Sunday, October 07, 2012


Ross Douthat has come to the conclusion that the Republican Party is a party in flux, hungry for leadership and ready to be led by Mitt Romney, or at least last week's iteration of Mitt Romney:
The Republican Party has been effectively leaderless for almost six years, ever since the 2006 midterm elections made George W. Bush's lame-duck status official. John McCain was so mistrusted by conservatives that he probably would have felt like an interim figure even if he hadn't gone down to defeat in 2008, and after the general Republican rout that year, the party's public image was suddenly defined more by media personalities -- from Rush Limbaugh to Glenn Beck -- than by any of its elected officials.

The Limbaugh-Beck moment passed, but the vacuum remained -- and for most of his two years of campaigning, as a primary candidate and then as the Republican nominee, Mitt Romney conspicuously failed to fill it. He seemed content to take his party as he found it, and to conform rather than to lead: in the primaries because conformity was the safest way to reassure his critics, and in the general election because his campaign apparently believed that a generic Mr. Republican would be able to glide to victory in the fall.

That finally changed in the first presidential debate. In 90 prime-time minutes, the country had a glimpse of what our politics might look like if the Republican Party actually had a leader again.
What dreamworld is Douthat living in? "The Limbaugh-Beck moment passed"? The Beck moment may have passed -- although right-wingers seem as obsessed with George Soros and mythical black vote-fraud committers as they ever were when Beck was on Fox -- but the Limbaugh moment hasn't passed. In fact, the Limbaugh moment hasn't passed in more than twenty years.

Limbaugh's leadership is unchallenged, even post-Sandra Fluke -- but, more to the point, so is the leadership of Rupert Murdoch and Roger Ailes. If there seems to be a battle for the soul of the Republican Party, it's a battle within their souls: Do they want a party that proclaims undiluted, death-before-compromise right-wing lunacy, or do they want a party that intends to foist such lunacy on the public but doesn't fully show its hand while campaigning? Murdoch and Ailes aren't sure; that's why reporters told us they wanted an electable presidential candidate for 2012 while they were simultaneously celebrating the likes of Donald Trump and Herman Cain on Fox.

Douthat has concluded, on the basis of precisely zero evidence, that Mitt Romney is interested in something called "leadership" -- even though it's clear to any minimally perceptive observer that Mitt Romney is interested only in what will get Mitt Romney closer to his goals, whatever they may be:
What Romney executed on Wednesday night was not just a simple pivot to the center....

... this wasn't some sort of Sister Souljah moment, where Romney called out his fellow conservatives in order to curry favor with the center. Rather, what he did was clarify, elevate and translate. He clarified what kind of tax reformer he would be, by promising that revenue neutrality would take priority over sweeping cuts for the rich -- a premise that plenty of Republicans are already happy to accept.
Stop right there. Plenty of Republicans are already happy to accept that? Maybe plenty of Republicans in Douthat's Twitter timeline, but not plenty of Republicans in the real world.

Douthat gives a couple of other examples of Romney's debate deviations from boilerplate wingnuttery, then insists that the GOP is genuinely ready to hear this sort of thing, not merely that the party is ready to cheer on anyone who kicks a Democrat's butt, at least during and immediately after the butt-kicking, which says nothing about the GOP's ultimate policy goals:
... you can lead by channeling the base's passions in a constructive direction, and by reinterpreting the party's ideology to meet the challenges of the present day.

Indeed, the party may actually be ripe for such leadership. Cut through the Kabuki narratives on the contemporary right -- the grass roots versus the establishment, the True Conservatives versus the RINOs -- and you'll find that what conservatism actually stands for, issue by issue and policy by policy, is more up for grabs than at any point since the Reagan revolution.
Except it isn't. The tea party has won -- and if Douthat doesn't believe that, he should talk to a teabag congressman quoted by Robert Draper in a Times Magazine piece about Romney:
Should a president-elect Mitt Romney arrive in Washington with the apolitical C.E.O. orientation that he brought to the Massachusetts Statehouse in 2003 -- and with nothing in his record to suggest that he, any more than Obama, can change a political culture "from the inside" -- he will almost certainly encounter the same headwinds from the conservative flank of his party that seemed to blow him off course during his term as governor. After four years of Obama, the G.O.P. natives on Capitol Hill are restless. Their dutiful but fidgety optimism was bluntly expressed in a conversation I had with Rep. Raul Labrador of Idaho, a freshman, an outspoken Tea Party star and, like Romney, a Mormon. "Everything in Romney's background tells me he knows how to go into an organization that's not working and make it work," Labrador told me.

But to Labrador, a Romney presidency could "make it work" only by pursuing a resolutely rightward course. He warned: "If Romney comes in here and feels like he has to capitulate and govern from the middle of the road, not only will it be disheartening: I predict that you will see the conservatives in the House rise up. We've been pretty quiet -- everybody claims we've been rambunctious, but we've been pretty quiet. I think you'll see something different."
And I think you'll see Romney's so-called right-centrist "leadership" vanish into thin air. Ross Douthat will be shocked. No one with a clue will be.


Victor said...

"We've been pretty quiet -- everybody claims we've been rambunctious, but we've been pretty quiet. I think you'll see something different."

The last two years - THAT'S your idea of being quiet?

You didn't pass a jobs bill, you let the nation's credit rating take a hit, you did nothing about immigration - the ONLY things you did were legislate against women and the icky ladyparts and their rights.

I'd hate to see what this assholes idea of LOUD is!

All I know is, there will blood! And lots of it.

Tehanu said...

so is the leadership of Rupert Murdoch and Roger Ailes. If there seems to be a battle for the soul of the Republican Party, it's a battle within their souls...

Error: assumes facts not in evidence, as there is no proof whatsoever that Ailes and Murdoch have souls.