What's a Moderate Republican To Do?

Charlie Crist's exit from the GOP signals the end of the Grand Old Party as we knew it.

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Well, I hate to say I told you so. Florida Gov. Charlie Crist's defection from the GOP yesterday was a long time coming, and he is one of the last of a dying breed of moderate Republican elected officials in the United States. My fear is that like former moderate Republican Sen. Arlen Specter, D-Pa., former Sen. Lincoln Chafee, R-Conn., and Rep. Christopher Shays, R-Conn., who lost his seat in the 2008 election cycle, he will lose his bid as an independent in Florida's U.S. Senate race come November. The only upside I see to Crist's defection is that it will hopefully help black Democratic Rep. Kendrick Meek draw closer to a general election win against presumed nominee, conservative Republican Mark Rubio.

Gone are the glory days of Republicans like Prescott Bush (grandfather of George W. Bush), or Sen. Margaret Chase Smith, President Dwight Eisenhower, Chief Justice Earl Warren, Gov. Nelson Rockefeller, Sen. Everett Dirksen, New York Mayor John Lindsay, Sen. Edward Brooke, Gov. Thomas Kean, and the late President Gerald Ford. These Republicans stood for something.

These Republicans courted and routinely won solid support in the black community. They helped end Jim Crow school segregation in Little Rock, Ark. They helped pass historic civil rights legislation, supported women's rights, supported minority business and appointed African-American jurists

These Republicans understood that there was a balance between fiscal discipline, national security and domestic policy. They understood that a great political party must not only be tolerant of divergent points of view and ethnic diversity, but that it must aggressively seek out and promote such diversity within its leadership ranks. Sadly, the Republican Party that I joined in 1988 exists no longer and we are all the worse for it as Americans.

Those words, when I read them, left me utterly speechless. Michael Steele is a friend, so I will be kind, but where has he been living for the past 20 years or so? The GOP's drift to the right started during the Nixon years and solidified under President George W. Bush. Republican moderates like my former boss Christie Whitman, former Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Ridge and Massachusetts Gov. William Weld and other GOP moderate stars of the 1990s are no more. And Jack Kemp, the best conservative friend that blacks and other disenfranchised people had in the Republican Party, lost his battle with cancer last year. Say what you will, but every day that passes, the Republican Party seemingly grows more conservative, more monolithic, more Southern and more disconnected from the mainstream--centrist American electorate.

Mr. Steele is wrong. The GOP left all of us long ago, and I don't think it's coming back.

Sophia A. Nelson is a regular contributor to The Root.

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Sophia A. Nelson is an award-winning journalist and author of the best-selling book The Woman Code: 20 Powerful Keys to Unlock Your Life. Follow her on Twitter.

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