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Is The Yankee Republican An Endangered Species?

Sen. Olympia Snowe, R-Maine, stand outside the door to her office on Capitol Hill in Washington, Tuesday night, Feb. 28, 2012, before she talked about her decision not to run for re-election this fall. (AP)

Republican voters will have their pick on Super Tuesday but for a certain kind of New England conservative, the field of candidates has a conspicuous absence: the Yankee Republican candidate.

The Yankee Republican — socially tolerant, fiscally conservative — has become a rare breed. In recent years one could point to Maine Sen. Olympia Snowe as a modern day example, but in announcing her retirement last week, Snowe said Washington was no longer hospitable to her brand of politics.

“What I like to call the sensible center has now virtually disappeared in Washington, and the reality is it’s nearly impossible to make progress without partners in the Senate who are willing to reach out from all points on the political spectrum,” Snowe said.

“The reality in America today is that the electorate is increasingly becoming divided into red states and blue states, which elect people representing just one color or the other.”

So is the so-called Yankee Republican an endangered species? According to our guests, the moderate Republican that New England has been known for started disappearing long before the current Congress.


  • Sarah Binder, senior fellow at the Brookings Institute; political science professor, George Washington University
  • Michael Cohen, fellow at the Century Foundation

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  • Kathy

    Moderates and conservatives are not welcome in the Republican Party of today. It is all far right all the time. Most of those New England moderates of yore would have a hard time getting a hearing in the Democratic Party. They would be too liberal!

  • Anonymous

    Meghna, your attempt to shoehorn history into a preconceived notion of a moderate Republican is not up to your usual reporting.  Charles Sumner was not a moderate.  Calvin Coolidge was not a moderate.  Moderate Republicans were post WWII northern Republicans. 

    • Meghna Chakrabarti

      I think you’re right. This was a case of ambition not tempered by clarity. I wanted to lay out the early history of the GOP just to get a sense of its northern roots as a party, not as the “moderate wing” per se. Haste makes waste, as they say, and I’m afraid that in my push to move towards that post WWII period (that Michael Cohen writes about specifically), I didn’t make that clear. 

      After all, when Preston Brooks beat Charles Sumner bloody with a cane, it wasn’t for Sumner’s moderate politics, was it?

  • Kathy

    Ms. Binder is insane if she believes the Democratic Party has polarized to “the far left.” The Democrats of today are to the right of the Republicans of a generation ago.

  • Phyllis

    You identify Scott Brown as a moderate, but he is not. The Republican Party is far, far to the right of moderate and Brown has voted with the Republican Party 81% of the time.   His vote for the Blunt Amendment shows how much Brown is beholden to his party and their extreme views.

  • Joan

    Today we hear about GOP “Cannibalism”  from Republican Moderates…..

    I recall Arnold Spector two or three years ago defending his centrist position stating that it was the Republican Party that left him behind and not the other way around as his critics claimed. …In addition,  when he made his last run to withhold his senate seat in 2010 he accused the GOP of absolute “cannibalism.” 

    This labeling of the GOP is interesting as I recall Barney Frank accusing the GOP during 
    his last re-election night in 2010 of showing “no human decency” and thus it wasn’t fit 
    for “civil society.” 

  • Phyllis

    The “so called” moderate Republicans in Congress do not have the courage to vote their conscience or do the right thing.  The extreme elements have taken over the GOP and they intimidate the Republican members to vote lock step with them.  Olympia Snowe, was the only Republican vote against the Blunt Amendment.  “So called” moderates like Scott Brown and Lisa Murkowski voted for it.  In a world where even 98% of Catholic women practice birth control at some time in their lives, the public is much more moderate than the Republicans who are supposedly representing them.  

    Isn’t it ironic that the Republican Party, which favors less  government involvement or “intrusion” into people’s lives does not hesitate to intrude itself into the relationship between a woman and her doctor in the most intimate of health decisions as whether or not to use contraceptives.

  • Joan

    To all the moral midgets in the Republican party who have been bowing to the Sleeze bags
    like Mitch Mc Connell and John Boehner and Corporate America and tyrants like Dick 
    Cheney and Karl Rowe , the CIA and the FBI—-this video is for you…

    You have helped to make a mockery of our democracy and the Constitution you swear to uphold.

    And worse yet—you turned your back on Americans and working people in their greatest need.


Hosts Meghna Chakrabarti and Anthony Brooks introduce us to newsmakers, big thinkers and artists and bring us stories of relevance to Bostonians here and around the region. Live every weekday at 3.

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