Monday, July 07, 2014


For years, the mainstream press has been in denial about the true extent of the Republican Party's insanity. When the insanity is acknowledged, it's ascribed to just one particular faction of the party, or assumed to be a waning phenomenon. At New York magazine over the weekend, Jonathan Chait made the latter argument, pointing to Marco Rubio as the poster child for the new, plays-well-with-others, post-insanity GOP:
Last week, Marco Rubio delivered a speech outlining his economic agenda, and it was widely hailed as the cutting-edge statement of "reform conservatism," an intra-Republican movement that is also the subject of a nearly 7,000-word feature in Sunday's New York Times Magazine. Neither the speech, nor the profile, nor the thousands of other words written about this movement provides a clear explanation about what the Republican agenda would actually look like should the "reformicon" takeover succeed....

Yet to attempt to define the agenda for what it says about itself is to miss the far more significant message lying in what it does not say: that Barack Obama's agenda poses a dire threat to the fabric of American life, that a reversal must be sweeping in its scoping and undertaken immediately. The movement's true contribution lies in its challenge to Republican apocalypticism.
Rubio, as Chait notes, used to call Obama a "left-wing strongman"; now his rhetoric is dialed down a bit:
He deplores economic stagnation in terms no more stringent than those used by Democrats themselves. ("Millions go to sleep each night overcome with the sense that they are one bad break from financial ruin.") Rubio's dismissal of Obama -- "the path of the old and tired ideas of big government -- this path will never lead us to that better future" -- is several steps up from "left-wing strongman." Or consider Rubio's take on health care: "Obamacare is a disaster, but the answer is not to simply return to the way things were before it." The hyperbolic characterization is there, but it has a rote quality -- Rubio confines it to the predicate of the sentence before proceeding to the main point, which is that repeal alone will not do.
To Chait, this is a long way from Glenn Beck-ism, which, in Chait's view, was the old GOP's style:
Glenn Beck's moment of maximum influence already passed several years ago. But Beck was merely the most comic incarnation of a pervasive Republican alarm. The unhinged versions of this sensibility held that Obama had launched a sinister ideological assault on the Constitution and American freedom, perhaps in the name of Islamism, or socialism, or, somehow, both. The hinged version tended to fasten onto touchstones like Greece, hyperinflation, and looming fiscal catastrophe. The whole Republican worldview has been a series of furious scrawlings on mental chalkboards.
Rubio, according to Chait, has pointedly rejected the Beck chalkboard. So how's that working out for Rubio?

Well, let's look at the numbers from this past March's CPAC straw poll:
Libertarian darling Rand Paul won the Washington Times/Conservative Political Action Conference straw poll on Saturday, taking 31 percent of the vote in the multicandidate field. Ted Cruz came in a distant second place with 11 percent. Ben Carson came in third, registering in the single digits.

Marco Rubio suffered the biggest drop in his numbers, going from 23 percent in 2013 to 6 percent of the vote this year, a percentage that puts him in 7th place.
Or last month's Republican Leadership Conference straw poll:
In a GOP straw poll of possible 2016 presidential contenders taken last week, Ted Cruz once again came out on top, while moderate Republicans such as Jeb Bush and Marco Rubio did not fare as well....

Cruz led the pack in the conference's straw poll with just over 30%, followed by conservative activist Dr. Ben Carson with 29%. Sen. Rand Paul from Kentucky came in third with a little more than 10%....

Among the Republicans skipping the conference, were former Florida Governor Bush and current Sen. Rubio, both moderates. The two fared much worse in the straw poll, coming in seventh and eighth at 4% and 3%, respectively....
(You could argue that Rubio would have done better if he'd spoken at the confab, but Ben Carson and Rand Paul didn't show up either.)

Or last October's Values Voter Summit straw poll:
Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) and House Budget Committee chairman Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI), the GOP's most recent vice presidential candidate, finished with a combined total of less than 10 percent of the vote in the Family Research Council (FRC) Values Voter Summit straw poll.

Rubio finished in fifth place with 5 percent of the vote, while Ryan finished in sixth place with 4 percent of the vote....

Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) finished overwhelmingly in first place, taking in 42 percent of the straw poll's vote. Dr. Ben Carson, an ardent opponent of Obamacare, and former Pennsylvania Senator Rick Santorum, a social conservative, finished tied for second place with 13 percent of the vote each....
And if you don't think straw polls are a good measure, look at the Real Clear Politics poll averages, which show Rubio mired in 6th place in the GOP field.

Chait wants to believe that GOP "apocalypticism" is a thing of the past -- but as I type this, the lead item at Fox Nation is a Washington Times op-ed by Wesley Pruden arguing that the recent influx of young immigrants from Central America is a deliberate consequence of evil Barack Obama's desire for a "fundamental transformation" of America:
... Mr. Obama promised in 2008 that he intended to transform America, and he is well on his way....

Making the United States over into a Third World country is exactly what this president is about. He is of the Third World. He spent his formative years in the Third World, and when his mother, obsessed with the Third World, brought him back to America, he sought out the company of those who dreamed of making America over into the world's largest welfare state, a France writ large, with Velveeta instead of Camembert. He and his Chicago cohort of potheads, "community organizers" and dreamers of fuzzy dreams entertained themselves with fantasies of how they would one day transform the land of the free and the home of the brave into a nation worthy of taking its rightful place among the nations of the Third World.

... once the transformation of America is complete, and there's not much difference between Indiana and El Salvador, or between San Francisco and Honduras, the invasions will cease. America will no longer be the stuff of the dreams of "the huddled masses, yearning to be free." Nobody will want to come here, because it will be no better than the miserable places they would leave behind. We have seen the Obama future, and it doesn't work.
In the Glenn Beck passage quoted above, Chait links to a Dinesh D'Souza book when he's talking about "unhinged" conservatives whose worldview is seemingly passing from the scene. But here's Pruden sounding exactly like D'Souza in describing Obama as a man of the Third World, and here's Fox catapulting that propaganda -- all while D'Souza himself is given airtime on ABC to promote his apocalyptic new "documentary" (and to declare Hillary Clinton a dangerous Alinskyite radical in apocalyptic terms).

Sorry, Jonathan, but the GOP's past insanity is not dead -- it's not even past.


Victor said...

Their insanity is growing, not abating.

As long as the base consists of a majority of rabid loons, the Republican politicians will have to keep playing to that audience.

W. Hackwhacker said...

More evidence proving your point: the recently-passed platform of the Texas Republican Party (Hedrik Hertzberg has a chilling summary in the July 1 New Yorker). We have met the Republican fringe, and it's no longer the fringe.

Steve M. said...

Absolutely. And the chief publicist for Texas Republicanism, Rick Perry, is regarded as only the second-wingnuttiest possible presidential candidate from his state.