After John McCain loses (which, barring a collision of planets, he almost certainly will), who will be in charge of the Republican party? Even if his fringe nutcase act was mostly for show, unlike a genuine article like Tom DeLay, Newt Gingrich gave the Republican party a bold and ideologically coherent leader to effectively rally the free-floating Clinton hate. Before them George “poppy” Bush supervised the tail end of the Reagan-era coke high.
Even the Powerline crowd would never describe George junior in the same terms as pure, uncut Reagan. George W. was like huffing glue – a short, delirious high then a fast dirty crash that leaves even a heavy hitter like Scott Johnson feeling dirty and slightly ashamed of himself. The GOP will not have any lingering goodwill to tap like poppy’s party did. Too bad for McCain and, yes, Sarah Palin, as a rule joke candidates don’t take over the party.
The GOP could look to the House, like they did under Clinton, for all the good that will do them. Can you name the last interesting thing that John Boehner did? Compared with a firebrand like Gingrich or a productive tyrant like Tom DeLay Boehner is a forgettable nonentity. Boehner keeps the seat warm until a real player wrangles the party behind his banner. We can set aside the Senate, which for institutional reasons is more moderate and therefore less likely to produce GOP leadership than the loopier House. The rule by extremes is too ingrained in the GOP’s DNA for a few election night massacres to wash away.
If we’re very, very lucky the ideological purity faction will win and drive the
Reagan dems obamacons on the path of Cole. Is there any other choice? Can the party rally behind an ideologically tainted candidate who fails on abortion? Sensible tax policy? Torture? Habeas corpus? Unless the party’s insane Malkin wing can handle some heterodoxy from their leadership , the party is stuck with winners like House Whip Eric Cantor. The alternative is either rudderless obstructionism peppered with futile stunts, a la Boehner, or self-imposed exile into a purity-obsessed third party of far-right extremists.
So what’s next for the GOP? I don’t think that Obama hate will win the party any more traction than it gave McCain. They need a positive agenda. Unfortunately their platform was on the wrong side of history when Gingrich etched it in granite in 1994. The recent add-ons – torture, belligerent wars, islamophobic fear – had a skin of mold when Dick Cheney rolled them out in 2001. If John McCain, who honestly isn’t as stupid as his campaign has made him look, had any winning issues he would run on them. It’s not like he has not tried. They are stuck with random, flaining personal attacks because the surge in Iraq, offshore drilling, the capital gains tax and an unlicensed plumber with a tax lien all have the traction of a Yugo in Alaska.
Most likely the Republicans’ next move will look just like the McCain campaign. Like McCain the party hasn’t cared about anything more than tactics at least since the Contract with America was gutted and buried by Rove’s permanent Republican majority. The McCain team’s stupid mistakes even make a certain sense if you grant that the only thing that matters is tactics. Palin had star power, two X chromosomes and the Clinton voters were vulnerable because everybody kept saying so. Win!
Eventually, it was Schmidt who blurted out the epiphany concerning Obama. “Face it, gentlemen,” he said. “He’s being treated like a celebrity.”
The others grasped the concept — a celebrity like J-Lo! or Britney! — and exultation overtook the room.
Then for a half-hour or so, the group reviewed names that had been bandied about in the past: Gov. Tim Pawlenty (of Minnesota) and Gov. Charlie Christ (of Florida); the former governors Tom Ridge (Pennsylvania) and Mitt Romney (Massachusetts); Senator Joe Lieberman (Connecticut); and Mayor Michael Bloomberg (New York). From a branding standpoint, they wondered, what message would each of these candidates send about John McCain? McInturff’s polling data suggested that none of these candidates brought significantly more to the ticket than any other.
“What about Sarah Palin?” Schmidt asked.
Now for the first time! Ever! Monster scoop!! MUST CREDIT BALLOON JUICE! Here is a transcript from that meeting:
McCain: “We need a shot in the arm. You hear me boys? In the bleepdamn arm! Election held tomorrow, that sumbitch Stokes would win it in a walk!”
Schmidt: “Well’ he’s the reform candidate, Daddy.”
Schmidt: “A lot of people like that reform. Maybe we should get us some.”
McCain: “I’ll reform you, you soft-headed son of a bitch. How we gonna run reform when we’re the damn incumbent? Is that the best idea you boys can come up with? Reform?! Weepin’ Jesus on the cross. That’s it? You may as well start drafting my concession speech right now.”
Schmidt: We could hire our own midget, even shorter than his.
Wouldn’t we look like a bunch of Johnny-come-latelies, bragging on our own midget, don’t matter how stumpy. Yeah, sure. Whatever. Call me when Matlock’s on.
Congressional Republicans will not do any better. Barring any other brilliant idea, they will flailingly mimic Obama’s tactics until they figure out that they are not getting their ass kicked by tactics (it could take a while). Obama won (is winning) because he makes a bold, mature case for Democratic solutions to relevant national problems. He didn’t shy away from health care or progressive taxation. His conscientious stand on abortion was a savvy move both in style and substance. In isolation Americans prefer Democratic issues by roughly the same margins by which Obama is winning, they just don’t like milquetoast pols who compromise their principles for approval from the harpies and trolls at FOX News.
Obama’s winning formula will stay out of reach for the GOP as long as they remain chained to their turd of a neolithic platform. Intellectuals exist who might steer them back to the 21st century, or, failing that, at least back to the Magna Carta. Too bad those guys are on the outside looking in. The wingnuts and extremists left in charge are the people most likely to steer it further onto the rocks. Yet, as they say, possession is nine tenths of the law.