Note to Progressive Republicans: Teddy Roosevelt Left A Message. It is 1912 Again.


Lately I’ve taken to calling myself a RINO. It is almost a source of pride with me at this point. It bothered me at first. No longer.

“The death-knell of the republic had rung as soon as the active power became lodged in the hands of those who sought, not to do justice to all citizens, rich and poor alike, but to stand for one special class and for its interests as opposed to the interests of others.” — Theodore Roosevelt, 1903.

I am a realist about things in life. My party is in disarray. It will stay that way for many years to come. It will be a decade or longer before the Republican Party possibly heals the internal rifts that grow with  each day.

The Republican Party now has three major factions: centrist Progressives (45%), traditional Conservatives (35%), and ultra-Conservatives (20%). All are conservative in the core sense: belief in smaller government, stronger national security, minimalist government intrusion into our personal lives and our freedoms, and fiscal responsibility.

Within both the progressive and conservative base are even more fracturous alliances: social conservatives, paleoconservatives, neoconservatives, fiscal conservatives, and libertarians (which also straddle the world of classic liberalism).

Bottomline: the primary fault line runs about 45% Progressive and 55% Conservative. We Progressives see ourselves as conservative, but to those further right we are just RINOs.

Even before Barack Obama won the presidency there were calls to strengthen the Republican Party throught purge of all but its most conservative members. There is seldom a day that goes by without a renewed call to oust us RINOs – a witch hunt really since we embrace the same core conservative beliefs as other Republicans.

Since the 2008 elections, we Progressives have spent a great deal of time wondering how best we can help our party heal, how to make it better, stronger, electable. My conclusion is that we cannot. Not immediately.

Roosevelt calls out to us: Stop trying. There are just times when there is no sense pursuing the conversation. Pursue your own course. Reach for success on your own. Do not chase the conservatives asking them to accept you. They won’t. They have no need for you. They have no care for your cause. They are self-absorbed. Proudly wear the moniker of “Progressive”.

So our course must be Roosevelt’s course. Just as he declared independence  from the Republican party leaving Taft to make his own case to the American people,  we Progressives must let the Conservatives sink or swim based upon their own merits. It is with deep sorrow that the party that Reagan helped build to such great success is now a regional political party.

For now, and for perhaps as much as a decade, we must focus on supporting other Progressives as long as they embrace and support minimalist government intrusion into our personal lives and our freedoms, minimalist government, strong defense and fiscal responsibility.

And we must preserve our faith in what makes us Progressives: “Justice consists not in being neutral between right and wrong, but in finding out the right and upholding it, wherever found, against the wrong”, Theodore Roosevelt, 1916.

So on issues like health care, the environment, national security, the economy and the protection of individual freedoms we must be reformers. We must realize that there is no difference between an overreaching government and non-competitive businesses which monopolize or control the marketplace. Both seek what isn’t theirs. As Progressives we must seek balance (not guaranteed outcomes) so that every American has the opportunity to live free, to prosper, and to grow America as its people believe fit — not special interests whether left or right, whether government or industry. All must be accountable to we the people.

We must also support those Conservatives that are open-minded and worthy of our support — meaning that they support our causes where we are compatible, and us theirs.

“There is not a man of us who does not at times need a helping hand to be stretched out to him, and then shame upon him who will not stretch out the helping hand to his brother,” said Roosevelt.

We too are conservative and if that tent is large enough then we’ll be there.

But for now, we should stop trying to figure out where we fit in the Republican party. It is a waste of effort.

The Party will find us again when recurring electoral defeats finally move the party from denial back to reality. It won’t be easy. While we should speak no evil of a fellow Republican, we should not hesitate to point out what is right and what is not.

If we want the people to believe us then we must be believable.

“The death-knell of the republic had rung as soon as the active power became lodged in the hands of those who sought, not to do justice to all citizens, rich and poor alike, but to stand for one special class and for its interests as opposed to the interests of others.” — Theodore Roosevelt, 1903.

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1 Comment

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One response to “Note to Progressive Republicans: Teddy Roosevelt Left A Message. It is 1912 Again.

  1. Pam

    Nice job finding this article. (from one RINO to another.

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