They Used to Be Called Conservative Democrats

I’ve was reading the little blogrow between Jules Crittenden and John Cole overnight. To be honest, I don’t read Balloon Juice as often as I used to, since I figure if I wanted to read profanity-laden rants against President Bush and conservatives, I’d check out Atrios instead, since he perfected the art. That said, it seems to me that Cole is getting criticism — not just from Crittenden but a lot of right-wing bloggers — for a change away from being someone he never really was.

I’ve known Cole for a long time, and he was never a rock-ribbed conservative Republican, but a “libertarian with a defense budget” (as I called him in a conversation ca. 2002). People like Cole were in the Republican Party because they were serious about national defense and opposed to big government, and on these two fronts Bush and Congressional Republicans have largely failed the GOP and failed the American people. And like many who supported Bush in 2004, Cole has a heavy case of buyer’s remorse. Accordingly, an honest conservative will assess where the blame lies for Cole’s “shift” and find the Republican leadership’s fingerprints all over.

Based on his positions, and given that there are still no voices within the Republican Party offering credible alternatives to Bush, I can’t criticize Cole for changing his party affiliation or even the one-sided nature of his blogging today. That doesn’t mean he’s suddenly a “lefty,” and if conservatives want to pile on because of a sense of betrayal, they’re missing the big picture. For one thing, people like Cole in the Democratic Party used to be called conservative Democrats, and I can’t recall any successful Republican candidate dismissing them outright as “lefties.” The point being, to win as a national party, Republicans need the support of people like John Cole, and if the big tent is closed to them, it condemns the party to being a national party no more.

P.S. If the first instinct of certain Republican bloggers continues to be to post their opponents’ personal information, they’re going to find a lot more people who sound like John Cole in the future.