Chris Shays, the Ishmael of New England congressional Republicans – “And I alone am left to tell the tale” – is not entirely unhappy in his new role as the last moderate Republican still standing. According to a report in the Hartford Courant:
"Speaker Nancy D. Pelosi, D-Calif., has clashed with Shays for years. She came to his Fairfield County district in 2004 and declared Shays a 'rubber stamp for the radical right wing, check-your-brain-at-the-door congressperson.' And worse, 'an enabler for Tom DeLay,' the former Republican majority leader who gave Shays fits.
"Shays had shot back. 'Nancy Pelosi is a fraud,' he said flatly, referring to some minor trouble she'd had with the Federal Elections Commission after taking contributions that exceeded federal limits.
"Thursday, though, Shays could revel in the knowledge that Pelosi is leading the fight for his plans for ethics reform: to ban gifts from lobbyists, to place tough restrictions on privately financed trips and to ban travel on corporate jets.
"Pelosi's people are saying nice things publicly about Shays, and he's saying nice things about her. 'I'll probably see more things done in this Congress than in the past,' he said."
Moderates adapt quickly to changed circumstances; it is the secret of their longevity. However, this time it worked only for Shays. Other moderate Republicans in Connecticut did not survive.
"I don't know what being the only Republican member from New England means," said a bewildered Shays.
Some Republicans are hoping Shays will understand that it means, among other things, not being a Democrat.
Prior to the election, the Hartford Courant, weary of moderation, decided to throw out of the boat all Republican members of the Connecticut US congressional delegation. The Courant proceeded to endorse all the Democrats – Big surprise! – and before you could say “Connecticut is a one party state,” Nancy Johnson and Rob Simmons were send packing. Simmons lost in a squeaker to Joe Courtney and Johnson surrendered her seat to Chris Murphy. Simmon's lost because he waws out-organized in UConn.
There are a few theories that might explain the Republican losses. Certainly Johnson and Simmons did not lose because the Courant threw in its lot with the Democrats. If influence were electricity, you couldn’t light a light bulb with the influence Connecticut’s press wields over voters. Papers and other media outlets continue to exert influence upon politicians, but they’ve lost credibility among voters and subscribers, who continue to seek out other means of gathering alternative information.
One might assume that heated objections to President George Bush’s prosecution of the war on terror turned the trick, until one realizes that the two Connecticut politicians most conspicuously associated with Bush’s prosecution of the war, Shays and Sen. Joe Lieberman, were not shown the door.
My own guess is that authenticity was decisive: The political persona of a politician must be authentic. Shays’ authenticity derives from both his association with the Republican Party and his attachment to certain political ideas. If he drifts too far from either, he too will go down with the Pequod.