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.

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James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.

Comments

  1. od says:

    So how do you meaningfully map something as complex as politics into a single dimension?

  2. just me says:

    I kind of agree with OD on the one dimensional measurement.

    I think a change in leadership is a good idea.

  3. Dave Schuler says:

    are a break from the Gang That Couldn’t Shoot Straight that ran the caucus into the ground over the last few years

    James, that statement implies that there was a course of action open to the Republican leadership that wouldn’t have run “the caucus into the ground”. I don’t believe that’s true; I think it was inevitable given circumstances and events.

    What practicable course of action would have lead to a better outcome for the Republicans?

  4. Gippergal says:

    I think it’ll depend on what “more conservative” means. I don’t think the Republicans will be well served by uber-social conservatism on certain issues; but I think that the best, viable reform will involve reclaiming the conservative heritage of limited government and fiscal responsibility. The liberal illuminati have gained by Republicans’ failures in these areas, and I think it’s very important to go back to basics as we move ahead.

  5. Bithead says:

    As I said when McCain lost; so much for the myth that moving left is the answer. Indeed, I’d been predicting that loss.

    I suspected then I was not alone…this move would seem to suggest at least some have learned the lesson.

  6. Bithead says:

    Like this guy, for example.

  7. Dave Schuler says:

    viable reform will involve reclaiming the conservative heritage of limited government and fiscal responsibility

    Viable from the standpoint of national politics, maybe, but not viable from the standpoint of internal Republican Party politics. The social conservatives rather clearly have control of the party apparatus and institutions.

  8. James Joyner says:

    James, that statement implies that there was a course of action open to the Republican leadership that wouldn’t have run “the caucus into the ground”. I don’t believe that’s true; I think it was inevitable given circumstances and events.

    What practicable course of action would have lead to a better outcome for the Republicans?

    Their hands were somewhat tied, I agree, but the K Street project and other graft efforts, the bridge to nowhere, signing on to various giveaway programs, and otherwise abandoning core principles cost the party a tremendous amount of credibility.

    I don’t think there’s anything they could have done to prevent a Democratic tide but they could probably have saved a dozen seats or more by more honorable conduct.

  9. Drew says:

    As political junkies, do any of the commentators on this thread have any insights/references as to current Republican insider thinking: was it the spending binge, or the social conservative leaning that “harmed the brand?”

    (I know that is somewhat linear, as someone commented, but it seems to be the essential tug of war in the Party.)

  10. just me says:

    Drew I think it was both plus the utter lack of ethics among congress members. Now the left has its unethical crowd, but they generally get more of a pass from the democrats and the media than those on the right. One need only to look at the differences between the coverage of Foley and Mahoney in Florida.

    I think it is a mistake though to start kicking people out of the party for not being aligned in the “right” way. I think it would be far better for the party to stop fighting and get back to what they have in common and actually advocate that policy in a united way.

    In the end I still think it is going to take a while for the GOP to heal, how well or how poorly Obama does with his democratic congress will have a lot to do with that, and just how long his supporters give him a pass for failing to do everything he promised. At some point Obama has to catch on that there is no magic money tree in Washington and he is either going to have to take pass on some of his ideas to be funded by government or he is going to end up redefining rich well downward from his 250k cap and find a few other ways to raise taxes while he is at it. There just aren’t that many rich people to tap into before you start losing money.

  11. TJIT says:

    Dave,

    Not going on an eight year long spending and regulating binge would have been one thing that probably would have helped the republican caucus.

    The big government binge they went on hurt them badly and wrecked the republican brand.

  12. TJIT says:

    Dave Schuler and many other have expressed sentiment like

    The social conservatives rather clearly have control of the party apparatus and institutions.

    Sorry but I’m not buying it.

    Aside from the ban on federal funding for stem cell research and the Terri Schiavo debacle I can’t think of any socon issue that has passed without abundant support from the democrats also.

    I’m willing to be persuaded but a list of concrete examples would sure be helpful.

    On the other hands the financial malpractice of the republicans is clearly visible, and has alienated a lot of the republican base.

  13. G.A.Phillips says:

    Jedediah Morse:
    “To the kindly influence of Christianity we owe that degree of civil freedom, and political and social happiness which mankind now enjoys. . . . Whenever the pillars of Christianity shall be overthrown, our present republican forms of government, and all blessings which flow from them, must fall with them.”

    Benjamin Rush:
    • “I lament that we waste so much time and money in punishing crimes and take so little pains to prevent them…we neglect the only means of establishing and perpetuating our republican forms of government; that is, the universal education of our youth in the principles of Christianity by means of the Bible; for this Divine Book, above all others, constitutes the soul of republicanism.” “By withholding the knowledge of [the Scriptures] from children, we deprive ourselves of the best means of awakening moral sensibility in their minds.” [Letter written (1790’s) in Defense of the Bible in all schools in America]
    • “Christianity is the only true and perfect religion.”
    • “If moral precepts alone could have reformed mankind, the mission of the Son of God into our world would have been unnecessary.”

    “Let the children who are sent to those schools be taught to read and write and above all, let both sexes be carefully instructed in the principles and obligations of the Christian religion. This is the most essential part of education”
    Letters of Benjamin Rush, “To the citizens of Philadelphia: A Plan for Free Schools”, March 28, 1787.

  14. sam says:

    I think Letterman put his finger on the fundamental problem of the Republican party when he said that the 10 GOP candidates on the stage looked like a bunch of guys waiting to tee off at a restricted country club. Demographics ain’t on that GOP’s side.

  15. odograph says:

    Aside from the ban on federal funding for stem cell research and the Terri Schiavo debacle I can’t think of any socon issue that has passed without abundant support from the democrats also.

    The critical problem for McCain seems to be that he couldn’t do the normal thing: (1) lock down base, (2) win convention, (3) run toward the middle.

    Even if “3” is phony you have to make it look good.

    The Palin choice, the continuing saga of re-locking down the base … speaks of something strange. It’s like a weak power was concentrated in the “socon” and that shaped everything.

  16. tom p says:

    Aside from the ban on federal funding for stem cell research and the Terri Schiavo debacle I can’t think of any socon issue that has passed without abundant support from the democrats also.

    TJIT: Hence the problem for the GOP. They can’t do any of the things their SoCon base wants them to do without bipartisan support (which they can not get) and yet any GOP candidate has to swear fealty to the SoCon platform, which is bound to further marginalize the GOP as a political party for the near term.

    as Gippergal said:

    but I think that the best, viable reform will involve reclaiming the conservative heritage of limited government and fiscal responsibility. The liberal(s)have gained by Republicans’ failures in these areas, and I think it’s very important to go back to basics as we move ahead.

    Indeed. As a left of center deficit hawk, I have given up entirely on the GOP. They have shown themselves to be completely incapable of restraining gov’t spending, their “tax cuts, tax cuts, tax cuts,” mantra w/o spending cuts only bankrupts my grandchildren, their neo-con militery adventurism has proven a complete debacle, their meddling in the private affairs of people, and their absolute incompetence at governing is legend. (and that is just scratching the surface)

    Back to basics guys. You just might get a vote or 2 from me once again, just like you used to.

  17. tom p says:

    I think Letterman put his finger on the fundamental problem of the Republican party when he said that the 10 GOP candidates on the stage looked like a bunch of guys waiting to tee off at a restricted country club. Demographics ain’t on that GOP’s side.

    What sam said.