Our political Quote of the Day is actually three quotes of the day via MSNBC’s political wise and informative First Read, which notes the sorry state of what had ONCE been Congress’s political center, the continuing shift of the GOP rightwards amid yet another triumph for the Tea Party and former Alaska Gov Sarah Palin — and how the GOP brand is not in good shape despite what some in the conservative media may contend. It’s worth noting these three tidbits:
*** The center cannot hold: These days, this isn’t a great time to be a moderate in Congress. And as we found out in Texas last night, it isn’t a great time to be perceived as a moderate, either. In announcing yesterday that he won’t seek re-election in November, Ohio GOP Rep. Steve LaTourette — one of the most pro-labor Republicans in Congress — bemoaned the partisanship on Capitol Hill. “I have reached the conclusion that the atmosphere today, and the reality that exists in the House of Representatives, no longer encourages the finding of common ground,” he said, per NBC’s Frank Thorp. A day earlier, fellow GOP Rep. Richard Hanna of New York told the Syracuse Post-Standard’s editorial board that his party is too willing to cater to the ideological extreme. “I have to say that I’m frustrated by how much we — I mean the Republican Party — are willing to give deferential treatment to our extremes in this moment in history,” referring to Michele Bachmann’s political witch hunt against a top State Department aide.
Prediction: the country’s center is not in terrific shape, either, but I predict this will continue to drive former RINOS, independent voters who may lean a bit towards Democrats, and centrist oriented Democrats towards the Democratic party — providing it doesn’t go whole hog to cater to the furthest left part of its party. For instance, at this point, at least, in this campaign we have not seen the Democratic far left making patently Twilight Zone assertions such as the one yesterday of a Tennessee legislator Republican who sent out an email warning the like minded that Barack Obama might be planning to stage a fake assassination attempt to win election.
So let me get this straight: if Obama — who has aroused huge hatreds among those who oppose him – is the target of an assassination probably for the first time in American history we may have partisan running around claiming it would be a POLITICAL PLOY?! ploy? That assertion — the fact it can be said by someone without shame, without fear of being shunned or laughed out of office — shows how far out “political debate” has fallen.
More from First Read on the weakening center:
*** That’s especially true when “moderate” becomes a four-letter word: And earlier this year, GOP Sen. Olympia Snowe of Maine channeled those same sentiments when she announced her upcoming retirement. “I do find it frustrating,” Snowe said, “that an atmosphere of polarization and ‘my way or the highway’ ideologies has become pervasive in campaigns and in our governing institutions.” In the years since we began covering politics in Washington, the job requirement for a member of Congress or senator has fundamentally changed. It’s no longer about bringing home deliverables to your state or congressional district (like roads, bridges, or new schools). Instead, it’s about scoring ideological points and waging partisan crusades. And that kind of environment isn’t friendly territory for moderates. The TV ad that Club for Growth aired against David Dewhurst in Texas — labeling him as a moderate, even though he’s as conservative as Gov. Rick Perry — tells you all you need to know right now. In fact, we’re pretty sure political scientists will use it 30 years from now to illustrate how conservative the GOP has currently become. By the way, a reminder on LaTourette: His primary had ALREADY PASSED! He was a shoo-in for re-election.
I added the boldface. It really is less now about winning election and delivering to constituents then being able to say “I beat the librruls” and define “librruls” as anyone who doesn’t cheer the assertions of a Rush Limbaugh or Sean Hannity and who thinks compromise is surrender. Our elections are less now about aggregating interest that aggravating and triumphing over perceived political foes and being able to say your political sports team won.
*** Revisiting the GOP brand: A final point here: One of the most underreported stories of this presidential election is how the Republican brand is in FAR WORSE shape than the Democratic brand. In our most recent NBC/WSJ poll, the GOP’s fav/unfav was 34%-43% vs. the Democrats’ 40%-40%. Indeed, the GOP has had a worse fav/unfav than the Democrats in every single NBC/WSJ poll (that’s 14 of them!!!) since Jan. 2011, after Republicans won control of the House. So as the Tea Party/grassroots/anti-establishment conservative wing of the GOP has become MORE powerful, the GOP’s overall brand image has gone down, especially with indies. It is hard not to believe these two facts aren’t connected. And this raises the question: Will this be a drag on Romney? Or here’s another way to put it: How can this not be a drag on him? Help us out with this riddle: When was the last time a presidential candidate won when their party was viewed MORE unfavorably than the other side?
Even so here’s a prediction: if Romney goes down to defeat Tea Party and talk radio political culture Republicans will say it’s because the party failed to offer a candidate that was conservative enough to win.
See my comments after the other two items for the rest of my reaction to item number three.
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.