Where did the New England Republicans go?
Published: Sunday, October 7, 2012
Updated: Sunday, October 7, 2012 23:10
Exactly 10 years ago today, Connecticut’s governor and three of its six Congressional representatives were Republican. Today, its governor and all five Congressional representatives are Democrats. After Election Day 2002, five of the six New England states had Republican governors, all except Maine. Now only one has a Republican governor. (Ironically, it’s Maine).
What a shame, because this country could use an injection of New England Republicanism right now.
What we currently have on the federal level are two parties that usually find little to no common ground. The National Journal recently calculated that, between Democrats and Republicans, this is the least-compromising House of Representatives and the second-least-compromising Senate over the last three decades. “For… only the third time in the 30 years that National Journal has published these ratings,” they concluded, “no Senate Democrat compiled a voting record to the right of any Senate Republican, and no Republican came down on the left of any Senate Democrat.”
By contrast, Connecticut used to have a Republican Senator named Lowell Weicker. When the Watergate scandal began plaguing Republican President Richard Nixon, Weicker was among the first Republicans to turn against him. Eventually, Weicker began leading his party’s call for Nixon to resign. Can you imagine a prominent politician so vocally criticizing a president of the same party today? Today’s Republican Party barely whispered when Republican President Bush racked up the national debt, but shouted from the hilltops when Democrat President Obama did so.
In general, the defining characteristics of New England Republicans were a combination of fiscal conservatism alongside centrism on social issues. Those are the same policies the majority of the country now wants! Almost everybody these days seems to agree our country spends too much, with the national debt on everybody’s minds and public backlash against such measures as the stimulus package and Wall Street bailouts. But at the same time, public opinion surveys and polls recently indicate for the first time over 50 percent approval for such measures as same-sex marriage and marijuana legalization.
As a whole, the country right now is fiscally conservative and socially moderate. Unfortunately, and in a rather ironic twist of fate, the era when the country would seemingly support New England Republicanism the most is also when it largely disappeared.
The obvious objection to this argument is that current Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney was the former governor of Massachusetts. Romney the Governor did in fact more or less fit this mold. Romney the Presidential Candidate, however, is nowhere near that ideal. In the last decade, Romney had reversed – or at least modified – his positions on health care, immigration, climate change, gun control, and much more. As he currently stands, Romney is a New England Republican not in the traditional sense, but only under the literal denotation: he is a registered Republican who lives in New England.
All around the nation, people strongly dislike the Democrats and the Republicans. According to Real Clear Politics, Congressional job approval currently stands at 13.8 percent approval to 79.6 percent disapproval.
America wants the Republican Party to continue pressing for lower governmental expenditures, only without denying science at the same time. America wants the Democrat Party to continue its focus on women’s rights and the like, only without raising the national debt to over 100% of gross domestic product – as occurred last year for the first time since 1947. What national politics is missing is middle ground, of the variety that New England Republicans used to fill.
A few still survive, including Olympia Snow of Maine and Scott Brown of Massachusetts. But Snowe recently announced her upcoming retirement this January, while Brown’s re-election campaign presently shows him behind. In Connecticut’s Senate primary in August, moderate Chris Shays – the last remaining New England House Republican – lost to a candidate with no political experience, 27 percent to 73 percent.
Meanwhile, mainstream Democrats keep raising the national debt and failing to bring down the full unemployment rate, while mainstream Republicans have just gone completely mental. (There’s no evidence of evolution or global warming, but lots of evidence that Obama is secretly a Kenyan Muslim? Give me a break). What the United States of America needs more than ever is something we no longer have.