Monday, October 26, 2015


I don't agree with this Washington Post op-ed by former Obama chief of staff William Daley, and I wonder if Daley believes it himself:
The GOP’s dysfunction all started with Sarah Palin

When The Post’s front page declares: “Republicans are on the verge of ceasing to function as a national party,” it’s time to ask: How did this come to pass?

You can choose from a litany of insurrections, government shutdowns and other self-inflicted wounds. But this year’s carnival-like GOP presidential primary makes one event, in retrospect, stand out as a crucial turning point on the road to upheaval: the 2008 embrace of then-Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin to be a heartbeat from the presidency.

Palin’s blatant lack of competence and preparedness needs no belaboring. What’s critical is that substantive, serious Republican leaders either wouldn’t or couldn’t declare, before or after the election: “This is not what our party stands for. We can and must do better.”

... Palin became a Fox News fixture, reinforcing the newly formed tea party’s “never compromise” demands. Bombast, not reason, reigned. Now the “settle for flash” aura of Palin’s candidacy looks like a warning that the party was prizing glib, red-meat rhetoric over reasoned solutions.
Does Daley remember nothing from the Clinton years? The years when right-wingers openly speculated that the president and his wife had a long record of involvement in crimes such as murder and drug dealing? The years when you could reach #1 on the New York Times bestseller list with a book claiming that a Christmas tree in the Clinton White House was decorated with crack pipes and sex toys? Oh, and did I mention that moment of unpleasantness involving impeachment for lies about sex?

Daley writes:
Once McCain put Palin on the ticket, Republican “grown-ups,” who presumably knew better, had to bite their tongues. But after the election, when they were free to speak their minds, they either remained quiet or abetted the dumbing-down of the party. They stood by as Donald Trump and others noisily pushed claims that Obama was born in Kenya. And they gladly rode the tea party tiger to sweeping victories in 2010 and 2014.
Is any of that a huge leap after 2004, when Republicans rode to victory in part because of blatant lies about the Democratic presidential candidate's military record? Wasn't birtherism just a new form of Swiftboating?

All through this period, the GOP took advantage of nonsense peddlers who kept voters loyal to conservatism and the party. There were a lot of such nonsense peddlers: in the conservative Christian media, on websites such as Newsmax and World Net Daily (and, later, Breitbart), on talk radio (remember, after the 1994 midterms, the incoming GOP majority in the House made Rush Limbaugh an honorary member of their class), at conservative book publishing outfits such as Regnery, and, of course, on Fox News. The GOP clearly thought it could keep these forces under control forever -- even as late as the 2014 midterms there was the belief that the Republican Establishment had successfully tamed and domesticated the Tea Party. Maybe Palin's nomination represented a turning point -- although I don't know how can she can be regarded as much more of an ignorant simpleton than Dan Quayle or George W. Bush. I think it's more likely that what destroyed the GOP was not nominating a few simpletons, but rather a day-to-day reliance on the political equivalent of superstition.

It's possible that Daley doesn't believe what he's writing. It could be that he's just baiting Palin, in the hope that she'll resurface -- she's been lying fairly low these days -- and make the GOP seem even crazier than it already does. I hope that's what he's trying to do, and I hope it works. She's an embarrassment, and Republicans deserve all the harm she does to their reputation. But she didn't turn them into the crazy party. They were heading in the direction for a long while.


Tom Hilton said...

Definitely started in the '90s, with the ascendancy of Limbaugh and the Class of 1994. Though the way was paved by Reagan before them.

MRjonz54 said...

Nope, the ascent of the angry, delusional, gun crazed, conspiracy theory-addled Republican Party started with Barry Goldwater and the embrace of the Birchers. Everything since is just variations on a theme. Just ask Driftglass, our prophet unhonored in his own homeland.

Professor Chaos said...

I think the difference between Palin and Quayle or Bush is that the latter two tried to pretend they were competent, serious people, tried to cover their ignorance and stupidity while Palin reveled in it. She wears her ignorance and intellectual laziness as badges of honor.

Professor Chaos said...

Also, Palin is not a cause of GOP dysfunction, she's a result of it.

This has been building since the Powell memo. Incompetence, ignorance and irrationality aren't bugs, they're features.

M. Bouffant said...

"Political equivalent of superstition". Excellent.

As to ex-Gov. Palin, I could (very easily) be wrong, but her 15 mins. are just about up, & she's clever enough to realize it. Her iNternet tee vee empire didn't go over except as a lead balloon, & I see more yada yada from daughter Bristol than Mama Grizzly herself lately.

Also too: No one, no matter how delusional, would have run her against Mme. Sec'y Clinton. But Palin may just be keeping her powder dry, hoping for 2020 if "Prez" Clinton effs up. (Or is effed up, by circumstances or Republicans.)

Leo Artunian said...

I would point at Reagan in particular. His tenuous relationship with the truth, his narrowness of vision, and his ability to put a genial "just folks" face on policies highly destructive to the personal welfare of much of the nation's citizens -- especially those deluded enough to support him -- were all early forms of what has more recently turned the Grand Old Party into a howling Bedlam.

Palli said...

Obviously, the GOP was crazy & irresponsible before Sarah Palin-how else could she have been asked to be GOP vice-presidential candidate!

Unknown said...

The potential to be crazy precedes the split with reality which may be gradual. The "crazy" developed out of GOP anger and hate from these factors: 1, the 40 years of Democratic control of the House (1955-1995) creates unbounded resentment; 2, the investigations of Watergate (Nixon) and Iran-Contra (Reagan), both viewed as "political" by the emerging pre-crazies; 3, the turmoil of the 70s and 80s as southern bigots infiltrated the GOP and honorable Republicans had to switch parties or be shouted down; 4, hate radio's emergence; 5, the election of Bill Clinton, perceived as an upstart who stole away the rightful reelection of GHW Bush; 6, the midterms of 1994 giving the now crazy-with-power GOPers control over the US House and the ability to subvert government rather than govern; 7, creation of a propaganda media in the form of Fox News in 1996; 8, and, in 1998, final success in the witch hunt to fabricate any possible reason to impeach a Democratic president; 9, and finally, final abandonment of American principles in favor of right wing dogmas. (JDB/LW)

Ten Bears said...

EYup, Goldwater.

Unknown said...

It's not hard to think of numerous possible rationales for Daley to pose this 'argument'.

E.g. in Nudge Think, this falls in the category of manufacturing scapegoats; the theory is they can substitute for long-running deeply-embedded prejudices those who hold to them are reluctant to abandon & even refuse to confront.

This is despite that:
1) inventing false narrative devices like scapegoats is anti-reality world and thus anti-liberal;
2) there's never been any proof that this tactic has ever worked in any way that endures or matters;
3) resorting to such scapegoats contributes the endurance of the underlying myth that inventor is trying to undermine; and
4) scapegoatery is highly prone to backfiring.

But then, to me Daley:
a) has always been a magical thinker, tho a really boring version;
b) tho he claims to be realist (by feigning 'toughhess', always at others' expense), he's only superficially liberal & looks down his nose at progressives, being himself 100% pure establishment from childhood, or birth;
c) is highly prone to one of the most conventional of establishment myths, that concerning how to deal with intractable social dilemma, namely that one should keep pursuing ONLY conventional 'solutions', despite contrary evidence, unless & until the convention itself changes (The same sort of thinking that Tony Blair's always features, and it's unfortunately also been the main compass guided that has guided HRC's foreign policy thinking since at least as early as 9/11.

ladyblug said...

I just know I'm embarrassed and scared for this country! I can't believe the crackpots and assclowns that are running for POTUS. Regardless of what any of us think of HRC, or Bernie Sanders they are much less disturbing than any of these other yahoo's! We can only hope that the majority of us peons can see through the crazy and not put any of these incompetents in the White House.

Bob Roth said...

Republican crazy started with the Tenure of Office Act (1867).

Ten Bears said...

OK Bob, but... that was a bit before our time.