Furthermore, the loss of both Congress and the White House left a power vacuum in a party accustomed to top-down management. At this point Newt Gingrich is what passes for a sober, reasonable elder statesman of the G.O.P. And he has no authority: Republican voters ignored his call to support a relatively moderate, electable candidate in New York’s special Congressional election.Krugman throws in the requisite reference to Richard Hofstadter's "Paranoid Style," a derivation of Theodor Adorno's "Authoritarian Personality" -- leftist psychobabble that was risibly false when Bill Buckley debunked it in Up From Liberalism a half-century ago.
Real power in the party rests, instead, with the likes of Rush Limbaugh, Glenn Beck and Sarah Palin (who at this point is more a media figure than a conventional politician). Because these people aren’t interested in actually governing, they feed the base’s frenzy instead of trying to curb or channel it. So all the old restraints are gone. . . .
The Adorno/Hofstadter/Krugman thesis amounts to an assertion that anyone who opposes liberal policies or criticizes liberal politicians must be insane. This pre-emptive conclusion then justifies a search for evidence -- Krugman cites a sign at last Thursday's Capitol rally -- from which proceeds the argument that what Republicans need to do is to become more like Democrats.
Krugman's description of Dede Scozzafava as "a relatively moderate, electable candidate" is either a lie or a delusion, and either way amounts to a liberal Democrat seeking to dictate who qualifies as an "acceptable" Republican candidate.
Nevertheless, Krugman manages accidentally to bump into an important fact when he says that the GOP had become "accustomed to top-down management" during the Bush administration. The weakening of the party's grassroots support -- clearly in evidence during the 2006 and 2008 election cycles -- was the natural result of the Rove/Mehlman attempt to control the party from Washington.
If all the important decisions are made at GOP headquarters, why should the grassroots get involved in the process? This is what inspired the Not One Red Cent movement. The National Republican Senatorial Committee's decision to anoint Charlie Crist in the Florida primary was the typical "top-down management" move, orchestrated by the same sort of party insiders who picked Scozzafava in NY23. Such insider manipulations are undemocratic and harmful to the vitality of the Republican Party.
Naturally, Krugman sees the conservative grassroots uprising as a dangerous, scary phenomenon -- "the takeover of the Republican Party by the irrational right is no laughing matter" -- as if there was no cause for concern in the Democratic Party having been taken over by the disciples of Bill Ayers, Saul Alinsky and Rev. Jeremiah Wright.
Any authentic grassroots movement will inevitably involve expressions of populist sentiment that shock elitists. The less-than-ideal phrasing of a few protest signs or the occasional wacky utterance of a talk-radio host, however, does not mean that populists are dangerous or demented. Just because the grievances of the citizenry are sometimes expressed in uncouth terms does not make those grievances any less legitimate. And conservative grievances are no less legitimate than liberal grievances.