So writes the popular conservative commentator Jonah Goldberg in a thoughtful column titled “The Myth of an Impure GOP.” Goldberg argues that the very idea of a weak-kneed GOP establishment is itself “a destructive myth,” refuted by the the disappearance of the Rockefeller Republicans.
It’s true. Nelson Rockefeller’s political disciples are as dead as he is. The last of the genuinely liberal Republicans have mostly left the party, like Jim Jeffords and Lincoln Chafee, or remain only nominally affiliated with the GOP, like Colin Powell.
Jon Huntsman was widely regarded as the most liberal Republican to seek the party’s presidential nomination in 2012. Huntsman endorsed Paul Ryan’s proposed Medicare reforms, was so strongly opposed to abortion that as governor of Utah he signed a bill that would ban the practice if Roe v. Wade was ever overturned, and said he wouldn’t approve a deficit-reduction deal that contained $10 in spending cuts for every $1 of tax increases.
Since the 1990s, even some of the biggest Northeastern moderates — Rudy Giuliani, William Weld, Christine Todd Whitman, and Chris Christie — have run as conservatives on the big issues: crime, taxes, welfare, the cost of public sector unions. Their more liberal positions, no matter how sincerely held, were issues that were peripheral to their agenda.
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