Last night, former governor of New Jersey and secretary of the Environmental Protection Agency Christine Todd Whitman was the guest on the Colbert Report. Most of the interview focused on her new efforts at trying to strengthen and assert the moderate voices in the Republican party, and she has launched a PAC and website for this purpose. While Whitman's effort is admirable enough, I think she is ignoring the political tides of today. The Republican party has gotten so far from being the party of Lincoln, or even Eisenhower, or even 1964 extremist Barry Goldwater. (Goldwater has now become a moderate relative to today's Republican party. Among other things, he has said this about the church and state issue: “It's wonderful that we have so many religious people in our party, ... They need to leave their theologies in their churches.” and this defending the rights of gays: “The rights that we have under the Constitution covers anything we want to do, as long as its not harmful. I can't see any way in the world that being a gay can cause damage to somebody else,”).
Throughout the 1960s and into the 1970s, the Democratic party saw its composition changed. Once Lyndon Johnson put the national party firmly in favor of civil rights for African Americans, he lost a lot of people in the South who had once voted as Democratic populists but who opposed rights for blacks. The Republican party--once a party of many leaders who stood behind civil rights--in turn picked up disaffected Democrats.
I think Whitman will have to understand that she cannot make this current Republican party moderate. The current GOP is not against big government as Barry Goldwater was, and they are certainly in favor of infringements on privacy--from reproductive rights to religious rights to being anti-civil liberties. They are not even a shadow of their former selves. I personally would probably have never voted for even a moderate Republican in the 1950s and 1960s unless the Democrat opposing that person was a racist (mainly because I think I would have liked the Democrats better), but the Republican party has few of those left. The ones who bill themselves as moderate, like Arlen Specter of Pennsylvania and Olympia Snowe and Susan Collins of Maine, are either marginalized or vote with the extremists (e.g. the Alito vote).
So my message to Christine Todd Whitman: change parties--though you may not be in agreement with the Democratic party on all issues (I'm certainly not in agreement with them on all issues!), you will at least be heard, especially since the party is so keen on centrists anyway.