“[Political ideology] accounts for about 93 percent of roll call voting choices in the 113th House and Senate.”
This fact, based on research by the Pew Research Center, should appall all of us. Polarization is a rampant disease in both parties, but in this article, I want to reflect on how it has impacted modern conservatism.
I know moderate conservatives exist: I am one. But where are they in Congress? Why do they no longer play a prominent role on the national stage? Unfortunately, it saddens me to say that moderate conservatism is a dying breed.
Some conservatives in Congress think it is useful to read Green Eggs and Ham from the Senate stand or call President Obama “the enemy of humanity.” I am no liberal, but I should not have to be to think this behavior is ridiculous and beneath the dignity of our government. What happened to respect and common decency in politics? As the moderate has died in congress, so has the discourse. We need moderates to bring both sides together in positive, constructive discourse once again.
Of course, this is easier said than done. We must understand why the moderate conservative is a dying breed before working to fix this problem.
Today, 33% of engaged Republicans express consistently conservative views which is up from just 10% only a decade ago. Counterintuitively, Pew notes that “[Extreme] sentiments are not shared by all – or even most – Americans. The majority do not have uniformly conservative or liberal views. Most do not see either party as a threat to the nation. And more believe their representatives in government should meet halfway to resolve contentious disputes rather than hold out for more of what they want.” So what gives? Based on this data, should not the moderate conservative dominate the Republican Party?
Unfortunately, this conundrum makes sense when we understand that politicians are more interested in getting elected or reelected than actually speaking their mind. As the politically engaged, also known as the likely voters, have become more and more conservative, so have GOP legislators. This is not a coincidence; it does not happen by accident. Elected officials observe the popular political climate and conform to it in order to get votes. It does not take a rocket scientist to recognize this, but unfortunately, it forces politicians to adopt the rhetoric of the engaged ultra-conservatives.
In addition, every election cycle the Republican National Committee and various conservative Super PACs allocate millions of dollars to candidates across the nation. The people making these allocation decisions are typically chosen from the politically engaged, and as that population gets more conservative, what happens to the people making these important allocation decisions? Naturally, they get more conservative. And are they going to allocate money to a moderate conservative or a “Green Eggs and Ham Type” conservative? Unfortunately, it is probably going to be the latter. Therefore, moderate conservatives have a clear monetary disadvantage in primaries.
I wish the problem ended there. Regrettably, these facts motivate moderates to become more extreme because as I already said, politicians are more interested in getting elected than speaking their minds. Therefore, more and more GOP politicians are hopping on the “Green Eggs and Ham” train and riding it right to Washington.
Nevertheless, I believe moderate conservatives have fight left in them! There are plenty of us that love compromise, that do not think liberals are deliberately ruining this country, and that believe in coming together. Let’s engage in respectful political discourse and encourage moderate candidates to continue bringing their ideas to our political discussions across the country. Moreover, we need to show these candidates that we mean business. We need to raise our voices in support of moderates and show up on Election Day. For I believe moderates represent the silent majority disgusted with the current state of political affairs.