Jan 23rd, 2012
Collective insanity is not hard to cultivate given enough time, resources and insulation from rational opposing forces. The GOP built the base which now has them terrified.
Timothy P. Carney writes:
"There may no longer be a Republican establishment powerful enough to move Republican voters en masse. Whatever institutional support the establishment can provide may be outweighed among the conservative base by the Scarlet E stamped on the candidate."
He's right. There has been an imposition of so many narrow and fringe litmus tests that we are seeing the party finally begin to devour itself. The hyper-radicalized base the GOP "establishment" thought they could exploit endlessly has at last arrived at a place where the concept of traditional American politics and its inherent requirement of compromise is deemed traitorous.
"This is the current GOP. It purges dissidents, it vaunts total loyalty, it polices discourse for any deviation. If you really have a cogent argument, you find yourself fired - like Bruce Bartlett or David Frum - or subject to blacklists, like me and Fox. You can find Steve Schmidt lamenting Gingrich for very good reasons, and then you realize that it was Schmidt - a moderate, sane, level-headed professional - who helped pick Sarah Palin for the vice-presidential nomination. Because he correctly realized that she would actually add base votes and prevent a total Obama tsunami. In the end, he knew what he had to do. In the end, the "establishment" knows the party they have created."
Incidents like the recent exchange between Mitt Romney and Laura Ingraham are only going to make the base's blood boil hotter. After all, Romney was telling the truth about the economy getting better under Obama. Expect to see this, the truth being spoken plainly, used against him. Also, expect to see an even more intense series of intra-party melees.
In the last several days, the roughest public statements made about Republicans in months have been made by other Republicans. We've heard Chris Christie describe Newt as an "Embarrassment." Tim Pawlenty has called Newt's claims about being paid $1.6 million by Freddie Mac for his historical expertise, "BS. It's just nonsense."
Michael Crowley observes:
"To the extent Newt threatens the Establishment, it’s because of his electability–or lack thereof. The GOP's mandarins see Gingrich’s nomination as a sure way to blow their chance of deposing Barack Obama. They see Gingrich as the political equivalent of a Fukushima nuclear plant worker, with polls showing him to be lethally irradiated by his negative approval ratings. Whereas Mitt Romney is running about even with Barack Obama in head-to-head polling, Newt loses by double-digit margins. Sure, those numbers could change if Gingrich beats Romney and wins the nomination, with all the accolades it entails. On the other hand, his grandiosity syndrome may kick in, as it has before, and render him a laughing stock. Hence the many Establishment Republicans now saying things like, "Newt means losing 45 states."
All this serves to damage the GOP brand with independents in ways that the Democrats never could have. Former RNC Chairman Michael Steele openly expressed his fear last week that the House will flip in November.
The past few weeks, marking the point in every Presidential election cycle when far greater numbers of eligible voters begin paying more attention, has been the ugliest primary season in my lifetime. The only way to secure the GOP nomination now seems to be general election suicide.
A majority of the country opposes a total ban on abortion access, doesn't want a third war in the Gulf, is in favor of marriage equality, overwhelmingly supports the EPA and even a majority of registered Republicans (who far outnumber those who turnout for the primaries and caucuses) want substantial tax increases on our wealthiest citizens.
Every one of these positions is now pure poison with the base. To even suggest that they merit discussion is the surest way to stop a hopeful's chances in their tracks.
David Frum notes:
"The reaction to Gingrich's poll surge in December was panic among senior Republicans, and the panic is only intensifying now."
The problem is that these same "senior Republicans" are directly responsible for Newt's rise. They shouldn't be panicking over the base's embrace of Newt; They should be panicking because they have vilified reason and pragmatism.
When you tolerate and even encourage something less akin to traditional politics than it is to a dog fight, you can't complain that your dog has now turned and bitten you.