I rarely disagree with DougJ, but I suspect he's wrong about the second part of this, even though he's absolutely right about the first part:
For all the No Labels wanking about non-extremist Republicans forming a "centrist" third-party, the truth is Joe Scarborough and Lindsey Graham will leave the Republican party in a wooden box. Ted Cruz and Sarah Palin, though....they've got the moxie to strike off on their own.I don't think moxie is the issue. Cruz, Palin, and the rest of the 'baggers may have the nerve to leave, but they don't because they feel entitled to dominate the GOP, just the way they feel entitled to run the country even when they lose elections. They want the Republican Party's levers of power, which they think they deserve.
They don't leave for the same reason they don't commit terrorist acts with the frequency of the left-wing '60s radicals they otherwise resemble: they think they should be the Establishment. They think they are the Establishment, entitled to run their party and America, but everything is so out of whack that their entitlement goes unrecognized. (It's their enemies who are "Republican in name only"; their rallying cry on Twitter is #tcot, "true conservatives on Twitter," all others being the pretenders.)
And let's face it, they're right not to walk away from the party, because the party does keep ceding power to them, doesn't it?
David Frum (correctly) gives a good argument to this effect and then (incorrectly) claims that a Palinista exodus would be good news for conservatives. You can guess why: it will free up Burkean moderates to appeal to the radical center. Nah. Guh. Happen. There may be all kinds of great reasons to vote for Republicans 2.0 or whatever the Teabagless GOP decides to call itself, but Republicans spent the last 40 years aiming their sales pitch at Neoconfederate nut jobs. Karl Rove (et al.) is a certain kind of girl, and Joe the Plumber is his ideal boyfriend.Frum's argument is that ditching the 'baggers would help Republicans in the way that (in Frum's view) the departure of the Dixiecrats and Henry Wallace lefties from the Democratic Party helped Harry Truman in 1948: Truman's support among black voters increased, as did his credibility as a Cold Warrior.
I'm not sure I buy that -- Truman barely won in '48 -- but I think Frum has a point about opportunities for political parties in the mushy middle. I've lived in the Northeast all my life, and I've watched voters in these supposedly liberal states swoon repeatedly over moderate (or moderate-seeming or moderate-on-social-issues-only) Republicans -- Mitt Romney, Rudy Giuliani, Mike Bloomberg, Scott Brown, Olympia Snowe, Susan Collins, Al D'Amato, George Pataki. Hell, Chris Christie's going to win a blowout in New Jersey next month, and he's barely to the left of the 'baggers. I think voters all over America are naive enough to fall for Kochism in gay-tolerant clothing (Christie, of course, barely falls into the latter category).
Yes, "Republicans spent the last 40 years aiming their sales pitch at Neoconfederate nut jobs." I think they could stop if Establishment Republicans and Chamber of Commerce donors worked together to freeze out the burn-it-all-down crazies. At this point, though, appealing to those crazies is a hard habit to break. For a while, Republicans who had no real intention of voucherizing Medicare or banning abortion just used wingnut rhetoric the way fast-food outlets use salt, sugar, and fat -- as intoxicants meant to hit pleasure centers in the brain. Now they've created a generation of voters who expect them to mean what they say -- and a generation of politicians who also took all that talk seriously, and are now acting on it.
But even if Establishment Republicans and their donors grew a spine, I don't think the crazies would bolt the party anytime soon. They'd just keep fighting for the dominance they think is their due. There'd be a couple of decades of tension between the crazies and the less-crazies. (There were still white Southern Democrats in fairly significant numbers into the 1980s.) And meanwhile, the mainstream media would develop a massive crush on the new GOP.
But it's not going to happen, so why are we talking about it?