Post Politics: Will Lamar save the GOP from the extremists?

Monday, September 7, 2009 at 10:22pm

The Republican Party is at a crossroads nationally. Handed their biggest defeat in 2008, their grassroots are now showing a resurgence. Of course, parties are always most vibrant in exile. The Golderwaterites of 1964, the McGovernites of 1972, and the Republican Revolution of 1994 have shown us that.

These tea parties and town halls are revealing an anger that is real and an engagement with the issues that can be healthy. People make a mistake when they dismiss the organic nature of what is going as only the actions of some crackpots and reactionaries.

For every crackpot and reactionary, there are real independent voters who are confused and in search of a real alternative to the Obama administration. Unfortunately, those aforementioned crackpots and reactionaries are making a rebound from the right of center difficult. Because as desperate as some may be for a new Republican agenda, if the first thing they see are red-faces screaming about the President's birth certificate and radio hosts decrying 'death panels' they are going to run in the other direction.

Now don't get it twisted, there is nothing wrong with getting a little 'revolutionary' now and again. The Republican Party under Bush did lose its way and reorganization is in order but things have gotten out of hand.

It seems lately that the Right is doing nothing but throwing red meat to their base waiting for President Obama to make mistakes. And so far, it seems like he is obliging them. The President made a critical error in failing to craft a bill and push it through. What we are likely to get now from congress is a muddled mess that will do little to fix the fundamental problems.

But the point of the matter is not what the President does or doesn't do. It is time for Republicans to take control of their party and rein in the Right. Now by rein in, I don't mean lose the fire of reformation.

Republicans shouldn't be looking to jettison Ron Paul supporters yelling "End The Fed" or dismiss those who clamor for state sovereignty. These people are motivated by issues. Right or wrong, they have ideas. The GOP needs those. What Republicans don't need are those who have run out of ideas. Those radio talkers and townhall agitators whose red meat can't make a meal — those who, once you get past the slogans and the shout downs, have nothing substantive to offer.

Bruce Barlett, a former Reaganite, writes of the need for someone to right the ship of Republicanism.

"I think the Republican Party is in the same boat the Democrats were in in the early eighties — dominated by extremists unable to see how badly their party was alienating moderates and independents. The party’s adults formed the DLC to push the party back to the center and it was very successful," wrote Bartlett. "I will know that the party is on the path to recovery when someone in a position of influence reaches out to former Republicans like me."

The Republican Party need not cut itself off from constitutionalism but it does need a break from the conspiratorialists. Someone in the Republican Party needs to stand up and denounce the birthers and the bombthrowers.

But who can do it? Who in a position of power sees Republicanism, not as a reactionary destructive force, but as constructive shepherd of a limited government and is unfraid to speak truth to conservatives?

One name that comes to mind is Lamar Alexander. He is a Republican of the old school — before the Republican Party and the conservative movement became as one. He is well-liked, respected by minorities and has always been an advocate of compromise and pragmatism.

Alexander, likely in his last term of elective office, has little to fear if the conservative electorate reacts badly to his rebuke.

Which makes it all that more curious that Alexander messaging contains fears of "runaway government" and warnings to the state to stay away from "end of life" decisions — coming very close rhetorically to the "death panel" scare tactic of conservatives.

Of course, there is nothing wrong with either of these messages per se or the policy preferences behind them. But this only one side of the equation. The Republican Party has been taken for a ride rhetorically by these talk show shows and tea party opportunists. The message has gone off the rails.

At a moment in time when Alexander should be turning his rhetorical back on the extremists he seems to be blending his words to mimic their noise.

Whatever happens in its final years, Lamar Alexander's political career will be legend in Tennessee. Why not add savior of the national party as the final chapter of the Lamar legacy?

Kleinheider is's political blogger. Visit him at

19 Comments on this post:

By: dnewton on 9/8/09 at 2:21

We already tried the middle with McCain. Alexander is no middle of the road Republican. He just looks that way in comparrison. I refused to vote for Alexander last time because he went Statesman on me and thought that he could fix the immigration mess by doing another amnesty. It reminded me of the number of times that the Democrats "fixed" Socialist Security over and over again with another tax increase.

I think his idea of building a hundred nuclear power plants is an attempt to pick out a few good ideas within the Cap and Trade legislation but he will never get that bill before the Senate as long as there is a Democrat majority. Cap and trade tries to fix a problem that does not exist in any demonstrable way. It is a problem that is imagined. CO2 is not a danger to the planet at its current level or double the current level and it cannot be demonstrated, by itself, to be a cause of Global Warming. The earth has survived quadruple the current CO2 levels. I know that all of the smart people are saying it is a problem but I will feel better when the thermometers and the tide guages start to agree with them. The Congressional Budget Office did not include any offset or benifit from the reversal or stoppage of Global Warming in their analysis.

We generally think of mechanics that fix non-existent mechanical problems with our cars as criminals. I don't see any reason to treat people in the congress and their K street enablers any differently. The congress has been paying them and universities to study global warming for over ten years. They can't say it is a hoax without saying they were hoaxed. Senator Alexander's Bill to build nuclear power plants can be thought of as addressing Climate Change, if it exists, but it also addresses the fact that there is a need to double our power every 66 years at least and even quicker if we think that we can actually get enough batteries to run electric cars.

We need adults in charge who will represent us to solve real problems. Dancing around the sensitivity of a bunch of Chicken Littles who like to cry "wolf" is wasting time and money.

By: idgaf on 9/8/09 at 4:47

Gotta love the libs that try to tell conservatives how great the RINOs are.

That is why they are so obsessed with destroying Palin and want to face Hucklebe or Romney to hedge their bets.

Side note Hucklebe would be an idiot to run with the sweet deals he has now with the tv show and heir apparent to Paul Harvey which he handles well.

By: oyharward on 9/8/09 at 6:14

Will Lamar Alexander save the GOP from the extremist? The more accurate question is will Alexander return to his original Conservative values and support the GOP Platform , rather than the left-wing Democrat Party? It is some of those Republicans In Registration Only (RINO) on Capitol Hill whom themselves have moved more to the left, for whatever their reasons are. Maybe the time is now for Tennessee to start looking for a new senator who will vote more Conservative on the issues, in lieu of the Moderate and/or Liberal. Sen. Lamar Alexander needs to shape up or be moved out. It is those voting much like Sen. Alexander who causes so many to ask, ‘What is the difference between a Democrat and a Republican’?

By: frank brown on 9/8/09 at 7:16

I see very little hope that the central class and the upperclass can do anything about the liberal and underclass movement in this country.

They will be surprised to learn as the years roll by that you cannot make the"weak strong by making the strong weak"

By: Kosh III on 9/8/09 at 9:19

"The earth has survived quadruple the current CO2 levels."

Yes it has but will humans survive?

Lame-ar is hardly a liberal or a libertarian.

By: Loner on 9/8/09 at 9:51

After LBJ and a few other Southern Democrats voted in the Civil Rights Act, the GOP reached out to the disgruntled Southern whites. The Solid South flipped over to the Republican brand....Richard Niixon ws the first presidential beneficiary.

The GOP embraced the caucasian, Confederate flag-wavers who were chanting, "Two! Four! Six! Eight! We don't want to integrate!". Now, they are paying the price for pandering to the Evangelicals, the "born-again" fundamentalists and the related varieties of Judeo-Christian theocrats.

I remember the days when the Republican Party was the more secular of the two major political parties. If the GOP is serious about rediscovering its roots and its core mission, the party should consider returning to its more secular principles.

That is not likely to happen. If the Christian Right decided to bolt the GOP, to form their own party, it would doom the Republican brand. If the theocrats remain in control of the Party, it will continue to drive more reasonable people away. Either way, for the GOP, the chickens have come home to roost.

By: idgaf on 9/8/09 at 11:05

And barry will do what for the dems loser?

By: Loner on 9/8/09 at 11:28

"For dem losers"? Barry, who dat?

By: cmarcus45 on 9/8/09 at 11:46

I am a Republican, and I think this is a great article. And I agree with it. Obama won with a populist message by finding common ground. The Republican party must learn to do that. Instead, Republican lawmakers who look for common ground are labeled as RINO's and become the targets of other Republicans. It is a miracle that McCain got the nomination for just these reasons. I am glad he got the nomination, and it is a shame he is not the President. He understands that many times pragmatism is a virtue that leads to more positive results than standoffs that lead to no resolution whatsoever.

We need to find our leaders for the next decade who understand this. The others are not electable in a general election anyway. I certainly do not think Palin is the answer. I don't think Corker is, either. Huckabee may be (emphasize "may"). Lamar could have been but is now getting to near the end of his career. Jindal and Crist could get there with some work. Pawlenty seems like the best answer to me. Let's quit listening to talk radio and start listening to our neighbors. Seriously, we need to turn off people like Limbaugh and listen to more rational conservative personalities like Sean Hannity. Even if you disagree with Hannity's political views, you must admit that he is level-headed. You won't hear him yelling about 'death panels.'

By: Loner on 9/8/09 at 12:14

Huckabee for US President? Forget it. The guy is a man of the cloth. Today, he doesn't go by "Reverend Huckabee" or "Pastor Huckabee", as he once did...he prefers the more secular title of "Governor Huckabee".

Huck isn't fooling many thinking people with his crude disguise. He's a divine right theocrat.

Huckabee is a minister of God who would rule over us during this time of Holy War in Palestine, Iraq and Afghanistan. Rev. Huck would gladly give Israel the WMD to nuke Iran or anyone else who gets in the way of prohecy fulfillment. We would be one divine dream away from Armageddon.

The fact that this opportunistic preacher-turned-politician is on the Republlican short list illustrates my earlier points. The GOP has been hijacked by theocrats.

By: Loner on 9/8/09 at 12:41

Jindal is something of a religious kook. He converted from Hinduism to evangelical Catholicism. He admits having taken part in an exorcism while in college. He gave himself the name "Bobby"....he's a pretty weird fellow.

By: Loner on 9/8/09 at 12:48

Palin asked the town librarian for her reaction to banning books...she addresed the secessionist Alaska Independence Party's conventions, and according to an Israeli news report, she has only one flag in her Gov.'s Office - the Israeli flag. Oh yeah, she's a theocrat and a nutjob. Good looking, yes; presidential, no way.

By: BenDover on 9/8/09 at 3:08

If sarah shows up at Brushwood this year, Loner... I get first dibs.

By: BenDover on 9/8/09 at 3:14

Hannity annoys the sh*t out of me; cmarcus. McCain was Powell's (the definition of centrist republican) best of the best in the Republican field and he endorsed Obama. You can't out-liberal a liberal. The country is tired of Carter Country and is ready for another Reagan Revolution.

By: cmarcus45 on 9/8/09 at 3:53

But, BenDover, the question remains: who is the next Reagan to lead that revolution? There'll never be another Reagan, but my money's on Pawlenty. Nice name, but the way.

By: govskeptic on 9/8/09 at 4:54

Looks like Loser's got all the answers on this project as to
how and whom to expand the party. A start would be to get some leadership in congress, that has been lacking for at least 10-12 years now. And not just on the GOP side, the current Democratic Party is lacking just as well. The only public appearance I know of Lamar making this year was to play piano at the 75th Birthday Celebration of "The Great Smokey Mtns National Park".

By: idgaf on 9/8/09 at 10:22

Loser Israel already has 200 nukes.

You leftys really should listen/watch FOX and Glenn Beck to see what barry is up to in his own posses words.

Why do you think their audiance is growing?

By: pswindle on 9/9/09 at 8:56

If this is Sen. Alexandra's last term, he can feel more free and do what is right and not have to walk the way of the GOP. He could help Pesident Obama and not be a member of the party of NO. When he was Governor, he worked for all of us, and not just for his party. He can do that again.

By: airvols on 9/9/09 at 8:57

The conservatives are the root cause of the mess we are in now. The problem with the Republican party is they have allowed the conservative wing to dominate the discussion for to long. The people have rejected their cause so now they want to take it by storm, honk a few horns and have tea party or two to show everyone they are still a policial force. In reality they are yesterdays politics that almost destroyed the country.