FLORIDA, May 17, 2012 — In Wisconsin’s ever contentious gubernatorial recall, most would probably expect the garden variety Republican to support incumbent Scott Walker. After all, he is a standard bearer for America’s gut-the-government movement and unapologetically brash about his beliefs to boot.
While this sort of thing might appeal to certain factions of the Republican base — specifically elements of it which are so far right that they have come to despise the GOP’s traditional form — it does not appeal to me.
This is why I believe that Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett must claim victory come June 5th.
Pundits have speculated that the recall is about far more than local affairs; it is a referendum of sorts on the distinct breed of right wing politics that has taken hold since the 2010 midterm elections. Despite being rooted in fiscal matters, like curtailing collective bargaining for labor unions, it has transcended them to include social policy as well; as the continuing siege on women’s reproductive rights is a shameful testament to.
If the Republican Party has any desire to remain electorally viable in both the immediate and distant futures, then such radicalism must be addressed. In the event that Walker were to lose, the national party — in spite of its chairman, Reince Priebus, who never seems to have surpassed amateur hour as far as the science of practical politics is concerned — would most certainly promote a more temperate dialogue.
Even more importantly, presumptive presidential nominee Mitt Romney could finally seize the opportunity to do something revolutionary: run on his own extensive record as a moderate. Throughout this year’s primaries, he was left with little choice other than to pose as a rock ribbed rightist; an cringeworthy feat that produced a plethora of unintentionally comedic moments.
Following a Walker loss, the far right would become almost completely devoid of political capital. Consequently, its ability to tack Romney down to a host of extremist positions should vanish. The Tea Party, which originally functioned as a positive influence of fiscal restraint during an era of runaway government spending, has morphed into a strange hybrid of the Religious Right and the John Birch Society. One of Walker’s most prominent supporters, its current incarnation might be decisively repudiated in the event that its star politico is sent packing.
As a Republican in the vein of Dwight Eisenhower and Nelson Rockefeller, I believe that this is the best case scenario. Of course, a great deal of those on the far right may threaten to leave the GOP and start their own party in the event of a centrist shift. If that is what they wish, then no one should try to stop them. After a few election cycles yielding returns no higher than five percent of the popular vote, they ought to get the message that extremism is anything but a virtue.
While it is regrettable to advocate the defeat of a fellow Republican, the Party’s temper has reached the point of this becoming an absolute necessity. Hopefully, not too far down the line, said scenario will be rendered obsolete, as adequate room will have been made inside of the supposedly big tent for not only differing viewpoints, but that nagging inconvenience known as reality.
The sooner this can be accomplished, the brighter America’s horizon stands to shine.
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