tv [untitled] May 2, 2012 12:00pm-12:30pm EDT
actually making a moderate republican movement to try to counter the conservative movement that they battled first at harvard with young americans for freedom on their right and sds on their left and then eventually to make this moderation into a philosophy and operational strategy of government. and as i said, i think they've succeeded more than we now remember. the thing that tends to dominate the memory of moderates is think tweet and disappearance and the fact maybe they might even be forced into breeding programs to keep some of them alive. [ laughter ] as the onion suggested on occasion. but i think we actually do a disservice to our understanding of current politics as well as political history if we don't remember what the moderates contributed and what they may contribute again. >> and lee, so you are involved very early on. leadership of the republican society. can you tell us what drew you to that movement and then pick up on what jeff just said, that
this was also a youth movement or at least a strong component that was a youth movement. sds, young americans for freedom but this other group. why did it attract young people and today i think we think of moderates having a hard time attracting young people. tell us a little about that. >> actually i should share this with a number of the young people who are here. you know, well -- >> absolutely. >> many former moderate republicans, but not former young people. still -- [ laughter ] the comments, wanted to see neither relation to me speaking about all this, central in the founding. so is john price who i see here. pat goldman and -- friends from, at the same time i wand wanted to introduce my wife who i met through the society. ripon society. that may be worth -- beautifully. i think of four things when i
think of the early days just to be really quick and brief. one of the questions was, are you going to be active in politics and if so in which party? and i think i came from a kind of independent background. very attracted by the fact there was a group of young people who wanted to say interesting things. the republican party seemed to need people saying interesting things. we have the sense that, as emil has often said, the republican party had a kind of image in our lifetimes up to that point of being the "stupid" party. but not that it was so stupid but it didn't project and image of dynamism and of interesting ideas. joe mccarthy kind of dominated a lot of young people's impression what's the republican party was all about. eisenhower much different kind of figure but didn't seem really a party person, and was, the
whole kennedy-eisenhower contrast was one of energy and age, i suppose. so i think that was one element. conservatives also picked up on that and the nominating young, dynamic people who were interested in ideas set of their own think tanks and so on that really picked up on the same impulse. that was one element. the second one i think that -- then the question was, can moderates being moderate get excitement going. be as committed and passionate as the people with the ideological identity? and questisaid, yes, we can. we can be fiery moderates. the word fiery was in our first declaration, but what was there to be fiery about? two things. actually. most important the whole civil rights matter. i think that was absolutely at
the center of the group's identity and sense of purpose and it did seem more conservative republicans were pulling away from the party of lincoln identity and we made a lot of the party of lincoln. use lincoln as our logo, on all the stationery and saw a continuing republican tradition. if you get deeply into the history you can cite the progressive republican impulse right through the 19th century garfields, believe it or not pt teddy roosevelt, the bull moose movement. it if you read new literature on warren harding, he had pretty progressive ideas especially international policy. coolidge came up in the massachusetts republican party as a moderate. he did not bolt the party when theodor roosevelt did in 1912 but one of the few the progressive didn't run against. they thought of him as prit
practice t pretty practical moderate guy. both of his successors as republican candidates, hoover and landon, his progressive republicans, they had bolted the party in 1912, and nonetheless came back to be nominees. then, of course, wilkey and tom dewey and eisenhower and nixon. so there was a tradition that seemed to resist an effort tosh right and the tradition was strong on civil rights. republican backed the civil rights bills of '64 and '65 in stronger percentage answer that the democrats did. the democrats -- >> how did it seem not to know that half the time? >> no, they don't. this is -- historic. and often took the leadership in creating those bills. and not people from big city constituencies. people from small towns in the midwest. >> not william mccaulered being
one example. another impetus to be active in this group and that was one of our more pronounced policy conditions. the democrat was encumbered by the fact they had a huge southern wing still basically segregationist, and hampered the democratic party even though there were many very ardent civil rights supporters within the democratic party. hampered them a bit. from being as aggressive in addressing these issues early on. the third cutting edge issue i'll mention quickly i think was internationalism. pose the against isolationists, or highly nationalists tendencies within the more conservative parts of the party. that had been eisenhower central, i think reasonable wanting to come back and run for president. and the fourth was something that we debated a lot. to what extent on domestic policy do you want to repeal the new deal? and that drove a lot of
traditional republicans, more conservative republicans, dewey took a strong position if you're going to try to do that the democrats will win every election. republicans lose every election. nixon's version of it was, do we plus, you know -- if we're really conservatives in a berkian tradition who don't want one party replacing the other through, and bringing about radical change, their institutions, lived for a long time, maybe you live with them a while longer. you reform them, but don't suddenly steer the car from one side of the road to the opposite side without creating something of a mess, and ripon picked up on that and tried to outline there might about third way in terms of domestic policy and at any number of proposals, inevitably that fourth element becomes very pragmatic and very involved, and you get people like president reagan saying, let's stop painting in pastels
and start painting in bold, clear colors. and people like shaftly saying, a choice is n, not an echo. it was hard and remain as stumbling block for moderates to get excited about sort of pragmatic centrist positions. that's a quick outline of some of the things. >> great. steve, so i'm going to ask you, is it a good thing that there's a demise of moderate republicans or maybe so i don't make you the nelson rockefeller's garden party is there, something good to be 1said about a conservativ republican party? and a second question -- >> oh, two? >> really, biographer scholar ronald reagan, say a little of ronald reagan's relationship to the moderate wing of the republican party. >> clever you put me in the middle seat in this discussion. i'm seldom in the middle of anything. half tempted to joke i am here to defend extremism and hate and tolerance. [ laughter ]
and -- >> you're the best guy we have. >> and i am reminded of -- epicycles and i'm reminded everyone says barry goldwater was an extremist until 20 years later, an elder statsman guy and ronald reagan, i keep the cartoon from 1980 depicted reagan in the munich push and have the quotes in my book from civil rights leaders saying he's going to bring back the ku klux klan and the american nazi party. people actually said this and quoted in t"the washington pos." shocking. so this is -- vice versa, people say that about democrats, too. republicans say that, obama's a socialist. we know all this stuff. that's a normal trove of political discourse that is unhelpful. that's right. often can be. however, i think i'm reminded, also, of eugene mccarthy's, shoot the wounded when the battle is over. [ laughter ]
and i don't know. i typically have a paradoxiccal view about this problem. and it is a problem in practical terms that the people in the middle, the moderates of both parties, you get the gang of 14 deal in appointments a few year ago. you get budget deals back in the '80s under reagan. in the '90s with clinton and gingrich and so forth. when those people disappear and the empowerment of the interest groups that coalesce around the parties, that make it is a practical compromise more difficult to achieve. no doubt that's true. among the five or six parts, i'll mention, too, one problem is that, if you like the old sam you' yule be -- sam you'll bell model it may be wrong two parties, sun and moon party. swan dominant party and the moon party that's in its orbit has to adapt if it's going to survive and live to have another day.
and described the world with the new deal era, republican did as jeff points out in this book often wa sa ported the civil rights act and certain modifications to new deal policies to improve them in certain wayslimit nem other ways and so forth. so what's happened is, conservative republicans, which that's now redundancy, right? republican, fully conservative party, has finally said, no to being an adjunct to the slow ratcheting up of the government bip lap to agree with most of those positions. on the other hand a vottile electorate. i don't think we've seen like the last three, big swing. now you might say, sort of fits the theme. two full moon parties. right? and so we can't -- what happened right now is that you know, we see congress has 7% approval ratings. except we have an odd thing people vote for their own member and 90% re-election appropriate a disjunction here somewhere. people hate congress but live their own congressperson. you know if what republican, doing in the house is that
deeply unpopular they'll get clobbered by voters. on the other hand, maybe not. that's ultimately voters have to decide this and ultimately i want to blame independents pup say i overestimate the number. maybe that's right. i wish independents would be forced to pick a side and stick with. then a stable governing majority of one side or the other and that would restore a little bit of the old dynamic it used to have of people wanting to get things done. i could say more but will stop there unless you want me to say something about reagan. >> say something about reagan. maybe how he governed in california before he governed in washington. >> yeah. i mean, i think one of the many great lessons of reagan is, he really was a practical, prudent, even call him a statesman. here's why. obviously he had deep ideological views and understood you cannot govern as an executive without having all wings of the party represented in your administration. you still have moderate republican pops think i counted 17 or 1 senators, elected in
1981. when he became governor of california, even before governor, he beat george christopher in the primary, first thing he did, bring in most of christopher's people into this campaign including that rockefeller, cat weinberger. supported christopher. so during the '80s you had the media loved us, the split and woe whole washington leaking game going on and a mutual attraction between hard core conservatives and people in the media. they loved conflicts. played it up. conservatives loved to talk about the split too. they were real. differences of opinion, big factions. the meese people wouldn't sit next to the darden people and so forth. reagan replicated exactly what we had did in california. you can't govern the country with only one faction of your party. he never talk about that. one of the many thing hess never talk and openly. an instinct he had sort of unperceived and he liked some of the fights actually.
liked to have the people disay agreeing in front of him an put down stockman and baker when they'd say tax increase at meetings. but i think there's a deeper prudence as work there and so, yeah. this is san interesting problem of, you know, are there moderate conservative democrats, are there moderate to moderate liberal republicans available for administrations and it's a problem you see maybe in the current administration and the previous one. i'll stop there. >> so, dan, maybe you can take our story a little bit more up to the present? you've been covering washington, the campaigns, and in congress. can you tell us about your view of how the republican party has changed since you started covering it, just two or three years ago? >> i feel like we have been covering the story of 9 demise of the moderate republican since i came to washington, which was in the mid-70s. the only thing that's changed the size of the moderate wing gets smaller and smaller and we
keep talking about its demise. as the main stream media person, in an age of bloggers and sharp edged journalism, a panel, whatever happened to how to cover politics in washington? we're still trying to do the look at all sides. you know, as i was thinking about kind of the arc of what's happened, you can go through -- there's no singular moment can you say, okay, this tipped it. but there were a series of things that happened over the last couple of decades. ron brownstein and i did a book back in the pld mid-90s about's republican take overin congress in 1994. and if you think back into that period, there's one irony which jeff talks about in his book which is that newt gingrich was put into the leadership largely because of the help of moderate republicans. and yet it was during the gingrich period that i think
there was in many way as decisive turn in this evolution that we continue to look at today. a couple of points. one was the budget deal in 1990. when gingrich bolted from the rest of the republican leadership, left the white house in anger when they announced the deal there, and basically went up and organized the forces to try to knock it down, and i think in was a critical moment in which the conservative anti-establishment part of the republican party in congress began to flex its muscles in a much more significant way. and we then saw in 1992, i remember doing an interview with tom delay after the 1992 election and i asked him what was the feeling of those of you who were looking to build a new republican party? a different republican party on the night that george h.w. bush lost his election? he said, fabulous.
his view was that this was a moment of liberation for those who wanted to go for a much harder edged, much more confrontational, much more conservative approach to the way the republicans were going to appropriate in congress. 1994 was obviously decisive in that it brought back down to the congressional level what we had seen at the presidential level which was the southernization of the republican party. and that created the coalition that was big enough to turn republicans into a majority in congress, and so for a short period of time it was -- it was viewed within the republican party as kind of a culmination of a series of forces that had finally, you know it started with goldwater, continued through reagan but now finally gave the republicans a possibility of becoming the dominant party over a longer period of time. obviously, whenever you have something like that there is a reaction and the reaction was in the northeast it was difficult
for republican candidates to go along with what the national republican party now a southern-based party was advocating. so you saw a further gap and you saw moderate republicans much more on the defensive. i think that ironically, you know, the last piece of this has been in the last few years or the most current piece of this is the last few years with the tea party movement. we ascribe much of that to the election of barack obama, and the reaction to that. but i think there is also a piece of that that is related to the presidency of george w. bush, who, you know, campaigned in 2000 using the house republicans as foil, and to try to suggest that he was a different kind republican. a passionate conservative, which was, i suppose, as close as he was willing to say a more moderate conservative as opposed to a hard core conservative.
but as we know, in the latter stages of the bush presidency, a lot of the conservative base rebepped against the kind of thing he was doing in domestic policy in the size of spending he was undertaking. so there was over the last couple of years of the bush presidency a revolt underway already within the republican base, which was then accelerated with the election of barack obama, and the stimulus package and the health care package and it has now created this huge gulf. one other point and then stop. that is, this is not unrelated to the general homagenization. we think of moderate democrats in an era when the parties were blended, and you had some of each in both parties. we don't have that anymore and in part because voters have sorted themselves out. if you're a republican at this point, 90%, 95% of the time you
vote for a republican candidate. so there is much less mixing and matching that we see among the electorate, and that has encouraged, i think, the widening of the gap between the two parties, and particularly within congress, the wings being more dominant than the middle. >> so i'm going to follow-up with dan but i open it up for the rest of the panel, we have a recent book, all of a sudden the panel i think, tom mann, come out in the last few days with a title, it's worse than you think, but the headline of that book has been, yes, there's polarization. in both parties. but, really, it's much more significant in the republican party and the problem is with the republican party. so do you agree with that? is there a fancier term for that? asymmetric polarization? is one party more polarized? the republican party more or more of a balance between the two? >> i think at this point the republican party is more
confrontational is more resistant to anything that the president has tried to do. now, you could, you can make an argument that the same thing happened in 1993 when president clinton was elected, and instead of doing some of the things he talked about as a candidate, particularly welfare reform, went down roh track after having essential lay mortgage part of this presidency to the congressional leadership and took a more progressive or liberal approach to some of the things he was trying to do and the republicans said, we're going to fight against that. remember, his budget plan in 1993 went through without a single republican vote, as i recall. so it's not as though this is totally unprecedented, but i think there's a harder edge to it and i think the election of the tea party freshmen, robert draper, a new book out in the last week called "do not ask what good we do" about the house republicans over the last year since elected in 2010. and it just talks about the kind
of conviction that is now there within the republican base and within the tea party side of it, and so i think it is a much harder thing as we've seen speaker boehner try to work through that, not terribly successfully. so i think that there is right now in the republican party a harder edge about it. we don't know if, you know, if you had a republican president and the equivalent in the democratic party of a democratic majority on one side whether we would see that same kind of thing, but i think at this point it's more heavily on the republican side. >> anybody else want to weigh in on that question jivlgts find myself nodding in agreement with what steve was saying and i don't want this to happen. so i'm going to -- say something a little more provocative here. you know, it's often forgotten that the inspiration for today's conservative movement is the communist party. all right. it's not often remembered, because that's been an exaggeration. the fact is f. clifton white, principle strategist of the conservative movement, did take a lot of his tactical
inspirations from battling communists when he was with the american veterans committee after world war ii, and he realized this ways, locked voting, bullet voting, the diamond formation used to dominate meeting, an array of tactics both fair and foul, the small faction can use to take power within the larger body which is largely unaware of these kind of maneuvers. and over the years, the success of the syndicate, which was the operation that white and waylon rusher had within the young republican organization experienced a lot of suction with the go -- success with the goldwater movement. a problem with conservatism, much better at winning elections than what to do with pow whir it has it. the role of the ribon society was a great role. great at coming up with republican policy. not so great at achieving power or winning elections or getting them implemented. richard nixon knew there were
halves of the republican soul, why he was such an effective president i think in many way, although we tend to forget that. we still see the problem when conservative, great at knocking down everything they don't believe in but almost leaving them in a an anihilistic position when they actually come to office. >> jeff, i'm going to disappoint you and agree with most of what you just said. i think it was -- actually quite a different confident the conservative movement. anti-communist thing is one part of it. you've got the elephant leg and thinks as tree. that's -- anyway -- and republicans don't know how to govern. there's some truth to that. something i complain about a lot. that goes to a disjunction between whether there is a majority -- they may be able to win elections. proven they've can do that now and then. whether they can kprand majority of public opinion to support
their more ideas, that's -- reagan made a couple attempt at social security, got his head handed to him and never tried again. had he tried it again he wouldn't have had great rating hess enjoyed throughout hiswond circles are right. but i wonner ewonder if the cu and past president haven't been tripped up by historical contingencies. experiment for bush. suppose, a, you hadn't had the florida disaster, embittered both parties. especially bush's opposition, and, two, you hadn't had 9/11? what if bush had been a domestic policy president and no chind left behind, argue with tax cuts, that art goes on forever. you can't know how it might have turned out, but it might have turned out differently. likewise, i tend to give obama, i'm a critic, i give him a pass to a large degree for this
reason. he's handed the financial crisis six weeks before an election. unlike ronald reagan. economic crisis he confronted for two, three year, thought about what they would do and said what he was going to do and then did it. and the obama suddenly handed this crisis that up ends everything. then you get t.a.r.p., then the stimulus, and then you're back to what you really wanted to do health care. by that thing, things are so -- what would obama's presidency been like with a more election campaign and a more normal begins of an administration? jo know. i wonder if we haven't gone through a particularly unusual period of time we haven't seen really since the great depression, maybe? i don't know if that's germane or not, but i think it might be. >> as an experiment suggested, i was part of last week actually had the bob dole institute our lawrence, kansas, question for the panel was, how would nixon be remembered without watergate?
that took some real experimenting, and -- >> how would lincoln be remembered without the civil war? >> yes. yae. yes. >> but can i add, the converse in the argument i just made, actually back closer to the main theme which is there was something when clinton was elected you saw that was a very real, very raw and problematic. that was, while he was a baby boomer from the hippie side of the '60s. conservative set. right? a culture war axis in the whole clinton business going onone of the things obama i think got right, he tried to say good-bye to all that pap post-baby boomer. even saying when what it if these guys didn't have radical contingencies? going on with obama, clinton, and. >> now you see it with b obama an extent. not quite out of the '60s as much. that's a difficult problem that may reverberate until all of us baby boomers croak.
>> you're making a plea for jeff greenberg's book. more alternatives -- but i'm going to ask a question, one more historical question nap is especially to jeff but perhaps to lee also, did moderate republicans of seem themselves as taking over the party and changing the direction of the republican party or was it more that they thought that they should be a balancing wing? your book, i think, makes a little bit of both cases. which is it? was there a path to some thought, a new southern coalition maybe the republicans could get? new south whites and some african-american votes or other sort of coalitions that would change the republican party or was it always going to be an important wing that had to be preserved? >> of course, being a moderate i'm going to tell you, some of one and some of the other. you know. a lot of people on both sides of the aisle objected to
independence and mood riderates. they were transsexuals, and others. bipartisan opposition one might say. i would say moderation was something and stood for something in the 1960s during this time. it wanted to see its positions dominate although it wasn't so much interested in taking power within the party per se. the american society when all was said and done was mostly a think tank before the term. wasn't something that was going to seek out and stirring things up at the grass roots. but the positions s is it want see, internationalism. wanted to see decentralization versus the sentraization that was the great society in johnson's administration. less emphasis on bure rock taization and more government responsibilities towards the private sector and the voluntary and secondary sector, perhaps and actually wanted to see a kind of temperamental moderation of conservative, if that makes any sense. you know,