Today we have Jonathan Martin in The New York Times telling us that the party would be perfectly well behaved if only it had a strong leader to remind temporarily unruly party members that real Republicanism is nice and polite:
Without Calming Voice, G.O.P. Is Letting Divisive Ones Speak on MuslimsYes, "elements" of the grass roots. A few bad apples, don't you know?
When Ben Carson said on Sunday that he would not want to see a Muslim elected president, he did not just reignite a volatile conversation about the role of Islam in American life -- he also exposed another fissure between many Republican leaders and elements of the party’s grass roots.
In the years since President George W. Bush sought to separate the Islamic extremists behind the Sept. 11 attacks from the millions of practitioners of what he called a religion of peace, many in his party have come to reject the distinction."Many in his party" is close to the truth, and I give Martin credit for that, but then he backs off and says this is limited to "activists." Apparently, your uncle who leaves Fox News blaring fourteen hours a day is now an "activist."
It is hardly the only point of disagreement between Republican leaders who are determined to reorient the party to win in a changing country, and activists who are uneasy about what they see as threats to their way of life.
But the debate over Islam is particularly worrisome for Republicans because it so vividly highlights the vacuum that has been created by the absence of a unifying leader who can temper the impulses of the rank-and-file.Stop. Just stop.
“The conservative movement needs a pope,” said Matt Lewis, a conservative writer. “Whether it was William F. Buckley writing the Birchers out of the movement or George W. Bush using his voice and office to speak out about Islam, we need people who, like them, will take leadership positions.”
... “Having a leaderless party makes it more likely that those voices that were always there can arise,” [former George W. Bush press secretary Tony] Fratto said.
And in an era of diminished political parties and fragmented news media, voices of authority can be easily outmatched by those of provocation. “Anybody can have a megaphone now,” Mr. Lewis said. “But only a few people have clout.”
He added, “And when you don’t have a clear leader, that’s when warlords can arise.”
The Republican Party has a pope. His name is Roger Ailes. He's the guy who gave us the "Ground Zero mosque" controversy. He's the guy who gave Donald Trump a regular platform to hold forth on politics starting in 2011, when Trump was fixated on President Obama's birth certificate and, implicitly, his true allegiance to Islam. He's the guy who allows rabid Islamophobe Pam Geller to make regular appearances on Fox. His programming continues to fan the flames of sharia hysteria:
Perhaps, according to the men Martin quotes, Roger Ailes is a "warlord" because he's not an elected officeholder, Cabinet member, or party official. But in that case, the GOP has been turning its leadership responsibilities over to "warlords" for a generation: Drudge, Coulter, Limbaugh, Breitbart and his heirs.
A simpler explanation: these people are the hierarchy of the GOP. They're the cardinals. Ailes is the pope. What we're seeing now isn't what the GOP has temporarily become in the absence of a leader -- it's what the GOP is today under the well-established, stable leadership of Pope Roger.