The uni-partisan ‘cleansing’

THE UNI-PARTISAN ‘CLEANSING’…. The Washington Post‘s Dana Milbank had a good column on Republicans turning on Florida Gov. Charlie Crist, and the fact that he’s “being drummed out” of the Republican Party. But as is too often the case, the column couldn’t leave well enough alone.

Milbank’s critique of Crist and contemporary GOP politics was, by and large, spot on. National leaders who adored Crist and sought his favor now want nothing to do with him. Crist’s “friends” won’t return his calls. The governor “developed a reputation for bipartisan work,” despite pushing a relatively conservative policy agenda, which Republicans appreciated, right up until they decided he wasn’t nearly right-wing enough. “Crist is saying and doing what he always has done,” the column noted, “it’s GOP leadership that has changed.”

But major media outlets have an unwritten rule: all criticism of Republicans has to include related criticism of Democrats, whether it makes sense or not. Milbank ‘s otherwise fine column, then, included this unfortunate observation:

The crucifixion of Crist by Republican leaders says less about him than it does about the party. Both parties have been undergoing ideological cleansing, as Sens. Arlen Specter (forced out of the GOP in Pennsylvania) and Blanche Lincoln (facing a Democratic primary challenge in Arkansas) can attest. But the Crist crisis is a whole new level of Jacobin excess….

Look, the parties’ respective bases will always prefer candidates more in line with their ideology and agenda. But to state as a matter of fact that “both parties have been undergoing ideological cleansing” is a mistake. Sure, Blanche Lincoln is facing a competitive primary, in part because she’s been a frequent source of disappointment to the party, and in part because polls show her looking very vulnerable, causing many Dems to consider an alternative. The party establishment, however, continues to support Lincoln — it’s not as if we see the DSCC throwing her under the bus, the way we see with the NRSC and Crist.

Regardless, one primary for a vulnerable incumbent does not an “ideological cleansing” make. If Dems were seriously trying to drive those who strayed from the party line from the ranks, Blue Dogs would be under heavy fire, and the party wouldn’t have rallied behind Brad Ellsworth in Indiana. Charlie Melacon in Louisiana and Cal Cunningham in North Carolina aren’t exactly MoveOn.org members, either, but both enjoy party support for their Senate bids.

In contrast, there’s an actual “ideological cleansing” underway in the Republican Party. Crist has been deemed insufficiently conservative, so he’s being driven out. Specter was deemed insufficiently conservative, so he became a Democrat. Dede Scozzafava was deemed insufficiently conservative, so she was driven from her congressional race. In Arizona, Sen. John McCain (R) is facing a tough primary challenge because he’s been deemed insufficiently conservative. In Utah, Sen. Bob Bennett’s (R) career is hanging by a thread because — you guessed it — he’s been deemed insufficiently conservative.

Does “both sides do it” really have to go into every piece?