Wednesday, September 07, 2011


In response to a post by his co-blogger Mistermix, John Cole is skeptical, to say the least, about the possibility that there'll be a reassessment of contemporary rightward shifts in ideology:

If a Christmas Carol were written today, Tiny Tim's crutches would be used by Scrooge to beat him before sending his whole family into bondage and giving Scrooge the proceeds, and David Gregory would lead a roundtable with the different ghosts where they would all explain that the lump of coal left in the Cratchit household would be better used by the producers in society.

But I've been pondering what Mistermix says:

...I’ve been wondering if the next Beltway media move is to suddenly discover that Republicans are crazy and to start a "who's crazy" witchhunt. I don't know what would trigger that discovery. It would have to be something that the Villagers care about, like horse race politics -- perhaps if Obama started to poll significantly better than Perry, when Perry looked like he had a lock on the Republican nomination? If such a witchhunt and change in the status quo bias happened, the one thing to remember about crazy is that it's pretty sticky. Once you're put in the crazy bucket, people stop listening to to what you're saying, they stop trusting your judgment, and they do so for a very long time.

But we've been through had several rounds of Republican craziness over the past sixty years that were eventually acknowledged as such -- McCarthy, Goldwater, Nixon, the Iran-contra Reagan team (Reaganomics still isn't considered crazy, of course), and of course Bush/Cheney/Rummy/Rove. But the fault has always been ascribed as narrowly as possible -- the individual or individuals are to blame, never the party or ideology. Which means that a new crop of Republicans can emerge almost instantly afterward, professing distance from the forebears and getting an instant, unquestioned do-over for the entire party. Reagan won the presidency a mere six years after Nixon's downfall. (Hell, Ford almost won two years afterward.) The teabaggers created Bush amnesia within two years. And so on.

By contrast, Democrats are always individually and collectively responsible -- forever -- for every real or imagined sin committed in living memory by Democrats, liberals, or left-wing radicals, from Weatherman bombings to alleged fiscal irresponsibility (pay no attention to those balanced Clinton budgets).

So what will the Beltway do if the voters decide that they like Social Security just fine and Obama gives Perry a thumpin'? Well, we've seen what happens when the public sides with a Democrat despised by the Beltway, because Clinton won in '96 and Democrats gained seats in the impeachment year of '98. I recall that after '96 the press decided that Bob Dole was a delightful and honorable gentleman who really should have won. And the response to the '98 election results, to Clinton's acquittal, and to his continued popularity was to act as if it all never happened, and to wait until the 2000 campaign and the delicious opportunity to get payback by siding with America's Beer Buddy against Gore. Newt who? All Bush had to do to avoid getting any Gingrich on him was to say "compassionate conservative" a few times.

That's how it's going to work if Rick Perry becomes America's Carl Paladino -- the Beltway will just pretend it never happened and wait for the next repackaging of Republicans, which will happen almost instantly. (Jeb Bush/Nikki Haley 2016!) All the retooled 'Pubs will have to do is avoid a few obvious markers of the previous iteration -- no conspiracy theories, no teabags, though Fed-bashing and the flat tax and eliminating the EPA will probably be mainstream by then. All will be forgiven.