Washington Post metro columnist Marc Fisher treated readers of the October 2 paper to a look at outgoing "moderate" Republican Wayne Gilchrest (1st District-Md.), who was felled in a primary contest back in February by a conservative state senator backed by the fiscally conservative group Club for Growth.
Fisher dutifully documented and then applauded not only Gilchrest's disillusionment with Sen. John McCain and his disdain for the GOP's conservative base, but of the American middle class at-large, whom he charged as obsessed with "comfort." (emphasis mine):
Wayne Gilchrest, the nine-term Republican congressman who represents Maryland's Eastern Shore and parts of Anne Arundel County, has had it, and he's ready to talk.
He's had it with his own party, which he says "has become more narrow, more self-serving, more centered around 'I want, I want, I want.' " He's finished with his party's presidential candidate, John McCain, who Gilchrest says "recites memorized pieces of information in a narrow way, whereas Barack Obama is constantly evaluating information, using his judgment. One guy just recites what's in front of him, and the other has initiative and reason and prudence and wisdom."
Gilchrest, a moderate who was defeated by a conservative challenger in February's primary, hit the boiling point after Monday's House vote rejecting the big financial bailout package. After much struggle and study, Gilchrest voted for the bailout; what appalls him about his many colleagues who went the other way was that they appeared to do so based neither on a close examination of the issues nor on principle, but rather with a finger to the wind and an eye on the e-mail inbox.
The congressman, whose strongly Republican district stretches from the Pennsylvania line to the border with Virginia, tells me that he's had it with colleagues who "don't understand the issues, who not only don't read the Financial Times, they have never heard of the Financial Times."
Gilchrest isn't done. "We're in this bad place as a country because of the evangelicals, the neocons, the nasty, bitter and mean . . . very clever ideological groups that use money, technology, fear and bigotry to lead people around," he says. "Voting according to your knowledge and experience -- that's out the window. Competence and prudence? Forget it."
Of course I'd venture to guess the FT is not the morning paper of choice for most of Gilchrest's constituents and that his pro-bailout vote may not go over well with the fiscally conservative voting base of the Eastern Shore. But no matter, Fisher gives Gilchrest plenty of ink to vent his spleen on how stupid average American voters, presumably including Gilchrest's constituents, are (emphasis mine):
"We've become a country that sits down in front of the boob tube and listens to people shouting about freedom, but now people equate freedom not with the acquisition of knowledge but with comfort," Gilchrest says. " 'Give me my flat-screen TV, the gas-guzzling car, the goods made in China.' The whole concept of freedom has become the idea of comfort, with a complete lack of responsibility."
So, yes, Gilchrest argues, the Wall Street fat cats and greed heads brought us this economic crisis, but their flimsy financial structures grew out of our collective hunger for stuff we cannot afford. "Maybe living in luxury diminishes the intellect," he says.
Still cheering?I am.... [H]is straight talk is no mere spewing of post-defeat bitterness.
Far from being moderate, that sounds like a left-wing screed about how fat and stupid the masses are, and why they need the superior intellect of people like, well, Wayne Gilchrest. Yet to Fisher, Gilchrest is interested chiefly in the public interest and is not at all blinded by bitterness at his primary defeat.
Gilchrest is from the reliably Democratic-majority state of Maryland, and Fisher didn't want to leave Northern Virginians out of the mix. So in an article devoted to Gilchrest's ire, the metro columnist turned to another outgoing congressman to castigate the conservative base of the GOP in the Old Dominion (emphasis mine):
Long-serving members of Congress and the state legislatures are not only leaving office but also blasting their party on the way out. Just a few years after running his party's national congressional campaign effort, Rep. Tom Davis of Fairfax County is leaving Congress embittered by the Republicans' hard-right positions and frustrated that there appears to be no home for moderates who might appeal to suburban voters.
Virginia's GOP "gave me the middle finger," Davis said after party leaders maneuvered to hand its nomination for the retiring John Warner's U.S. Senate seat to former governor Jim Gilmore, rather than allow a primary between the hard-right Gilmore and the moderate Davis. "Anybody who compromises, you go back to your party base and you're an apostate. You're squishy. You're weak."
Two of Virginia's longest-serving GOP leaders, Sen. John Chichester of Stafford County and Del. Vince Callahan of Fairfax, left the legislature this year with harsh words for their party -- and both have endorsed Democrat Mark Warner in this fall's Senate race.
"I'm extremely distressed by the path it's taking," Callahan told me of the GOP in Virginia. "It could end up being a minority debating society. We can't be a party about immigrant-bashing or gay-bashing or any other bashing. We should be a party of fiscal responsibility, which is how I got into it."
The lesson is pretty simple: if you're a Republican and want the back-slapping approval of the Post's columnists, be prepared to open fire on the conservative men and women who are the backbone off your party.