DENVER (CNN) - Jim Leach was a former liberal Republican. It’s an endangered and nearly extinct species. Most liberal Republicans have left the party. Many of them have become Democrats; many of them, like Jim Jeffords, have become independents.
This is very significant in the Northeast, which is the homeland of liberal Republicans, and where the Republican party is simply dying. Just as Republicans prospered by absorbing conservative Southern Democrats in the 1970s and 1980s. Democrats are now prospering by absorbing liberal Republicans in several parts of the country — primarily the East Coast, but also Iowa and parts of the West Coast. When Democrats say they want to appeal to “like-minded Republicans,” they’re talking about Republicans like Jim Leach.
This is important because it represents Obama’s effort to appear bipartisan. But Jim Leach is not exactly a symbol of the Republican party today.
Leach is extolling an old vision of bipartisanship that has been in danger of becoming extinct, and that Barack Obama is trying to revive.
What we’re hearing is a liberal Republican attacking his own party. It’s a nice bookend to Zell Miller’s famous attack on the Democratic Party at the Republican convention in 2004. Republicans have absorbed conservative Democrats like Zell Miller, Democrats are absorbing liberal Republicans like Jim Leach.
We can’t remember the last time a Republican spoke at a Democratic convention.