Irritating, Lousy, Liberal Republicans

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National Review is upset with Senator Lincoln Chafee (R-RI). The midterm elections are coming up later this year, it’s almost primary time, and Chafee may win reelection. Chafee’s crime is that he is a “liberal” Republican. Not just any liberal Republican, but a “spectacularly lousy Republican” who “might be the most irritating Republican in the Senate.”

Those who paid attention in their high school American Government class know that an election is held every two years for one-third of all U.S. Senate seats. This is in contrast to the U.S. House of Representatives, where members only serve for two years instead of six years like the Senate.

Writing in the August 7 issue of National Review on the midterm elections, John Miller introduces us to Stephen Laffey, the mayor of Cranston, Rhode Island, and a “mainstream conservative” who is running against Chafee in the Rhode Island Republican primary on September 12. A surprise Laffey victory “wouldn’t be merely pleasant, but positively exhilarating.”

Is that so? Republicans are forever telling conservative voters that if they could only get rid of irritating, lousy, liberal Republicans like Senator Lincoln Chafee then the U.S. Congress would be transformed into a conservative Republican utopia. But are liberal Republicans like Chafee really the problem? Miller writes that “a close look at Chafee’s congressional record suggests that the senator would fit comfortably within the Democratic fold: The American Conservative Union gives Chafee a lifetime rating of 37 out of a possible 100.” But how about a look at the record of the “conservative” Republicans in Congress? Are they any better than the “liberal” Democrats?

Fortunately, this is an easy thing to do. The latest “Conservative Index” that has just been published by The New American, (a biweekly publication of The John Birch Society). As usual, it is an eye-opener for those who think that the Republicans in Congress are “conservative.” The “Conservative Index,” according to The New American, “rates congressmen based on their adherence to constitutional principles of limited government, fiscal responsibility, national sovereignty, and a traditional foreign policy of avoiding foreign entanglements.” The New American views conservatism as an ideology that believes in “preserving our Constitution, the freedoms it guarantees, and the moral bedrock on which it is based.”

The latest “Conservative Index” is the magazine’s third look at the 109th Congress, and was published on July 10, 2006. As in previous indexes, the votes cast by congressmen on certain key issues are assigned a plus (good) or a minus (bad). Scores from 1 to 100 are determined by dividing a congressman’s plus votes by the total number of votes cast and multiplying by 100. Thus, the higher the number, the stronger the congressman’s commitment to the constitutional principles just mentioned. The overall average score for the three indexes prepared thus far for the 109th Congress is also given.

The results of the index show, as usual, that the Republican Party is not the party of real conservatism at all. It is the party of interventionism, big government, the welfare state, the warfare state, plunder, compromises, and sellouts — just like the Democratic Party.

The average score in the House was only 36; the average score in the Senate was only 26. The high score (100) was once again made by Representative Ron Paul (R-TX). Since Chafee is a senator, I will focus on the Republicans in the Senate.

The party breakdown in the Senate is 55 Republicans, 44 Democrats, and 1 Independent. The average score for the Republicans was a dismal 24. The Democrats at least managed a 29. The lone Independent scored a 30. Ten Republican senators scored a 0. None of the Democrats did. In the fourteen states that have both a Republican and a Democratic senator, only in four of them did the Republican have a higher score than the Democrat. Two Republicans were tied for the high score of 60, but one Democrat (Byron Dorgan [D-ND]) also scored a 60. The Republicans and Democrats each had five senators score 50 or above. None of the Republican leadership managed to score over 50. Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist (R-TN) received a 20 as did Senate Assistant Majority Leader (the Whip) Mitch McConnell (R-KY). The third in command, Conference Secretary Rick Santorum (R-PA), beat them out with a 22. Senate President Pro Tempore Ted Stevens (R-AK) received a 0. The Republican leadership all scored less than Hillary Clinton (D-NY), Ted Kennedy (D-MA), and John Kerry (D-MA).

The 1994 Republican revolution is a failure. It is such a dismal failure that despite the Republican rhetoric about the virtues of conservatism, the benefits of the free market, and the need for less government intervention in the economy and society, the increasing Republican majority in both houses of Congress can only be counted on to further increase the size and scope of government. This, of course, comes as no surprise, since the history of the Republican Party is one of compromise after compromise and sellout after sellout.

Is the Republican Party the party of conservatism? Sure, Republicans can talk a good conservatism, especially when it comes time for an election. But real conservatives need to wake up: Republicans are now not only proudly embracing New Deal- and Great Society-like programs — they are expanding them at record levels. Conservative Christians likewise need to open their eyes: The Republican Party is not the salvation of America — how hard is it to position oneself to the right of the Democratic Party? As I said on another occasion: The Republican Party is not the lesser of two evils, it is pure evil, just like the Democratic Party.

If you ignore Republican campaign rhetoric about how they are for free markets and limited government, and focus on Republican performance, it is readily apparent that the old adage is true now more than ever: there is not a dime’s worth of difference between the two major parties.

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