The principles that rule this blog

Principles that will govern my thoughts as I express them here (from my opening statement):

  • Freedom of the individual should be as total as possible, limited only by the fact that nobody should be free to cause physical injury to another, or to deprive another person of his freedoms.
  • Government is necessary primarily to provide those services that private enterprise won't, or won't at a price that people can afford.
  • No person has a right to have his own beliefs on religious, moral, political, or other controversial issues imposed on others who do not share those beliefs.

I believe that Abraham Lincoln expressed it very well:

“The legitimate object of government is to do for a community of people whatever they need to have done, but cannot do, at all, or cannot
so well do, for themselves — in their separate, individual capacities.”

Comments will be invited, and I will attempt to reply to any comments that are offered in a serious and non-abusive manner. However, I will not tolerate abusive or profane language (my reasoning is that this is my blog, and so I can control it; I wouldn't interfere with your using such language on your own!)

If anyone finds an opinion that I express to be contrary to my principles, they are welcome to point this out. I hope that I can make a rational case for my comments. Because, in fact, one label I'll happily accept is rationalist.

Monday, July 22, 2013

The moderates awake in the GOP? I hope so.

A post by Sahil Kapur titled “Senate Republicans Splinter As Moderates Rise Up,” on the “Talking Points Memo” site, dated July 19, 2013, recently came to my attention. I would like to quote it here:

Whether it’s immigration reform, the budget, or President Obama’s nominees, a faction of more moderate Republican senators are increasingly splitting from both their leadership and the tea party and partnering with Democrats on key issues.

The growing signs of division are remarkable after years of exceptional Senate GOP unity under the reign of Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY), during which minority use of the filibuster to thwart governance has soared to unprecedented heights.

This week, large numbers of Republicans, led by Sen. John McCain (R-AZ), broke with McConnell and voted with Democrats to secure the confirmation of controversial Obama nominees to the Labor Department, Environmental Protection Agency and Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. In all eight cloture and confirmation votes, McConnell voted “no.”

The most controversial nominee so far, Tom Perez for labor secretary, overcame a GOP filibuster by the thinnest of margins, 60-40. The six Republicans who joined Democrats in his favor, whom Democrats will look to for cooperation on other matters, were Sens. McCain, Bob Corker (TN), Lamar Alexander (TN), Susan Collins (ME), Mark Kirk (IL)[,] and Lisa Murkowski (AK).

In a clear sign of boiling rank-and-file frustration, Corker reportedly cried “bullshit” loudly while McConnell was discussing the issue of nominations and Democrats’ nuclear option threat during a closed-door GOP meeting on Wednesday. He later declined to apologize for it and said he’s “glad that that occurred.”

On immigration, 14 Republicans joined every Democrat in voting to comprehensively overhaul the system and offer unauthorized immigrants a path to citizenship.

On the budget, numerous Republican senators are urging conservative colleagues to stop blocking conference negotiations with the House, and are pushing for a long-term budget agreement with Democrats that includes new revenues — anathema to the tea party.

McCain has led the dissent in each of these cases, earning effusive praise from leading Democratic senators and prompting jokes this week by Democratic aides that he is the new minority leader.

John Sides, a political scientist at George Washington University, pointed to three apparent factors in the divisions: “[S]incere preferences about policy,” the outcome of the 2012 election, and the fact that some senators “value the institutions of the Senate.”

“They want to Senate to work better than it has been, and believe that confirming presidential nominees is part of that,” he said. “And they also value the filibuster, too. They want to preserve that feature of the Senate, and so a compromise on nominees was better than Reid’s using the nuclear option.”

Complicating matters for leadership is that McConnell and his No. 2, Sen. John Cornyn (R-TX), are both unpopular at home and face reelection next year. As a result, they’re working to ward off primary challengers by voting against Democratic initiatives as much as possible and avoiding the appearance of working with President Obama. That makes it harder for them to balance the concerns of rank and file members, who watched their party get crushed in a second consecutive presidential election and aren’t eager to spend another four years obstructing.

But it remains to be seen whether the divisions will usher in a new era of Senate cooperation, as McCain strikes a conciliatory posture with his 2008 rival on upcoming battles involving the debt ceiling and nominees to the influential D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals.

On nominations, McConnell had sought to so vastly redefine the parameters of a Senate minority’s obstructionist muscle that the beating he took this week ultimately amounts to a battle lost in a war he’s still comfortably winning. On immigration, senior Republicans tacitly gave reform their blessing, seemingly for the sake of the party, even as they voted against the legislation. On the budget, the larger GOP divisions are between the Senate (where members are less enthusiastic about massive spending cuts) and the House.

For me, this is a mixture of good news and bad news. A GOP contingent that fragments is less likely to prevent the Democrats from getting their way. But this group of moderates is a group whose positions I generally like, and I'd like to see them have more influence in the GOP. Sen. McCain, of course, was my choice for President in 2008, and I still believe he'd have made a better choice as President than the man in the office now. Sen. Alexander is another one I've liked a long time: he was my second choice for the nomination after Bob Dole in 1996. Sen. Collins has been, for a while, my favorite Senator, since Sen. Arlen Specter left the GOP and became a Senate Democrat. And Sens. Kirk and Murkowski have had the courage to buck the social conservatives and endorse marriage equality. Additionally, Sen. Murkowski ran a successful write-in campaign when a far-right candidate took the GOP nomination away from her — an amazing feat of political courage. So it is clear that I'm rooting for this moderate group.

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