A COUPLE OF MOMENTS FROM THE SLOW-MOTION REPUBLICAN CRACKUP
First, Steve Benen and Kyle from Right Wing Watch note that the Family Research Council is not happy with that new pizza-party-throwing, social-issue-avoiding GOP "rebranding" group. Steve and Kyle wonder if this is a possible opening for Mike Huckabee in 2012 (though I have my doubts). Here's part of what the FRC says:
In another step away from its conservative roots, Republican members of the House unveiled The National Council for a New America in hopes of recasting the Party's ailing identity. The effort only underscores the Republicans' present identity crisis, as the GOP leadership kicked off the campaign devoid of the values that once caused voters to identify with the party.
The group's priorities ... include the economy, health care, education, energy, and national security. Notice anything conspicuously absent? Gov. Jeb Bush explained the values void by saying it was time for the GOP to give up its "nostalgia" for Reagan-era ideas and look forward to new "relevant" ideas.... Turning away from those fundamental truths would be a death knell for the GOP as little would be left to distinguish the Republicans from the Democrats.
Too many Republicans leaders are running scared on the claims of the Left and the media that social conservatism is a dead-end for the GOP. If that were the case, why are pro-family leaders like Mike Huckabee creating such excitement in the conservative base? ...
Is Huckabee really creating excitement in the conservative base? I hadn't noticed, though it might be true.
Then again, I'm not sure it matters, because every time Huckabee seems to be getting a toehold within the GOP, somebody attacks him as having been an evil tax-and-spend RINO when he was governor Arkansas -- as in this National Review attack, written when it seemed as if John McCain might pick Huck as his running mate:
During Huckabee’s tenure as governor, the average Arkansan's tax burden increased 47 percent, according to the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette. A dyed-in-blue tax hiker, Huckabee supported raising sales taxes, gas taxes, grocery taxes, even nursing home bed taxes. He virulently opposed a congressional moratorium on taxing Internet access, and sat on the sidelines while his Democratic legislature pushed the largest tax hike in Arkansas history into law. What's more, on his watch, and frequently at his behest, state spending increased by 50 percent, more than double the rate of inflation, and the number of state government workers rose by 20 percent.
Know who wrote that? Pat Toomey, the king of the GOP's other values voters, the anti-tax dogmatists. (Toomey, as you probably know, seems to have the GOP Senate nomination close to locked up now that Tom Ridge says he's not going to run.)
Meanwhile, I see that Joe the Plumber has quit the GOP altogether:
Samuel Wurzelbacher, better known as Joe the Plumber, tells TIME he's so outraged by GOP overspending, he's quitting the party -- and he's the bull's-eye of its target audience.
Curiously, Wurzelbacher and Huckabee would seem to be natural allies. Huckabee, despite his conservatively incorrect record as governor, is an advocate of the so-called Fair Tax, and is, of course, a minister. Wurzelbacher, in his recent Christianity Today interview, praised the Fair Tax, when he wasn't talking about his "walk with God." (And as David Weigel notes, Joe's apparently trying to make a buck off Fair Tax advocacy.)
In a sane party, the rebranders would emphasize soccer-parent issues, Huckabee would stress God and the Fair Tax, Wurzelbacher would rejoin the party after finding that Huck is a kindred spirit, and there'd be a vigorous contest leading up to the 2012 nomination, after which everyone would kiss and make up.
Instead, the hardcore God/Fair Tax types hate the rebranders, the rebranders want to give the hardcore types a wide berth, some hardcore types think other hardcore types aren't really hardcore, and Pat Toomey or Rush Limbaugh or Sarah Palin will probably eventually persuade Joe the Plumber that Huckabee is a tax-and-spend socialist, if Joe doesn't think that already.
You know, if they didn't all hate liberals, I don't think any two conservatives would be speaking to each other now.