Monday, March 08, 2010

The GOP Coalesces Around Crazy With Its 'Freedom From Responsibility' Plank

No doubt about it. The Democrats will lose some seats in the November mid-term elections. This is because the majority party often does, while the populist, anti-incumbent vitriol out on the hustings is especially toxic even if most Tea Partiers have been outted as upscale white men who should have little to worry about so long as their health insurance plan still covers Viagra scripts. But the Democrats have a secret weapon that I predict will help stanch their bleeding -- the Republican Party.

The latest evidence that the Grand Old Party is still bouncing around in the post-2008 election rubber room instead of blazing new policy trails comes in the form of a leaked Republican National Committee fundraising document that borrows an oft-used play from the Bush-Cheney playbook: Fear mongering, in this case asserting that Barack Obama has a socialist agenda, caused the economic crisis that he inherited, and so on and so forth.

This ups the party's Just Say No mantra to stratospheric levels because any Republican who dares vote with the Democrats, whether it's on health-care reform or balancing the budget, will be accused of selling out.

Conservative Republican blogger David Frum calls this "Freedom from responsibility," but he is being too kind to a party that has worked assiduously to become less than the sum of its parts.

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One of the reasons that the GOP is in so much trouble is that its shriveled base is increasingly elderly and even party members who don't put their teeth in a glass before turning in at night are overwhelmingly from Southern states.

But while the South may have become the party's spiritual home, it has to attract voters who do not identify with the region's constipated values. And so paradoxically, the party's most direct route to returning to its broader base of the 1990s is at the expense of its most loyal followers.

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Maryland has a rich Republican tradition (I'm not tawking about you, Michael Steele), but it has slid inexorably into minor party status in the past decade. So how does it begin to get its electoral mojo back?

Certainly not by nominating Eric Wargotz to take on five-term U.S. Senator Barbara Mikulski.

While Wargotz comes thisclose to suggesting that Barack Obama should be impeached, he is certain of one thing about the prezdent: "I do not believe he was born in the United States."
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There is no question at this point that Sarah Palin, whom even many Republicans think is a wackadoodle, is unelectable.

That by my lights leaves Mitt Romney and Mike Huckabee at the top of a very short list. (Indiana Governor Mitch Daniels is too smart to run; check back in 2016.) But as we saw during the 2008 primary season, Huckabee has little appeal beyond that Southern base while Romney is a resume without a man who has managed the feat of making John McCain, whose serial campaign-trail blunders could fill a book, seem smart.

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This rampant dysfunctionality pretty much leaves the Republican Party with but one path away from irrelevance: If Obama screws up badly enough it then stands a chance. The problem with this scenario, of course, is that the GOP's short-term fate is effectively out of its own hands.

This problem is double-edged. The party's worship of Ronald Reagan, the last truly popular Republican president, borders of sycophancy, but even he could not be nominated in 2012 because of his political "impurities." Oh, and Reagan had approval ratings below Obama's after his first year in office.

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