Judd Gregg: The last woman standing

Judd Gregg: The last woman standing
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In 1980, Ronald Reagan was elected president and set the stage for the Republican movement known as the “Reagan Revolution.”

President Reagan led the nation down a different path from that of his Democratic predecessor, President Carter.

It involved lower taxes, a strong defense, a commitment to a market economy, a confrontation with socialist totalitarianism and a renewal of optimism in America as a place where people could better their lives.

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The Republican Party under Reagan was a national party, united by the causes he defined and represented so well.

After 1980, New England had five Republicans in the United States Senate. There were also nine Republican members of the House of Representatives elected from the five New England states — at least one from each state.

Today, as of November’s election, there are no Republican House members representing any state in New England.

Today, there is only one Republican United States Senator from New England: Susan CollinsSusan Margaret CollinsOvernight Defense: Senate bucks Trump with Yemen war vote, resolution calling crown prince 'responsible' for Khashoggi killing | House briefing on Saudi Arabia fails to move needle | Inhofe casts doubt on Space Force House Dems follow Senate action with resolution to overturn IRS donor disclosure guidance Senate votes to overturn IRS guidance limiting donor disclosure MORE of Maine.

She is the last woman standing.

It is difficult to grasp the implications of this change for the political landscape of New England — and its effect on the nation’s politics.

Maybe it doesn’t mean anything.

Maybe it’s just nostalgia for the old days.

Maybe it’s a reflection of an allegedly simpler time, when Reagan gave Republicans purpose and leadership that folks from across the country, representing various cultures, could embrace.

After all, even with the dearth of Republican members of the Senate and the House from New England, there are new senators from North Dakota, Missouri, Indiana and even Florida whom the party can look to for congressional strength.

But something does seem to be uniquely amiss when an entire region that was once a reliable source of considerable support and Congressional representation disappears.

It does not appear that this is an isolated event either.

In fact it would seem that California, the home of Ronald Reagan, will soon join New England as having no significant number of Republican representatives.

The pundits have claimed that this is the direction of the nation.

It has been asserted for a long time that the nation is divided along geographical lines. Democrats hold a hegemony on the coasts while the essence of the Republican movement is located in the middle and south of the nation.

But why has this happened in New England? And is it the unquestioned path of the future, this regionalization of the parties?

One of the reasons this has occurred in New England is that the region has been homogenized.

The various states used to have very distinctive political cultures.

For example, in the 1980s and 1990s, New Hampshire held itself out as a refuge for entrepreneurs, a safe haven from Massachusetts — ‘Taxachusetts’ — the dominant New England State.

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But that has changed as New Hampshire has changed.

New Hampshire is now much more in tune with the governmental tone of Vermont and Massachusetts.

It has become part of the greater New England political landscape dominated by the politics of political correctness as defined by the elitists of Vermont and Massachusetts; the political thought process taught at Harvard and spread by the Boston Globe.

There is not much room in New England any longer for those who believe in market economics and individual liberties — at least not in the circles that define how one should think and act if one wants to govern.

The irony of course is that the energy that drives New England is brainpower.

There is a massive amount of intellectual spin-off from the countless universities, teaching-hospital systems and defense technology companies. This gives New England the fuel for its vibrant economic engine.

One wonders why a region and people who are so invested in thinking would allow themselves to be dominated by politicians who do not tolerate dissenting opinions, instead insisting on everyone marching in step to the latest liberal dogma.

You can argue that in today’s politics this is to a large extent a reaction to President TrumpDonald John TrumpBiden, Sanders lead field in Iowa poll The Memo: Cohen fans flames around Trump Memo Comey used to brief Trump on dossier released: report MORE.

When given the choice between the president’s style and nature and the style and nature of the acceptable left, New Englanders — especially independents who control the outcome of most congressional elections — opt for the latter.

If this is true, then is it possible that the extermination of Republicans members of Congress in New England can be reversed?

Like the wild turkeys and moose in the New England woods, can Republican congressional membership be restored?

Such an event would require that the Republican Party return to its root beliefs.

Reagan was first and foremost an advocate for smaller government. He genuinely believed government got in the way of giving people more opportunities and the hope for a better life.  This view has been abandoned.

There is no interest from this administration in fiscally restraining the growth of the government or the debt that growth is generating. 

It is a passion of this administration to expand government’s interference with the marketplace through over-reaching tariff policies.

Neither the lack of fiscal discipline nor this protectionist obsession fit the model that brought Congress Republicans from New England.

It also was the policy of Republicans to be inclusive. Rep. Jack Kemp (R-N.Y.) carried that banner well. His themes, which were followed for decades by the national party, were to use conservative policies to help people out who were stuck in the liberal dependency state.

This resonated well in New England and in fact in most parts of America. It is no longer on the agenda of the party or the administration.

Republicans were also the party of a rational approach to protecting the environment.

The party recognized that there were regional differences on how to approach these issues and did not insist on a one-size-fits-all environmental policy — nor, as in the case of the present administration, no policy at all.

It is not so much that the New England electorate, and other parts of the nation as well, have abandoned the Republican Party.

The party of Trump has left behind so much: fiscal responsibility in managing the federal budget; market economics as the way to prosperity; compassionate conservatism as a way to broaden the base of the party; and an attitude that recognizes and tolerates regional differences.

The thought police of the present Republican Party, who are represented by babblers like Sean Hannity and Laura Ingraham and conspiracy theorists like Stephen Bannon and Corey LewandowskiCorey R. LewandowskiChris Christie declines White House chief of staff role The Hill's Morning Report — Trump maintains his innocence amid mounting controversies Trump says he's down to five candidates for chief of staff MORE, have demanded a new course.

Their course insists on a much narrower, less creative and less inclusive approach then was traditionally the case. It denigrates things that bring conservatives together from different regions and elevates issues that marginalize the party.

This approach is frittering away the opportunity to keep the party a national party, and to keep it a majority party in Congress.

It is why we are down, in the New England congressional delegation, to the “last woman standing."

Judd Gregg (R) is a former governor and three-term senator from New Hampshire who served as chairman and ranking member of the Senate Budget Committee, and as ranking member of the Senate Appropriations Foreign Operations subcommittee.