Monday, February 27, 2012


Lee Siegel tells us (at the Daily Beast) that Mitt Romney is doing a better job at threading the needle on his way to the GOP nomination than most people are giving him credit for. There's actually a case to be made for this proposition -- how the hell has Romney remained in the top tier at all? -- and I'm willing to hear Siegel out. But before Siegel gets to his point, he says this:

Why is anyone surprised at the instability of the Republican race? The Republican Party is now mostly a movement. It's a party only in its upper echelons. You have a relatively small group of Republicans who, thanks to the amplifications of cable and the Internet, and thanks to the liberal media's pornographic obsession with the hard right, have been wielding a disproportionate influence over the GOP. You have primaries in which traditionally only the hardcore faithful vote -- and sometimes, in an open primary, Democrats out to make some trouble. It is hardly a shocker that the most fanatical candidate -- first Gingrich, now Santorum -- is going to come out on top for a while. There is nothing wild or astonishing about it.

"The Republican Party is now mostly a movement" -- I have no argument with that statement in isolation, because the GOP is, in fact, now a mass of angry, fist-waving delusional lunatics, with a moderate remnant that's just large enough to give Romney a shot at the nomination. But Siegel follows this up by telling us that the party isn't "mostly" the movement you and I and all sensible people think it is -- he says that "a relatively small group of Republicans" have disproportionate power" ... and it's our fault! Well, not yours and mine, but the "liberal media," out of a "pornographic obsession" (and yes, I know that Siegel really ought to avoid talking about pornographic obsessions), in cahoots with cable TV and the evil Internet (the latter being the White Whale toward which Siegel directed his Ahab-like rage in his 2008 book, Against the Machine).

So, wait: the "liberal media" actually makes more hard-right lunatics vote in primaries? By writing about them? Liberal journalism is like sowing the dragon's teeth -- wingnut warriors arise from earth wielding "NObama" signs, then head to the polls? How does this work?

Oh, and lunatics win Republican primaries in part because "sometimes, in an open primary, Democrats out to make some trouble"? Seriously? The evidence being what? Kos's call for a pro-Santorum vote, which came twelve days ago, which means it's affected no results in any GOP contests that have concluded, and which was immediately denounced by two of Kos's own co-bloggers? Why are we supposed to believe this even could work? Because Rush Limbaugh's Operation Chaos pushed Hillary Clinton across the finish line ahead of Barack Obama four years ago?


Siegel's conclusion about Romney, ultimately, is this:

By performing his aloofness from and contempt for the radical right, even as he fakes solidarity with it, Romney is doing exactly what he needs to do. He is keeping the radical right close to him for the general election by seeming to bow to its power, even as he is signaling to everyone else that he knows how miserably inadequate the support of the radical right will be in the general election.

Translation: Romney is successfully signaling to us that his wooden recitation of right-wing talking points is phony -- but the wingnut rubes are too stupid to get it. He's still managing to keep this rube voting bloc "close to him" by "fak[ing] solidarity with it."

Which doesn't explain why the rubes aren't voting for him. Oh, yeah, I forgot: they're not voting for him because they're not really a significant bloc, and they only seem so because the liberal media and cable and the Net have inflated their numbers. Which, um, doesn't explain why Romney would even bother to try to mollify this chimerical, "miserably inadequate" group in the first place. Oh, yeah: the creators of these spectral voters still manage to get them to vote in large numbers.

But only in the primaries.

Just trying to follow this logic makes my head hurt.

(X-posted at Booman Tribune.)


Monty said...

Nice takedown of Siegel. I thought his conclusions about Romney equally bizarre; is he championing cynicism?

Tom Hilton said...

What I want to know is, what would Sprezzatura think? I really miss that guy.