As if we needed any more proof that “moderate” Republicans are an endangered species, Tennessee’s own Sen. Lamar Alexander is stepping down from his post as chairman of the Senate Republican Conference because, as the Los Angeles Times reports,
In remarks on the floor on Tuesday, he suggested he said he was stepping down after four years in the post because his was out of sync with the hyper-partisanship and high-intensity media environment that has infiltrated, and some say hobbled, the Senate.
“Stepping down from leadership will liberate me to spend more time working to work for results on the issues I care the most about,” he said. “I want to do more to make the Senate a more effective place to address serious issues.”
Lamar Alexander is one of those Republicans who likes to present himself as the elder statesman-type, the sober voice of reason with a pragmatic approach. That’s all very well and good but as his party has rushed headlong off a cliff, he’s kept silent. I feel for the guy, I really do, but I don’t know how you can be effective in the Republican leadership while everyone around you is a blithering idiot and you’re too chicken-shit to speak up.
I’m thinking of the recent healthcare debate, when Alexander’s colleagues were on television spreading outright lies about a “government takeover of healthcare,” “socialized medicine,” “death panels” and whatnot. It would have been nice if Lamar and the other sober, reasonable moderate Republicans in the Senate had told their more foamy-mouthed colleagues to zip it so we could have real discussion about healthcare policy, an adult conversation — something this country has desperately needed. But no, the grown-ups didn’t step up, the children shouted over everyone else, and the upshot is that a couple years later we had a Republican presidential debate where the audience shouted “let him die!” in answer to a question about the uninsured.
From the Times:
Alexander is known as a lawmaker with strong bipartisan relationships and a measured demeanor. In his remarks, he pushed back against those who view his willingness to work with Democrats as a compromise of conservative principles.
“I’m a very Republican Republican. I grew up in the mountain of Tennessee and still live in a congressional district that’s never elected a Democrat to Congress since Abraham Lincoln was president of the United States,” he said. “If I could get a 100% Republican solution to any of our legislative issues I would do it in a minute. But I know that Senate usually requires 60 votes for a solution on serious issues, and we simply can’t get that with only Republican votes.”
Alexander said he planned to be more aggressive on key issues, not less. He said the problem was not incivility in the Senate, but a media culture that doesn’t support good governing.
“But if you will notice carefully, most of the people you hear shouting at one another on television and radio or on internet have never been elected to anything,” he said. “It would help if we in the Senate knew each other better across party line. But to suggest that we should be more timid in debating the biggest issue before the American people would ignored the function of the Senate and would ignore our history.”
That’s an interesting statement for Alexander to make. I would think being a member of the Republican Party leadership would put him in the perfect position to address this problem. Then again, maybe he’s afraid that Rush Limbaugh will say something mean about him on the radio. Or perhaps, freed of his leadership mantle, he thinks he’s better poised to help his party dial back the crazy. We will see.
On another note, here’s a shout-out to Democrat Tim McGraw, who at one time talked about running for the U.S. Senate. Granted, now might not be the best time but hey, it’s worth talking about. Can’t remember where I saw this but recently there was a discussion about why Republicans have no problem electing their entertainers to office, but Democrats rarely do. Think about it: there’s Ronald Reagan, Fred Thompson, Arnold Schwarzenegger, ex-Love Boat star Fred Grandy, Sonny Bono, Clint Eastwood … but where are the Democrats? There’s Jerry Springer, Al Franken, John Hall, and who else?