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A Republican in a Democratic Town

There are Obamacons (Conservatives for Obama) and Obamacans (Republicans for Obama). Some people are both. But tonight, I ran into a leading member of the second tribe who is definitely not part of the first.

On Monday, former Iowa Congressman Jim Leach will be doing something he never expected to do. This Republican who spent 30 years in the House will be addressing the Democratic National Convention on behalf of Barack Obama.

Leach is accustomed to being somewhat dissident. He was one of only six Republican House members to vote against the Iraq war resolution. But while he was a progressive in his party, he was also a loyalist, having been a leader of George H.W. Bush’s Iowa campaign in 1980 and George W. Bush’s campaign in 2000.

When I asked him if it was a hard decision to break with his party this year, Leach quickly replied, “Yes.” He added: “I have an immense amount of respect for the traditions of the Republican Party and I have a tremendous amount of respect for John McCain. But we have seen a diminishment of America’s standing in the world that is quite profound. The risks of continuing these policies are so much greater than the risks involved in changing them.”

In his speech, he said, he’d talk about the Republican Party -- “some of the good things and some of the recent awkward things.” Historically, he said, Republicans were the party “that was not quick to go to war, it was the party of restraint, the party of conservation, the party of individual rights.” From that list, you can imagine what the next steps of his argument on Obama’s behalf will look like.

It’s astonishing how few progressive Republicans are left, and the ranks of the moderates are dwindling, too. If Obama wins this year, it will not be so much because he picks up lots of Republican votes, though he will get some, but because so many former Republican moderates have already become Democrats or Independents. McCain has a maverick image, but to win his party’s nomination, he’s moved right on some important issues and emphasized his stands that were already conservative. His campaign seems divided between those who want to retrieve his independent image, and those who want to run a Bush-style campaign against Obama. But if McCain loses this year, there will be a reckoning: A party of the center-right can’t win elections when it forgets about the center.

Leach will make only a cameo appearance -- he’ll only get seven minutes, outside of prime time -- yet he will be a witness on behalf of a very large group of current and former members of the party of Lincoln who have had enough. Here’s hoping that Leach-style Republicans make a comeback some day.

And, come to think of it, this is a perfect post for a space called Post Partisan.

By E.J. Dionne  | August 25, 2008; 1:14 AM ET
Categories:  Dionne  | Tags:  E.J. Dionne  
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Next: Obama's Organ Transplant

Comments

I just wish more Republicans felt like him. McCain has abandoned his maverick standing to embrace the divicive slash and burn tactics of Bush, has become a hawk, and doesn't seem to care much about how the rest of the world thinks of us.

Obama may not be perfect, but at least he puts a soothing tone to his rhetoric to the world, listens to not only his constituency but also his adversaries, and seems to seek common ground in solving problems. Our country has not functioned since partisanship reached epidemic levels, and McCain represents more of it.

I hope more Republicans like Leach, Hagel, and the Eisenhowers come out for Obama.

Posted by: aBigSAM | August 25, 2008 3:09 AM | Report abuse

The whole conservative movement is in decline. They got want they wanted. All three branches of power for a number of years and look what they've done with it. Government that doesn't work. Regulatory agencies protecting industries they are suppose to protect us from. Record deficits, corporate welfare, destroying civil liberties. Broken government. Get out the wrecking ball. Take down Bush's federal government and get our sanity back. The great conservative experiment a complete, utter failure.

Posted by: Arny | August 25, 2008 3:29 AM | Report abuse

OMG wake up Democrats are in control of everything but the White House and have been for some time now and things are still a mess. They have not delivered what they promised either. You can't trust any of them. Obama is not going to wave his hand and cure all the problems that ail this country.

Posted by: Cindy | August 25, 2008 7:09 AM | Report abuse

It's good to see there are still some decent Republicans out there who realise what their President has done to the country and that John McCain is more of the same..McBush. There's hope for the Republican party reestablishing itself to what it once was.

Posted by: Sandra | August 25, 2008 7:48 AM | Report abuse

I am one of those officially registered Republicans who no longer finds himself able to vote Republican for anything beyond local elections. Mr. Dionne explains the reasons very clearly. The center seems gone. I cannot identify with jingoistic, fundamentalist fanatics.

Pennsylvania voter

Posted by: Donald Surr | August 25, 2008 8:25 AM | Report abuse

putting a sane intelligent president in the white house is a start. after that he will have to start persuading the other two houses to start doing their job as well as bush managed to persuade them not to. fixing the judicial branch will be an impossibility I fear and we can only wait for the grim reaper to clean that.

Posted by: brent | August 25, 2008 8:30 AM | Report abuse

Cindy:

If you actually knew what a "Majority Vote" is in the Senate, you would realize that the Democrats need 60 votes to pass anything. They may have a numerical majority, but they do not have 60 votes. This means that the Republicans can filibuster and prevent anything from passing if they choose.

I urge you to discover how many time that Republicans have filibustered in the Senate during the last 2 years. I assure you, it is a record by anyone's count. Given that any legislation has to pass the House (it frequently does) AND the Senate (where it frequently dies) filibuster would certianly make it difficult to see any progress.

And that is precisley what you are talking about. You see it from the perspective of someone who votes and forgets, then waits for some miraculous result. Perhaps that is the problem.

The article is about how this country is on a dangerous path, and how the risks of new leadership is markedly safer than the crash course we are on. If you can't see how the mistakes of this administration have affected your life, then perhaps you should visit a grocerey store. Or a gas station. Or a realtor's office. Or find a job. Or borrow money.

It is you who needs to wake up from your delusions that the leadership of this country has led us down the path of prosperity. It is time for a change.

Posted by: Trident420 | August 25, 2008 8:30 AM | Report abuse

So thats where they went to. I have been wondering what happened to the republicans you could have a rational debate with. All of you need to get together and take back your party from the hate filled warmongering psycho's who seem to have stepped out of the pages of the comics I read as a child. There is a reason that they compare our VP to Darth Vader, Lex luthor and the Pengwin

Posted by: slloyd | August 25, 2008 8:51 AM | Report abuse

"It’s astonishing how few progressive Republicans are left, and the ranks of the moderates are dwindling, too. If Obama wins this year, it will not be so much because he picks up lots of Republican votes, though he will get some, but because so many former Republican moderates have already become Democrats or Independents."

Actually, Rasmussen shows a Summer flow back to the Republican Party from the shift in registrations to Democrat earlier this year.

Rush Limbaugh claims that it's Operation Chaos "foot soldiers" coming back.

But I think some people shifted registration to vote in the Democratic primary not with the intention of staying Democrat but because they got caught up in the primary battle of the titans between Obama and Clinton and wanted to weigh in for their pick, in those states where a primary voter had to be registered Democrat to vote Democrat. Those new Democrats who would rather stay Republican are changing their registrations.

Also, there are moderate Republicans (and progressive Democrats) who are becoming disenchanted with Obama's fall away from his optimistic rhetoric of change. There are legitimately those Republicans who have lost interest in Obama.

Finally, if McCain gets a little more latitude to moderate the party platform and agenda for a few years, these progressive Republicans might be attracted by him into staying in the party.

More information about whether McCain is leading his party into a moderate, more progressive period or whether the right-wing base is dominating McCain and keeping him pinned to a platform that is more outdated ever passing month, will become available at the Republican convention.

Posted by: AsperGirl | August 25, 2008 8:58 AM | Report abuse

McCains problem is the Republican party is a 51% organization. A better analogy might be the GOP has a "three yards and a cloud of dust" mindset.Obama, on the other hand, started throwing the bomb on his first series of downs.
Just the same, they wont abandon the wildly unpopular priorities of the Republican base, even as that base becomes widely viewed as the political lunatic fringe because they can't. Without these one issue voters, the republicans poll in the low teens.
The dueling columns of Gershon and Hiatt demonstrate just how bankrupt the Republican party is when it come to ideas. Even their luminaries have to wait for the latest talking points before they can speak. This disturbing trend hasn't gone unnoticed in the wider electorate, where this year a bumper crop of wild, unsupported accusations didn't make it to market because of consumer disinterest, another encouraging sign. People who don't watch FOX or listen to Hannity and Rush don't really care what they claim, most of the electorate know them for what they are, talking heads waiting for directions from the RNC so they can tell people what they "think".

Posted by: dijetlo | August 25, 2008 10:17 AM | Report abuse

Leach sounds like a good candidate for cloning. People ask me why I blame Bush and I tell them I don't mostly. I mostly blame the Republcians that enabled him.

Posted by: Sara B. | August 25, 2008 10:44 AM | Report abuse

Right on point Trident420!!!

Posted by: MJS | August 25, 2008 11:02 AM | Report abuse

Thank goodness there are some Republicans who are able to see what the issues are and make a smart decision based on policies and facts. Thank you, Jim Leach, for putting country before party!

Posted by: Diane | August 25, 2008 11:03 AM | Report abuse

Cindy, the last time the White House and both houses of Congress were under Democratic control was the 103rd Congress. The 103rd Congress began in 1993, almost 16 years ago.

Posted by: brdinsc | August 25, 2008 11:37 AM | Report abuse

Cindy, whenever I hear someone say, as you did, that the Democrats have been "in control of almost everything for some time" and haven't fixed anything I want to cry. So few people really seem to know how our government works!

The Democrats control the House. With the defection of Lieberman, the Senate is a toss-up, and the Senate is designed to be a consensus body. For one party to "control" it, it needs 60 votes, not 49, 50, or 51. Finally, the Republicans control not one but TWO branches of the government: the Executive and the Judicial. Even if there's a Democratic landslide this fall, the Republican control of the Judicial branch will linger "for some time."

Am I thrilled with the record of the current Congress? No. The House had the votes to impeach - though the Senate didn't have the votes to convict - the president and vice president. Pelosi was wrong in taking it off the table. Not being assured of a win isn't a reason not to prosecute. Every Democrat and many Republicans believe this administration is guilty of High Crimes, and not prosecuting sets a dangerous precedent.

But, other than that, this Congress has accomplished as much as it could. Bush vetoed almost every good bill that passed with less than 60 votes in the Senate. Congress could have wielded more power by compromising LESS and blocking more of the Bush agenda. But that's a double-edge sword, too, and would give the lie to the Presidential campaign the Democratic party is running, which is about post-partisan compromise. So, all in all, except for failing to impeach, they've done the best they could.

Posted by: Martimr1 | August 25, 2008 12:18 PM | Report abuse

Well, if Leach style politicians think it OK to be part of a racist church, lie to the people about no lobby groups supporting him, take the seal of the President of the United States and alter it for his own use, call people gun-toting, religious clinging, stupid rubes, have known associations with a terrorist, talk about whitey in his book, play the race card, and much more. Then I hope never to see a rise of his type again. Really? Such an honest and great man to support this?

Posted by: dragonfly777 | August 25, 2008 12:47 PM | Report abuse

When Republicans lose a man like Jim Leach, a 30 year House veteran, it's a sure sign they've lost the American center. Ever since Reagan's anti-government rants, his Iran-contra impeachable actions, since the Rove/Cheney/Rumsfeld insistence of an all powerful executive branch, the unsustainability of a no-tax platform, the party has slipped so far to the right that even Barry Goldwater was complaining.

Kiss the Republicans goodbye! Led by old man Moses McCain, they'll spend 40 years in the wilderness for worshiping false idols.

Posted by: thebob.bob | August 25, 2008 1:02 PM | Report abuse

Nobody believes that Obama is going to wave his hand and cure all that ails us. But what the rhetoric of his speeches and the substance of his message (yes, it is there, there are just more words to dig through to find it) does do is empower the citizens. The message of WE can fix the country is a powerful one.

For those who say the country doesn't need to be changed, that it's great the way it is, I ask that you look beyond your front yard. Inflation is going out of control. 4,000+ of my peers have been killed over a regime change operation and subsequent occupation, which, while its original purpose may have been pure, has spun into a $10 billion per month mess. And we all know what gasoline prices have become.

I certainly don't agree with all of Obama's proposed policies. Bringing healthcare into the public sphere will be costly and possibly dangerous for a country of our size and economic diversity (although I also don't really like the idea of a for-profit industry controlling whether or not I receive care). I support offshore drilling to the extent that it is possible in order to shore up our energy future while we move toward other sources of energy.

After a lot of rambling, I conclude with this: My fellow Iowan, Jim Leach, has done something rare for a member of either party. He has turned against the interests of his party, and probably his own interests, in order to achieve a greater good. He is the only Republican I have ever voted for, and I have great respect for his coming out in favor of Obama.

Posted by: Nate | August 25, 2008 1:19 PM | Report abuse

It is a quadrennial rite of passage for some Democratic figure to support the Republican presidential nominee and vice versa. So we have Joe Lieberman for McCain and Leach for Obama. And there will be others on both sides. Big deal! The fundamental divide in this election is what it usually is: differing philosophies of governance. Liberal v. conservative. Less government regulation v. more. Higher taxes v. lower. Redistribution of income from the most productive to the less so v. letting those who work hard keep their earnings. Fearful and hand-wringing v. guts and courage. Navel-gazing v. sureness.

Posted by: Paul Bloustein | August 25, 2008 1:36 PM | Report abuse

"OMG wake up Democrats are in control of everything but the White House and have been for some time now and things are still a mess. They have not delivered what they promised either. You can't trust any of them. Obama is not going to wave his hand and cure all the problems that ail this country. "

-Cindy


Do you know...anything?

Posted by: Scott | August 25, 2008 2:31 PM | Report abuse

Dragonfly7777:

Do you believe everything Rush Limbaugh tells you to believe? You must. And you must not read or listen to much else but him because you are so misinformed it's kind of ridiculous. Do you really think Rush cares about you? Do you really? Look at the state of the country. You think we are in good shape because of the people Rush told you to vote for? It's time to wake up and realize that Rush Limbaugh, Hannity, Savage, etc. lie for a living. It's a character they are playing, they spend all of their time, looking for a way to present the facts that benefits their chosen political persona. And the more people they get to believe them, the more powerful they become. Meanwhile, the country is in shambles. At this point it is probably going to be too hard to admit that you have been tricked into believing a ideology that does nothing but harm YOU. You do it to yourself, you do, and that's why it really hurts...

Posted by: Andrew | August 25, 2008 4:27 PM | Report abuse

OMG wake up Democrats are in control of everything but the White House and have been for some time now and things are still a mess. They have not delivered what they promised either. You can't trust any of them. Obama is not going to wave his hand and cure all the problems that ail this country.

Posted by: Cindy
*******************

A number of folks here have patiently and accurately explained the workings of the US government, but you don't seem interested enough to hear them. These aren't radical Marxists: they sound like centrist Dems and Republicans to me.

Democrats have control of the House only, not the Senate (60 votes required); not the White House; not the Executive Branch, including administrative functions such as running the EPA, Justice, and every other department; not the Cabinet level positions like Secretary of State; not the Supreme Court.

Electing Obama will change the Executive branch leadership virtually overnight. It's also probable that the House will gain an even bigger majority of Democrats. The Senate will likely gain a few seats more on the Democratic side, but probably still not the 60 votes required by Senate rules to pass a bill.

Electing Obama likely will ensure that the (older) more liberal Supreme Court justices will be replaced by like-minded jurists; but the conservatives on the court are relatively young, so not much will change there.

Perhaps most importantly, though, electing Obama will tell Republicans that the old-style Rovian all-or-nothing ideological fault lines are no longer acceptable to the American public. Likely, that will encourage a number of them to moderate their approaches and join the ranks of the very best Republicans, people like Lugar and Snowe and even Warner.

We will do well to elect Obama.

Posted by: abqcleve | August 25, 2008 6:02 PM | Report abuse

Sorry we failed you, Hillary. We should had worked harder - we should had worked smarter. Now we must accept Obama (the modern JFK) as our Commander-In-Chief, tutored by Biden (our new Dick Cheney) ... then again, perhaps not ... and I do approve this message.

Posted by: Louie | August 25, 2008 7:09 PM | Report abuse

You guys all need to stop voting on party lines and start voting on principle. The Republicans and Democrats are playing the same game and neither one of them is the answer. If you're looking for a restoration of individual liberty and decreased foreign intervention you need to look at Bob Barr.
Don't bother telling me he has no chance, or he's a spoiler. I've already heard it. You should vote for the best candidate, and it sounds like most of you would like him if you looked at his website.

Posted by: machinepolitick | August 25, 2008 7:45 PM | Report abuse

If you really think that the president can do anything to control prices of oil (or any commodity) I have a bridge to sell you.

While all the candidates say a lot when they are being elected, the president can't reverse the laws of economics. Ever.

And it scares me no end re: healthcare. Ouch - okay, so this guy who knows nothing, has never done anything, is now going to be in charge of your healthcare? Look to see how lousy a job they've done so far (i.e., about 50% of our our healthcare is paid for by a govt of some sort) - and that is your future. Why would you want to turn more of it over to anyone in govt?

Posted by: atlmom | August 25, 2008 7:55 PM | Report abuse

how many did McBoring scuttle through his incompetence?

ohhh, i'm sorry, he was a POW...

http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2008/08/25/AR2008082502145.html

Posted by: pilots crash planes | August 25, 2008 11:07 PM | Report abuse

Since "Progressive Republican" = "Liberal Democrat" it's not surprising you don't see many.

Posted by: KaziA | August 26, 2008 12:04 AM | Report abuse

My husband and I have been Republican voters for 15+ years. This election year, we both have Obama stickers on our vehicles. We both teach in Catholic schools and send our children to one. The Republican party has been hijacked by Christian Fundamentalists. You can no longer be a Republican and keep your brain. 5 of my 6 siblings are Christian Coalition Republicans. My husband and I are ASTOUNDED at the stupidity coming out of their mouths. I got an email a few months ago from them, a deadly serious one, claiming that Obama is the ANTICHRIST and lists the proof. THIS(!?!?!)is what passes for political debate in 2008??!?! GO OBAMA!!!

Posted by: Ophelia | August 26, 2008 12:09 AM | Report abuse

"how many did McBoring scuttle through his incompetence?"

How many combat missions do you have? oh, I'm sorry, you're just an internet wannabe.

Posted by: slappy | August 26, 2008 12:18 AM | Report abuse

Joe Biden sucks. I loved Obama until he picked Biden, now I have to choose between electing the Bush-clone McCain or a putting a fascist like Biden in the VP spot. Sanity seemed around the corner for the democrats and whack, in one second they prove they are just as evil as the Republicans.

Posted by: Todd | August 26, 2008 12:29 AM | Report abuse

I am a lifelong Republican, and I am for Obama, for exactly the reasons this gentle, quiet and decent man, Jim Leach, articulated.

The polarity of two sides bent on winning abandons the basic virtues that make this country strong -- its character. Obama, in contrast to his typical rivals, has gravitated away from the easy (and shallow) slogan-based policy positions, toward deep analysis of complex problems. This is not an easy task in the political correctness minefield of both parites' political landscapes. He seeks consensus in preference to confrontation. This is a basic American value, the idea that true power comes from working together to solve real problems, instead of just fixing blame and scoring political points. Obama gives an grown-up view in a sea of indulgence in irresponsibility. I just hope that average-Joe people can see beyond the fog of war into the true value of that kinder, gentler character.

Take heed Democrats: don't indulge in the same "real men don't think" rubbish that many so-called Republicans have (in the name of strength?), instead restore the decency and respect that should bind us together in our common struggle as Americans. We're all in this together, and Barak Obama has the kind of leadership we need to get us all working in the same direction, for the good of all Americans.

God bless you Jim Leach! I'm your kind of Republican.

Posted by: PaulK | August 26, 2008 5:51 PM | Report abuse

I am a lifelong Republican, and I am for Obama, for exactly the reasons this gentle, quiet and decent man, Jim Leach, articulated.

The polarity of two sides bent on winning abandons the basic virtues that make this country strong -- its character. Obama, in contrast to his typical rivals, has gravitated away from the easy (and shallow) slogan-based policy positions, toward deep analysis of complex problems. This is not an easy task in the political correctness minefield of both parites' political landscapes. He seeks consensus in preference to confrontation. This is a basic American value, the idea that true power comes from working together to solve real problems, instead of just fixing blame and scoring political points. Obama gives an grown-up view in a sea of indulgence in irresponsibility. I just hope that average-Joe people can see beyond the fog of war into the true value of that kinder, gentler character.

Take heed Democrats: don't indulge in the same "real men don't think" rubbish that many so-called Republicans have (in the name of strength?), instead restore the decency and respect that should bind us together in our common struggle as Americans. We're all in this together, and Barak Obama has the kind of leadership we need to get us all working in the same direction, for the good of all Americans.

God bless you Jim Leach! I'm your kind of Republican.

Posted by: PaulK | August 26, 2008 6:02 PM | Report abuse

Oops! My apologies for the duplicate. :-)

Posted by: PaulK | August 26, 2008 6:04 PM | Report abuse

Cindy sounds like a typical Republican. Out of touch with reality and determined to stay that way.

Posted by: JD | August 27, 2008 12:26 AM | Report abuse

My parents are now Democrats as they see the county going downhill!! Sen. McCain only offers the same as the current administration. He will only support the same policies and perhaps privatize social security. For this reason my parents will convert as Democrats!!!!

Posted by: maripil | August 27, 2008 12:55 AM | Report abuse

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