Wednesday, September 26, 2012


This Twitter exchange starts as a joke, but then Ross Douthat and Matt Yglesias get -- for want of a better word -- serious:

So this is the new argument for why the Republican presidential campaign looks like it was scripted by Andrew Breitbart's corpse? Because Romney isn't purist enough? If he'd been more purist, he could have been less purist as a candidate? So ... um ... maybe if the GOP had run a Michele Bachmann/Allen West ticket, there'd be calls for tax increases on the rich and comprehensive immigration reform, because they're so trusted by the crazy base that they'd inevitably feel really comfortable deviating from conservative correctness?

That's utterly ridiculous. Early in Rick Perry's campaign, it was believed that he was the real wingnut deal: Christianist, anti-government, anti-tax ... and yet he was attacked for offering an in-state tuition deal to undocumented immigrants, and that was the beginning of the end. Newt Gingrich lost credibility with the base for months after he opposed the Ryan budget's approach to Medicare, and was forced to recant. Rick Santorum got slammed for defending his vote in favor of Saint George W. Bush's No Child Left Behind law. ("Sometimes you take one for the team"? No, you don't -- you stay purer-than-thou or the base hates you.)

Elite pundits, please: There is no room for Republicans to maneuver. They must mollify the crazy base or suffer the consequences. The crazy base is going to demand absolute fealty as long as its members are alive and well and consuming Fox News and talk radio. No Republican will dare cross the base until the base withers away, and that won't be for quite a while.


Victor said...

The Republicans, at least in the near future, are faced with picking out the least crazy member of their asylum in national elections, in the hopes that somehow or other, like W in 2000, he/she can have enough appeal to the non-crazies to either win outright, or send the election to the SCOTUS - which, may no longer be a great strategy if Obama wins, at least one Conservative justice retires, or dies.

And until they nominate one of their most crazy members, one with unquestionable Conservative bona fides, and that person gets totally trounced, there's no incentive for them NOT to.

As long as the FOX and Rush business models for TV and radio continue to be viable, the Republican Party will continue to be crazy.
But how do you turn away from 'teh crazy?' and still keep some of your core?
I don't know the answer to that. Maybe someone smarter than I am, can figure this out.

White Hat said...

The Republican party can either "solidify rightward," as you assume, or it can split up. The former would be just a revival of the John Birch Society, which was pushed out of politics decades ago for perfectly pragmatic reasons - while the radical right will always take some districts, it doesn't have broad enough appeal to win the majority of elections nationwide.

A more pragmatic approach for Republicans who hope to win more often (and that IS job one!) is to co-opt some of the core message of the Tea Party, while distancing themselves from the nuttier aspects. John Boehner has attempted exactly that for the last 4 years.

In addition, while I think progressives tend to explain Romney's win in the GOP primaries as entirely due to the complete idiocy of his opponents, it's also true that the GOP ultimately selected "the guy who could win," the least radical of the bunch.

Only time will tell which faction wins out, but my money is on the guys with money, the ones who assemble a platform that campaign investors feel they can win with. The ones whose message conforms more to the largest part of the voters' bell curve.

In that scenario, the more rabid Tea Partiers like Allen West and Joe Walsh will get pushed out of the GOP entirely. In fact, that actually appears quite possible right now, in this election.