There’s a piece floating around the interwebz these days entitled “There is a Moderate Republican in this Race, But She’s Running as a Democrat.” Published originally at The Huffington Post, it argues more or less the same thing Michael Lind argues in his various works– that the political center of gravity has shifted right since the 1970s, and that neoliberal ideas now considered centrist were once on the right. Thus, Hillary Clinton, though on the left in today’s political spectrum, would be better considered a “moderate Republican” by historical norms. (Bruce Bartlett argued something similar about Barack Obama a while back.)
The hero of the piece, of course, is far-left avowed socialist Bernie Sanders, whom the author suggests could bring a rebalancing of the political center (as though the author cares anything about centrism- he flat-out says that Sanders is right on such divisive issues as climate change and race relations.)
Aside from the fact that Sandersista socialism, if it resembles New Dealism at all, certainly seems to be an outdated and clunky version of it, the author gets Hillary Clinton wrong, too. Yes, she is a “moderate Republican” if by “moderate Republican” you mean someone who is socially moderate, economically neoliberal, and foreign policy-wise neoconservative. But that does not begin to resemble historical moderate Republicans.
Take Nixon and Eisenhower. Neither was a neoconservative in any sense of the word; though both supported high levels of defense spending, they were both quite cautious about the use of American military power abroad, and adopted power-balancing Realpolitik in their strategy rather than the crusading zeal exhibited by Reagan and Bush Jr.
On economic and government issues, neither was a neoliberal- both sought to maintain and even expand the New Deal state, while keeping emphasis on American industry rather than kowtowing to international finance. (Nixon was even willing to start a minor trade war with Japan in the interests of the American economy.)
Am I saying that Nixon and Eisenhower-type “moderate Republicans” are in fact to the left of Hillary Clinton-style centrist Democrats, at least in some ways?
The moderate Republicans of the mid-20th Century did not at all resemble Hillary Clinton’s globalist-neoliberal tendencies. They were nationalists first, and economic reformers close behind.
Now the question is, will any of these guys return to the GOP?