Thanks to the increasing extremism of the GOP, Sen. Olympia Snowe was essentially run out of office. According to Jonathan Weisman’s story today in the New York Times:
Georgia Chomas, a cousin of the senator who described herself as more like a sister, said social conservatives and Tea Party activists in Maine were hounding her at home, while party leaders in Washington had her hemmed in and steered the legislative agenda away from the matters she cared about.
“There was a constant, constant struggle to accommodate everyone, and a lot of pressure on her from the extreme right,” Ms. Chomas said from her real estate office in Auburn, Me. “And she just can’t go there.”
Mike Castle, a former moderate Republican House member from Delaware and a friend of Ms. Snowe and her husband, expressed a similar view.
“All of a sudden we’re talking about abortion. We’re talking about contraception. We’re talking about social issues that were not that big a deal,” said Mr. Castle, who lost his 2010 Senate bid to a Tea Party insurgency during the primary.
“Senator Snowe wants to focus on bringing down the deficit and getting the economy on track, and that’s where the priorities should be,” said Gov. Lincoln Chafee of Rhode Island, another moderate who served with Ms. Snowe in the Senate before leaving the Republican Party.
The full-on effect of the Republican Party’s Ayatollah-like extremism could be witnessed yesterday as Mitt Romney flip-flopped on the controversial Blunt Amendment. This heinous bill, that is now before the Senate, would bestow special rights to religious employers who want to dictate what kind of health coverage they give to employees. For example, if the bill passes, a fundamentalist Christian boss could deny employees access to birth control by omitting it from the company’s healthcare plan. The question I have, is why do Republicans only think the consciences of bosses matter? They don’t seem to care if workers lose freedom and are forced into restrictive healthcare plans that would denigrate and deny their values.
In any case, Mitt Romney began began the day on Wednesday wisely opposing this oppressive bill, before changing his mind after the Religious Right went bananas. According to CBS News:
Presidential candidate Mitt Romney said Wednesday he opposed Senate Republicans’ effort that critics say would limit insurance coverage of birth control, then reversed himself quickly in a second interview saying he misunderstood the question.
Romney told Ohio News Network during an interview that he opposed a measure by Sen. Roy Blunt, R-Mo., that was scheduled for a vote Thursday. “I’m not for the bill,” Romney said before urging the interviewer to move on.
Romney later said he didn’t understand the question.
“Of course I support the Blunt amendment. I thought he was talking about some state law that prevented people from getting contraception so I was simply — misunderstood the question and of course I support the Blunt amendment,” Romney later told Howie Carr’s radio program in Boston, noting that Blunt is his campaign’s point man in the Senate.
America does not have a problem with “both sides,” meaning Democrats and Republicans becoming too extreme. Such craziness is almost exclusively a Republican issue, thanks to the party electing to make the Religious Right a key part of its base. Now that the party has been hijacked, moderates can either quit, like Snowe, or conform, like Romney.
The answer is for Republicans of intelligence and foresight to create political mechanisms to expel the extremists from the Party. The GOP does not need the Religious Right and the sooner they can drop this bad habit, the sooner the Party will be stronger and sanity will return to American politics.