(Preface: Stick with it. I'm going somewhere with this.)

Football fans are familiar with the frustration inherent in rooting for a team that can only do one thing well. If they do that one thing really, really well they might win some games and get your hopes up, but the long term prospects for a one-dimensional team tend toward disappointment. In order to win the big games, a team must have balance or else it becomes predictable and easier for a good opponent to defeat.

Take for example that 2008-2009 Cardinals team I loved so intensely. They were perhaps the best passing team in football but could not run the ball one bit. The coaches and players knew they had to run (eventually) in order to win, and they sure talked about doing so a lot. But the pattern became familiar; at the beginning of the game they would make an obvious effort to run the ball, and when it did not succeed immediately they got frustrated and said, "Ah, screw this. We have a Hall of Fame quarterback and a receiver so good he might not even be human. Let's just air it out." And so they would overwhelm lousy opponents with their one strength.
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Eventually, though, their one-dimensional approach came up short in the playoffs. They weren't really committed to becoming more balanced, nor did they think enough about the long term benefits. Once they realized that growing pains can be unpleasant, they quickly reverted to the only thing they really knew how to do well.

As an avowed opponent of the sports metaphor as a pedagogical technique, I find this an all too fitting description of the Republican Party since I ran from it screaming in the mid-1990s. As the comments on yesterday's post demonstrate, the GOP is keenly aware of its very obvious demographic problem. We tend to focus on the Akin/Brewer/King-level idiots because they amuse us, but I sincerely doubt that Republicans on the whole are too stupid to realize that appealing strictly to white men, the elderly, and religious zealots is a strategy with diminishing returns. They know that they need to appeal to more people – more women, more Latinos, more gays and lesbians, more people under 40, more people who are not hardcore social conservatives, maybe one or two more black people beyond Herman Cain – and I think many of them even understand how to do it. Stop using gays and Spanish-speaking immigrants as punching bags to score cheap points with angry white people. Stop devoting so much energy to pointless and embarrassing efforts to legislate the vagina. Stop kissing seniors' asses when doing so creates two enemies under 40 for every vote over 70 secured. Be honest about believing in government and government spending on some things (the military, Federal subsidies, bank bailouts, etc.) rather than coming off as a bunch of howling anti-government lunatics. It really isn't rocket science. They could be winning this election handily.

The problem is that the commitment to the long-term benefits of this strategy simply isn't there. They start out every election saying, "Let's try to appeal to a wider audience this time!" However, the second they experience some adversity or discover that winning over new voters is hard, time consuming work, they run right back to the comforting embrace of their tried-and-true playbook: Gay bashing. Campaign season anti-abortion jihads. Nativism, xenophobia, and fear-mongering. Bellicose foreign policy and saber-rattling toward an enemy of convenience. Shameless pandering to the elderly. Wild anti-government rhetoric.

The problem (from the GOP's perspective) is that sometimes this works. See 2010 or 2004. And because it has worked before they will return to it at the slightest hint of rough seas. Every time they employ this strategy they modestly increase their short term odds of success while putting one more nail in the coffin of their future. I do not suggest anything radical like the imminent disappearance of the GOP, yet it is plainly obvious that all of their hackneyed schemes – suppressive Voter ID laws, attempts to reduce Latino immigration, gerrymandering, restricting early/absentee voting, and so on – are like fingers plugging a dike. If they work at all, they will not work forever. The country is changing, as the country has never stopped changing since its founding. The narrow appeal of the modern GOP bodes ill for their future.

I am not concern trolling – far from it. First, I'm sure their trusty playbook will enable them to win some elections now and in the near future. It's not like they never succeed with it. Second, I don't really care about the fate they choose for themselves one way or another. Finally, I think the country might derive some benefit from having a second party composed of reasonably sane people, despite my encyclopedic list of complaints about the two party system overall.

As the McCain campaign eventually descended into a sad buffet of the standard Rovian fare, so too will the Romney campaign as the election nears and they continue to lag behind Obama.
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While individual candidates are rational actors who inevitably pursue short term success above all else, the right as a whole continues to stare down the barrel at a future they are not prepared to face. They know how to prepare, but they never seem to get around to doing it.


  • Not to nitpick, since the rest of the article is good, but when a team comes within a minute of winning the Super Bowl, I'm not sure if they qualify as good evidence for the "one-dimensionality is bad" theory…

  • Tim makes a good point, even with its outrageous right wing approach, the GOP is winning quite big since the 50s. Most of the time they sell an absolute lie that people, and the media, buy. In 94, the Contract with America, an obvious piece of garbage, brought the GOP majority in both houses. In 2000, a moronic drunk was elected president because he had a better and more simplistic smile.

    The Democrats inability to select a decent presidential candidate, except Big Dawg whom many of them still hate, and a severe move to the right helped and will help the GOP survive and win sometime.

  • I don't think it's appropriate to say "since the 50's" when we know that the GOP underwent a huge change during the Nixon administration. This is especially true when you consider that Republican presidents such as Eisenhower were far to the left of Obama.

  • Rove and Bush, at least, understood the demographic abyss that the GOP was facing long-term, and tried to appeal to Latino voters with an actually quite reasonable immigration reform bill during Bush's second term. And it went nowhere, because the GOP's nativist base rose up in rebellion. I saw what happened to the GOP in California when Pete Wilson thought he'd ride immigrant-bashing all the way to the White House, and I'm delighted to see them take this catastrophic strategy nationwide.

    One huge problem is that they've turned over a lot of their organization and communication work to FoxNews and Rush Limbaugh and the like. This has its advantages (see the "grassroots" teabagger revolt that led to the 2010 election) but the long-term interests of Fox and Rush are NOT the same as the GOP's. Fox et al care about ratings and stoking the fires of their target demographic, even if it costs the GOP in the long run – hell, having a Muslim Kenyan Usurper in the White House is probably good news for them, because they can gin up all kinds of scary bullshit and get their target audience worked up about George Soros and the New Black Panther Party or whatever.

    The real kicker for the GOP is that their situation is even worse than your football analogy implies. Their entire core demographic is older racist white people, and the only thing that fires them up is hating on blacks (thugs, welfare cheats, etc.), gays, women, non-Christians, Latinos, hippies, pointy-headed intellectuals, and so on. The problem is that old white people no longer constitute an electoral majority, and any effort to expand the party beyond the core results in a violent reaction from that core. Every Latino vote they appeal to results in one or more of their white voters staying home. Any sincere attempt to appeal to African-Americans means a talk radio revolt and a tidal wave of open racism from their base.

    It's not just that appealing to non-white voters is hard work, it's that it's become a net negative. And refusing to appeal to non-whites results in slow and certain death by demography. That's quite a cul-de-sac they've driven themselves into.

    They remind me of the Democratic party of the 1980s, which was torn between appealing to white working class voters (which turned off the black and lefty parts of their coalition) while also appealing to their traditional constituency of blacks and women and liberals (which sent their white working-class voters into the arms of the GOP, resulting in "Reagan Democrats"). It took three straight losses at the presidential level before the party grudgingly decided to unify around a corporate-friendly Southern based "New Democrat" strategy (which essentially meant telling the liberal base to accept that this was the best that was possible in the current environment) and even that hasn't been all that smooth (see Nader 2000).

    The GOP hasn't even begun the process of changing to fit the new environment, and the longer they try to squeeze the last couple of drops out of their current coalition by cranking the racism and outright lying up to 11, the longer it's going to take to assemble a new coalition out of the wreckage. The GOP's wilderness years are going to make what the Dems suffered in the 1980s and 1990s look like a breezy summer picnic in comparison. I can't wait.

  • As Senator Graham of the Know-Nothing/Hate Everyone Else Party said, '"The demographics race we're losing badly," he told the Washington Post. "We're not generating enough angry white guys to stay in business for the long term."

    What to do, what to do?

    Well, I see two options:
    -You can piss-off your Know-Nothing base, and adapt to the changes in voter demographics.
    -Or, you can change the demographics of the people who vote.

    The "fix" right now, is voter suppression.
    Make it more difficult for non-white males to vote.

    And I think they see this as their long-term fix, too.
    If we get President Romney with a Republican House AND Senate, look for voter suppression to become codified into law, and we return to the Apartheid America we had prior to the Civil Rights Acts of 1964 and 1965 – which will be immediately overturned, if Republicans DO win this November.

    Once sworn in in January of 2013, they'll work to repeal the CRA's of '64 and '65, after which the House and Senate will pass something called the "Freedom to Vote Act," or "The' Right' to Vote Act (where, literally, only a person from the 'right'-wing will be allowed TO VOTE)," a voter suppression law, with a suitable cutsie name; President Romney will sign the law; and the challenges that will surely happen, will be turned down by the Conservative Supreme Court, time after time.

    Not to get all breakin' Godwin's Law on everybody this early in the morning, but the Nazi's used the existing representative democratic system to inflitrate and then control the government – and we all know how that turned out, don't we?

    Within a decade, we could easily all be living, those that are still living, in a totalitarian Dominionist Christian Fascist Plutocracy.

    Do I know for a fact that that will happen?

    But, if enough people stay home on Election Day, and enough are turned away, and enough vote for a 3rd Party, or enough decide to vote for Romney in the hopes that the coming implosion of Conservatism will result in some Liberal Utopia, it might.

    So, why take that chance?

    Get out and vote – yes, for existing flawed Democrats in your races.
    Sure, there a a ton of Corporatists in the ranks of the Democratic Party, but at least they don't try to appeal directly to the religiously insane racists, misogynists, xenophobes, and/or homophobes, like the other party does.

    We can always work on fixing the Democrats – if we can survive the Republicans.

  • The Republicans have been maintaining a distance rightward of the Democrats, and the Democrats have been growing more conservative, or vice versa. I suppose one could argue that the Democrats are the responsible conservative party, if not now, soon. Perhaps the greens might be able to subvert the Democrats to preserve them as a somewhat progressive party?

  • Thanks, Ed for this post, especially since it extends my own thinking from yesterday. I have only one quibble, but it may be major. You describe the dirty tricks of the Republicans as being a series of desperate acts, like "fingers plugging a dike," but those acts have so far paid off—in getting Bush into office, twice, the biggest prize of all. If those tactics were desperate, they sure paid off handsomely, didn't they? All those hanging chads, state-level manipulations and fraud–won big dividends! Who wouldn't come to rely on them, and even double down? I tend toward c u n d's prediction that this strategy is more likely to become enshrined in law than abandoned as a nonce tactic. Not that I WANT to believe in that prospect…

  • @FM: Thank you summing up my thoughts.

    The Rs are experiencing some of the risks of outsourcing, that the contractor in the long term feels no loyalty to you or the organisation. The Rs have truly lost control of their messaging, by letting Faux and Limpbaugh do the talking. Oh sure they can say those things you can't say to roil the base and give plausible deniability — see Mitt's response over Fluke. But now they've all gone rogue, where even Lugar wasn't safe. It's not like they're saying he's gotten old and it's time for some new blood and ideas, it's about him playing the game by compromising.

    A Conservative friend of mine was ready to be on the first flight back to the States if Pallid was even remotely serious about running for President to help actively campaign against her.

    I've been wondering if this slow motion train wreck that's been the GOP presidential race has actually been a heavily staged punking of the party. It's about the only explanation for these juggaloes and their antics. The main idea being to force the party to realise they've got to sever ties with the batshit crazies. You can see some of this where some are starting to reject Norquisling.

  • 'In the long run your dead'
    J.M. Keynes

    Not winning elections will kill a political party a lot quicker than demographic change.

    I keep reading things like 'the country's demographics will be blah, blah, blah in 2050……' do you think the average tea-bagger or Republican official cares??? By 2050, they will be well into the REM cycle of their dirt nap.

  • Some counterpoints:

    Mexico is growing economically–even in it's violent northern provinces. This growth means that we're seeing less Mexican immigration. On top of that, birth rates in Latin America are falling, as are those of Latinos north of the border. In addition, there are plenty of Mexican Americans who are not the biggest fans of illegals (to put it mildly). Finally, the current anti-Mexican frothing rage was something that the party kept out of the mainstream of its discourse until Bush's popularity began crumbling under the attacks of al Qaeda in Iraq's car bombs and the Mahdi Army's death squads. Up until around 2006, the Mexican hating was muted and the GOP was actually trying desperately to reach out to Latinos. Of all the things that hold modern conservatism together, Mexican hating will probably be the easiest thing to muzzle in public. Finally, the dividing line between white and Latino is can be a mighty fuzzy one. Plenty of people with Latin American ancestry identify as white.

  • Monkey Business says:

    Let's clarify something: the frothing at the mouth Christian Dominionist evangelicals that jerk off to Chick Fil A, the old school Southern Racists, and the neocon warmongers are not representative of the GOP's base. The GOP's base is the small cadre of conservative millionaires and billionaires unfettered by morals and unrestrained in their spending.

    The GOP can find plenty of plutocrat allies among growing demographics, and the plutocrats won't be opposed to cutting the frothy, racist, and warmongering types loose if they think it'll help them win elections.

  • I'm with anotherbozo on this one — the tactics are working. On paper, I would expect these to be short term finger-in-the-dike solutions as well and that only an idiot would vote for a party with this level of hypocrisy but I've been thinking that since watching Reagan in the 80's talking about 'family values' as if they were something that one party would have over another and despite his numerous policies directly against non-white, non-rich families.

    Stop devoting so much energy to pointless and embarrassing efforts to legislate the vagina
    This has worked exceedingly well. There's a book to write here, but I'll simply point you to a great resource – the 'chipping away at roe' tag at Not only have these tactics proven the GOP's family value strength, it also extends their base by appealing to idiots people who believe that abortion is a black/white issue.

    Stop kissing seniors' asses when doing so creates two enemies under 40 for every vote over 70 secured.
    It is a proven fact that American elections are won by kissing seniors' asses. It would be foolish for the GOP to stop this – especially when the Democratic party is claiming to be the responsible one trying to get the costs of health care under control. It sets a clear contrast for the GOP and appeals to what remains a huge voting block.
    Ignoring senoirs and appealing to the under 40's would be akin to the Cardinals seeing their failure in 2008 and deciding that they should be more like the 2008 Ravens that were the AFC team that lost in the semi-finals. The Ravens led the league in rushing attempts that year (and gave it to a fullback 232 times!). The problem with this logic isn't just one of personnel — it's that running the ball (or not pandering to seniors) is stupid. The rest of the league was passing more and envied the skills of the Cardinals. This proves out in that the league has continued to pass more and more including Baltimore (8th in rushing attempts last year. The 'league' of US elections will continue pandering to seniors for the foreseeable future until major changes are made in campaign finance, term limits, & not having all parties pander to them while running the government into the ground for social security and federal benefits that the younger generation will never see. It's shocking, but people get older…so pandering to the old will never get old.

    Be honest about believing in government and government spending on some things (the military, Federal subsidies, bank bailouts, etc.) rather than coming off as a bunch of howling anti-government lunatics.
    Bwahahahahaaaa. Saying that they don't want to spend money while spending money (and often increasing the size of government) is currently the GOP's best and most successful platform point. It may be the best platform point in history for any party in any nation. They have convinced the electorate that their party is for small government and the other party (of course we only get 2…fuckers) is for big government. That is an astonishing accomplishment. If I were them I wouldn't change a thing on this one.

    It really isn't rocket science.
    Not legislating the vagina, stopping senior ass kissing, & being honest about spending would cripple everything the GOP has built over the last 32 (more?) years. In that time they held the POTUS for 20 years, the House for 14 years, & the Senate for 18 years (including a 2 year tie). That's a 55% win rate — pretty damn good. Knowing that the POTUS and Senate are more important than the house (and their stupid CA/IL big city delegates) that's a great record and it shows in not only the current macro state of the US (too low income tax, too little/stupid federal spending, vagina legislation, immigration/show-me-your-papers legislation, military spending, partisan politics, wars, etc. etc. etc.) but in the lack of a true progressive voice from the Democratic side.

    I think they would *need* rocket science to do better than they've done in the last 32 years. I know that your argument is that this isn't sustainable for the next 32, but I'm not so sure. Did you ever really think that Bush would be elected and re-elected with these same platforms? Or that Clinton/Obama would allow lower capital gains taxes and abortion restrictions without stepping in harder/better than the did? Not only did that happen but the tea-party/'even smaller government' (except not really) has strengthened the GOP position immensely while not hurting their macro plans (it's not like a tea party member is ever going to vote 'the other way' on a GOP issue). I know there will be more women voters, latino voters, & openly gay voters (but probably not younger voters) in the coming years, but there will still be racists, old people, people who think that small government is good while ignoring history, and ignorant jackasses who have and will always be registered republicans. I don't think the GOP will continue with their 55% election average, but I'd be shocked if they were less than ~45% and they will continue to be ~50% in the POTUS and over 50% in the senate because of the idiocy of the macro electorate.

  • FMGuru: "The GOP hasn't even begun the process of changing to fit the new environment, and the longer they try to squeeze the last couple of drops out of their current coalition by cranking the racism and outright lying up to 11, the longer it's going to take to assemble a new coalition out of the wreckage. The GOP's wilderness years are going to make what the Dems suffered in the 1980s and 1990s look like a breezy summer picnic in comparison. I can't wait."

    No, because the party of the right will always be of greater use to the financial elites. They'll pump in the cash as needed. They were quite happy to have a c*strated Democratic Party, and if it died off entirely would pour concrete on the grave.

    The most important fact of US politics is that these things are no symmetric. A GOP not of use to the financial elites would have had only a feeble flicker in 2010, and would be not even in the running in 2012.

  • Lecturer: "Of all the things that hold modern conservatism together, Mexican hating will probably be the easiest thing to muzzle in public. Finally, the dividing line between white and Latino is can be a mighty fuzzy one. Plenty of people with Latin American ancestry identify as white."

    I disagree. From what I could see in 2008-now, hating on Hispanics was something which the elites were trying to tone down, but that the bases demanded. This is a case where the base told the elites to stick it where the sun don't shine, and succeeded handsomely.

    Remember that the modern (post-WWII) GOP was *founded* on racial hatred. When the Confederates found the Democratic Party to be less evil, the GOP welcomed them with open arms.

  • The 'league' of US elections will continue pandering to seniors for the foreseeable future

    But I don't understand–if there are no benefits for seniors in the future (today's youth are tomorrow's seniors!), how would they pander to them? What would be the carrot on their stick?

  • As of now, the Republicans don't really want to change.

    Romney's defeat will be so expensive, divisive, and humiliating that the GOP may genuinely regroup (or at least rebrand) in time for 2016. A ongoing Greater Depression could give them comeback leverage.

    I'll bet they have very high hopes for Marco Rubio. While his politics are quite paleoconservative, he's not old or white, he presents like a regular guy, and he has an Alger narrative that a lot of people somewhat to the right of Chomsky desperately want to relate to. Put him against HRC or some DNC hack senator and he could easily win.

    The Democrats should NOT use the GOP's current utter crapulence as an excuse to take their cultural momentum for granted, as Obama has done. They've lost to a sweaty thug, an empty actor, and a retarded alcoholic. They can lose again.

  • Let's not forget that Republicans were largely shut out of power for a big part of the post WW2 era. They very rarely controlled congress from 1935 to 1995. This permanent minority+crazy might actually be a more of a reversion to the mean.

  • since you brought up my favorite sport football, how about them ducks, beavers & uh the packers. ducks & beavers are doing great, but the pack? hum, maybe too many shit farm commercials, the replacement refs did do a very poor job in many games. just shows how greedy the nfl is, like all corporations. the republicans dying out? we can only hope. probably so if the wingnut tea party continues to dominate. but the democrats don't offer a helluva lot either. look at the teacher's strike in chicago. emanuel is the mayor, brays about chicago public schools being world class, but of course sends his kids to a private school. the jackass was obama's closest adviser until he left to go work for a bank at 6.6 million a year, before becoming mayor. obama's whole goddamn cabinet is wallstreet assholes. he's beholden to the banks & outsourcing corporations; he doesn't give a shit about working people or the middle class. wake the hell up! just because romney & ryan are total rightwing crackpots, doesn't mean obama is good, he aint.

  • Just a couple of things.

    First, the idea that you run to win in football as a fallacy. You don't run to win, you run because you are winning.

    Second, while Ed hits a lot of themes here, he omits one: Gerrymandering. Republican politics at the state level ensures a system whereby the part remains viable at the House level, because districts can be manipulated to ensure representation federally is tilted in favor of the Republicans.

    The other problem, as I see it, is that the Republican Party has lost the ability to think Tactically. I think there are still some strategic thinkers that acknowledge the long term problems of the party, but tactically their two most recent campaigns for President have basically been deep fried feces on a stick. It's indicative of people who are good at setting overarching goals but bad at managing the day to day steps to accomplish those goals. After the message discipline of the previous two generations of GOP operatives, it's quite a sight to see.

  • The stereotype of the Old White Republican (out of touch, retrogressive, greedy, etc.) could have been turned into the archetype of the wise, experienced grey beard. If the Republicans had kept a low profile, stuck to the party line, and run a Real Boy (TM), they could have won easily.

    But they did not allow the poor or religious or elderly (particularly the people of color among them) to approach them in hopes of finding elder statesmen who could pull the country out of the slump. No, they decided to alienate them through courting the rabid, ranting, racist fringe. Way to go, guys! Let the Tea Party and Grover Norquist turn you into a bunch of pinstriped sock puppets. Nothing inspires confidence like sock puppets.

    When I'm feeling good, I like to think of William F. Buckley Jr., spinning in his grave. When I'm feeling morose, I wish he were still around. I think he'd be an Obama Republican, which is depressing, but at least his use of language wouldn't make me shudder.

  • such nice and warm thoughts about the demise of the Hate Party aka Republicans are just sweet dreams. the Republicans are going to make their loss of numbers work for them somehow, if the past is any indication.

    there is nothing the greedy bastards won't do. as we see today. so to hope for the gradual "death" of the ignorant white folks who "were" the base of the Republican party is short sighted. yes, the dumb white folks who feared what they were told to fear will die out. but not the Republicans

    will the Republicans/Blue Dogs not learn from this and "improve, improve, improve"? Never, because they like the Government Money they get from us the taxpayers.

    surely the Republican will find someone to screw and someone to take the blame, as always. just like the Democrats do now. i just find it inconceivable that the Rich White Men/Elites who run America won't find a way to get what they want, or at least stop others from getting theirs.

    just look at how the Republican Senate in California has screwed over everyone/any attempt to change. the ability to stop the "other guy" from doing anything is a "win win" when it keeps change from happening, i.e. to stop California from doing anything the Republicans don't like. Being a closed asshole kills the body eventually.
    Republican know how to be a closed asshole and fuck up the body till it dies of poisoning.. see America today.

    throwing sand in the oiled gears of life is also a part of the Republican party platform if it doesn't serve Republican party goals. that's the nature of this beast.

    at least there won't be as many ignorant white people to help the Republicans get over on the rest of us. the answer is who will the Republicans use NEXT. for teh Republicans, aren't going anywhere. the white people, well, they suckered themselves out of fear and history.

    The Republicans are like the Energizer Bunny Rabbit.

    you've got to kill it, once and for all, or it keeps on going and going and going….

    or you could just shift to the Obama division of the Republican Party.

  • I think the main weakness of the GOP is the ignorance = strength platform. America is becoming more secular, more brown, more educated. The intellectual bankruptcy of the GOP in 2012 is really telling, because their solution is cut taxes, and if that doesn't work, cut them some more. Bush completely destroyed their other main strength among independents, which was foreign policy. If Republicans can't be trusted to manage the economy or wage war, then they're only good for hating women and gay people.

    Now, the downside of this is Democrats are now running as Republican Lite; same Imperial Presidency Owned by the Usurers, just less filling. Democrats are especially excited by the prospect of claiming traditional Republican rhetorical territory. So now both parties are agreeing on OIL 4-EVA, the 1 trillion dollar military, union hatred, the Drug War, secret prisons, torture, and assassination, and free Monopoly Money for any and all banks, and there's not much to get excited about an Obama Presidency except that your two gay buddies in the Navy can now finally tie…the knot (ba-dum-chink!).

  • Coming late to the table on this, but: Isn't it inevitable that the conservative party, whatever its nature, is going to resist change? Setting aside whether the tactics of today's GOP are working for them (short term: yes, long term: maybe, depending on how successfully they can convert those entering into the "old voter" age-bracket–yeah, many of them are dying off, but it's not like they're not being replaced by people having their 65th birthday this year), we have to ask: Do they really have a choice?

    The message of conservatives is essentially that Things Are Fine As They Are. Since "Things" in the case of the U.S. means institutionalized racism/sexism, the worship of unfettered accumulation of private/corporate wealth, and a government whose ability to govern is to be construed as minimal as possible, they cannot (let alone will not) change their tunes, even if the tide of times has swept most of those underlying values away.

    There is much to be said for a government that adopts a hands-off attitude to policing the choices/lives of its citizens. There is much to be said against a government in which regulation becomes an end to itself (see: the Circumlocution Office in LITTLE DORRIT.) And there is a great deal to be said for progress implemented by steady, incremental reform rather than by revolution (Edmund Burke was right about so many things he's a little bit scary.)

    There is, in short, much to be said for conservatism. *True* conservatism. The conservatism that regards the role of the government with healthy skepticism–who responds to government authority with "Prove to me that this is a good thing *before* you try to implement it and cost me money." That recognizes that while we wish the other citizens of the world well, it is the sworn duty of our elected officials to care for our own nation before turning their attention to the world beyond our borders. (Private charity, however, might be encouraged to replace them in this role.)

    But where is this conservatism today? Without robust voices who reel in the inherent laziness of the party's masses–who check their tendency to allow ideas to calcify into intractable biases–who think that bigotry is a "conviction" rather than a disorder–who believe too much in their own self-worth and thus too easily embrace the notion that if they're not rich it can't be their own damned fault–without *leadership*, in short, there can be no real conservatism.

    The modern GOP does not have leaders. It has elected followers. The mass has become the mob, and no one of prominence has the nerve or the ability to stand up, and speak to them, and change their minds. Atticus Finch no longer sits in front of Tom Robinson's jail cell awaiting the lynch mob. He waves them in, patting them on the back for being brave, real Americans.

    We saw what happened to McCain. We're seeing it happen to Romney. Men would rather win *an* election–a battle–and lose the movement–the war.

    Note: I will add, as I always do at the end of these GOP-bashing jeremiads, that A. I could easily vote for a Republican who was a true conservative, and not a jackal, and B. my criticism is in no way meant to be a back-handed endorsement of the current state of the Democratic party or its leadership, which I find even more dispiriting.

  • @JDryden, I don't dispute that the message of ACTUAL conservatives is "Things Are Fine As They Are," however, in the current Republican party, the messages are, "BROWN PEOPLE, WOMEN, AND GAYS EXIST—EEEEK!!! ATTACK! KILL!" and "You're being PERSECUTED! ATTACK!" Repeated ad nauseum in full shriek.

  • @ Anonymouse: You're quite right, which leads me to wonder: Have the true conservatives disappeared?

    Though I suppose that begs the question: Were they ever there? Have we always been a nation of Tea Partiers, and I'm just incorrectly assuming the 'once upon a time' presence of the True Conservative?

    (A quick glance at the history of Know-Nothingism, McCarthyism, etc. suggests that this is a plausible interpretation.)

  • @ Major Kong: Quite possibly. Most of my knowledge of conservatism (like most of my knowledge of liberalism) comes from reading history, political philosophy, etc.–it's extremely theoretical. What I should probably do is stop thinking of theory as the basis for the "true" conservative, and start with the real-life people who call themselves conservative. But whenever I do that, and listen to what they have to say, my reaction is always "…why do you call yourself 'conservative'–because that word means something specific, and you're not expressing any ideas or values that overlap with the dictionary definition." This could be an instance in which custom/use means that the word's meaning has to change in order for it to conform to reality.

  • This is a nice post, but leans out a little bit too far in the analysis because of the underlying assumption that the Republican party is a unitary actor.

    It's a complex web of activists, big money men, think tanks, media folk, and just out and out grifters that create an ecosystem in which the politicos operate. Every political party is like this, to some extent, but much more so than the Democrats and earlier in their history, the nominal Republican political apparatus holds much less sway over its non-elected parts. Tone, phrases, issues, agenda items, even elected offices themselves, are much more at the mercy of the broader elements of the Republican party than for their opposite numbers in the Democratic party.

    For fairly obvious reasons: there's more money, which means the think tanks and the media (Ian Shapiro has a great phrase for this interlocking set of relationships but I can't for the life of me remember it) are much more effective at shaping things, which gives more power to the Dick Armey activist hacks and Ralph Reed snakeoil salesmen. Over and above the kind of extra leverage a shitload of cash already gives an interest in influencing the political system.

    I think it's Atrios who keeps saying "there is no Republican Establishment anymore". That's right, in that the political party apparatus itself is a husk withered from the virile middle age it enjoyed in the middle part of the twentieth century, but it's also completely wrong, in that there most definitely is a Republican Establishment that is almost as powerful as ever, at least if you look at voting records and other measures of party discipline. It's just that that Establishment doesn't line up with the centralized hierarchy of the party political leaders anymore; it's spread over a more diffuse and heterogenous network of people.

    So this is a much more long-winded than necessary way of saying that treating the Republican Party as being a few coordinators and players who are all working towards the same goals in the same timetable and facing the same constraints on behavior is to attribute the complex and unforeseen dance of people and interests the Republican Party has become to the psychological traits of a few actors, which obviously misses and mischaracterizes a lot of what's going on.

  • OK, well here's the bright side (kinda). The Republicans seem determined recently to torpedo themselves by picking the worst possible candidate. As I write, I think Obama is ahead by something like 5% in the polls. Had the Reps been able to get their heads out of their butts and nominate, say, Huntsman, they'd be ahead by 20 points now.

    Romney seems to be able to say something that even George Will says is stupid almost every day. I'm mildly confident that on election day a slim majority of voters will favor Obama.

    Problem is that we don't know how many of that slim majority will get to the polls and find that they're not allowed to vote. Democrats only need to lose 2 or 3 swing states by one half of 1% and the Mittster wins.

  • J. Dryden Says:
    September 13th, 2012 at 2:45 am

    "Coming late to the table on this, but: Isn't it inevitable that the conservative party, whatever its nature, is going to resist change? "

    Well, the GOP:

    1) Actively seeks radical change, whenever profitable.
    2) Actively seeks radical destructive change, whenever profitable, or emotionally satisfying.
    3) Loves to police people's lives.
    4) Loves intrusive government, so long at it's the right intrusion.

  • Yes, this crew of clowns will lose as Rovians know; but the sheer numbers of voters intimidated or IDed or mis-directed from the proper polling place and time added to results of various tested & successful methods of voter fraud will prevent the margin of victory from becoming the Mandate Obama should receive.

    A long-standing Rovian tactic has always been to disguise the full extent of American support for moderate and liberal democratic policies.

  • All very good observations and analysis', but one major point I feel has been overlooked. And I say this as someone who left the Republican party in the 90's myself.

    The Republican party does not give a good tinkers DAMN about the country, or the people of the United States. ALL they are concerned with is power and money, and serving themselves and their ultimate base, the 1%.

    Everything else is just smoke and mirrors. And for this reason, I'm of the opinion that they must be crushed out of existance for the betterment of the country.

  • The Republicans think that at some time in the future, they can repudiate their past. Something like, "Republicans were always at peace with Latinos." And they are right. The Republicans have done this before the people have bought it.

    Just the same, I don't see how the Republicans are going to change course. They've backed themselves into a corner. This all goes back to Reagan's evil coalition of libertarians and social conservatives. There isn't that much crossover here. We saw this with Rick Santorum's campaign, which was surprisingly progressive on economic issues.

    As the saying goes: Republicans fear their base, Democrats hate theirs. The Republican party would poll something like the Libertarians if they yielded on the reproductive choice question. This issue is the only reason that Republicans are competitive. Take that away, I don't know.

    So I agree that the Republicans are stuck. But I'm sure they'll come up with ever more smarmy ways of winning elections. Or a coup. They certainly seem to like that kind of thing.

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