What is a “Squish”?

In the category of “making me feel old,” I note this post on the Club for Growth blog, speculating that the word “squish” was first used to I.D. a Republican of less-than-conservative pedigree sometime after 2004.

“Squish” was in frequent use in the College Republican National Committee office when I worked there in 1981 and elsewhere in conservative circles during the era. There was a much firmer line of demarcation back then within the GOP between conservatives and moderates. (For you youngsters, as in Reagan v. Bush, GOP primary ’80; Reagan v. Ford; GOP primary, ’76.)

After Reagan’s ’80 election, a good working definition of “squish” would be someone who could not be counted on to back a conservative initiative for philosophical reasons. Therefore, when working in alliance with them, a good conservative (one of the “hard core”) would need to watch one’s back. A “member of the hard core” would also be fighting “the squishes” behind closed doors in intra-party policy debates.

Examples of prominent (perceived) “squishes,” circa 1981: Vice President George H.W. Bush; James Baker III. I recall Baker being seen as the invisible hand behind many, many a squishie plot.

When the National Center manufactured and distributed “Let Reagan Be Reagan” buttons in 1982, it was an meant as an admonition to Reagan Administration squishes to stop undermining the President’s conservative philosophy and initiatives. When distributing the button, we did not have to explain to people what it meant.

By ’84 the term “squish” was, to the best of my recollection, somewhat less in use, as many a moderate who thought Reagan an extremist in ’80 and earlier was quite fond of him by then. “We’re all conservatives now,” so to speak, at least within much of the GOP in the sense that moderate Republicans had mostly stopped calling the Gipper derogatory names. (Not that Jim Baker was any more popular on the hard core side of the GOP fence by then, and not that grassroots conservatives and conservative movement groups weren’t frustrated as heck about 99 percent of the time — sound familiar?.)

Andrew Roth of Club for Growth wonders about squish’s etymology. Husband David remembers at least one source for the term. There were a lot of communications between British and American young conservatives in those days, in part because the federal government paid for “exchanges” between young people from various allied nations and the U.S. (To help us beat the commies.) Among British Conservatives — the “hard core” small-c Conservative Party members, it was well-established that a liberal (by the American definition) Conservative Party member was identified as such by the derogatory term “wet.”

To copycat Americans, a “squish” was someone who was so “wet,” his shoes would squish.

And now we return to 21st century programming…

The National Center for Public Policy Research is a communications and research foundation supportive of a strong national defense and dedicated to providing free market solutions to today’s public policy problems. We believe that the principles of a free market, individual liberty and personal responsibility provide the greatest hope for meeting the challenges facing America in the 21st century.