A Method To What Appears To Be Republican Party Madness
Certainly the unseemly spectacle in NY-23 would have horrified your grandpa's Republican Party. (My grandpa was a Socialist and he would have been delighted.) First it was just a few kooks like Club For Growth, Fred Thompson and Mike Pence who were refusing to back Assemblywoman Dede Scozzafava, the official Republican Party nominee to replace John McHugh as the Representative from the sprawling upstate district that is famous for having more cows than people. But then the noisiest and most mean-spirited factions in the shrinking Republican pup tent jumped in, the Hate Talk hosts, Dick Armey's Astroturf-for-hire outfit, the fascist-oriented bloggers, the teabaggers and, on cue, Sarah Palin. This puts them directly at odds with the Party Establishment, something that's been happening more and more frequently in a party that's always been the button-down and topdown party. The national leadership, led-- lamely, by John Boehner, Pete Sessions, Eric Pence, Newt Gingrich, Lindsey Graham, John McCain, and Michael Steele-- are all backing Scozzafava and helping finance her campaign. The teabaggers, the Hate Talkers and Palin are in open revolt and are pouring money into the campaign of the Conservative Party candidate, Doug Hoffman, something likely to result in a victory for Democrat Bill Owens.
Gingrich laid it out to the teabagger set-- who have reviled him since he endorsed Scozzafava last week: "The choice in New York is a practical one: We can split the conservative vote and guarantee the election of a Democrat in a Republican seat in a substantial loss of opportunity. Or we can find a way to elect someone who has committed to vote for the Republican leader, has committed to vote against all tax increases, has committed to vote against cap-and-trade, and is a strong ally of the NRA." The teabaggers don't care. They've been told Scozzafava, who none of them had ever heard of a week and a half ago, must be defeated and now they're on the march, filled with righteous indignation and ready to kill someone. Same in Florida, where mainstream conservative Charlie Crist-- a sure bet to hold onto the open red Senate seat-- is going to be defeated in a GOP primary that, in effect, hands the Florida Senate seat to a very mediocre Democrat, Kendrick Meek. The teabaggers, like zombies, cannot be reasoned with.
Rasmussen, for all intents and purposes a subsidiary of the GOP, reported yesterday that 73% of Republican voters say that Republicans in Congress have lost touch with the base. Only 15% of Republicans planning to vote in 2012 primaries say the GOP members of Congress have done a good job representing Republican values. And meanwhile, not a single national Republican polls as well as McCain did against Obama in 2012 match-up.
But the commotion in NY-23 is nothing compared to the level of noise and seemingly mindless chaos that the Republicans have been creating since Obama was elected. Even before he was sworn in Jon Kyl was threatening to filibuster all his appointments, Rush Limbaugh was leading the right-wing faithful in a national revival meeting predicated on doing everything under the sun to cause Obama to fail, and clowns like Glenn Beck, Lou Dobbs, Sean Hannity and Michael Savage were running along screaming, "me too, me too," trying to earn ratings points by acting more outrageous than anyone else. These people have done all they can to turn the public arena into a disgusting, unsavory spectacle that revolts normal people. Alan Grayson wasn't taking much poetic license when he pointed out a few weeks ago that if President Obama had a BLT for lunch, the Republicans would introduce a bill to outlaw bacon and that if he were to achieve world peace they would go into hysterics how he was out to destroy the American armaments industry. Are their tactics self-defeating? We'll see, of course, but I remember-- and want to share-- a paragraph from Rick Perstein's marvelous book, Nixonland: The Rise of a President and the Fracturing of America. Karl Rove understood very well what "the fracturing of America" meant and how it could be use to prop up the least qualified man to have ever served as president. Is there someone else in Republican circles today-- like some slimy Republican Party operative/Fox News chief Roger Ailes, for example-- waiting in the shadows to pop out the way Nixon did in 1968, "miraculously" disposing of Mitt Romney's front-running father and exploiting the cacophony of a society seeming to be on the verge of falling apart?
This was something Richard Nixon, with his gift for looking below social surfaces to see and exploit the subterranean truths that roiled underneath, understood: the future belonged to the politician who could tap the ambivalence-- the nameless dread, the urge to make it all go away; to make the world placid again, not a cacophonous mess.
Right now the Republicans and their allies at Hate Talk Radio, at Fox News and among the plutocrats who stand to lose the most from any changes in the status quo are doing their best to recreate that kind of chaotic, anti-social cacophony. The Republican "big tent" may have shrunk but it now houses a far more focused-- and deadly-- cabal far more committed to grasping the levers of power than to either playing by the rules or doing what's best for America. Whatever version of God they worship, they see him as being on their side, making anything and everything a means to a divinely-sanctioned end.