An Experiment in Moderation
Link from Five Thirty Eight.
Knowing our collective frustration here at RFO as we watch more and more Republicans lean more and more to the right to appease the base (especially in efforts to win a primary) I thought this Michigangubernatorial primary was a unique race we should draw our attention to. Can you imagine? A GOP candidate selling himself as a moderate and moving to the left on purpose to win his primary? While perhaps not in the national spotlight, the consequences in this upcoming primary election may reveal a great deal in the battle between moderation and the extreme fringe within the GOP. Who knows? It may actually force the party to reconsider their current strategy of pushing out the moderate voices...or it may not change a thing. If nothing else, I thought it was an interesting story about an experiment in moderation. I would love to hear your thoughts and predictions and we can revisit when the results come in.
In the many Republican primaries we've had so far this year, it'sreasonably safe to say that the word "conservative"--often modified by"true" or "most"--has been used by candidates almost universally as apersonal and policy identifier. That's not surprising, given therelatively high level of ideological conformity among self-identifiedRepublican voters, and the impetus to self-conscious conservatismprovided by the Tea Party movement and an energized Republican base.
Soit's interesting to take a look at next Tuesday's primary, and find a very competitive Republicancandidate, Rick Snyder, who doesn't much use the C-word, and in fact,is appealing for Democratic and independent votes on the apparentground that like Mike Dukakis in 1988, he's about competence, notideology.
According to a new pollfrom the Michigan-based firm EPIC-MRA, Snyder is in the lead in a veryclose three-way race for the gubernatorial nomination against twocandidates, Attorney General Mike Cox and congressman Peter Hoekstra,who are competing heatedly with each other for the Tea Party/TrueConservative mantle. Yet in the Year of the Conservative, you searchhigh and low on Snyder's web page to find the word "conservative."There are plenty of things Snyder talks about--notably his businessexperience as an executive with Gateway, and his determination to makeMichigan government operate efficiently--that appeal to conservatives.But he mainly identifies himself as "one tough nerd"--the sort of thingyou'd normally associate with elitist liberals--and in the stretch runof the primary, seems to be branding himself as a moderate with specialcrossover appeal to Democrats and independents.
To be sure,Snyder calls himself pro-life (though he has broken with anti-abortiongroups by strongly supporting embryonic stem cell research) andpro-gun, but has avoided discussion of social issues in his campaign.More importantly, he's associated himself with former Gov. William Millikan,whose moderate (and pro-choice) policies as Michigan's chief executiveand GOP party boss were nearly as annoying to conservatives as hisendorsements of the last two Democratic presidential nominees. And he'salso linked even more closely to moderate (and pro-choice) formercongressman Joe Schwarz, who flirted with an independent candicacy forgovernor before being tapped by Snyder's campaign to reach out to Democratic and independent crossover voters.
The "reachout" idea is interesting but problematic. Michigan is an open primary state, and moreover, one that lets voters decide within the privacy of the voting booth which primary they will participate in (leading to high levels of confusion and spoiled ballots). But it's not clear how willing Michigan voters are to cross over. The EPIC-MRA poll cited earlier showsthat only 2% of likely GOP primary voters are Democrats, and only 15%are true independents. The same poll shows self-identifiedconservatives outgunning moderates 72-24.
...so if Snyder wins onTuesday, it will provide an exception to the general rule that being aloud-and-proud conservative is a condition precedent for representingthe Republican Party in major elections this year. And who knows, aSnyder win could even supply some encouragement down the road toconservative efforts nationally to close primaries or require runoffs.