Bell Curve The Law Talking Guy Raised by Republicans U.S. West
Well, he's kind of had it in for me ever since I accidentally ran over his dog. Actually, replace "accidentally" with "repeatedly," and replace "dog" with "son."

Friday, May 08, 2009

Arlen Specter, Tom Ridge, Pat Toomey, The Club For Growth and the GOP

When Specter (link is to summary Specter's ideological positions) left the GOP is was widely believed he did so because he though he could not win a primary contest against a Club For Growth backed, conservative like Pat Toomey (link is to summary Toomey's ideological positions) but could beat him in a general election.  But there was wide speculation (hope?) by Republican spokespeople that former Governor, Tom Ridge (link is to a summary of Ridge's ideological positions) would run for the Republicans against Specter and that he would defeat Specter.  Ridge has a reputation for being a "moderate" like Specter.   But this isn't happening.  Ridge not only has refused to run for the Senate in Pennsylvania, he's refused to say he would vote for Toomey against Specter in a general election even when pressed on TV and now he's announcing he's moving his permanent residence to Maryland - going "beltway" Tom?  

So the soap opera aspect of this is another amusing episode in "As the Party Crumbles" but this whole mess is also very instructive about what the GOP's problems actually are.  It starts with figuring out who the Club For Growth group is and what is it they want anyway?  They put themselves forward as fiscal conservatives.  It's supporters like to claim that they are the genuine, small government conservatives.  They call Democrats "Communists" (including, especially, President Obama).  They target moderate Republicans - whom they label "Republicans in Name Only" or "RINOS" - for primary challenges from the right in the hopes of either defeating them in the primary or sabotaging their chances in the general.  These are the self-appointed enforcers of ideological purity within the Republican Party.  

Why did the Club For Growth target Specter and arguably drive him, and possibly Ridge too, from the party?  Let's take a look at Specter, Toomey and Ridge ideologically.  If you scroll down on those links you can see a simple little two-dimensional issue space (economics by social policy) summary of their overall ideological positions.  The first thing a comparison should reveal to you is that all three have extremely similar overall positions.  Specter, Toomey and Ridge are all very tightly packed together on this two dimensional ideological plane.  So why would the Club For Growth support Toomey against Specter and make noises about supporting Toomey against Ridge if he chose to run?  Why risk losing the seat for your party over such a small overall ideological difference?  One possibility?  While Toomey is not that much more conservative than either Ridge or Specter on economic issues (indeed, Specter and Toomey have identical overall positions on the economics dimension) and not really that different overall on social issues either, Toomey is anti-abortion rights while both Specter and Ridge are pro-choice.  The biggest area of difference for these guys is the Abortion issue.  Ridge is unequivocally pro-choice and Specter is a relative moderate on the issue (rated 21% pro-choice by NARAL).  Toomey is rated as 0% pro-choice according to NARAL.

This makes me wonder what the Club For Growth really cares about.  Are they really most concerned about economic regulatory policies and taxes?  In that case, they aren't really gaining much by switching from Specter to Toomey.  Or are they just generic Bush Republicans using the economics and tax issue as cover for what amounts to enforcing religious conservative conformity within the party?

If the Club For Growth really is a front for the Religious Right, then it is part of the problem for the GOP.  Go back and look at the map of religiosity by state in the thread from a couple of days ago.  The only part of the country where religious fundamentalism seems to be a recipe for political dominance is the Deep South.  Everywhere else, the influence of the Religious Right is either waning or was never that strong to begin with.  The Club For Growth may turn out to be the most ironically named organization aligned with the GOP in that they are actively working to shrink the party.  

1 comment:

The Law Talking Guy said...

Yes, the Club for Growth is more about a small party than small government. =)