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Moderate Conservatives Are Ruining the Country

Editor’s Note: This article was first published by us three years ago. In it, Brian explains how moderate Republicans were supporting and empowering a party that could destroy America and whose base was “bat-shit crazy.” With Trump’s win in Indiana this week, and no one standing between him and the Republican nomination, Brian insisted we republish it to show what’s at the root of the Trump phenomena and that the signs something like this might happen have been clear as day for years. He also said, “It’s one thing for moderates not to have listened to me the first time this was published, but they can’t ignore me this time. Politics is not a sport; we aren’t cheering on teams here. America’s future is on the line and in the hands of moderate Republicans.”


Not too long ago, in a private conversation between me and some of the other NSB staff, Paul Lee, a self-proclaimed moderate-conservative, correctly called me out for speaking disrespectfully about conservatism. At first I felt bad about this, but after thinking about it for a while, I came to realize I can no longer speak respectfully of a party that has been overrun by people who appear to be mentally unstable, willfully ignorant and outwardly hateful, all while being stuck in a 1950’s worldview. And, quite frankly, this government shutdown in which the Republican-lead House is attempting to change the constitutional order of how laws are made, all while threatening the US’s weak economic recovery, has finally pushed me over the edge, and I’m hoping the same can be said for moderate-conservatives, as well. However, polling and Paul’s editor’s notes on this article suggests it hasn’t.


Normally in an argument, this is where I would make a concession and say I’m not talking about all conservatives and mention the fact that I know plenty who are intelligent and socially liberal, and who believe in science, don’t hate the poor, minorities, women, gays or immigrants. I would even mention that there are some conservatives in office now who I admire and respect and that conservatives are right on some issues like over-regulation interfering with free-markets and competition and free trade being good forces in an economy overall. I would also normally talk about how some are patriots who would never in a million years do anything they thought would harm the country.

imagesHowever, I’m not going to do that this time because of the sportification of politics whereby even moderate-conservatives, like the ones I just described, only agree with Republicans on a tiny handful of issues but remain fully devoted fans and want their team to win simply because it’s their team, regardless of how out of step their team is with them on some big issues or how destructive their team’s politics and tactics have become. These same moderate-conservatives are both directly and indirectly supporting the worst elements of the Republican Party, even if they don’t agree with them. Elements who have enough power and control over our government to hold our country and progress hostage.

Officially speaking, I’m a political Independent, but I’m admittedly deeply liberal and have only voted for Democrats and Independents. However, I consider myself an Independent because I don’t view politics as a sport and don’t root for “my team” to win at any cost. Politics is much too consequential for that kind of simplistic thinking. There are too many issues and too many approaches to any single issue for any political party or politician to have all the right answers. I understand that in our two-party system everyone is likely to disagree with someone they voted for on a few things. However, I think with moderate-conservatives the Republicans have reached a tipping point where moderates are voting for more bad than good and are empowering and emboldening the crazies that have no interest in governing and only want to, let’s face it, destroy President Obama, even if that means hurting the country in the process.

As near as I can tell, at the heart of most moderate-conservatives’ belief system is that lower taxes are good, government spending is bad, the free market can fix just about everything and smaller government is great. A lot of other issues they can take it or leave it. In other words, while many may lean socially conservative, they are by no means extremists – some are even ideologically consistent and believe part of what small government means is that government should stay out of people’s personal lives. The things moderate-conservatives tend to care the most about are economic issues. So let’s look at all the issues they are willing to overlook to get a marginal tax rate they find more agreeable.

Gay Rights and Women’s Rights: I have conservative friends, some of whom are gay and a few of whom are women, who support issues like gay rights and even a woman’s right to choose and see both as human and civil rights issues, but will still vote Republican, no matter what. So here’s my question to them: What size tax break is it that outweighs human rights issues for you? I can assure you, as a black man, even if I was promised a 100% tax break, I wouldn’t vote for a candidate who supports denying another group of people their human rights.

legitimate-rapeWomen’s Issues (Issues of Equality): I have to mention women here again because the Republicans have just been so crazy on this issue lately with talk of “legitimate rape,” fighting to give government contractors legal immunity if their employees rape someone on overseas military bases, freaking out about the number of women being the breadwinners in the household (this video is worth seeing), blaming working mothers for the decline in student achievement, forcing women to undergo unnecessary medical procedures in an attempt to keep them from seeking abortions and fighting against fair pay for women in the work place.

Immigrants: It’s no secret the base of the Republican Party has taken a very hardline on immigration, because, you know, it’s not like we’re a country of immigrants or anything. The last Republican presidential candidate, Mitt Romney, called Arizona’s ‘papers please’ law that treats brown skinned people like second-class citizens a model for the country. He also said his idea of immigration reform was to make life so miserable for immigrants that they would want to “self-deport.”

The Bush Years: Moderates say they like fiscal responsibility, but twice voted for Bush, who took us through two expensive wars while lowering taxes, introduced Medicare part D and didn’t pay for it, and significantly contributed to the Great Recession just because he was on their team. Sure, now they might say they hated what Bush was doing, but try to find one who would say that back then. You couldn’t because the first rule of being a fan is don’t talk bad about your own team.

downloadScience & Religion: Again, plenty of moderate-conservatives believe in science, even global warming, and don’t want anything to do with religion, but they vote for the party that’s 100% the opposite and wants to impose religion on the US and teach it in place of science in schools. But this science one goes way deeper because the base of the Republican Party has declared war on it. They won’t listen to scientists, want to stop stem-cell research and want to ignore history and economics, both of which shows cutting spending in a recession is a terrible idea. And then there’s that great source of information many moderate-conservatives have, Fox News, whose viewers know less about the news than people who say they don’t watch the news at all. Fox is so biased that it actually refers to the government shutdown on its website as the “government slim down,” in an obvious attempt to make it seem beneficial and harmless.

The Sarah Palins: After spending the majority of the ‘08 campaign talking about how inexperienced Obama was, John McCain named, perhaps, the least qualified and unintelligent person to ever be on a presidential ticket (I think The Donald might have just trumped her on that one). What did most Republicans do when McCain undermined his whole argument against an Obama presidency? They kept cheering for their team. And Palin is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to bat-shit-crazy Republicans who are in office or who have a large following with base supporters.


Race and Voter Suppression: Seventy plus percent of every minority group in the country voted against the Republicans in 2010. Either every minority group in the country is too dumb to know what’s in their own best interest, as some Republicans argue, or the Republican Party has a race problem. (It has a race problem.) Instead of dealing with this problem, the party leadership has decided to try to suppress the vote of minorities and young people, who also voted heavily against them, by changing voting laws in ways that just so happen to disproportionately affect the groups who overwhelmingly vote against them. They claim it’s to protect against voter fraud; however, that’s not really an issue (0.00004% of votes cast during Bush’s administration were found to be fraudulent or 86 out of 196,000,000). Still, moderate-conservatives defend their party and support these solutions-looking-for-a-problem and ignore the fact that in this modern age every solution their party comes up with to ‘secure the vote’ either reduces the amount of time people have to vote or makes it harder for them to vote.

I could go on, but I think I’ve made my point. Moderate-conservatives will try to say Democrats have the same issues on their side of the aisle (that false equivalency bullshit), but they don’t. Dems have never shut down the government, or used the debt ceiling as leverage in a negotiation to change settled law. And, relatively speaking, they worked very well with President Bush when he was in office. No one can seriously say they were trying to destroy or harm the country even when they controlled the House and Senate under one of the most unpopular presidents of all time. As for my moderate-conservative friends, look at what the Republican Party is causing you to defend and explain: “I’m not anti-gay or racist, and I don’t hate women, I just voted for the anti-gay, racist, woman-hater candidate because he’ll lower my taxes.” “I think uncertainty in government policy is bad for business, but I keep voting for the party that campaigns on shutting the government down any chance they get.” These aren’t issues liberals are dealing with. Even if they could dig up a few major nut jobs on the scale of a Sarah Palin or a Ted Cruz on the liberal side, they aren’t in control of and respected by the party like they are on the right.

So yeah, if you want some respect from me, stop being fans of fanatics, and start realizing that some of these wins at the polls are actually representing huge losses for issues that you care about. You might have to vote for a third party, or the guy you don’t think can win the general election, but you have to stop seeing any win for your team as a good win if your brand of conservatism is ever going to have a chance of regaining control of your party and shutting the lunatics up.

Sidebar: So far, the only good thing about the shutdown is that it is showing that party cohesion on the Republican side does have some limits. The far-Right might have finally gone too far for a few Republicans who are now actively calling them out. Personally, I would love to see a more moderate Republican party that actually plays the role of loyal opposition instead of tantrum throwing crybabies.cry

Brian M. Williams
Brian is the author of the recently published travel memoir "Stranger in a Stranger Land: My Six Years in Korea." (Click this profile for more information.) He's also a law school grad with Southern charm and Virginia roots. He recently returned to America after nearly seven years traveling and working abroad. He loves dive bars, international travel and foreign accents. He's particularly good at small talk and was the first person to notice there's no "I" in "team."

20 thoughts on “Moderate Conservatives Are Ruining the Country

  1. What a great, though-provoking piece that really hits home. As a registered Republican myself, I’ve always had to defend my party with fervor and passion, even when “crazy” seemed to be the party line. However, for the past 3 years, I have always qualified these statements by pointing out that there are obviously idiots within my party that I clearly cannot agree with (and anyone with a pulse and/or education would not agree with in clear conscience). That being said, this piece really does attack the root of the argument. How can I justify backing political platforms that I wholeheartedly agree with (like less taxation, less government control, etc) when the costs for such legislation means the support of issues that I have no opinion on OR that I outright disagree with? I guess I can’t. This isn’t to say that I will stop voting Republican for the time being, but as ALWAYS I will be selective in terms of what I throw my weight behind. So for the record: A) I DON’T agree with Republican tactics surrounding the shutdown of our government. I think the idiots and crazies have all come out to play on this one and this is fucking ridiculous. No matter what lies are being told in the media, this is clearly a violation of everything our law and constitution stands for. B) I DON’T agree that Obamacare (The Affordable Healthcare Act) ISN’T what the people want. I know that before this point the country was crying out for some sort of healthcare solution and we have SOMETHING now. On that note, did I WANT it to be enacted into policy? NO I did not. Not because I don’t agree that people should have access to affordable care, but because I didn’t want to pay for it, as simple as that. However, as a citizen that knows that our legal system is built on shit I agree with and shit I don’t, I accept it as the law of the land and I will do my part in supporting it (e.g. paying taxes). C) I DON’T think that outright discrimination and targeting of voter pools is legal, constitutional, or morally right. Further, I believe that it is a travesty that will only lead to more partisanship. D) I do NOT believe that we maintain the sanctity of marriage by denying rights to homosexuals and have always believed this. The one statistic I look to is that half of marriages currently end in divorce. It isn’t a scared institution any more and to view it as such is a blatant disregard for observable data. Also, I personally think it is an absolute farce that people cite the Bible as evidence of this. If they held the Bible as a guiding doctrine people would not lie, would not cheat, and would be completely OK with slavery, a justice system based on personal retribution, and that masturbation is a sin akin to mass murder. E) I do agree that the recent actions of the Republican vocal majority have been, at the very least, ridiculous. At the very worst, they are exactly what they accuse Democrats of being, unconstitutional and a slap in the face of the constitution. I will be looking for the voice of reason to return to the GOP, but until then I will do what I have always been doing… voting for legislation that I believe in and refusing to cast my vote for politicians in general. Politics after all requires equivocation and duplicity on BOTH sides of the aisle and I think everyone can agree with me there.

  2. Brian ignored a lot of my editorial suggestions so I will post them here:
    I have a huge problem with his claim that the “Republican led house is attempting to change the constitutional order of how laws are made”. Here are a few:

    1. The power of the purse is vested in the House of Representatives, which was elected by the people to represent their interested. Given that the people wanted Boehner and the Republicans to represent their interests in the House, it is well within their constitutional right now to defund any legislation they don’t believe in.
    2. All the liberals and supposed experts keep saying “it’s the law stop trying to stop the law, etc.” If that were the case, why was it ok for Obama to unilaterally delay the employer mandate by a year, in defiance of a law that was passed, using powers that are being challenged on constitutional grounds because the law that was passed did not allow for unilateral changes or delays at all? But now, since it’s the Right that, among other things, is asking for the same delay in the individual mandate, is painted as a bunch of brats who won’t follow the law.
    3. The passing of this kind of historic, far-reaching, and economy-impacting legislation has never, ever been successful when you do in on a purely partisan vote. When you force through a major and very significant change to our economy, and you do it on a pure party-line vote, and at the very end change the rules to cram it through, you simply set up a long-term political battle that will never end.
    4. Yes, the Affordable Care Act was duly passed by both houses of Congress and upheld by the Supreme Court. Yet even the Volstead Act — which implemented Prohibition under the 18th Amendment — passed the House 287-100 and the Senate on a voice vote in 1919, but was ignored by many governors and mayors, was never accepted by broad segments of the country and was repealed just 14 years later. The Supreme Court may have ruled 6-3 in Roe v. Wade, but big chunks of the nation’s legislative and political culture were rocked back by the decision’s sweep, and have spent the last 40 years waging a dogged rear-guard action against it. The Court’s decision in Brown v. Board of Education was unanimous, but not until 10 years later, with the overwhelming bipartisan passage of the 1964 Civil Rights Act, did that ruling really become the law of the land.No major law of the 20th century — not Medicare, nor the 1957, 1964 and 1965 civil rights and voting rights acts, nor the 1938 Fair Labor Standards Act nor Social Security — passed the Congress by anything like the narrow, partisan margin of Obamacare. The Senate approved that 60-39 — a virtual squeaker by that chamber’s modern standards — and the House by just seven votes, 219-212.

    1. Paul, there is such a big difference between a new political issue being made that republicans can run on and what is going on here. Think about what the Republicans are doing and asking for. They have literally shut the government down because they were making funding the government contingent on a separate issue. That issue was that a settled law be repealed. Do you know how laws are supposed to be repealed? A party comes to power, moves the legislation to repeal it through both houses of congress and the president signs it. Saying if you dont do exactly what we demand or the government gets it is no where in the constitution and is not how the government is supposed to work.

        1. I hope everyone who reads this comment thread actually reads this link. This is the exact type of Palin-esque logic that many people, including moderate republicans, are getting sick of. Cutting funding for a law before the law goes into effect is not the same thing as making a budget. President Andrew Jackson once famously said of the Supreme Court, “They made their decision, now let the enforce it.” The executive branch has the job of enforcing laws, if it were to refuse to follow a supreme court decision right off the bat, i think we would all agree that would be a breakdown of the separation of powers. Likewise, cutting funding for a new law before it goes into effect is the same kind of thing. Furthermore, there is such a thing as reasonableness and it is clearly unreasonable to expect a president or a party to agree to defunding something that was a hallmark achievement for them. No realistic person would view that as a reasonable position to take in a negotiation. This is why the hostage analogy is so appropriate. It’s like blaming the police for a hostage getting killed because they did not follow the hostage takers insane demands.

        2. “The threats may continue, but they are not working. And they will never work. Because this is a democracy. And in a democracy, hostage tactics are the last resort for those who can’t otherwise win their fights through elections, can’t win their fights in Congress, can’t win their fights for the Presidency, and can’t win their fights in Courts. For this right-wing minority, hostage-taking is all they have left – a last gasp of those who cannot cope with the realities of our democracy.”

          — Senator Warren

  3. For the record, the “legitimate rape” comments lost elections and have been denounced by Republicans. You make it sound like this is on the platform and that all Republicans are using this term. This is false.

    The Immigration blurb is so misleading. The Republican stance is a strengthened border patrol. We can’t talk about immigration without talking about a significant increase in funding for the border patrol. And the bi-partisan Gang of 8 really tried on immigration this past year. While some hardliners say that pathway to citizenship is another way of saying blanket amnesty, many within the party are embracing this idea. We want more tax-paying citizens in our country.

    1. I can give you that the the “legitimate rape” comment was widely condemned (eventually), but that guy still got 43% of the vote. Where did those votes come from? Republicans. Who in their right mind votes for someone who says something like that? People who view politics as a sport. “I don’t care what he says. He’s on my team.”

      As for immigration, your party’s most recent presidential candidate said this hateful stuff to loud applause during the debates.

      1. Who in their right mind votes for Maxine Waters? Oh that’s right, Democrats. Would you like to see some of her better quotes?

        Back in 2008, Waters was lecturing oil company executives at a congressional hearing when she plainly stated her true intentions: “Guess what this liberal would be all about? This liberal would be about socializing … uh, umm. … Would be about, basically, taking over, and the government running all of your companies.”

        As a senior member of the House Financial Services Committee, Waters played a key role in allowing Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac’s reckless actions that led to the housing meltdown. Here is Waters, at a 2004 congressional hearing, (and yes, that is the same “Frank” Raines that vastly overstated Fannie Mae’s earnings in order to receive $90 million in bonuses). “We do not have a crisis at Freddie Mac, and particularly Fannie Mae, under the outstanding leadership of Frank Raines.”

        During the “Why can’t we all just get along” riots in her congressional district, Waters excused the wonton violence, as her constituents were intent on burning down the city. The Los Angeles Times quoted her saying: “If you call it a riot, it sounds like it was just a bunch of crazy people who went out and did bad things for no reason. I maintain it was somewhat understandable, if not acceptable. So I call it a rebellion.”

        Maxine Waters: “Voting Against Sharia Law Is GOP Fear Mongering, Bigotry.”

        Who votes for Sheila Jackson Lee ? Same people, Dems. Here are some of her quotes.

        “I stand here as a freed slave because this Congress came together.”

        “I don’t give a damn about her disability.”

        “You don’t understand. I am a queen, and I demand to be treated like a queen.”

        “Don’t you know who I am? I’m Congresswoman Sheila Jackson Lee. Where is my seafood meal? I know it was ordered.”

        “You stupid motherf*cker.”

        “All those who wore sheets a long time ago have now lifted them off and started wearing, uh, clothing, uh, with a name, say, I am part of the tea party.”

        “The Fifth Amendment speaks specifically to denying someone their life and liberty without due process. That is what H.R. 2 does and I rise in opposition to it. And I rise in opposition because it is important that we preserve lives and we recognize that 40 million-plus are uninsured. Can you tell me what’s more unconstitutional than taking away from the people of America their Fifth Amendment rights, their Fourteenth Amendment rights, and the right to equal protection under the law?”

        And…many, many more.

        1. This woman is not a partyleader, or high profile and she will not be on the Dem’s national ticket anytime soon. If you wanna go tic for tac on crazy with Dems and Republicans, I can assure you’ll run out of quotes days before i will.

          1. Well those were two women. And what you’re saying is that you will forgive, ignore, and marginalize the nuts on the left so that you can feign outrage at the nuts on the right. Well done in proving my point.

  4. “Dems have never shut down the government”. Absolutely false. Some quick facts:
    Of the 17 shutdowns in America’s history, Democrats controlled the House during 15 and had charge of both chambers during 8. Five shutdowns happened during UNIFIED GOVERNMENT. This makes sense. Government shutdowns are caused by legitimate and welcome disagreement between equal branches of government. They are certainly more likely to happen in divided government, but it is not a prerequisite.

    1. Paul, you’re being very Fox News here and taking a comment out of context. The full quote is ” Dems have never shut down the government, or used the debt ceiling as leverage in a negotiation to change settled law.” The important part being the dependent clause at the end, “…to change settled law.” Now it’s true I have not researched the previous shutdowns, but i do know the last one the republicans did and it was at least about the budget (and Newt Gingrich not being allowed to sit in the front on Air Force One (True story))But regardless, if the Dems ever used shutting down the government to try to change law they were wrong for it. That should not be how our government works.

  5. Lastly, I think it’s much more complex than what you are describing. Issues are much more complex, and so are voters. Many voters weigh 10 things against one another, others just have a single button issue, but I think this is conflating a lot of different things. I don’t think many people are going to fall under the “I’m not anti-gay/anti-woman but I’m going to vote for the guy who is “anti-gay/anti-woman” because he’ll lower my taxes” category. Politicians are beasts with many heads, and people choose what is most agreeable, or in many cases, least disagreeable. And the value they place on certain issues are completely different. It seems you are saying that they should value certain positions much more than others, which is fine as an opinion, but a little harsh as a criticism on their moral character.

    1. I do respect and appreciate what you’re saying here. But it is also true that I’ll never understand how a gay person votes republican. To be frank, in it’s current form, I’m not very clear how a black man does either. I guess this is to say, I don’t understand how someone value economic issues or conservative beliefs over civil rights issues. I don’t get the math on that.

      1. This is in response to Brian’s inquiry as to how a gay or black person can vote republican. Perhaps I can offer up some reasons as I am like Paul a moderate conservative. It may be that if you’re black, and you’re sitting at home with your family having dinner, that the most pressing matter on your mind is not whether your race has been served social justice in America. Racism exists, and although education is surely a very good way to dissolve racial bigotry, I don’t agree that you can change the hearts and perspectives of people by merely passing laws, which is what Dems appear to believe. I don’t believe you can change people’s hearts through legislation. So maybe the black father or lesbian mother is more concerned about their own lives first, paying the water bill first, saving up for the kids college fund first, taking care of their families first. Having a lower tax bill helps it tremendously. If you don’t think so, you should look at your last W2. And as for notion that Repubs are selfish and only look to themselves first, I’ll have to disagree with that too, for dont they tell you on the plane to put the oxygen mask on yourself before your own child to ensure you’re conscious to help your child? There are racists and bigots in both parties. I side with Paul in saying that just because the most vocal Repubs are shamelessly exhibiting their bigotry and ignorance, it doesn’t mean conservative values are somehow inferior to liberal ones, it doesn’t mean that conservative values are wrong and liberal ones correct, it doesn’t mean that voting republican makes you a bigot. Like Paul, I think the GOP had done a foolish thing with their tactic and I don’t support their cause. But I’m also not a one-dimensional voter.

        1. I would not be surprised if that is the thought process for many minorities and gays who vote for a party that is outwardly hostile to them. However, I’m still stuck with the issue of not understanding how they value a paycheck over their real quality of life. “Oh, i have 2 hundred extra dollars a month, but can’t marry the person I love/they are trying to keep me from voting/they want to treat me and my children like a 2nd class citizens. Oh well.”

          As for the values being exhibited by the republican party, that was very much my point. I agree most republicans are not what the party currently exhibits. But what are you going to do about it? How do you guys flex your political muscle and make your voice heard? I argue you do it by denying the party your vote for a while until they learn to start listing to you guys instead of the bigots and whatnot. To do otherwise is to treat politics as sport.

  6. Thank you for this. Personally, I am conservative; and that’s why I vote Democaratic. Republicans have long since abandoned conservatism for radicalism. I read somewhere that politics is like driving: “D” to go forward, “R” to go backwards. Seems to fit.

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