelude to reformulating a conservative agenda, I don't see how things will improve. As my mailbox is filled up with crass, dumbed-down appeals for money from the RNC, meanwhile, the party leadership seems utterly tone deaf to complaints from grass-roots conservatives.
A recent cartoon in the Washington Post by Joel Pett expressed the vexing moral quandary many Republicans face on the immigration issue. A senator tells his House colleague, "I'm torn between the security issues and my solemn pledge to help the rich exploit the poor." Hey, the truth hurts.