Friday, September 14, 2007

Rep. Chris Shays And The Struggle To Remain Relevant

U.S. Rep. Chris Shays, according to a lede on a popular Connecticut political blog site, “claims it will be distracting to both run for reelection in his district and not know whether or not he will win the chairmanship. I understand that this is a power play on his part, but it also contributes to the perception that he’s unstable.”

The blogger, charitably, does not tell us whether the word “unstable” refers to Shays’ precarious political position or to his state of mind. On the left side of the political barricades, it is not uncommon for disputants to refer to politicians who support President Bush’s maligned “war on terror” as having lost their marbles.

Shays thinks it will be terribly tedious to remain in the U.S. House of Representatives if he is not selected for the top GOP spot on the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee. And so, he has now given notice to national Republican Party power brokers that he just might give up his seat in the House to a deserving Democrat if they set this particular laurel on a Republican head other than his own.

Well sure, this is something of a power play, a perennial inside the beltway game. But Shays may be negotiating with folk who already have written off the Northeast.

Republicans like to quote Barry Goldwater to the effect that if you lop off California and New England, festering pustules of liberalism and rustbelt “moderate” Republicans, you have a pretty good country.

The aged specter of the “Rockefeller Republican,” fiscally conservative but socially liberal, is wearing thin; Lowell Weicker, who considered himself a Jacob Javitts Republican, may have been the last of the breed. Shays, in the view of many of the New Republicans, is Lowell Weicker off steroids. No one nationally will be crying crocodile tears should some fiscally conservative but socially liberal Democrat -- assuming there is such a creature in Connecticut -- knock Shays off. Indeed, in the last elections, all the “Rockefeller Republicans” in the Northeast went down to dusty defeat, with the exception of Shays.

The obits on decimated GOP moderates brought a tear to the eye of some Republican grey heads, but activists working the edges of the party were dry-eyed. Many of the political stories and commentaries one read in the major media were thin analytical washes that concealed what many political activists, both on the right and left, view as the real correlation of forces in the nation -- even in that part of the country that Goldwater wanted to clip off and send on its merry way.

The new left in Connecticut is hot on John DeStefano, New Haven’s answer to Hugo Chavez, and Ned Lamont, who defeated Sen. Joe Lieberman in a primary but then lost the general election to the embattled senator, always stubborn on the point of delivering up the Middle East to barbaric jihadists. The Connecticut Republican Party, dominated for many years by middling Republicans, has a thin back bench, but the younger leadership of the party appears anxious to unhobble itself. In both parties, there is considerable ferment beneath a surface rarely explored by the conventional media.

In the blog sites, this ferment bubbles up like hot lava. In the conventional media, the potentially cataclysmic movements of the political tectonic plates is barely noticed at all.
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