Sunday, May 17, 2009

'Fever Swamp' Memo to A.J. Strata and Other 'Centrist, Sane' GOP Losers

Listen, buddy, when you go to pick a fight, it's best to know who you're picking a fight with. And it may help to know what you're actually fighting about:
We have a choice on whether there should be a centrist, sane and effective opposition to the liberal Democratic policies in DC that are destroying our country’s economic system. A centrist coalition which can support our President when he makes good decisions, as he has done on Iraq, Afghanisatan and FISA, and hopefully as he will do in the end with GITMO and the terrorists detainees. A centrist and sane opposition that can win seats and influence the decisions of the day.
The "Not One Red Cent" rebellion is not about Charlie Crist. It's not about any one issue or even really about conservatives-vs.-moderates. It's about a Republican "leadership" that has spent the past few years destroying the grassroots of the GOP. However, your idea of a "centrist coalition" as the basis for revitalizing the Republican Party is a non-starter, for several reasons:
  • In terms of issues, you're focused on foreign policy -- "Iraq, Afghanistan, FISA . . . terrorist detainees" -- on which Obama has deftly triangulated. That he has thereby sold out his Nutroots supporters is an illustrative irony about the nature of coalition politics which would make an interesting digression. I now merely note it.
  • What is the "centrist" position on inherently divisive issues? Is there some sort of Solomonic split-the-difference compromise position between Perez Hilton and Carrie Prejean, between SEIU and Club for Growth, between NARAL and National Right to Life?
  • The argument for a "centrist" GOP implies that the Republican Party has lost support because it is, or was, too "far right." Evidence is lacking for that supposition. The congressional defeats of 2006 were primarily a result of an energized anti-war movement driving the Democrat vote at a time when Iraq was on the brink of chaos. Meanwhile, the Republicans were tarred by the Abramoff and Foley scandals, and the GOP base was de-energized by the McCain-Kennedy amnesty bill. The blame for Republican defeat in 2008 can be laid nowhere else except squarely at the feet of John McCain.
  • Regardless of how many votes the GOP gets among moderates, there is no useful political energy there. Having spent a good bit of time studying independent "swing" voters, I can tell you that their main characteristic is political disengagement. They are ill-informed about current events, don't follow the news in any depth, and their conceptions of political ideology are superficial and incoherent. Lacking any firm political commitments, swing voters are extremely vulnerable to bandwagon psychology, tending to vote for whichever candidate they perceive as the likely winner. Swing voters don't turn out for primaries or special elections, and don't usually vote in mid-terms.
Attempting to re-build the Republican Party as a "centrist coalition" would require ignoring the solid core of the GOP's grassroots conservative support, and instead allowing mercurial "swing" voters -- non-participants in the political process except on Election Day every four years -- to set the agenda.

This won't work, because it is based on a fundamental misunderstanding of "swing" voters. They didn't sit down in October 2008 and compare the party platforms, or analyze the various policy proposals of McCain and Obama. They turned on their TVs and saw a young articulate candidate (who vaguely reminded them of the Allstate Insurance spokesman) debating a short, grumpy, old bald guy.

Guess what? The old bald guy lost!

Did "issues" have anything to do with this? Well, if issues matter, John McCain certainly didn't help himself by coming down on the wrong side of the Bush bailout:
As with immigration reform in 2006 and 2007, McCain's pro-bailout stance made him the most prominent advocate of an unpopular proposal.
Why is it that "centrist" Republicans have such an inerrant instinct for supporting the losing side of every issue? And need I remind you, A.J. Strata, that you said "Bravo!" to that idiot move? (Whereas I said, "Holy crap!")

How, then, do you now claim to speak for an "effective opposition to the liberal Democratic policies in DC that are destroying our country’s economic system"? Hell's bells, Ron Paul has spent years warning about "policies in DC that are destroying our country’s economic system," back when it was the Bush administration pushing those policies -- and all Ron Paul ever got from you "centrists" was scorn and ridicule.

Where were the "centrists" while the Bush administration was pushing through the Ted Kennedy-approved No Child Left Behind idiocy? Where were the "centrists" when Republican leadership was twisting arms to approve the Medicare prescription drug entitlement?
Even if the legislation serves the short-term political interests of Republicans, it will create policy and political woes for the GOP for years to come, because it fails to address the program's fundamental flaws.
-- David Gratzer, M.D.
National Review, Nov. 24, 2003
Bad policy is bad politics. And bad politics usually involves listening to the "experts" and ignoring the voters. Whatever happened to the "Spirit of '94," when Republican leaders stirred the grassroots in the political uprising that put Congress under GOP control for the first time in 1994?

Fifteen years ago, Newt Gingrich and his colleagues went out of their way to make themselves accessible to the people who elected them, regularly holding town-hall meetings with their constituents and inviting radio talk-show hosts to broadcast from the Capitol.

But then Team Bush came to Washington and everything turned upside down. Instead of politicians listening to the people who elected them, the Republican Party became a hierarchical, top-down, control-oriented system in which the political "experts" called the shots, the grassroots were ignored, and everybody was supposed to repeat the RNC talking points issued from Washington. This top-down method of politics is a surefire formula for destroying grassroots enthusiasm.

The Taint of Bushism
As I've said before, Republicans are now painfully re-learning a lesson they should have learned the first time: "Lie down with Bushes, wake up with Democrats." And it is perhap not coincidental that the NRSC chose Jeb Bush's Florida as the battleground for its latest assault on the party's grassroots. This "kingmaker" move from Washington has all the hallmarks of the highhanded Bush family style. (Read my lips: NO MORE BUSHES!)

If Charlie Crist wins the GOP primary in 2010, he will lose the general election. Crist is covered in the taint of Bushism, and if there is one thing Nov. 4, 2008, made clear, it's that the American people are sick and tired of Bush-brand Republicanism: Sound-bite rhetoric and patriotic-sounding speeches in support of an incoherent mishmash of bad policy.

America is fed up with that crap. Barack Obama, Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid are the beneficiaries of Bush-era Republican failure, and there is no political calculus in favor of a go-along-to-get-along "centrist" approach to the present situation.

You say, A.J. Strata, that you are an ex-Democrat who switched during Ronald Reagan's first term. Well, I was such a yellow-dog loyalist that it wasn't until after I'd voted for Bill Clinton in 1992 that I became an ex-Democrat.

In the process of becoming an ex-Democrat, however, I did something else: I became a conservative. Having been burned and betrayed by the party of my birth, I was certainly not going to embrace an alternative unexamined. So in my 30s, I went back and read all the conservative books I'd ignored in my youth.

One of the first conservative books I read was Bill Buckley's Up From Liberalism, in which he examined -- and rejected -- the "Modern Republican" agenda that prevailed in the Eisenhower-era GOP. It was Buckley's rejection of that Laodicean "centrism" that proved pivotal in the course of the subsequent epoch in world history: The Sharon Statement, the Goldwater campaign, the Reagan revolution, and the collapse of the "Evil Empire."

Centrist Geeks at the Conservative Prom
At every step along the way, the conservative movement was viciously criticized by "centrist" Republicans as too extreme, too radical, too rowdy and uncouth for mainstream acceptance. The critics were all wrong then, and they're all wrong now. And A.J. Strata has got nothing better to do than to rail against Glenn Beck:
Not some right wing drama queen show where mad conspiracy theories fly about memos from DHS, or forged birth certificates, or the second coming of the Nazi Hitler youth. . . .
Y'know, A.J., I've noticed something about you "sane, centrist" types: You're always ranting against any conservative who is actually popular with Republicans. Glenn Beck, Ann Coulter, Rush Limbaugh, Michelle Malkin, Mark Levin, et cetera.

You never go off on some unknown think-tank analyst, some obscure magazine writer, some third-tier talk-radio host. But let someone gain real success for saying things that tens of millions of grassroots conservatives believe, and suddenly the "centrists" start whining.

You're like the geek at the dance, complaining that the prom queen and the quarterback are so popular. And so you sneer:
These people are going to grab their marbles and sit home in a snit. That leaves a window of opportunity for all those conservative leaning centrists . . .
We have the Old and Busted GOP of the far right, but we can now create the New GOP, far from the right wing fevered swamps. Especially if the denizens of the swamps wish to hide out there in their echo chambers, ranting as the world passes them by. One side has to be the Phoenix, and one side the ashes. Will see whether fringe can survive over the center in a democracy.
A.J. Strata, heroically offering himself as pseudonymous leader of a pseudo-movement! No bold colors in your banner, only pale pastels. "Let them go their way," as Reagan said. And let's hear a few "fever swamp" words from that notorious right-wing extremist:
I don't know about you, but I am impatient with those Republicans who after the last election rushed into print saying, "We must broaden the base of our party" -- when what they meant was to fuzz up and blur even more the differences between ourselves and our opponents. . . .
A political party cannot be all things to all people. It must represent certain fundamental beliefs which must not be compromised to political expediency, or simply to swell its numbers.
What A.J. Strata wants is not the party of Reagan, but the party of the respectable Republican elite, who never say or do anything that might disturb the liberal ascendancy. They imagine they can win a political conflict without ever risking anything in the fight, and therefore they always advise pre-emptive compromise: Give the liberals want they want, or you might make them angry!

Invariably, these "centrists" heap scorn on the "far right," a term they apply in the same haphazard fashion as the liberals do, meaning anyone who expects Republicans to vote differently from Democrats.

The "fringe" upon which A.J. Strata so gleefully urinates is at least as large as Rush Limbaugh's audience. It is at least as large as Michelle Malkin's 8 million monthly visitors.

It is this same "fringe" that has put Mark Levin's Liberty and Tyranny atop the bestseller list, the same "fringe" that turned out hundreds of thousands nationwide for Tea Party protests (at which A.J. Strata predictably sneered), the same "fringe" that always accomplishes anything meaningful to organize and lead opposition to the liberal agenda.

Well, the dogs may bark, but the caravan moves on. If A.J. Strata wants to sit around whining on the sidelines, that's his choice. But if anybody thinks they're going to stop Obama with that kind of defeatist, defensive, me-too-ism -- "We're Republicans, but we're really not all bad!" -- they're deluding themselves. That way lies the oblivion of irrelevance.

UPDATE: A "Megan McCain Republican" -- ouch, that's gonna leave a mark.


  1. Well said!

    The point of Not One Red Cent! as I see it, and as Doug Hagin posted there today, is that the voters should pick their own candidates, not the hierarchy of Cornyn and company. It is their job to support the candidate AFTER the primaries.

    At least on FOX today McConnell refused to endorse a candidate in the Kentucky race, even though Cornyn seems to be trying to force Bunning out.

    Let the voters decide.

    I don't think all those people that went to Tea Parties WANT to be dictated to; I got the sense that they (we) know what we believe and are willing to stand up for it: we are not centrists and not moderates.

  2. Its about time someone said something. I'm starting to get tired of Strata. I started reading him during the election. I actually dropped a few old blogs and picked up a few new ones, Strata's being one of them.
    Funny thing, LGF is one i dropped to read Strata. Now A.J. is about to join Charles on the dropped list.

  3. A swing and a hit, going, going, going, GONE!!!

  4. I see the GOP's position at this time as comparable to that of a baseball team that's a few years down the road from its last championship season. It's been in the second division these past two years. Its stars have aged out or are close to it. The overall energy level of the club is depressed. The front office is dithering over whether to hope the problem is mainly morale, and can be solved by firing the manager and the coaches; whether to sink money into expensive free agents with records of performance, in the hope of "buying" a near-term championship; or whether to invest heavily in the farm system, trusting in the loyalty of its fans and the soundness of a long-term development strategy.

    The difference is that the Republican Party can't buy any free agents; politics isn't like that. Nor will firing the managers have any perceptible effect by itself. Salvation lies in the farm system: county and state organizations still alight with the fire of conservative principle.

    Unfortunately, much of the decision-making power in this matter lies in the hands of the "managers and coaches:" persons desperate to 1) avoid blame for recent Republican debacles and 2) retain the power, perquisites, and prestige that goes with being a major-party kingmaker. How to wrest control of the party from them is a problem yet to be solved.

  5. Stacy, I've added the Not One Red Cent ad at my blog. I also have a great cartoon there (I found on the web) that illustrates the problem of "moderate" Republicans. Feel free to copy and use it if you like.

  6. You said:

    "I can tell you that their main characteristic is political disengagement. They are ill-informed about current events, don't follow the news in any depth, and their conceptions of political ideology are superficial and incoherent."

    Exactly. I have been saying this for a long time. The Moderate Myth is that the Republican Party needs to appeal to the middle, and the right will simply follow along because there is no place else for them to do. Meanwhile, those moderates have no involvement in politics beyond "24" or American Idol.

    When the party elite insist upon squishy centrists instead of allowing the poor dumb primary voters to select the candidates of their choice, the party is simply too out of touch to remain in power.

  7. "Laodicean," good word. Thanks.

    I know of two kinds of swing voters. One simply votes for the more likable, personable candidate. Or at least the one that the cool kids all like.

    The other type of swing voter says that he looks at the proposals and policies of each candidate and balances them. He takes every statement at face value and as presented without questioning whether such a thing is even possible. In other words, he's an idiot.

    But, idiots and children get to vote to and there's no reason to gratuitously offend them. The "Centrist Republicans" have nothing to offer either type of swing voter that a genuine conservative doesn't. All the centrist can do is alienate conservatives and demean the party in the eyes of the rest of the voters.

    For me the ultimate expression of the centrist Republican was the 1996 debate between Gore and Kemp. Gore, being the smarmy, conniving rat that he is, started off by flattering Kemp, praising him for being sensitive and active on racial issues unlike the rest of his party. Jack Kemp graciously accepted the "compliment." There is the soul of the "centrist" he wants to be "the good Republican." Even when they do win. Hell, especially when they win they damage the party and the conservative cause.

  8. The blame for Republican defeat in 2008 can be laid nowhere else except squarely at the feet of John McCain....with exceptionally solid assistance from Feckless George, who spent the Treasury damn near to oblivion.

  9. Right on R.S.

    I love watching the rightnet get the message out that the party of asses is waiting for these anti-republican republicans.

    Strata! What a quisling farce of a thinker!

    Let shamelessly linkwhore to when we threw sand on that turd to keep the stink down:

  10. Good punk-smacking Stacy, and I can hardly think of a more deserving target than AJ Strata.

    He should change the name of his site to the Wuss-O-Sphere - but only with the approval of liberals he so desperately seeks first attained.

  11. Dear Mr. McCain,

    You are so right about the future of the party! If we elected a majority of Olympia Snow Republicans to the Senate, would we have a smaller, less intrusive, more affordable federal government? If not, what is the point? Be a party of principle, educate the electorate and wait for them to vote out the guys they put in office.

  12. Look, I want to know just what "issues" the GOP has moved so far to the right on?

    I mean, all these self-proclaimed Reagan Democrats keep saying the GOP has moved too far to the right but, they won't say on which issues. Put up or shut up. 'Cause right now you're just throwing that canard out there as cover fire for your pending announcement, a la Sullivan, that you're going back to your roots and are going to vote D without all the ugly necessity of intellectual honesty and consistency.

    "Waaa! The GOP moved too far right--I'm voting Dem!"