Monday, May 18, 2009

RINO-ism and the Demographics of Defeat

Maybe if "Not One Red Cent" can get the NRSC to pay attention, we can explain something about successful coalition-building, as opposed to the Republican elite's anti-grassroots strategy that yields headlines like this:

GOP Losses Span Nearly
All Demographic Groups
This is something that the Nutroots figured out in 2004: If the Democratic Party's liberal base were going to sit around passively while the out-of-touch party elite and the "expert" consultant class kept "reaching across the aisle" (and predictably losing) then they were on the superhighway to political irrelevance.

Nothing succeeds like success, and nothing fails like failure. A political party that is disloyal and disrespectful toward its core constituents, as the GOP was during the Bush/Mehlman era, will not attract new adherents. Who wants to sign up to be treated like a doormat?

The Bush-era GOP believed that its base would be satisfied with superficial gestures (e.g., the Terri Schiavo drama) and ignore the party leadership's pursuit of policies (e.g., McCain-Feingold, No Child Left Behind, Medicare Part D) which were directly at odds with the party's fundamental principles.

This perverse conception of one-way loyalty -- where the underlings are expected to show a loyalty toward the elite that the elite is never required to reciprocate -- is characteristic of any dysfunctional organization. "The beatings will continue until morale improves!"

It's bad enough when this sadistic mentality prevails in the workplace, but at least the demoralized workers have the incentive of a paycheck to keep them showing up to endure more abuse every day. It is impossible, however, to make this top-down, hierarchical, control-freak approach work in a voluntary association, such as a political organization.

The GOP Teke House
Success attracts, failure repulses. During the long ascendancy of the Republican Party (1980-2006), the reins of leadership gradually fell into the hands of people who were more interested in wielding power than in pursuing the limited-government principles that originally motivated the ascendancy.

So long as the GOP maintained the prestige of victory, it continually attracted new adherents eager to climb aboard the bandwagon, and the leadership could act like the officers of the most popular fraternity on campus: Admitting legacies, offering membership only to the most popular freshmen, playing favorites and remorselessly hazing the pledges, secure in the knowledge that aspiring members would suffer all manner of abuse to secure the privilege of boasting, "I am a Teke!"

This approach "worked" as long as (a) the general political landscape favored the GOP, and (b) Democrats were operating on the same basic plan. With the likes of Bob Shrum and Al From as the Democratic Party's "brain trust," Republicans could get away with all manner of tactical blunders and strategic blindness and still stand a reasonable chance of winning election. Rank-and-file Democrats became demoralized and began to accept their status as permanent losers. We now recall with an ironic smile how many liberals wet their pants at those 2004 "values voters" exit polls in Ohio.

But a few clever Democrats did not panic. They analyzed correctly the source of their woes -- the Establishment thinking that had insisted that John Kerry was a more viable presidential candidate than Howard Dean. If Dean had held on to win the 2004 nomination and then gotten beaten soundly, what happened afterwards might never have happened.

What happened was that the left-wing base installed Dean at the DNC and then set to work on a do-it-yourself grassroots approach to victory. The Nutroots recruited, vetted and funded their own candidates. They froze out the big-money consultants and tone-deaf D.C.-based "leaders" who had only led them to defeat after defeat.

Meanwhile, congressional Republicans were busy fumbling away Social Security reform, John McCain was pushing S.B. 2611., the Abramoff and Foley scandals were tainting Republicans and -- just for good measure -- "Heck of a job, Brownie!"

NRSC and Zarathustra
A sort of political Murphy's Law seemed to be in effect, so that naturally the Republican Party nominated as its 2008 standard-bearer the same "Maverick" who had done everything in his power to divide the GOP and alienate its grassroots. (Talk to some reporters who rode the 2000 "Straight Talk Express," if you want to understand the profound contempt John McCain has for the conservative rank-and-file.)

So when that little debacle had played out, and the GOP elite had finished blaming all its woes on conservatives, what happens next? In an open Senate primary in the key "swing" state of Florida, the NRSC endorses Charlie Crist over a promising young Hispanic candidate -- the exact sort of candidate who represents the kind of "outreach" the party elite have spent years telling us we should embrace.

Given this kind of "leadership," is it any wonder that a smart young man like Richard Spencer sees no hope, except to hope for the death of the GOP?
As Zarathustra teaches, that which is falling -- decaying, weakening, dying -- should also be pushed. Let's hope that one day, with its corruption, failure, and cowardice foaming up about its waist, the GOP will look up to the Ron Paul movement and shout "Save Us!" And the movement will look down and whisper "No."
Spencer is clean-cut in grooming and polite in manner, but as thoroughly radical as Abbie Hoffman parading "Pigasus" at the 1968 Democratic convention in Chicago. His Nietzschean radicalism might shock some people, but can you really say it is a less logical response to the current situation than the NRSC's pre-emptive endorsement of Crist? If the Crist endorsement is not "corruption, failure, and cowardice," exactly how do you define those terms?

The Republican Party will either mend its ways and return to its principles, or else go the way of the Whigs. If by some miracle the party can be saved from its current "leadership," not even Richard Spencer will be more surprised than the Democrats who are now gloating over this latest Gallup poll. A rejuvenated conservatism might deal the Obama cultists such a shocking defeat that it will be the Democrats who are forced to ponder the counsel of Zarathustra.



  1. I keep having my liberal friend and my self-proclaimed 'moderate conservative' friend say that the Republicans are moving too far to the right. One, who defends Obama with a fervor that borders on the irrational (he quipped that Obama 'liked to know what he was talking about' then when I brought up Obama's support of Cap-n-Trade and that it would drive up energy costs, providing a link to where Obama said it himself, the guy said "Like I thought, no proof"), and another that voted (D) since McCain was 'too old.'

    Its the funniest thing since Republicans are supposed to pander to a person that will NEVER vote Republican, no matter how far left they move, and a guy that HAD the 'moderate' he wanted, and voted Democrat. He was even saying, before the election "We're screwed either way."

    Bold Colors. Dems are Bold Blue. Republicans can either be Bold Red, or pale purple. Provide a contrast to the raving lunatics of the Left.

  2. After big loses the last 5 years I have to conclude the "leaders" of the GOP do not care. What they care about is a "pure" left wing party; rid of all the Ronnie conservative types.
    Or maybe they are all 75 IQ morons. If this is the case how come Bush and Rove put them in positions of leadership?
    Reality is the hyper liberals/morons do run the GOP. Have run it for 7 years.
    Seems to me to be time to form another party. One that is pro capitalist, individual responsibility and anti-collectivist.
    Rod Stnton
    Cerritos, Cal

  3. The Democrats did not win by running more liberals. They won by running more moderates. The GOP is alienating all its moderates, telling them to take a hike. You can see where this is going.

  4. I hear a lot from Republicans about returning to their "conservative principles." What does this mean, exactly, besides broad platitudes like "pro-capitalist, individual responsibility, and anti-collectivist?"

    And what if Americans prefer a different set of principles, however incorrectly? Embracing these might not be the path to electoral victory.

    It seems to me that the social conservatism that dominates today's GOP is a collectivist one that demands religious conformity. It rejects individual responsibility in favor of "traditional values" that many of today's young voters might like to update. And it is anti-capitalist in the sense that it would li9mit consumer choice (e.g., bans on pornography, drugs, secular games and films).

    The GOP coalition between social conservatives, American exceptionalists, and corporatists has begun to crack. Capitalists, who wish to globalize markets and seek international institutionalization of markets, have become uncomfortable with theocrats and sovereignty nuts. This sent them into the Democratic (if not the liberal) camps where leaders support globalization and wish to regulate it.

    Tea parties and James Dobson energize some part of the base. But they scare the money guys and alienate younger people who don't see the value in holding on to social tradition based on the "purity" of women, demonization of non-Christians or gays, and the general conformity of religion.

    All of this means that Richard and Karin have it right: embrace the moderates of the party, or become a rump organization with limited appeal.

  5. @R. Stanton Scott:
    One of the things that fascinates me are people who read conservative blogs and ask: "returning to their 'conservative principles.' What does this mean, exactly..."
    Don't we thump the Constitution enough around here?

  6. There's a lot here I agree with, but I do have a slightly different take.

    1) The conservative ascendency ended in 1996, not in 2006.

    2) Nothing changes the fact that we need to reach out to new voters. There are two basic thoughts on how to do that, that I can see. There's Norquists' conception of reaching out to minority communities -- Hispanics, Muslims -- with sort of an entrepeneurial libertarianism, and David Frum's concept of reaching out to college graduates with an environmental message and a generally businesslike, non-ideological temperament. I say, let's do both, and let the internal contradictions work themselves out after we win an actual election.

  7. Wrong about the netroots.

    They recruited Ned Lamont to run against Lieberman and push him out of the party, just like the Club for "Growth" pushed Specter out. Uh-uh-uh, before you start in, Arlen Specter was a Republican through the R's best of times. Now he won't be one during the R's worst of times.

    Howard Dean is leader but does not press for hard-left policies. The Obama campaign didn't appeal to the public on the notion that they would increase spending so much. They appealed as moderates and they won the moderate vote.

  8. A political party that is disloyal and disrespectful toward its core constituents, as the GOP was during the Bush/Mehlman era, will not attract new adherents. Who wants to sign up to be treated like a doormat?I don't think some of you understand that the public largely associates the Bush era with mostly unfettered conservatism of the pro-capitalist, social conservative variety, nationalistic. This image is aided by the fact that during the Bush era, conservatives largely lauded Bush. This is why you can't so easily separate yourself from the last eight years and then just declare that you need a return to "true" conservatism. As far as most of the public is concerned, the eight years of Bush are as close to "true" conservatism as they care to get.

    Also, the Democratic Party has a reputation for tolerating a much higher number of elected officials who are not quite on board with key aspects of the Democratic Party. You characterize the Democraty Party as "bold blue" but I think you mistake the general popularity of Obama's programs with party solidarity. Obama's success has nothing to do with the solidarity of the party, and everything to do with Obama's generaly popularity. If anything the Democratic party is as disjointed as ever. Only now can Democrats really afford to be serious about eliminating the less progressive members of the party. But for the GOP, a party which already has suffered staggering losses at the polls, eliminating moderate and reaching out to a core of conservatives is exactly the wrong approach.