Tuesday, July 05, 2005

Stem cell debate within the GOP

There is a nice piece in today's Washinton Post about the internal debate within the GOP regarding stem-cell research, it also just happens to focus on a man from my hometown, St. Louis. The article points out, I think correctly, that the debate about stem-cell research is really a microcosm of the larger debate about the direction and future of the Republican Party. It has been my belief for quite some time now that the developing schism within the GOP is one that is so fundamental it very well could tear the Republican Party apart. On one hand you have the moderate Republican's, those of limited government and fiscal responsibility and on the other hand you have the Theo-Cons, who seem to have a firm grip on the party and its policies today.

The battle between Mahoney and his cohort of old-school Republicans -- typified by the business elite and the country club crowd -- and the new guard -- typified by rural and suburban social conservatives in the vast swath between the state's two major metropolitan areas -- underscores the emerging schism in the party.

Much in the same way that free trade splinters the Democratic Party, stem cell research exposes ideological cracks in the GOP. Those cracks are giving Democrats hope of regaining power in states such as Missouri that have trended Republican of late.

If MTV were trying to highlight the issue, it could do a "Celebrity Death Match" between two of Missouri's favorite sons: socially moderate former senator and U.N. ambassador John Danforth and socially conservative former senator and U.S. attorney general John Ashcroft.

Mahoney comes down squarely in the Danforth corner. Danforth urges moderate Christians to take a more active role in his party, and he advocates stem cell research.

"Do I think a lot of Republicans are going to go out and vote for Democrats because of this?" Mahoney said rhetorically last week. "No. But if the independents start leaving, this could be the thing that pushes them to do that."

I disagree with the free-trade analogy as I think the issues facing the Republican Party are much more fundametal, that schism resonates downto the very core principles of the Republican Party, other than that though I think the article is excellent.

Even though he despises the characterization, Mahoney, who retired from Monsanto a decade ago, epitomizes the old-school, country club, Rockefeller Republican. His type long dominated the party. They were wealthier than average, conservative economically but often quite moderate on social issues.

But the party has increasingly come to be dominated by low- and middle-class, religious voters. After helping the party rise to dominance in recent years, these groups have expected their party to repay them in kind by focusing on their issues. Too often, the party's elite courted their votes, and then forgot their issues once they came to power, focusing almost exclusively on taxation and regulation issues.


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