Sunday, March 11, 2012


Ross Douthat would like you to know that the Republican Party is actually very, very rational:

... The longer the primary campaign drags on, the more its noise and nastiness are being cited as proof that Republican America has gone crazy.

...Let's stipulate that this has not been the most edifying of primary seasons.

... But against this backdrop, the party's voters have behaved remarkably responsibly. Confronted with a flip-flopping, gaffe-prone front-runner whom almost nobody -- conservative or liberal -- finds very appealing, they have methodically sifted through the alternatives, considering and then discarding each in turn.

And left as a front-runner a flip-flopping, gaffe-prone front-runner whom almost nobody -- conservative or liberal -- finds very appealing, particularly the general electorate. Wow, that very rational -- if, y'know, you're hoping to win the general election.

... A crazy party might have chosen Cain or Bachmann as its standard-bearer. The Republican electorate dismissed them long before the first ballots were even cast.

Except that the crazy party didn't reject Herman Cain because he was crazy. The crazy party rejected Herman Cain because he got caught hitting on subordinates. And the crazy party rejected Michele Bachmann mostly because Herman Cain and Rick Perry came along and presented crazy ideas in a more appealing fashion than crazy Michele Bachmann did.

A crazy party wouldn't have cared how Rick Perry debated so long as he promised to visit Texas justice on the Democratic Party.

Here, Douthat cites one huge reason Perry was rejected while completely ignoring the other huge reason. Yes, the base turned away from Perry because he debated poorly -- but the base also turned away from him because he didn't hate brown people enough, the evidence being his willingness to allow the children of undocumented immigrants to receive a tuition break in the state higher education system. That was unforgivable, and was the exact opposite of "Texas justice" in the base's eyes.

... A crazy party would have either elevated Ron Paul to the nomination or damned him as a heretic.

Well, the crazy party mostly hates Ron Paul, for the simple reason that he doesn't want to kill all the Muslims in the word for Jesus. Young people, independents, and a surprising number of military veterans who've actually been tasked with killing all the Muslims in the world for Jesus support Paul -- but the rest of the desk warriors and keyboard kommandos in the party despise him.

... A crazy party would have nominated the candidate who offered the most implausible policy pledges -- Cain's 9-9-9 tax plan, or Tim Pawlenty's justly ridiculed promise of 5 percent growth a year, or Perry's flat tax.

Is Douthat implying that Republican voters rejected Pawlenty because of his tax plan? Republican voters rejected Pawlenty (at least according to polls; he didn't have the guts to stay in the race long enough to enter a contest) because he didn't fire anyone up and, more to the point, seemed like someone who was too wussy to slay the liberal Antichrist. And let's back up: the reason a lot of the other candidates have been rejected is that liberals started laughing at them. That was true of Trump as soon as President Obama released his long-form birth certificate; that was true of Cain as soon as we learned about his sexual-harasser past; that was true of Perry as soon as we learned his brain rarely if ever fired on all cylinders; that was true of Bachmann ... well, it was always true of Bachmann, but the righties noticed it was true when she started claiming to have met an HPV vaccine poisoning victim we all knew didn't exist.

... Yes, Republican voters probably should have given Jon Huntsman more consideration, and South Carolina voters in particular shouldn't have rewarded Newt Gingrich's snarling, preening, media-bashing debate performances with an upset victory. But that irruption of folly came and went....

Except it "came and went," in the case of Gingrich, in large part because he stopped having opportunities to continue delivering his "snarling, preening, media-bashing debate performances." (And as for Huntsman, base voters still think he's a thoughtful moderate -- and still hate him for it.)

Even the elevation of Rick Santorum as the last not-Romney standing testifies to the Republican electorate's relative sobriety. For all his follies and failings, Santorum is a more plausible presidential candidate than most of this season's alternatives -- more experienced than Cain and Bachmann, more substantive and eloquent than Perry, more principled than Gingrich. As a two-term senator from a swing state with a record of legislative accomplishments, he's far closer to a right-wing Howard Dean than a right-wing Jesse Jackson.

OK, yes -- it can be said that Santorum was a guy who could agree to compromise in Washington. But the people who are voting for him are voting for him in the hope that he'll make good on his promise never to make that mistake again, and the people who rejected him -- in Michigan, particularly, just after the last debate -- rejected him precisely because they'd just heard Mitt Romney tell them about how often he compromised.

... If the current race pitted Jeb Bush against, say, Mike Huckabee and Mitch Daniels, nobody would be talking about how the party has gone off the rails.

Assuming all three of them hadn't been driven to the back of the pack by Establishment-bashing candidates -- as Romney probably would have been if there'd been multiple A-list non-crazies, rather than just himself and the hapless Huntsman and Pawlenty.

... If it were being held two years hence, and featured Chris Christie, Bobby Jindal, Paul Ryan and Marco Rubio, the excitement on the Republican side would rival what the Democrats enjoyed in 2008....

Christie? Yeah, sure. But regarding the rest, Douthat obviously has the GOP electorate confused with the population of the Morning Joe green room.

Look, here's the deal: Romney is the front-runner -- barely -- because (a) he has more money than God to spend on negative ads targeting his Republican rivals, (b) a small remnant of the party is still not completely crazy, and (c) some base voters are certain in their heart of hearts that the crazy candidates and the Fox News hosts and the gods of talk radio are 100% right about everything but our demon-riddled, deluded, liberal-media-brainwashed populace just can't handle the truth, so a guy with a bit of moderation in his record is, sadly, the best True Patriots can hope to elect.

In other words, these people are still crazy. They'd still love to just plant Rush Limbaugh or Sarah Palin or Reagan's corpse in the Oval Office in a coup, with Allen West or Ann Coulter as the running mate. And maybe not even Coulter -- she likes Romney.

(X-posted at Booman Tribune.)

1 comment:

Danp said...

Douthat loses all credibility with this one. His "rational" heroes are more like little teeny boppers choosing their favorite mouseketeer (or whatever the modern equivalent is).