We've all noticed how extreme the Republican Party has become. When a moderate voice speaks up to be heard, it is quickly extinguished. Case in point: Kevin Stevenson, now former Republican Party spokesman for Marathon County, Wisconsin.
Mr. Stevenson writes a regular guest column for the Wausau Daily Herald. On March 24, 2009, Mr. Stevenson wrote a column criticizing Rush Limbaugh. As a result, he lost his job as Republican Party spokesman for Marathon County, Wisconsin.
Sadly, today's politics is full of self-interest. Rush Limabugh is not a politician. He does believe in conservatism and has a forum to express his views. You must admit that he has a large and loyal following, but so does Rachel Maddow as an extreme liberal.
Both of these people need to shock to keep their ratings high. They are entertainers who earn their living by what they say, not what they accomplish.
Republicans do not agree with all of the president's policies, but no one wants him to fail as president. That's because when leaders fail, so do their followers. No good citizen wants the United States to fail. Some may think that he will fail, but this is far different from wanting him to fail.
Wausau Daily Herald
March 24, 2009
The column is not available any longer on the paper's website (I transcribed the quote from Keith Olbermann's WTF Moment on Tuesday night (see video below). What is available is the article about Mr. Stevenson being ousted as the GOP spokesman for his remarks.
When Stevenson criticized Limbaugh for saying he wanted President Barack Obama to fail, other local Republicans wrote to the newspaper, arguing that conservatives ought to want Obama's policies to fail.
"This is just part of what you're seeing nationwide," he said. "(Party members) know that I don't agree with Rush Limbaugh. Rush Limbaugh is hurting us more than helping us."
Kevin Hermening, the local Republican Party treasurer and a past president, said although Stevenson's columns were circulated among the party's executive committee, they did not always represent the views of most members.
"He was sharing a moderate view in his columns, which I think is terrific," Hermening said. "If the leadership had wanted a more moderate position, we would have let him (continue)."
That last quote just floored me! And here is the statement by Kevin Stevenson, the person who is "too moderate" for the Republican Party in Marathon County:
Editor: The most imminent danger facing the Republican Party comes from within. A growing party embraces its differences and uses the strengths of its differences in a positive manner. Differences should not be feared, but embraced as we as Americans are a mixture of diverse cultures with a rich history.
The Republican Party is at a crossroads. Purging people who have differences from its ranks will insure that it remains a minority party well into the future. The direction the Republican Party chooses will determine its fate, not the Democrat Party.
-- Kevin Stevenson, Former Spokesperson Republican Party of Marathon County
What was Rush Limbaugh's response to all this?
I know the story going -- this is about this little schlub up in Wisconsin. Yes, I know all about it, I know all about it. Look, that's not even big enough for me to worry about. That guy's such a podunk, it's not even worthy of our time on the E -- I wish you wouldn't interrupt me with this stuff. If you're gonna interrupt me every time I'm on that stupid government-run channel, then I'm going to be doing nothing but reacting to the government-run channel. All they do is run videotape of me and people complaining about me. I'm talking about government-run MSNBC. Some little podunk Republican -- moderate liberal Republican who was thrown out of his leadership post in Wausau, Wisconsin, some county there, because he dared criticize me. And so this guy is now loved and adored by government-run media. Big whoop. This has been going on for three days. This is not even new news.
Is this how to win friends and influence people? Call them names like "podunk" and immediately alienate other moderates in the Republican Party?
Mike Moran, chairman of the Marathon County Democratic Party, had something to say as well,
... That's why I again want to reiterate that I give my local Republican Party colleague, along with Sens. Specter and Snowe, credit for standing up in their own different ways against the Limbaugh approach.
I hope more Republicans will follow their lead. Otherwise, we Democrats are happy to continue welcoming more moderates to our Party.
Meanwhile, Kevin Stevenson may have lost his job as spokesman for his local GOP, but he still writes columns for the Wausau Daily Herald. Here is his column from last Tuesday: Cap and trade goes the wrong way. He also appeared on MSNBC on Friday. The Huffington Post has posted video from MSNBC, which can't be embedded here because it uses iframes:
"[T]hey didn't like what I said about Rush, and they had tied that into some other things and it basically came up that, well, you're a moderate. Yes, I am a Republican who has moderate views on social issues. And they said, we can't allow that. You can't write for us if you're not with us."
This brings us to Keith Olbermann's WTF Moment on Tuesday night, wherein Mr. Olbermann reminded us that this is not the first time a political party in this country destroyed itself from within. The other party in our two-party system was once the Whig Party. For those without the ability to watch the video on your computer, I have transcribed Mr. Olbermann's comment starting about half way through, and posted it below the video.
Purging. An ugly word, but the correct one. If you don't agree with the extremism of Limbaugh, you're out. Ask Arlen Spector, Michael Steele, Congressman Gingrey, John McCain, Roberta McCain, Meghan McCain. And if you point out it is extremism, one of the guys escorting you out the door will shout, "Extremism in defense of liberty is no vice." The odds are pretty good that the screamer will know that it is Barry Goldwater he is quoting. The odds are also pretty good that the screamer will never had made that great intellectual leap to the realization that 110 days after Barry Goldwater uttered that immortal manifesto, he lost the election, by 16 million votes and 434 of them in the Electoral College.
The problem is, then and now, if you keep showing people the door, sooner or later there will be more people outside the door than inside it with you. And this brings us back to the hypothetical 167 year old viewer who said, "I warned Daniel Webster about this back in 1852, and he didn't listen to me either."
The Whig Party was half of the American two party system. It rose to prominence by being the Party of No in fierce opposition to the then dominant Democrats. The Whigs managed to elect William Henry Harrison president, and then Zachary Taylor. The party included them and Daniel Webster and the famous Senator Henry Clay and former and future presidents like John Quincy Adams, John Tyler and Millard Fillmore. As the 1850s began, the Whigs had an incredible advantage, as well. The Democrats were descending into a pro-slavery position. Whereupon, the pro-slavery faction in the Whig Party started to expel the anti-slavery Whigs. Then they put the squeeze on the Whigs who were merely neutral or moderate about slavery. There was a purge, a cleansing, of those who were not conservative enough to be Whigs. So the local Whig party leader in Illinois quit the party. In fact, he quit politics. He went back to being a lawyer. His name was Abraham Lincoln.
But, the Whigs kept their party pure. Extremism in the defense of what they believed was liberty was no vice and by 1860 the Whigs had no candidates. They didn't even hold a convention.
Kevin Stevenson is not Abraham Lincoln and ultraconservative rage of today is not the issue of slavery, and the Republicans are not the Whigs. Not yet, anyway. But no organization, political or otherwise, collapses only from the top. Just as you have to screw it up nationally, so too do you have to unravel it down to the grassroots. As the firing of Mr. Stevenson by the Marathon County GOP suggests, the one area in which Republicans are firing on all cylinders, is firing moderate Republicans.
Countdown with Keith Olbermann, WTF Moment, June 2, 2009
I watched that segment Tuesday night and thought it was awesome. I wanted to write a diary about it then, but I was just so tired on Tuesday, I wasn't up to it. I started thinking about it, and went back and watched it again today, after I read an interesting article in the New York Times.
Yes, the Republican Party is destroying itself from within. They are destroying themselves at the top nationally, and at the grassroots level. I'm not sure exactly what the test is these days to be a "Pure Republican" but it is safe to assume that there are a lot of people who don't pass the test. The Democratic Administration, could just sit back and watch this self-destruction go on until its inevitable conclusion. But, that's not what's happening.
In picking Republicans like Mr. McHugh for top jobs, the Obama administration says it is assembling a coalition government that welcomes qualified members of the opposition. It gives the White House a claim to bipartisanship despite continuing clashes with Republican Congressional leaders.
But the political benefits are an equally strong incentive. Remaining Republican colleagues become discouraged and feel further isolated in the minority. Political vacancies are created. And Republicans can be painted as being hostile to more moderate Republicans or those willing to engage the Democratic administration.
In embracing select Republicans, the Obama administration — notably Rahm Emanuel, the White House chief of staff — seems to be applying this maxim: Hug them until it hurts.
"This Machiavellian strategy is pure Rahm," said John Feehery, a Republican strategist and former top House aide. "It is brilliant and it is painful for Republicans."
Creating vacancies in a Republican seat produces consequences: a new election. At which point, the Republicans battling within their own party, struggle to find a candidate to run for that seat. Who are they going to choose? Another moderate like the person who just vacated the seat to join the Obama Administration? In the current atmosphere of the Republican Party? There are going to be some interesting special elections to watch.