A zilllion blog posts on centrist, liberal and progressive Republican websites have addressed part of this but now the Los Angeles Times brings it all together: there are growing fears that the Republican conservative resurgence is being matched by a drift to the extremes.
It’s not a small issue — IF a party’s goal is to not just consolidate its base but to expand its “customers” to include those who need to be sold and convinced:
Amid a rebirth of conservative activism that could help Republicans win elections next year, some party insiders now fear that extreme rhetoric and conspiracy theories coming from the angry reaches of the conservative base are undermining the GOP’s broader credibility and casting it as the party of the paranoid.
Such insiders point to theories running rampant on the Internet, such as the idea that Barack Obama was born in Kenya and is thus ineligible to be president, or that he is a communist, or that his allies want to set up Nazi-like detention camps for political opponents. Those theories, the insiders say, have stoked the GOP base and have created a “purist” climate in which a figure such as Rep. Joe Wilson (R-S.C.) is lionized for his “You lie!” outburst last week when Obama addressed Congress.
They are “wild accusations and the paranoid delusions coming from the fever swamps,” said David Frum, a conservative author and speechwriter for President George W. Bush who is among the more vocal critics of the party base and of the conservative talk show hosts helping to fan the unrest.
Frum will immediately be dismissed by some Republicans as an example of a turncoat — someone who criticizes the party and isn’t a real Republican in the 21st century context because he has lambasted the party’s dominant talk show political culture base.
But this is part of the problem: can the GOP win elections by just getting out its base? The answer is YES if Democrats disappointed with Obama stay home on election day. The answer is NO if the Democrats vote and the always fussy independents — it is not a monolithic block — trend more towards Obama than to the GOP. More:
“Like all conservatives, I am concerned about this administration’s accumulation of economic power,” Frum said. “Still, you have to be aware that there’s a line where legitimate concerns begin to collapse into paranoid fantasy.”
Frum and other establishment Republicans have spoken out in recent days against the influence of what they view as their party’s fringe elements.
Some are pressuring the Republican National Committee and other mainstream GOP groups to cut ties with WorldNetDaily.com, which reports some of the allegations. Its articles are cited by websites and pundits on the right. More than any other group, critics say, WorldNetDaily sets the conservative fringe agenda.
Critics charge that the RNC has paid WorldNetDaily for access to its mailing list, estimated to number in the hundreds of thousands, and that the RNC is therefore subsidizing the website’s anti-Obama writings.
RNC spokeswoman Gail Gitcho did not respond to questions on the matter.
And there is a lot more. Read the piece in full.
Yet another problem is that by essentially suggesting that Obama is not a legitimate President or one who doesn’t deserve the centuries old courtesy of being a President who addresses Congress without being heckled by a member of the opposition calling him a liar to his face (an apology was later issued but it increasingly seems like a non-apology apology) precisely how do Republicans think partisan and angry Democrats are going to respond when the election cycle shifts and Republicans inevitably win back the White House one day? The argument to out of line Democrats that a Republican President should be treated with respect will be hard to make if a Democratic President has been treated with disdain and contempt.
Twilight Zone politics could exact a price — and there are people within the GOP, traditional conservatives, Republican moderates and the small number of Republican progressives, who see these dangers.
Does the party want to expand its base? Or be a party of its existing base?
The other part of the coin is: can Obama keep his party’s base and hold onto some of the Democratic expansion of 2008?
If you look at it, there is a scenario that could lead to a Republican restoration. But the stage is being set for meg-partisanship to accentuate in the 21st century.
Joe Gandelman is a former fulltime journalist who freelanced in India, Spain, Bangladesh and Cypress writing for publications such as the Christian Science Monitor and Newsweek. He also did radio reports from Madrid for NPR’s All Things Considered. He has worked on two U.S. newspapers and quit the news biz in 1990 to go into entertainment. He also has written for The Week and several online publications, did a column for Cagle Cartoons Syndicate and has appeared on CNN.