CNN’s New Day often features analyst John Avlon delivering a commentary they call “Reality Check.” But reality took a beating on Thursday’s edition, as he accused Republicans of “purging” moderates ever since Barry Goldwater ran for president in 1964.
Co-host Brianna Keilar set it up: “Republicans swerving hard to the right and then taking out anyone who doesn’t swerve along with them is really nothing new. John Avlon has a ‘Reality Check,’ including a now prescient bit of what Liz Cheney’s father once did to Colin Powell. John?”
Avlon began: “The purge of Liz Cheney for telling the truth and the Republican rationalizations for demonizing her dissent are part of a pattern of caving in to extremists for short-term political gain. And, at first, this might seem to be between conservatives and centrists, but, given that Liz Cheney is about as conservative as you get, we see this as about something more sinister and cynical.”
Then he made a big deal out of Vice President Dick Cheney’s “now-ironic” comment on Face the Nation in 2009 when he said Rush Limbaugh was more of a Republican then than Colin Powell. (Google for this clip, and you get…. “DNC War Room”.)
JOHN AVLON: Listen to this now-ironic 2009 interview with former VP Dick Cheney choosing Rush Limbaugh over Colin Powell.
DICK CHENEY: Well, if I had to choose, in terms of being a Republican, I’d go with Rush Limbaugh. (editing jump) My take on it was Colin had already left the party — I didn’t realize he was still a Republican.
Reality check? Colin Powell endorsed Barack Obama for president in 2008 (as he endorsed the Democrat in 2012, 2016, and 2020). Did Cheney “purge” Powell? In a more complete clip from Townhall, when Schieffer followed up by asking Cheney if he thought Powell was not really a Republican, Cheney clarified: “I just noted he endorsed the Democratic candidate for President this time, Barack Obama. I assume that that’s some indication of his loyalty and his interest.”
But Avlon completely avoided Reality on this.
Avlon began with another rant against Sen. Joseph McCarthy and the John Birch Society in 1950s, once again ignoring a Reality: documents from the Soviet archives showed that Soviet agents had penetrated the federal government after World War II. McCarthy may have recklessly accused some people who were not communists, but that doesn’t mean there were no communists in the federal government.
He also covered the conflict between conservative Barry Goldwater and moderate Nelson Rockefeller in the battle for the 1964 Republican presidential nomination: “Rockefeller spoke at the convention in ’64, condemning extremism, said there was no room for ‘hawkers of hate’ and the KKK — like the KKK in the GOP. He was shouted down. Goldwater went on to lose in a landslide against Lyndon Johnson.”
Avlon ignores the reality that more Republicans than Democrats voted for the Civil Rights Act in 1964. And he ignores that Rockefeller insisted the Republicans should purge the Goldwaterites. As John Dickerson noted, “The audience was angered afresh because Rockefeller sounded like a Democrat, casting them as the villains in the national morality play.”
Avlon avoided the reality that Republicans nominated moderate Richard Nixon in 1968, and Gerald Ford made Rockefeller his Vice President in 1974. (He was dumped on the 1976 ticket for Bob Dole.)
He noted Reagan won in 1980 on a “big tent” approach, but then Republican House Speaker Newt Gingrich tried to “purge” moderates. After noting that the Tea Party movement targeted moderates, the CNN analyst recalled that there are fewer moderate Republicans in Congress now than there were in the 1990s.
He didn’t mention that much the same can be said about Democrats — in the 1990s, there were dozens of moderate Democrats in Congress. But, over the years, an increase in straight-ticket voting has meant that moderate Republicans who represented Democratic-leaning districts have been replaced by liberal Democrats, while moderate Democrats who used to represent Republican-leaning districts have been replaced by conservative Republicans.
The anti-Republican propaganda in this episode of CNN’s New Day was sponsored in part by Realtor.com. Their contact information is linked.
May 13, 2021
7:13 a.m. Eastern
BRIANNA KEILAR: The truth is, Republicans swerving hard to the right and then taking out anyone who doesn’t swerve along with them is really nothing new. John Avlon has a “Reality Check,” including a now prescient bit of what Liz Cheney’s father once did to Colin Powell. John?
JOHN AVLON; That’s right. The purge of Liz Cheney for telling the truth and the Republican rationalizations for demonizing her dissent are part of a pattern of caving in to extremists for short-term political gain. And, at first, this might seem to be between conservatives and centrists, but, given that Liz Cheney is about as conservative as you get, we see this as about something more sinister and cynical.
Since at least the 1950s, there’s been a strain called “The Paranoid Style in American Politics.” Joe McCarthy’s witch hunts was early evidence. So was the right-wing opposition to Republican President Eisenhower, who was accused by the John Birch Society founder of being a secret Soviet agent; and conservative calls to impeach Chief Justice Earl Warren for presiding over desegregation.
But the GOP had the balance to withstand these attacks from within. Get this — under Ike in 1956, Republicans won 39 percent of the black vote. In 1964, it fell to six percent. Here’s why.
BARRY GOLDWATER, 1964 REPUBLICAN PRESIDENTIAL NOMINEE (in convention speech): Extremism in the defense of liberty is no vice.
AVLON: Yeah, that’s Mr. Conservative — Barry Goldwater, the 1964 nominee, a defender of Joe McCarthy, darling of the Birchers — now, he opposed the Civil Rights Act, allegedly on libertarian grounds. His GOP competitor that year was New York Governor Nelson Rockefeller — derided as a moderate, even a socialist, by some Goldwater supporters.
Rockefeller said, “Look, I’m a hawk on foreign policy. I’m a hawk on national defense. I’m a dove on domestic issues. You’ve got two-thirds of me. What more do you want?”
Well, conservatives wanted all or nothing. . Now, Reagan rode to victory on a big tent, warning that “My 80 percent friend is not my 20 percent enemy” But leaders like George H.W. Bush were attacked from the right by culture warriors like Newt Gingrich, who wanted to purge moderates from the party.
The influence of right-wing media amplified those divides. Listen to this now-ironic 2009 interview with former VP Dick Cheney choosing Rush Limbaugh over Colin Powell.
EX-VICE PRESIDENT DICK CHENEY (on CBS’s Face the Nation, dated May 10, 2009): Well, if I had to choose, in terms of being a Republican, I’d go with Rush Limbaugh. (editing jump) My take on it was Colin had already left the party — I didn’t realize he was still a Republican.
AVLON: Yeah. And the Tea Party was obsessed with what they called “RINO hunting,” purging people they called “Republicans in name only.” Republican leaders like Eric Cantor tried to harness their fury to pursue more power in Congress, but even he fell to a Tea Party primary challenger for the sin of seeming to back immigration reform.
So the lesson was clear — play to the base, and you’ll win your primary and tons of cash. Speak up, and you’ll be attacked from the right and lose your otherwise safe seat. Political cowardice proliferated as the party purged moderates. Check this out — back in 1994, the GOP was basically 60-40 split between conservatives and moderates. As of 2020, only 24 percent of the GOP was moderate…
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