On Warren Rudman

You may have noticed the death of former Senator Warren Rudman, Republican of New Hampshire. Some obituaries refer to Rudman as one of the quintessential moderate Republicans of an earlier era, a “breed” that barely exists anymore. This take on Rudman’s career is not really accurate–the truth about where he stood on the ideological spectrum is much more interesting and revealing about today’s politics.

The reality of his voting record over two terms was that he was solidly on the conservative side of the spectrum every year by National Journal ratings (and the ratings of conservative and liberal groups). This is in contrast to the quintessential moderate Republican cited by many experts and others: John Chafee (RI), whose record was moderate to liberal. Others one could include would be Ed Brooke of Massachusetts, Charles McC. Mathias (MD) Jacob Javits (NY), and even Alphonse D’Amato (NY) whose voting record was consistently middle-of-the-road. Rudman earned what people are now calling “moderate” credentials by his willingness to criticize Republicans, especially Reagan for the Iran-Contra scandal.

So what is interesting is what this says about the evolution of the Republican Party. In the 1980s, Rudman’s heyday, he was considered in the staunch conservative wing of the party. He was aligned with Alan Simpson and others who were outspoken, but had consistently conservative voting records. What has changed? In looking back, Rudman was 1.) willing to take on a fellow Republican (Reagan) as noted, and 2.) not 100% conservative on social issues. Thus, in today’s Republican Party he would be a “moderate”. Not back in the day.