Sunday, October 28, 2012

WHY THE ELECTION OUGHT TO BREAK THE GOP'S FEVER (AND WHY IT WON'T)

If there's a silver lining in the poll resurgence Mitt Romney experienced after he cynically rebranded himself as a moderate in the first debate, it's that no one ought to be able to argue ever again that Republicans do best when they run as movement conservatives. Romney ran that way for months, and he languished in the polls against the president; then he shook the Etch A Sketch, started talking like a right-centrist, and pulled even in the popular vote.

Add that to a likely defeat for Todd Akin, a possible loss for Richard Mourdock, and -- who knows, given the fact that the polls are all over the map -- a photo finish between Democrat Richard Carmona and Republican Jeff Flake in Arizona, as well as the possible (likely?) rejection of even moderate-seeming Republicans in Wisconsin, Connecticut, and Massachusetts because of concerns in those states about the direction of the GOP as a whole, and the message ought to be clear: Republicans need to stop being the crazy, extreme party. Voters want Republicans to moderate their views and their rhetoric. Voters want Republicans to back off on extreme positions regarding women, gay people, and immigrants. Change with the times or wither and die. Do as a party what Mitt Romney did as a candidate.

But that won't be the takeaway from this election, for a couple of reasons:

1. Rush Limbaugh
2. Roger Ailes

I think Limbaugh will be too canny to try to argue, as he usually does, that Republicans do best when they run as conservatives -- he'll certainly have a hell of a time making that case if "Moderate Mitt" wins (or nearly wins) the popular vote, and if Romney nearly wins (or, God help us, wins) the Electoral College. So Limbaugh will drop the subject. He won't talk at all about whether this refutes his thesis.

But he are his hundreds of radio imitators have too much invested in the good-vs.-evil narrative to stop pushing it. So they'll go right back to it in the next four years. And Ailes -- well, he just signed another four-year deal to run Fox News, so he's not going to let up.

(In fact, Ailes's right-wing paranoia is becoming so noticeable that even mainstream journalists are starting to detect it. As Media Matters notes, Gabriel Sherman of New York magazine believes Ailes puts Peter Johnson, his personal attorney, on the air at Fox to talk about Ailes's own conspiracy theories -- for instance, that "the Obama administration may have 'sacrificed Americans' as a 'political calculation' in Benghazi" or that Obama "might send American citizens to be tried and executed in Egypt in order to appease anti-American extremists.")

A third reason the GOP won't mellow is that it's still going to be impossible to win a Republican primary in 2014 and 2016 without appealing to the extreme right. Fox and talk radio are by far the biggest recruiting tools for the GOP, and they're sure as hell not encouraging moderation. The moderate voters just aren't there.

Fourth, the paymasters of the GOP now will be the paymasters going forward, and they're not going to mellow.

And, finally, right after the election the mainstream press is going to spend so much time talking about what Obama did wrong this fall that we'll barely hear a word about how Republicans utterly failed to win a winnable election.

It's too bad, because the progressives who keep telling us we have to reject Democrats for failing to live up to our principles (hello, Matt Stoller) might have a point if genuinely right-centrist Republicans could regain some of their lost power, and if a right-centrist had a chance of leading the GOP ticket in 2016.

You could make a case for sitting out an election between an Eisenhower Republican party (the Democrats) and a Bob Dole Republican party (the Republicans). But we're not going to get there, even though the #1 lesson of this election ought to be that the GOP should get there.

7 comments:

Rob Patterson said...

I don't know much about Limbaugh, but I assume (if Romney) loses that he will take the position that Romney was never a true conservative and failed for that reason; therefore, Republicans DO do best when they both are, and run as, far right conservatives.

Rick Massimo said...

Oh, if Romney wins there will be NO analysis about how he won; it'll be "suck it libtards" 24/7 for about three years. And the oft-repeated difficulties of an incumbent winning when the unemployment rate is above whatever% will also go out the window. All we'll hear about is what a commanding lead Obama had in September and how he pissed it away because debate teleprompter blah blah blah.
And it won't just come from FOX or Limbaugh, either.

Meanwhile, the Republicans will pull off the same switch on gay rights and immigration that they did on Vietnam and, nowadays, Iraq. From "it was grand and glorious and perfect SHUT UP SHUT UP SHUT UP" to "Well duh, EVERYONE knows it was a mistake" as soon as it's convenient.

Mitt Romney saying he didn't want another Iraq, four years after screaming about how awesome the first one was, was probably the most under-reported moment of the last debate.

Right up there with McCain smearing Colin Powell by saying "Yeah, HE's the one who got us into Iraq!" as if it was some disqualifying event (for a Republican).

Victor said...

'Fear and Loathing' will continue on the campaign trail until at least 2016.

They need to lose in this election and the next Presidential election in 2016, lest we turn into an Evangelical Fascist Plutocracy.

By 2020, most of the oldest and craziest of the old crazies, will be dead and buried.

There will always be a Fascist wing to the Republicans. Especially in the Red Congressional Districts and Red States. And Paul Ryan will be with us for a long, long, time.

But by that time, without being able to recall the Civil Rights Acts, and with the demographics going against them, they will continue to flush themselves down histories toilet.

Btw, Steve, and other readers and commenters, I hope everyone stays safe until Franenstorm Sandy passes over the NE.

Victor said...

Oh, and if you don't hear from me for awhile, it's probably because we're out of power.

Stay safe, everyone!!!

Steve M. said...

Oh, and if you don't hear from me for awhile, it's probably because we're out of power.

Same here. Good luck (to all)....

Ten Bears said...

I dropped out a couple of months ago, fell back to lurking, as I grew pretty damned sick of it all. What an incredibly ugly reflection on us all.

But now that my paper with the double super secret security envelopes to either be mailed or hand delivered has been hand delivered to the strong box... please let me reiterate a couple of long running observations:

As with ought-eight, they are throwing the election to Obama. There is no way the American people will elect or re-elect people as offensive as these animals have become. It beggars our integrity. So, unless they have a real high degree of confidence that Tagg Romney's acquisition of Diabold's Descendant will turn out the votes in seventeen states, they're throwing the election to Obama.

I firmly believe we are witnessing the end of the Republican Party, it cannot continue as it has in the 21st century. It's a statistical impossibility. The frightening aspect of that is of course that nature abhors a vacuum.

And finally, historians will mark the appointment of a dynastic frat boy with limited intelligence and education, even more limited experience and a questionable service record by an ideologically stacked activist court to the highest office in the land as The End of "America". We are where we are at on momentum, and it's running out. Whatever the outcome - my personal feeling is Obama will be re-elected, and the white dogs will start a race war - we are about to live in very interesting times.

Philo Vaihinger said...

Rick, about those conservatives who flipped on Vietnam after the fact.

Uh, who were they, exactly?

McCain, Buchanan . . .

The only guys I know about were just as wrong in the same old way about Vietnam in 2004 as they had been in 1964.

They never flipped.

So who did?