Ever wonder how Republicans maintained their hold on congressional power from 1994 to 2006 — a grip that enabled them to enact probably the most sweeping rightward shift in governance in our history — in spite of polls showing that, on the issues, most voters disagreed with the majority of their policies? Well, a lot of it had to do with so-called "moderate" Republicans. Guys like Dave Reichert.
These were folks who, on the campaign trail, often touted moderate-sounding rhetoric, largely as a sop to their moderate constituencies — but who, once back in the Beltway, toed the GOP’s party line on nearly every significant issue before them. And that party line was anything but moderate: misleading the nation into war, handing over huge tax cuts to the wealthy, mishandling the economy, destroying jobs, working to outlaw abortion (especially through court appointments), and opening the floodgates of cronyism and corruption to the GOP’s corporate sponsors.
A lot of these policies and actions came down in Congress to a handful of votes, and what you had to notice (and at least grudgingly admire, in a way) over the years was the discipline within GOP ranks: The Republican line always held, and a few Liebermanesque Dems would then wander over too. But you could always count on the "moderate" Republicans to be doing what the party poobahs required of them, regardless of how extreme the measure (the numerous Bush tax breaks being the classic case of this).
And they’re still at it. One of the elders of the "moderate" set, Sen. Susan Collins of Maine, came in for a well-deserved whacking from Senate Guru the other day for continuing to sell herself to voters in Maine with a moderate-seeming image and voting and acting as a party-line conservative back in D.C.
They’re everywhere to be found, really. In Washington state, Rep. Reichert — who represents a demographically fast-changing district, once largely a lily-white suburban area that has never elected a Democrat but where an influx of highly educated technology workers has permanently altered the playing field — is playing the same game.
Reichert has successfully sold the local press on the notion that he’s a political moderate, someone who votes independently of the party; he’s known to support certain limited environmental measures as a way of enhancing his "green" credentials. But you have to figure that if he’s someone that George W. Bush will fly out and campaign for (resulting in a smashingly successful fundraiser for his opponent, Darcy Burner), there’s little likelihood he’s someone who treads on honcho toes.
And in fact, that is the case. Dan Kirkdorffer at On the Road to 2008 has compiled and analyzed Reichert’s voting record and, as he’s noted previously, there’s "a pattern to Reichert’s voting record that is not being reported where he opposes legislation from being considered or coming to a vote, seeks to amend and change it, tries to table or kill it, before flipping his vote and voting for it on final passage." Dan has it all laid out in a table.
As he explains:
Now let me make a point clear here: the issue isn’t that Reichert votes with his party. You would expect a Republican to vote with Republicans, just as we expect Democrats to vote with Democrats. At first blush that appears to be what is mostly happening. The point however is that Reichert is trying to portray himself as a moderate, someone who votes independently from his party, and the media has parroted that claim. Yet, when you look at these votes, that’s not what we see. Instead, what we see is that many of the votes Reichert would like to use to bolster his claim as a moderate, have in fact been backed by his own opposition to the very bills he claims to support.
In effect just as John Kerry was accused by Republicans as having flip-flopped on the Iraq war, Reichert has flip-flopped multiple times on the same bill on the same day!
There is, of course, one solution: "Elect more and better Democrats." Especially Darcy Burner. After all, she invented the phrase.