Monday, December 10, 2007


Is the GOP getting nicer? Frank Rich seems to think so:

The real reason for Mr. Huckabee's ascendance may be that his message is simply more uplifting -- and, in the ethical rather than theological sense, more Christian -- than that of rivals whose main calling cards of fear, torture and nativism have become more strident with every debate. The fresh-faced politics of joy may be trumping the five-o'clock-shadow of Nixonian gloom and paranoia favored by the entire G.O.P. field with the sometime exception of John McCain.

And, via the Mahablog, I see that over the weekend Charles Pierce said this about Mitt Romney at The Guardian:

Within the struggling Republican party, there is the Angry party and the Crazy party. Sometimes -- in fact, often -- those two overlap. This year, those two elements between them have produced in the current Republican field the single biggest public fruitcake in the history of electoral government....

Romney had the money and he had the record to disenthrall his party from the influence of the extremists that have taken it over the cliff and onto the rocks below. In this, he was powerfully equipped to do his party and his country a great service. Instead, against all odds, he's spent two years carving out yet another political subset. To borrow a famous bit from the Monty Python crew, Mitt Romney seems bound and determined to fashion himself into the leader of the Silly party.

The fresh-faced politics of joy vs. Nixonian gloom and paranoia? The Angry Party vs. the Crazy Party (morphing into the Silly Party)?

The rise of Huckabee may mean that the GOP isn't quite the Angry Party or (my term) Rage Party. Of course, it's usually doesn't seem to be the Overt Rage Party in any case -- Pat Buchanan never won the Republican presidential nomination, and Tom Tancredo is stuck in the low single digits this year. Republicans often gravitate to leaders who seem like happy warriors but have an undercurrent of rage about a sixteenth of an inch below the surface -- think George W. Bush, or the faux-jolly Rush Limbaugh. I'd even throw in Ronald Reagan, who's universally regarded as a genial fellow despite the disproportionate amount of speaking time he devoted to demonizing Democrats, liberals, and the existence of governments. And Giuliani (still the presidential leader in most GOP polls) tends not to raise his voice, though his undercurrent of rage is hard to miss.

But Huckabee's surge suggests that maybe the GOP isn't the Angry Party exactly -- it is, rather, the We Have a Monopoly on Truth and Virtue Party.

That would cover Reagan, Limbaugh, Bush, Rudy, and Huck, no?

Or maybe it should be the We Have a Monopoly on Divine Truth and Virtue Party -- after all, it doesn't seem to take much to persuade GOP voters that a Republican who claims to have all the answers is touched by the hand of the Almighty.

Divorced, non-churchgoing Reagan has received a postmortem makeover as a man of God. Secular, multiply divorced, "adult beverage"-drinking Rush Limbaugh seemingly offends no one in the Christian right when claims to have "talent on loan from God." Ann Coulter, in between well-(self)-publicized makeout sessions with pornographer's sons, Muslims, and Jewish Democrats from New York, claims to take great comfort from the Bible and Christianity (and bashes Jews as "imperfect" Christians).

Giuliani had a lot of Republicans convinced that he had all the answers (on foreign policy and taxes, at least), and that everyone who disagreed with him was an idiot; usually that's more than half the battle, and all that's necessary after that is to throw the Christianists a religious bone or two. They like (right-wing) Catholics; all he would have had to do was pretend to (re-)embrace the faith of his youth (and wring his hands over abortion and gay rights) and the right would have been willing to declare him God's Newest Republican Son. But he blew it.

Romney, of course, has tried to take the this course, but he's a Satanic Mormon, so he's finding it hard going.

The term "Silly Party" implies that we can have a good hearty chuckle about all this, which isn't the case. Even "Crazy Party" is too lighthearted a term. In fact, Republicans are dead serious about having a monopoly on Godly virtue and about ascribing evil to those who disagree with them -- and whether it's intelligent design in your school system's textbooks or a quagmire in Iraq, they turn a lot of their crazy ideas into official policy.

Maybe the new "lite" absolute God-given certainty of Mike Huckabee's followers is a real change from the traditional absolute God-given certainty of recent Republicans. I hope so. But I suspect it still has an undercurrent of belief in Absolute Evil (i.e., us).

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