Moderate Republicans? Really?
Yes they do exist. And we need them.
The essence of our campaign to remove and replace House Speaker Kevin McCarthy is vigorous support for a (temporary) cross-party alliance of moderate Republican and Democratic Members -- an alliance that would constitute a majority, all sharing a common goal:
Isolate and marginalize the minority MAGA extremist faction within the House of Representatives.
That faction currently wields power and influence far beyond what their number would ordinarily command. They dominate the chamber solely because of concessions Kevin McCarthy made in exchange for their votes during the marathon 15-ballot session on the first few days of the 118th Congress. That's when he effectively traded away his authority, and became their servant.
The extent of control the MAGA group exercises over this Speaker is unprecedented. Every decision he makes is subject to their approval, because every day they have enough votes to bring him down and he knows they’re willing to do so.
The only way to break this cycle of inter-dependence is to get there first -- to remove McCarthy and elect a moderate Republican Speaker who owes nothing to MAGA extremists.
Our opposition to Mr. McCarthy is not personal. It springs from the need to confront the movement he's empowering. And there should be no doubt any more about the nature of that movement. It is anti-democratic and authoritarian; it's white christian nationalist; it threatens our traditions and our institutions of government. Many, including myself, see it as an incipient neofascist party in all respects except its name. And most ominously, it knows no restraints in its tactics. We learned that two years ago on January 6, 2021.
Feathers of Hope, unlike most other Substack publications, is not intended to be a showplace for one writer's work. Nor is it meant to be a newsletter, or a forum for debating issues. This site is "a meeting place for activists and their supporters". It's purpose is to facilitate doing something about an issue rather than just talking about it. Currently that issue is the Speakership of Kevin McCarthy empowering radical MAGA extremists.
The MAGA group is a distinct minority, by themselves numbering no more than about 10% of the total House membership. There are at most another 100 who generally support them. That adds up to about 145 out of 435. Since there are 222 Republican Representatives, roughly 75 are potential allies in our effort.
But since the first days of this campaign in early December, there have been objections from my fellow progressives that there is no such thing as a moderate Republican. Time and again someone would thank me for organizing this network, but then add, "You know you're wasting your time because there is no common ground with any Republican. ...They all supported Trump" or "...They hate LGBTQ people" or "They're racist...They're anti-choice...They all (fill in the blank) !"
To be honest, there is some merit to this skepticism. Historically, the Speaker of the House has been the leader of the majority party. And party discipline is a very real thing. Kevin McCarthy is the Speaker today because all but 6 of the 222 Republican Members voted for him. All but one of our potential allies voted for him 15 times in January. So why should we expect anything different from them now?
Being a politician is a difficult balancing act. There are constraints from party leadership, constituents, donors, colleagues, supporters, friends and even family. In addition to those constraints, moderates by nature impose even more on themselves. They're cautious, not inclined to act boldly or independently. They don't seek the spotlight, so quite naturally you've never heard of them. That doesn't mean they don't exist.
They do exist, many with seriously impressive resumes. And like all politicians they represent and concentrate on certain interests. These vary from individual to individual, but in general their interests do not include disruption and obstruction. That's what sets them apart from the radical MAGA minority.
For example, those with business and economic interests will favor lower taxes, less government spending, fewer regulations and so forth. But primarily they want a stable business environment with functioning markets -- the opposite of what the MAGA extremists represent with their threats of debt default and government shutdowns.
Likewise, those with national security interests will favor vigorous engagement and strong alliances with other democracies, robust diplomacy and a willingness to confront the enemies of freedom -- quite the opposite of MAGA isolationism and their admiration for autocrats.
Some of our 75 potential allies also have personal reasons to push back against the MAGA extremists. Committe seats they should have held were traded off by the Speaker in exchange for votes. Legislative initiatives that have been years in formulation are being ignored in favor of high profile "investigations". Senior Representativea with decades of experience, who understand the importance of a normally functioning legislature, are impatient with the leadership vacuum they find at the top. And some junior Representatives who came to Washington with a sincere desire to work for the good of their constituents, are resistant to being dragged down into a pointless scrum of bitterness and recriminations.
As one of our potential allies, Republican Victoria Spartz of Indiana's 5th district recently remarked, it’s time for McCarthy to “stop bread and circuses in Congress and start governing for a change.”
At "Feathers of Hope" , we are sifting through all of our potential allies, one-by-one. We're reviewing their committee seats and voting histories, their caucus memberships, biographies, supporters, press and campaign statements, as well as the voting patterns and the demographic composition of their home districts. It's tedious and time-consuming work. But it's essential.
To just accept the well-meaning declaration of our progressive friends that these other Republicans simply don't exist, would be for us to unilaterally surrender to the MAGA extremists. It would leave them free to proceed with their destructive agenda without any opposition. If we do that, what's our next move? The stakes here could hardly be higher.
We need to prevail, and to do so we need allies. If we believe that the silence of those Republican moderates gives comfort and support to the extremist MAGA faction, then our urgent task is to persuade them to do otherwise. We can't just declare that all is lost and there's nothing more to be done.
We understand that these are Republicans after all. And they mostly believe things we do not. They are pretty much all the things that we’ve been reminded that they are: anti-choice, anti-tax, pro-fossil fuels, anti-regulation, and more. But we are not here to debate those issues.
We are seeking Republican allies for one single purpose: to remove and replace Kevin McCarthy as Speaker and thereby diminish the power and influence of the MAGA minority. It is a goal shared by many mainstream establishment Republicans who care deeply about restoring normal order to the House of Representatives. And in the companion post, Moderate Republicans Found! , we name some of them and explain the criteria used to identify them.
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