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Arthur Christopher Schaper: What Happened to the Northeast GOP?

Friday, June 28, 2013


What happened to all the Republicans in the North East? Did someone shoot them all? Is there some terrible virus which has stripped away any pachyderm willing to pack it in for God and Country? Is there not enough room in the nation, including New England, for Republicans to wave their trunks and march along for free enterprise, free markets, and free people?

Well, Republicans in the North East have often been more liberal (or moderate?) than the rest of the national party. Edward Brooke, the first popularly elected African-American US Senator, conceded that he had always been a social liberal, but also a conscientious cost-cutter. Before his Senate run, he had served as Massachusetts’ Attorney General and saved the state millions. He supported the Republican Party because they had the progressive record on Civil Rights. Just to jog the readers’ memory, it was the Republicans, not the Democrats, who had desegregated the National Guard in Massachusetts, and the Republicans, from Dwight D. Eisenhower to Richard Nixon, who advanced policies to curb segregation policies and advance the causes of colored people throughout the United States. As for the Democratic Party, no better spokesman for their motives can share it like Lyndon Baines “Great Society” Johnson, who admitted his reason for expanding welfare: “We’ll have those n*ggers voting for us for the next two hundred years”.

Nelson Rockefeller of New York, a Senator, Governor, and then Vice President (watch the middle finger!), represented the liberal faction of the Republican Party, allied himself with the moderate, Establishment Gerald Ford: tough on crime and strong on national security, yet tempered by advancement of civil rights and fiscal discipline. Yet the Republicans’ liberal streak in the Northeast was too strong for some, enough that National Review endorsed the Democrat for Governor of Connecticut because he pledged not to raise taxes. The Republican won, and raised taxes. Quite a reversal in light of today’s politics, which have polarized the two parties to such an extent, that liberal and conservative factions do not thrive or jive too well together anymore in any one party.

Republican Ronald Reagan won forty-nine states in 1984, including Massachusetts and Rhode Island. Jimmy Carter was as un-presidential as could be, a dark-horse who had stormed through Iowa to carry the Democratic nomination in 1976, yet faced a bitter primary fight against Massachusetts US Senator Ted Kennedy in 1980, plus a third-party challenger. Reagan did so well, preaching an inclusive message which diminished government, admonished or enemies abroad, and embellished our history and potential at home. His 1984 opponent, Walter Mondale, all youth and inexperience, boldly declared that he would raise our taxes at his own convention.

Then “New England moderate by way of Texas” George Herbert Walker Bush rode on “The Gipper’s” coattails...and fiscal reality rejected the tax-cut-only conservatism of Ronald Reagan. “Read My Lips” turned into “Kiss My Butt”, and Bush raised new taxes, followed by a successful military venture in Iraq, then an unsuccessful recession, a third-party challenge from Texas billionaire Ross Perot, and Republicans did not win electoral votes from the Northeast (or the Presidency) for eight years.

Then more tears between the Northeast GOP and the Rest started to show. New England Republicans voted to acquit Bill Clinton in 1999. George W. Bush, another “New England moderate by way of Texas” (more tang than hoity-toity), won in 2000. Bush was the last Republican Presidential candidate to win a New England state: New Hampshire. Bush drove the wedge wider between Northeast and the Rest. The Historic US Senate of 2001 was 50-50. Then the environmentally-friendly James Jeffords of Vermont started to feel jerked around by the Bush Administration. They snubbed his conference calls, and Jeffords dismissed their moral majoritarianism. Maine’s Olympia Snowe sensed Jefford’s dissatisfaction, a liberal Republican who had opposed tax cuts and Clarence Thomas. Jeffords packed up and turned Independent, giving the Democrats a one-seat majority.

The wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, plus “Compassionate Conservatism”, soured the Republican brand. Bush frayed entirely the fiscal issues which had tied the North East tenuously to the Rest. 2006, and Rhode Island’s Chafee lost to Sheldon Whitehouse; Sununu of New Hampshire lost to Jean Shaheen. The GOP’S moral sentiments were never strong in the Northeast, either. Bush’s damage decimated the GOP in the Northeast. In 2008, House Rep Christopher Shays (R-Connecticut), who had survived the 2006 shellacking, also lost his seat. In 2012, Maine’s Olympia Snowe decried the hyperpartisanship, and quit She was a liberal, but at least she voted against Obamacare.

Currently, are no Northeast Republicans in the House of Representatives. Aside from Massachusetts’ Scott Brown’s brief tenure, there are only two Republican US Senators, Kelly Ayotte of New Hampshire and Susan Collins of Maine, two states where Republicans see 2014 possibilities. Besides, Maine’s current governor, Paul LePage, makes New Jersey Governor Christie look like a liberal wall-flower.

If President Obama ends up ruining the Democratic Party brand as Bush did with Republicans, then maybe a fiscally conservative, socially libertarian Republican Party can rise again in the Northeast. It’s never too late for a political revival.

Arthur Christopher Schaper is a teacher-turned-writer on topics both timeless and timely; political, cultural, and eternal. A life-long Southern California resident, Arthur currently lives in Torrance. Follow him on Twitter @ArthurCSchaper, reach him at [email protected], and read more at Schaper's Corner and As He Is, So Are We Ministries.


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