House Republicans Move Right
I’ve seen this diagram on several blogs now:
The upshot is that the House Republican leadership for the next Congress will be more “conservative” on one scale than in this Congress, with Whip Roy Blunt and Conference Chairman Adam Putnum being replaced by Eric Cantor and Mike Pence — with the possibility that Minority Leader John Boehner will be challenged by Dan Lungren.
Brendan Nyhan, Matt Yglesias, and Fester see this as evidence that the GOP doesn’t get it and is doubling down on its conservative bet despite being stomped in consecutive elections. But that’s only because “conservative” has so many meanings as to be meaningless.
Replacing Blunt with Cantor — or, frankly, just about any human being not currently on death row — is a plus. Blunt is a Tom Delay disciple, whose only ideology seems to be to win at any cost. Cantor, the only Jewish Republican in the House, is rabidly pro-Likud, which I could do without, but he strikes me as principled and committed to fiscal sanity.
I don’t know much about Putnam and Pence worries me a bit. A former chair of the fiscally conservative Republican Study Committee, he’s widely considered to be reform minded, which is good, but he’s also from the social conservative wing of party, including being an advocate of the idiotic Goodlatte bill to ban Internet gambling, which is bad.
Both Pence and Cantor came to Congress this decade and are a break from the Gang That Couldn’t Shoot Straight that ran the caucus into the ground over the last few years. They’re both ideologically committed to lowering spending and tighter ethics rules. If that’s the brand of “conservative” that they emphasize in their new leadership roles, it’ll be a welcome move the the “right” that’s mainstream, indeed.