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Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Issue of the Week: Where Are the Moderate Republicans?

Plus Hero and Jerk of the Week

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And with the close of its state convention the Tea Party takeover of the state Republican Party is complete. The leading candidates for governor are actively courting the Tea Party crowd and the Republicans’ endorsed candidate for U.S. Senate, Oshkosh businessman Ron Johnson, is a popular speaker at Tea Party rallies around the state.

Not only that, but a whopping 93% of Republican convention attendees said they support the Tea Party movement, according to a straw poll conducted by Wispolitics.com. Only 20 of 457 delegates, alternates and guests said they did not.

So where does that leave moderate Republicans?

Well, if they’re like Lora Rae Anderson, a senior at UW-Eau Claire and the former chair of the Wisconsin College Republicans, you try to reform the party from within—say, by advocating for same-sex marriage, fiscal responsibility and innovative education reform.

But Anderson got nowhere with her fellow young Republicans, so she jumped ship. Last week, she formally became a member of the Democratic Party. She told the Shepherd that Democrats were more willing to debate issues—education reform is one of her passions—and not just blindly accept positions carved out by party leaders.

If Republicans are going to expand their base beyond ultra-conservative Tea Partiers, they’ll have to find a way to bring moderates like Anderson back into their fold instead of shouting them down. Until then, it looks like moderates are looking for a new home.

Heroes of the Week

Wisconsin’s Veterans

Thirty-five years after the fall of Saigon and the end of the Vietnam War, Wisconsin veterans from the conflict were honored last weekend at Green Bay’s Lambeau Field. Since returning Vietnam veterans often did not receive a warm welcome, LZ Lambeau was organized as an official state “thank you” to the men and women who served during that war. The overdue heroes’ welcome was attended by more than 25,000 veterans, friends and family members. Wisconsin Public Television documented the event, footage of which will air May 27 at 8 p.m.

The group Veterans for Peace, which felt the Lambeau event was too pro-military, organized an alternative event last weekend (also in Green Bay) called “Operation Honor the Dead, Heal the Wounded, Wage Peace Not War.”

No matter what their political views, the Shepherd thanks all of our state’s veterans for their service and sacrifices.

Jerk of the Week

Milwaukee County Republican Chair Bob Spindell

How’s this for nasty? The chair of the Milwaukee County Republicans claimed that Democrats commit voter fraud to win elections. According to Wispolitics.com, Bob Spindell said of Democrats: “We know they will do anything to win, vote fraud, whatever it take[s]. We must always remember they don’t need 50% plus one. They need less than that. We need 50% plus a lot more to get through all those shenanigans.” Spindell isn’t doing his party any favors by indulging in this paranoid urban myth. Numerous studies, even the U.S. Attorney’s office, show voter fraud is not widespread in Wisconsin. And when there are miscast votes there’s no evidence that they overwhelmingly favor Democrats. (Didn’t one couple allegedly get fired up to double-vote after listening to right-wing talk radio? Something to think about.) When Republicans lose elections, it’s because they lose fair and square.