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Posted by on Oct 27, 2007 in At TMV | 9 comments

GOP Prez Wannabes Tack to the Right


I have puzzled over why almost all of the Republican presidential wannabes are avidly-embracing a president who is one of the worst in history and has almost single-handedly marginalized their party, as well as a war that only a small number of voters support.

Even the party’s own pollsters say that it will take a miracle for the GOP to keep the White House, let alone regain control of Congress, in 2008.

It has been noted by pundits far more sage than I am that this situation is a result of the candidates needing to play to the party’s base in a campaign that, after all, has a year left to go. But the last time I looked at the GOP base, it resembled a prune.

Has the GOP simply become so ossified and out of touch that it’s fallen and just can’t get up? Or in terms that the older gents who comprise most of this demographically-challenged field might understand, can’t get it up?

Ron Brownstein, one of the finest political analysts of our time, says that in word and deed the Republican candidates are going for solidarity over outreach and the same old-same old over new ideas:

“After being routed in 2006, many Republican leaders argued that the party lost voters in the middle because it had not been conservative enough, particularly on spending. That’s the view the presidential candidates are now reflecting. [Rudy] Giuliani, even with his recent concessions to party conventions on such issues as taxes and guns, pushed against that consensus by stressing national unity and inclusion in his riveting speech to the social conservatives last weekend. But he is a (qualified) exception in a party that seems committed to betting 2008 on the high-risk proposition that the way to recapture the center is to turn further to the right.”

Is this totally nuts or what?

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  • superdestroyer

    What else should be expected from a group of empty suits that have not been able to demonstrate any ability to lead.

    Look at how the Republican candidates are totally incapable for discussing most issues. They are generally lazy, ineffective, and if judging by the incompetence of their staffs, unable to manage an organization of any size.

    The political class and the pundits really need to start discussing how the U.S. will function as a one party state and whether the current checks and balances will work in a one party state.

  • George Sorwell

    About 25% of voters support President Bush. Isn’t that the Republican base? To win the nomination, they have to attract the base.

  • Mr. Sorwell:

    Conundrum roll please . . .

    You are correct that the wannabes have to attract the base. But the base, for the most part, is as extreme as many of the president’s policies and actions. So whoever wins the nomination has essentially already signed his death warrant barring a total collapse on the part of the Democratic nominee a la John Kerry, which is not outside the realm of possibilities but is highly unlikely.

    All of this flows into a larger reality: The long march of the GOP to the right won it a few years of power and the White House, but the march back . . . oh, wait a minute! There will be no march back in the forseeable future, and that’s a bitch for moderate Republicans like TMV co-blogger Pete Abel.

    I do not buy into SD’s on-cue blather about the U.S. becoming a one-party state, but the sight of those Republican lemmings going off the electoral cliff is nevertheless disturbing to someone who believes in a vibrant democracy.

  • Elrod

    This is not uncommon. It’s part of political denial that arises when a party long accustomed to power suddenly finds itself on the outside. The same thing happened to Democrats in the 1980s. As the Dems lost election after election, they blamed it on failure to reach enough “marginalized” constituencies on the left. There may have been some truth to it; the left had become disenchanted with the Dems over acquiescance in Reagan’s tax cuts, for example. But the larger truth was that the Democrats had lost the center. Frustrated with the contradictions within the 1970s welfare state – bloated bureaucracy, stalled economy, out of control crime and social disorder in cities – the electorate began to veer to the right. It would take until 1992 for the Democrats to figure out that they needed to go back to the center, even if it meant confirming the rightward tide.

    But 2007 is a different time than 1980. The frustrations of the electorate are with the contradictions within GOP policies – religious right excess, neoconservative follies, and tax cut jihadism leaving the government in debt and unable to pay for policies the electorate legitimately demands. In denial as the 1980s Dems were, the Republicans of today blame their losses on failure to “live up to their principles.” Expect this to continue through 2008 and maybe through 2010. But then they’ll realize that their vision of the country has repulsed the center and they cannot win outside their redoubts in Idaho, Utah, Wyoming and the Deep South.

  • krit

    Elrod nailed it. The candidates must tack to the right to excite the base, yet by doing so they alienate the middle who have kept them in power. Of course the primary winner will likely tack back towards the center, but the Democratic candidate can easily expose their opponent’s views as too extreme for the majority. Hillary will have the easiest time doing this, since she has stayed in the center, instead of playing to the Democrat’s base.

  • George Sorwell

    I think you’re taking too much for granted.

    Rudy Giuliani and Mitt Romney have reasonably applicable executive skills. None of that will get them anywhere with the base.

    I imagine they look at John McCain–and McCain’s too conservative for me, but I realize that as a young man McCain was forged in a crucible of experience that gave him strong character–and see a man who has been mocked and belittled out of his front-runner status for a principled stand on immigration.

    Then they look at Fred Thompson. His only qualification is his ability to recite professionally written dialog on a professionally designed stage set while being photographed by professional cinematographers. Qualification enough to make him one of the front runners.

    They’re not getting the nomination without the base.

    And is winning the Republican nomination really a hollow victory? Republicans are masterful electoral technicians. They’re fabulous at fear-mongering. Osama bin Laden is personally going to come to your nice house in the suburbs and blow it up! Or: A whole bunch of brown people who don’t even speak English are going to come to your nice house in the suburbs and set up their ragged tents on your front lawn.

    And I disagree with you about John Kerry’s “collapse”. He was beset by swift-boaters who operate an alternative media. And whose message discipline is complete. And whenever the opportunity arose, they pushed that message through the mainstream media, which was happy to pass it on, in the name of balance or access or keeping the horserace interesting. So think you got it backwards. Don’t lay off some blame, give some credit. The Republicans are awesome! Does anyone think they’d hesitate to use those skills on Hitlery, or Osama-I-Mean-Obama, or the Breck Girl?

    And I also disagree with Brownstein’s characterization of the election of 2006 as a “rout”. A lot of those elections were very close. And the overall results were very close. There aren’t enough votes in the House to override the veto of the popular S-CHIP bill, despite its bipartisan support. And control of the Senate rests on Joe Lieberman, who couldn’t get the Democrat nomination in his home state.

    And, honestly, the fecklessness of the Democrats in Congress is awesome in its own right.

    No one can win without the nomination. And no one can get the nomination without the base.

    History may well show Republicans to be lemmings. But it may also show them to be lions.

    The fat lady hasn’t sung.

    It’s a mistake to be complacent.

  • Rudi

    Rudi will lose moderate voters if he continues to try and out “neocon” Bush with his foreign policy rhetoric like the recent statements on Iran. His advisory team makes Wurmser and Libby look Moderate.

  • domajot

    I agree with Geroge Sorwell,

    The Republicans have been at work on their long term strategy to build their vision of a permanent Rep. majority for decades, and the makings for it are still there, as are the fruits This could well be just a temporary setback.

    The have become very skillful over the years at messaging, for example. They use language to change perception. From ‘pro-life’ to ‘death tax’.
    they influence perceptions by changing the terminology of how issues are discussed.
    The latest, I’ve noticed, is how they are defining ‘liberty’. Sudenly, the fruits of privilige are basic liberties and equal opportunity means that a man with no legs can stand at the same starting line with men who have two healthy and well trained
    legs, Even the meaning of ‘equal’ has changed.

    Liberals are being outwitted, because they are too focused on current issues amd protests, while failing to start and nourish long-term strategies and institutions.

    The fat lady is just warming up, and Democrats had better learn how to sing their own message over the long term.

  • StockBoySF

    I agree with domajot and George Sorwell wholeheartedly.

    I think the Republicans are out of touch with mainstream thought on the issues- or at least they come across that way. But the Republicans know how to spin and create one or two issues (national security, defense of marriage) that are essential for the US (and our way of life) to survive, and practically browbeat enough voters to support them (think of “you’re either with us or against us”).

    I’d also like to add that a lot of American voters (I don’t know about the rest of the world) will hear exactly what they want to hear- only pro for their candidates and only con for their opponents. Voters may be smart but they also have short term memories and don’t think issues through fully.

    As an example, my brother’s wife’s family- in Alabama- are as Republican as they come. They blame the Dems for why the Iraq war is going badly. Even though Bush started it, the war is going badly back in 2003 Bush “caved-in” to the Dems and sent a smaller military force then necessary. When I point out to them that it was the Bush team who had the ‘shock and awe’ plan and was convinced of a swift victory with this new type of ‘lean military’, they just say it’s not true. That Bush knew a bigger force was needed and the Bush admin only had that plan to appease the Dems. Forget about telling them that the opponents to Bush’s war fell into two camps: those who felt there should be no war and those who supported invading Iraq but wanted a larger force. Also they go apoplectic when it comes to Hillary.

    I know otherwise intelligent people who voted for Bush in 2004 because they thought the swift boaters were telling the truth about Kerry. “If the swiftboaters weren’t telling the truth, then they couldn’t say those things on air- the Kerry campaign would sue them.” Bush’s own military record (or lack of one) was irrelevant- Bush showed he had the balls necessary to standup to our enemies by invading Iraq…

    Most of the Presidential candidates switch views multiple times throughout their campaign. No wonder we are all distrustful of our candidates. I think if a Presidential candidate had true courage they could stand-up for what they believed in, rather than “switch sides”. krit was right when he said Hillary (by staying in the center) would have the easiest time in exposing a Republican rival’s switch from the right back to the center. But I still don’t know what Hillary stands for. She may be in the center, but I see that as just as a political calculation to gain the most votes.

    That’s all for the game today!

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