Bill Frist Says He Would Vote For Heath Care Reform Bill

A major problem with the Republican Party today is that, rather than being selective in opposing Democratic ideas or offering ideas of their own, they oppose any Democratic proposals regardless of the merits. Health care reform has provided an excellent example of this. While the Democrats will be lucky to pick up any Republican votes beyond the state of Maine (and even that is in doubt), it is easier for Republicans out of office to be more reasonable. Bill Frist has told Karen Tumulty that he would vote for the health care reform bill if he was still in the Senate:

Or so the former Senate Republican Leader, a surgeon who has written a new book on health care, told me a few minutes ago in an interview.

Were he still in the Senate, “I would end up voting for it,” he said. “As leader, I would take heat for it. … That’s what leadership is all about.”

John McCain Wants To Reform The Republican Party


Politico reports that John McCain is attempting to reshape the Republican Party in a more center-right direction, supporting more moderate Republicans. It would be good for the country to have a meaningful two party system again. We should have a sensible opposition party as opposed to one which has no ideas other than to oppose everything the Democrats propose regardless of the merits.  It is a shame McCain didn’t decide it would be better to move the party in a more moderate direction before he pandered so much to the far right during his failed presidential campaign.

McCain worst move was to give prominence to the most reactionary and anti-intellectual factions of the party from Sarah Palin to Joe the Plumber. Even Steve Schmidt, his top political strategist in 2008, says that the nomination of Sarah Palin in 2012 would be catastrophic for the party.

If McCain really wants to identify the aspects of the Republican Party which have turned it into a fringe regional party, there is one area where he should look back to another Senator from Arizona who also lost a presidential race–Barry Goldwater. Goldwater was fiercely opposed to the influence of the religious right in the GOP and conservative movement to the point where he called himself a liberal in his later years. McCain has tangled with the religious right in the past, but in recent years has ignored their idiocy, such as in flip-flopping on teaching intelligent design and speaking at the Discovery Institute. A real straight talker would be consistent in opposing this faction of the conservative movement as Barry Goldwater was.

Update: A commenter correctly notes the degree to which the Republican Party is now dependent upon the religious right and how they would lose both contributions and current voters without them. Sometimes when we remove a cancer from a patient they become weaker before they recover, but without such treatment they would die. That also applies to the Republican Party. Unfortunately the GOP might have waited too long to remove the cancer which is destroying them. They will lose a lot in terms of fund raising and party workers if they remove the influence of the religious right, and might die from the treatment, but without doing so it is hard to see how they recover.

Limbaugh, Beck, Hannity, O’Reilly, And The Decline of the GOP

There are multiple factors involved in the Republican Party’s decline from a major political party to a regional fringe party. One is that they began to follow the lead of people in the media such as Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity, Bill O’Reilly, and now Glenn Beck. What they fail to recognize is that people such as Limbaugh and Beck are not representatives of their mainstream but are the modern day equivalents of the right wing extremists of the past. They display the same extremism, bigotry, hatred, and contempt for true American values as the right wingers who marched around in sheets in the past. While today they have larger audiences thanks to the media, they are just as poor a model for the Republican Party. While William Buckley, Jr. and other conservatives distanced themselves from the worst extremists of their day, the modern Republican Party has been deluded by their media following into believing they speak for their members. David Brooks explains that they do not:

Over the years, I have asked many politicians what happens when Limbaugh and his colleagues attack. The story is always the same. Hundreds of calls come in. The receptionists are miserable. But the numbers back home do not move. There is no effect on the favorability rating or the re-election prospects. In the media world, he is a giant. In the real world, he’s not.

But this is not merely a story of weakness. It is a story of resilience. For no matter how often their hollowness is exposed, the jocks still reweave the myth of their own power. They still ride the airwaves claiming to speak for millions. They still confuse listeners with voters. And they are aided in this endeavor by their enablers. They are enabled by cynical Democrats, who love to claim that Rush Limbaugh controls the G.O.P. They are enabled by lazy pundits who find it easier to argue with showmen than with people whose opinions are based on knowledge. They are enabled by the slightly educated snobs who believe that Glenn Beck really is the voice of Middle America.

So the myth returns. Just months after the election and the humiliation, everyone is again convinced that Limbaugh, Beck, Hannity and the rest possess real power. And the saddest thing is that even Republican politicians come to believe it. They mistake media for reality. They pre-emptively surrender to armies that don’t exist.

They pay more attention to Rush’s imaginary millions than to the real voters down the street. The Republican Party is unpopular because it’s more interested in pleasing Rush’s ghosts than actual people. The party is leaderless right now because nobody has the guts to step outside the rigid parameters enforced by the radio jocks and create a new party identity. The party is losing because it has adopted a radio entertainer’s niche-building strategy, while abandoning the politician’s coalition-building strategy.

The rise of Beck, Hannity, Bill O’Reilly and the rest has correlated almost perfectly with the decline of the G.O.P. But it’s not because the talk jocks have real power. It’s because they have illusory power, because Republicans hear the media mythology and fall for it every time.