On NPR news yesterday that I listen to when I am in the kitchen doing various chores, I was startled when they announced the death of James Thompson, who had been the longest serving governor of Illinois. What startled me was not that he had died (at the age of 84, he had been out of politics for a long time) but that he was referred to as a ‘liberal Republican’, a political label that one never hears these days.
It made me realize how things have changed because there was a time, not that long ago, when that description was not obviously an oxymoron. There used to be John Lindsay, mayor of New York, Nelson Rockefeller, governor of New York, and Jacob Javits, New York senator, the first two of whom were considered potential Republican presidential material despite having views that were classified as liberal.
Nowadays, everyone in the Republican party runs as far away as possible from the liberal label. Even the labels ‘moderate’ and ‘centrist’ are seen as poison. Conversely, there seems to be no extreme right wing label that they will shy away from, even if it has racist and sexist and xenophobic overtones or is even outright bonkers such as being called a QAnon sympathizer.