Monday, November 17, 2008

Decision Making Time For The Republican Party? Will They Court Extinction Or Return To The Mainstream?


Republican office holders are worried. Some have described them as part of a rump. The problem for the national Republican Party is that the far right extremism that works so well in backward, poorly educated parts of the ex-slave holding states and the Mormon areas is absolutely toxic in areas where candidates have to appeal to normal Americans. So when you get successful extremists like James Inhofe (R-OK), Jim DeMint (R-SC), Mark Sanford (R-SC), Eric Cantor (R-VA) or Jeb Hensarling (R-TX) claiming-- against all empirical evidence-- that the GOP lost dozens of seats over the past 4 years because they've been "too moderate," mainstream conservatives have good reason to worry. What works for a kook in the back hills of Georgia or at KKK recruitment drives in Oklahoma, or among brainwashed brain-dead bigots whose ignorance leads them to interpret Jesus' message to be about Hatred and Selfishness and to favor secession and the revival of the Confederacy, doesn't work for rational people... anywhere.
GOP officials and strategists at party conferences last week offered sharply contrasting assessments of what went wrong, and of how difficult it will be to rebuild. Perhaps not surprisingly, the split tended to fall along generational lines.

Older party hands pointed to John McCain’s lackluster campaign and the difficult terrain Republicans found themselves battling on this year, and eschewed any sky-is-falling rhetoric. The up-and-comers, meanwhile, sounded the alarm of impending permanent minority status unless the party changes.

Problem with the generational theory is that it doesn't hold up to examination nearly as well as one based on ideology. Mainstream conservatives-- derided as "moderates" these days inside the GOP-- are battling neo-fascist extremists and confederates who have taken over the rump in most of the Republican areas of the country (i.e., the South and the Mormon West). And they're utterly delusional.
RNC Chairman Mike Duncan, who has worked at the highest levels of Kentucky and national Republican politics for decades, expressed optimism about the GOP’s prospects for the 2010 mid-term elections, suggesting the GOP losses this year were a result of a toxic stew very much unique to the cycle.

“The mood of the country is what was bad in this campaign,” Duncan said in an interview at the governor’s meeting. “It was 90-10 wrong track, you had the war, we had the economy going south on us, we had the third-term curse, all those things.”

What it was not, he insisted-- offering post-election polling that showed voters still supported right-leaning positions, just not McCain, to make his case-- was a rejection of the party’s conservative philosophy.

“If you look at the American electorate, and where they stand and what they believe-- we’re in good shape.”

Break out the party hats and noise makers. The Governor of Mississippi talks about how the GOP was in worse shape-- though he wasn't-- after the Watergate scandal and how there were meetings about changing the name of the party. Now there are some, Cantor for example, who think all you need to do is bone up on technology, fire up the ole racism and xenophobia from time to time, stand up to Boehner when he isn't extremist enough, and pick your fights with Obama and the Democrats strategically to usher in the Big Comeback. Oh-- and hypocrisy; you can't have a Republican Party comeback without massive hypocrisy.
Formerly a steady defender of President Bush, Mr. Cantor doesn't attack the president directly, but he repeatedly refers to "eight years," using the term as if it were a symbol of dark times for Republican principles. That drives his call for Republicans to make themselves relevant while remaining true to their principles-- the pitch he said he's making to colleagues.

"I'm not one to say I'm the right guy, but I would hope, my case for this position is, I very much believe our party is one of limited government, lower taxes, belief in free markets, belief in a strong national defense posture with a cautious approach to making sure that happens.

That "pitch" may work among his shocked and awed colleagues in the rapidly diminishing rump of the GOP, but among regular Americans... not so much. More thoughtful Republicans are trying to figure out why their party lost Virginia, Ohio, Florida, Nevada (by double digits), New Mexico (by double digits), North Carolina, Colorado, Iowa, Pennsylvania (by double digits) and the entire upper Midwest by double digits. And they're scratching their heads and wondering why every single GOP Senate candidate who was further right than the retiring incumbent he was trying to replace lost by wide margins:

Virginia: Mark Warner (D- 65%) vs James Gillmore (R-34%)
New Mexico: Tom Udall (D-61%) vs Steven Pearce (R-39%)
Colorado: Mark Udall (D- 53%) vs Bob Schaffer (R-42%)

And why extremist right-wing incumbents, like Joe Knollenberg and Tim Walberg in Michigan, Marilyn Musgrave in Colorado, Ric Keller and Tom Feeney in Florida, Robin Hayes and Liddy Dole in North Carolina, Virgil Goode and Thelma Drake in Virginia, Bill Sali in Idaho and Randy Kuhl in New York all had their asses handed to them. Tough to figure that out; much easier to resort to excuses that appeal to a deluded base filled with brainwashed haters who spend entirely too much time listening to Fox and Limbaugh and Coulter.


And, of course, the right-wing party of today, just like the Nazis of the 30's, are always the victims too. But they're the victims of the Nazis. Republicans love projecting and they love to claim that progressives and liberals are like the dirty Nazis-- even though it was always the GOP that was sympathetic to their fellow rightists. Now we have Newt Gingrich and the Mormon cult crying that the evil gays are acting like... facsists. Yes, gays want to impose their will on the rest of society-- their "will" being they be treated like everyone else. Nice to see Newt and his right-wing brethren have learned so much since they had their day in the 1930's-- and more recently from 2000 to 2008.

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At 11:56 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I think if Obama pulls a couple of "good" Republicans in to his administration he can put the GOP out of business for decades.

At 2:27 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

On the other hand, pro-choice, pro-gay, pro-labor, pro-environment Chris Shays was defeated, making New England 0% Republican in the House for the first time in 150 years...but I think that's just a further symptom of the same problem.

While the Republican machine was concentrating on defending extremists like Musgrave and promoting extremists like Bob Schaffer in Colorado, they are only halfheartedly defending moderates like Shays, if at all.

The only exception would be the Republican moderates in the Senate, where they seem to be willing to put in more effort.

At 4:07 PM, Blogger KELSO'S NUTS said...

@ Michael Ditto: Something very weird happened to Chris Shays in 1998 from which he never recovered. Two weeks before the impeachment vote, he, Peter King, and a few others had formed a Republican rump group which intended to vote with the Democrats to not impeach Clinton. On the Monday of the vote, Shays had changed his mind with about half of the others and voted to impeach.

Since then, he's been a strong Bush supporter on the wars, and more or less everthing else but the most loony stuff.

For the past 30 years the "high-church" preppy vote has gotten more and more Democratic. Once Ned Lamont won the primary with an overwhelming proportion of that vote and Sheldon Whitehouse beat Chaffee in 2006, Jim Himes the progressive Democrat was a solid favorite to win that seat.

Shays is yesterday's news, but I think if Obama is fishing for an important Republican face with pretty good views to win over, he ought to make Jon Porter Interior Secretary.

The Republicans really only have Sarah Palin as a big name uber-Theocratic Authoritarian. The other big names are all moderates like Romney, Gordon Smith and John Sununu or libertarians like Porter, Paul and Flake. The whole Republican Theocracy just got wearying after awhile and I don't even live there!

Looks like they're going harder right with Blunt taking the heat for the loss, and Cantor replacing him. Michael Steele will be RNC chair instead of Mosbacher. It's also possible DeMint will replace McConnell in the Senate.

I think the only thing that can save the Republicans is just short of eight years of peace and prosperity with Obama with a war starting in August of 2012. They can't fight Russia, Iran or Venezuela. It'll have to be an easier target but with lot of jingo value.

At 5:47 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

The notion of a true Conservative is farcically reinvented off the lips of the latest self-proclaimed specimen, the same way that “change” has become a politically prostituted mantra for the Left, devoid of any substance or pretense there of. Yet change can ultimately be anything as far as it concerns Leftist “revolutionaries” preaching overhaul for the sake of overhaul: nothing ideologically uncomfortable about it. While the Party of perpetual “progressive” reform need not be bothered with the intricacies of a well-defined “change”, conserving for the sake of conservation just doesn’t fly as well. The future is necessarily open-ended, but anyone invested in preserving valuable aspects of a supposedly cherished past, needs to be able to coherently pinpoint what is worth preserving (or even restoring, if the past is remote enough) and fluently articulate why.

The Conservative movement has lost its conceptual anchor into the essence of America’s greatness and is now consumed with merely conserving the Conservative movement. The future has historically been unkind to reactionaries; hence Conservatives’ recent fall from relevance should come as no surprise.


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