Moderates like David Frum and David Brooks thought they saw a coming transformation of America in 2008, so they dreamed of a Republican Party made up of moderates who could compete for political power in the future. The moderates believed, rightly, that social conservatism was no longer relevant in the political world, that candidates running for office on a platform of establishing moral dominance over a society quickly losing its way in sin and permissiveness would be out of touch with the reality of a society which is actually socially liberal, or, at least, a society that doesn't want morals pushed on them by government. The moderates had other reasons they believed the Republican Party was out of touch: the relationship with Big Business -- the old guard of Country Club Republicans blocking young blood, gay Republicans, women, minorities from full participation -- the image that Republicans ignore the plight of the poor -- the association of Republicans with war and unquestioning patriotism and American exceptionalism which has caused conflicts in the global community -- the fact that Republicans have been viewed as anti-diversity and hostile toward multi-culturalism -- so on and so forth with many legitimate concerns. But, the main problem Republican moderates wanted to solve was the influnce social conservatives have had over the direction of the Party -- moderates wanted to marginalize the social conservatives and all their spokespeople like Sean Hannity, Rush Limbaugh, Mark Levine, Sarah Palin, Ann Coulter, and Glenn Beck, although they haven't quite figured out how to take Beck, so they just call him a crazy hate-monger.
The moderates soon had another problem -- the Tea Party -- but to the moderates, this was just an outgrowth of social conservativsm, a reactionary movement caused by a black president, changing times, and a fear of diversity and new ideas of governance. Yes, the moderates said, some progressive policies go too far, but we need major changes if we are to deal with out of control healthcare costs, global warming and our dependence on oil, the problem of Wall Street gambling us to the brink of financial collapse -- so Republicans had better stop complaining about "socialists" and birth certificates and bleeding heart liberals and join the government efforts in compromise in order to create a better, more sustainable society which is interdependent with the rest of the world. The moderates warned that Republicans can't afford to sit on the sidelines and just say no. This strategy, the moderates warned, will relegate the Republican Party to minority status for decades, and allow the worst of progressivism to come about. Centrists urged Republican participation in molding the legislation so at least the extreme elements were moderated -- what we would get, hopefully, would be the best of both sides as America is transformed to meet 21st century challenges. Yes, the moderates said, we agree that government has limits, but these are different times, and the emergencies facing our nation can't be ignored or put on hold as partisanship creates obstruction which will be blamed on Republicans and make them look backwards and reactionary, small-minded, clinging to an idealized past of a Christian America that has no relevance in the modern, complicated, cosmopolitan present.
However, the concerns of the moderates regarding social conservatism never quite materialized, and they misread the resistance to progressivism. Although social conservatives are involved in the obstruction of the progressive agenda, the main thrust was a desire to limit government, cut spending and bring about the creation of a free market. The rising stars in the Republican Party have not been moderates, but more libertarian-minded Republicans like Rand Paul and Marco Rubio. A large faction of the Tea Party has requested that the movement concentrate on economic matters, not social issues. In the meanwhile we've watched the EU struggle to bail-out member states teetering on collapse because of long term, welfare-state, progressive policies, just like the policies that progressives in America are pushing to implement, and moderates are calling to compromise with. The moderates have been caught between progressive big-spending, social engineering and the movement to limit government, cut spending and implement a free market. But these types of clear distinctions now bother moderates, and Frum is building a No Label movement. This is little more than a desparate act to avoid clarity.
The results of the midterm elections, and Obama's recent compromise on the extension of Bush's tax cuts, speak loudly to a change in direction and the failure of the moderate plan to work hand in hand with the progressives to transform America, relying on the calm and reasonable center. This doesn't mean the Republican Party is on the rise and that there will simply be a switchover in power like we've seen for decades - it means that progressives, liberals, moderates and Big Government Republicans have all misread the American public. We are entering a time in which the pressure will be to disempower the State and liberate market forces. The public is pushing for personal soveriegnty and economic growth -- people are tired of government meddling -- tired of the politically connected becoming richer and more powerful off the backs of workers and producers -- tired of Washington DC political animals telling them what they should think and how they should live their lives -- they are tired of government wasting their money, then finding ever more clever ways to tax them. If any group is making itself irrelevant, it's the Republican moderates. I suggest they worry less about strategy, spin and sophisticated, Machiavellian strategy and more about adopting the principles they've denigrated the last two years.