Wednesday, April 29, 2009


Olympia Snowe in The New York Times today:

Ideological purity is not the ticket back to the promised land of governing majorities -- indeed, it was when we [Republicans] began to emphasize social issues to the detriment of some of our basic tenets as a party that we encountered an electoral backlash.

Uh, really? It kills me to say this, but Ole Perfesser Instapundit's recollection matches mine:

But back during the Reagan era, I remember hearing that the Republicans were ... a bunch of social conservatives. And back then they were pushing the abortion-banning Human Life Amendment -- hard -- along with a statutory end-run (the Human Life Bill) that simply declared life began at conception. Also school prayer and all sorts of stuff. I'm not actually hearing much along these lines from today's Republicans....

Why was the GOP hit with an electoral backlash? It wasn't social issues per se. It was the ratcheting up of the entire GOP culture of demonization. Or actually it wasn't even that -- it was the ratcheting up of that demonization even as the broad public became increasingly skeptical about whether the GOP's top demons were really so scary.

The GOP failed the demonization smell test over and over again. Straight people on Main Street U.S.A. began to meet more and more out gay people and started wondering what the hell harm could come to them if gay people were allowed to marry. Barack Obama turned out to be not a scary Mau-Mauing monster, but the most reasonable-seeming guy on earth. Saddam Hussein turned out not to have WMDs. Protesters against the Iraq War didn't burn flags or spit on troops or engage in '60s-style terrorism (and turned out to be right). Rosie O'Donnell and Barbra Streisand and the Dixie Chicks never seized control of the country.

And the demonizers themselves, handed power, actually turned out to be the menace they said all kinds of other people were. They screwed up the economy and foreign policy and Katrina and everything else they touched.

So, no, it wasn't a fixation on social issues, in and of itself, that brought the GOP to ruin. It was the general public's sense that the GOP had a lot of the wrong enemies -- and not nearly enough of the right ones. Republicans toppled Dan Rather, but they let Osama bin Laden and the bandits at AIG get away scot-free.

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