Sound Advice

I didn’t think Fred Barnes had it in him, but here is some sound advice to Republicans, appearing, in all places, the Weekly Standard:

Republicans have a big problem. Nope, it’s not figuring out how to rebuild their party after consecutive defeats in national elections (that’s easy). Nor is it finding new leaders in Congress (also easy) or latching onto fresh ideas that might improve the Republican brand (easiest of all). The problem is simpler–but also more difficult–than those. It’s the tricky business of dealing with President Barack Obama.

For starters, Republicans should recognize their position in relation to Obama. For the time being anyway, he’s a colossus astride the continent, the most commanding political presence since Ronald Reagan arrived in Washington. He’s the star. Republicans are extras. If they attract attention, it’s likely to be because they’ve done something the media consider outrageous or dumb.

***

One more thing is essential, according to Ryan. “We’ve got to be happy warriors,” he says. “We’ve got to stop being the angry white guy party.” Otherwise, Republicans will play right into Obama’s hands.

They had best learn quickly that if they go in there and just oppose everything and act like, well, a right-wing blogger, they are going to get hammered. This does not mean there is not a room for principled opposition. But they need to pick their battles wisely.

They would be wise to remember that the American public is, by and large, pretty patient with their President, and it was not until the middle of 2005 that Bush saw his approval ratings begin to plummet, with the bottom falling out during Katrina. That is right- a majority of the country put up with everything until they saw video of their countrymen drowning in New Orleans- I would call that patience, and I remember it well. Hell, I even initially tried to defend Bush during Katrina (I still think the locals did a shitty job evacuating people- those poor people, and I mean that in every meaning of the word poor, should never have been there), and it finally became inescapable. There is nothing to defend, there is no way to defend them and they do not deserve defending. Add in that Obama is entering office with a firm mandate and a great deal of good will, and you can see how delicate the situation is for Republicans.






35 replies
  1. 1
    MR. Bill says:

    It’s almost as if Fred is concern trolling the Rightbloggers..
    And those guys seem to live for anger, and have no real interest in governing or policy.
    Make no mistake, we are in such a bad economic mess that there will be an opening for the facist right, or at least, we face a period where their message will be attractive. And the Fred Barnes of the world have done everything in their power to make it acceptable. When Freddy "the Beadle" Barnes is peddling moderation and civility, times are really bad…

    And, OT, Krugman in the Times says: "I hear that Joe Scarborough had some complimentary things to say about me this morning."
    I don’t get MSNBC on my crappy cable package, and wouldn’t watch ‘Morning Joe’ on a bet. Just what did he say? Not finding a transcript.

  2. 2

    Barnes’ point is well made. Unfortunately they’ve spent 14 years (remember the Contract?) painting themselves into a corner by professing love of small government while interfering with our personal lives (Schiavo), professing themselves as strict Constitutionalists while bowing to an all powerful executive, and professing love of fiscal responsibility while raiding the Treasury and making the Democrats look like a bunch of pikers. The only thing they accomplished was keeping taxes lower AND that backfired when they couldn’t control spending.

    Until Congressional Republicans can publicly admit that they followed Bush and Cheney down the rabbit hole and that it was wrong to do so they will not return from the political wilderness. They have to disavow these guys. They went blindly along without ever questioning the administration and now they are paying the price. It’s come to Jesus time for these rat-bastards.

  3. 3
    Poopyman says:

    Fortunately, we’ve still got Republicans as clueless as ever:

    Jon Kyl, the second-ranking Republican in the U.S. Senate, warned president-elect Barack Obama that he would filibuster U.S. Supreme Court appointments if those nominees were too liberal.

    I don’t think there’s much chance that whoever Obama nominates will be satisfactory to Mr. Kyl.
    The rest is here.

    It’s gonna be a great 8 years, I tells ya.

  4. 4
    raff says:

    If it weren’t for Republicans being complete hyper-partisan douchebags when they held the reigns of power, I’d almost feel sorry for them.

    Repubs are definately in a sensitive position. I don’t really see where they go from here. Their core ideologies have been either discredited (free, unfettered markets – i.e. no gov’t regulation) or are unpopular (small gov’t = dismantling healthcare, social security, etc). Their social agenda is equally as unpopular & as more young voters enter the system, it’ll be even less popular.

    The CW among conservatives seems to be that the fundamentals of their movement are strong, they just need to find the best way to get their message to the people. Same old, same old.

    The GOP can’t just polish the same old turd. They need to re-invent themselves, & honestly, I don’t think they’re capable of the introspection & honesty such a change would require.

  5. 5
    J. says:

    I give Obama a few months in office, at most, before the Republicans in Congress start hammering him on this, that or the other thing. The right-wing bloggers already are filling that role (sour grapes) anyway, leaving their brethren in Congress and in the mainstream press to take the high road. Very nice of them. Of course, once Obama starts announcing his choice for first puppy and his cabinet choices, I doubt the usual — or unusual — suspects will remain silent or play ball.

  6. 6
    Montysano says:

    As a broken-hearted ex-New Orleanian, I always like to point out that as soon as the actual storm had passed through, you could land an airplane in New Orleans (on the West Bank) and drive right to the Convention Center or the Superdome. Yes, the local and state leadership was pathetic. But in exchange for paying my taxes, I expect to see the fucking federal cavalry during a situation like Katrina. Republicans (used to) win elections, but as for governance… not so much.

  7. 7
    matt says:

    The blueprint is there. Democrats realized they needed a bigger tent, so they ran social conservatives (Shuler) and cultural conservatives (Webb), and cleaned up. For who knows what reason, conservatives, so far at least, seem poised to adopt the exact opposite strategy. Gone with the RINO’s, shrink the tent, and so on.

    On the other hand, it’s not as easy as that. For some reason, a Shuler can win in North Carolina, where a Lincoln Chafee can’t hold on in RI.

    Honestly, it seems to me that they’re basically fucked, and are probably going to be "the angry white guy party" for some time to come.

  8. 8
    rob! says:

    i hope they DON’T listen to Barnes and become ever more marginalized, until there are only Republicans in a few house seats in the deep South, and that’s it.

    i know i’m supposed to be like Obama and be all bi-partisan and stuff, but after these eight years, FUCK ‘EM.

  9. 9
    Comrade Baron Elmo says:

    Barnes actually does stumble into some good points in his article (clearly, he glanced at his stopped watch at exactly the right moment), but I’ll be damned if I can figure what he’s talking about with this:

    Republicans have a big problem. Nope, it’s not figuring out how to rebuild their party after consecutive defeats in national elections (that’s easy). Nor is it finding new leaders in Congress (also easy) or latching onto fresh ideas that might improve the Republican brand (easiest of all).

    Easy, easier, easiest? Do tell.

    Frankly, these seem like all but unsurmountable stumbling blocks, requiring solutions so drastic that the scrotums of high-ranking GOP nabobs the nation over are surely tightening at the very thought of invoking them in mixed company. Like, say, telling the religious right to go pound salt. (Lot’s wife is free for the weekend, I hear.)

    For all his cavalier dismissal of the difficulty involved in scrubbing eight years of massive FAIL from the Republican brand, one cannot help but notice that his own piece is remarkably solution-free. Maybe he’s saving all his big ideas in the same vault where the Michelle Obama "whitey" tape currently lurks.

  10. 10

    I’ve been thinking about this as well. Nobody outside of us poli-junkies was really paying much attention to the Congress for the last two years so the GOPers got away with a lot of gratitutious obstructionism more or less unnoticed. It won’t be so easy after January 20th. President Obama’s, (gee I love saying that), mandate is clear and it goes against everything they stand for.

    It won’t be easy to put the angry white man genie back in the bottle. It will be interesting to see what they do and whether the base will buy into it. Those 23 percenters won’t be willing to give up their rage too soon as far as I can see. The emails I’m getting on my right wing email list are still really vile.

  11. 11
    raff says:

    I give Obama a few months in office, at most, before the Republicans in Congress start hammering him on this, that or the other thing.

    That’s a given, but this time ’round, I have a good feeling.

    For the time being, Obama has the wind at his back. I think the press will be willing to cut him some slack instead of going instantly negative. Dem majorities in both houses will further marginalize Republican sniping. Plus Obama is coming off an historic election where the words "hope" & "change" had real resonance & gave Obama an actual ‘mandate’.

    Sure, I have no doubt the Republican slime machine will kick into high gear, but I don’t think it will have the impact it’s had in the past. A strong majority of people want to see Obama succeed. Any Repub effort to tear Obama down will only redound to their own disadvantage.

    The GOP slime machine has lost a great deal of its power. It’s time for the GOP to not only rethink its ideologies, but its tactics as well.

  12. 12
    Dennis - SGMM says:

    @Comrade Baron Elmo:
    Win.
    Thank you for making any comment by me redundant.

  13. 13
    raff says:

    @Comrade Baron Elmo:
    Win.

    Seconded.

  14. 14
    Keith says:

    Putnam stepping down from a leadership position in the GOP is a start. But the proof in the pudding is going to be whether or not the next session of Congress is characterized by bills not coming up for vote because the GOP threatens to fillibuster. Kyl’s already hinted that he supports fillibustering Supreme Court choices he doesn’t like, but the last couple have years have shown they’re willing to slow *anything* just for the sake of characterizing Congress as "do-nothing".

    +1 at 9:30am

  15. 15

    […] Can Republicans stop being “the angry white guy”? […]

  16. 16
    Comrade Stuck says:

    Those 23 percenters won’t be willing to give up their rage too soon as far as I can see. The emails I’m getting on my right wing email list are still really vile.

    I’m sure we can count on the mavens of moderation in the House wingnut caucus to knuckle under in the new pair-a-dine Barnes describes. Their idea of moderation will likely be holding mock funerals on the House Floor for the victims of Obama’s soon to come war on Baby Blastocysts.

  17. 17
    Brian J says:

    Out of all the problems both both and small with the ideas expressed in Barnes’ column, the biggest is that he assumes the Republicans have a steady set of policy ideas. I guess you could say they do, if capital gains tax cuts, ending "abortion on demand," whatever that is, and supporting the most outlandish tactics in the fight against terrorism, among other things, constitute a platform if they are offered repeatedly, no matter what the situation. Take health care, for instance. McCain’s plan might have done some good in controlling costs for people who already have insurance, but what would he and other Republicans have done for those who might have lost their insurance when their employers dropped it and for those who have no insurance now? What about a cap and trade system to deal with global warming, if they happen to think it exists? Do they have some sort of alternative to the bailout other than "Let ’em fail!"?I don’t think conservatism is a bankrupt political philosophy, even as I disagree with it, but perhaps the biggest problems that side faces is that their philosophy seems to be at odds with dealing with problems because they refuse to acknowledge their existence.

  18. 18
    Brian J says:

    I give Obama a few months in office, at most, before the Republicans in Congress start hammering him on this, that or the other thing. The right-wing bloggers already are filling that role (sour grapes) anyway, leaving their brethren in Congress and in the mainstream press to take the high road. Very nice of them. Of course, once Obama starts announcing his choice for first puppy and his cabinet choices, I doubt the usual—or unusual—suspects will remain silent or play ball.

    He’s not exactly a media member in the sense that Tom Brokaw, Rachel Maddow, and Sean Hannity are (I am not, repeat not, saying they are on the same level), but he’s somewhat influential. On his last show, Bill Maher ended his "New Rules" segment with a rant against Republicans who were responsible for the nonsensical witch hunts of the 1990s and those who want to repeat them. Depending on how stupid they are and how much dirt there might actually be in Obama’s closet, my guess is, it’s going to be several months of EPIC FAIL if they try it. I don’t know exactly what the political mood was in 1991 and 1992, but I’d bet it’s decidedly more negative now. People don’t really have the time to worry about garbage because they are worried about their economic status, so if, a few months after he’s sworn in, the right is still bitching about Bill Ayers (OMG! Did Obama’s kids get their puppy from him? Investigation!), they will be digging themselves into an even greater hole.

  19. 19

    @raff: Thirded.

    I found this one the most amusing:

    latching onto fresh ideas that might improve the Republican brand (easiest of all)

    Yeah, sure. In much of the country and certainly for the presidency, the Repubs have run on some combination of Bibles, babies, brown people and butt sex for as long as I can remember. They do it even as more and more people are asking them to talk about something else. Like maybe the economy.

    Why? Because the Repubs are enslaved by a base that doesn’t want to hear about anything else. I have yet to hear anyone of note in the party say "Gee, maybe we shouldn’t run on the four b’s." I’ve heard "Waaah! It’s Sarah’s fault!" So yeah, they can get some candidates that aren’t complete assholes (possibly by means of a net and tranquilizer darts), come up with some fresh ideas (I assume fresh = good). But until they grow the balls to tell Das Base to siddown and StFu, their main problem isn’t internal. They need to re-educate their entire base to care about fresh ideas. Good luck with that.

    Maybe they could re-capture some of the Evangelists who are grouping due a shared concern for the environment but even that would require pissing off big business interests (or flat out lying). So basically, I pity the fool who has to figure this one out. (Nyah, nyah!)

  20. 20
    Scott de B. says:

    I’m hoping that, for the first few months, the Obama administration will be shining a light into all the dark corners of the Bush administration, and this will keep Congressional Republicans on the defensive. It doesn’t even have to be done in a partisan manner — just invite the media to rummage through a few of the closets in the Executive Branch (following Obama’s promise of greater transparency).

  21. 21
    Bilby says:

    They had best learn quickly that if they go in there and just oppose everything and act like, well, a right-wing blogger, they are going to get hammered.

    The hypocrisy. It burns.

  22. 22
    tripletee says:

    But until they grow the balls to tell Das Base to siddown and StFu, their main problem isn’t internal. They need to re-educate their entire base to care about fresh ideas. Good luck with that.

    The GOP actively cultivated a base made up largely of fundamentalists and ignorant xenophobes who, for decades, could be relied upon to vote against their own interests as long as they were promised an abortion- and darkie-free theocratic paradise just around the corner.

    No one could have anticipated that such a Faustian bargain would end up backfiring on them in the end.

  23. 23
    JR says:

    Can I ask why this post is championing anyone’s "sound advice to Republicans"?

    Throw them an anchor and let’s keep it moving. It should be obvious by now that "conservatism" is a gateway political movement to fascism. It’s happened that way over and over now, ever since the advent of mass media. Time for us to see it and grow up.

    Wars and prison camps and corporate control and torture are FEATURES of the endpoint of Right-wing politics, not fixable bugs. I know a lot of people got their identities bound up in the glitzy media version of the "Might Makes Right" con movement, but for your own good and that of the nation and humanity’s future: quit trying to resurrect that dead Golden Calf.

  24. 24
    cain says:

    @raff:

    Everytime I hear that stupid filibuster i get pissed off because we had a chance to get rid of it (for a time) the Republicans were so wrapped in their own world they couldn’t see themselves not in charge.

    Right now, if they had gotten rid of the filibuster it would have been fantastic. They would have nobody to blame but themselves. After all the appointments have been made, I would change the rules just to make the point that you should never assume that you’re going to be in power. Whatever power you ascribe to yourself the opposition will as well.

    cain

  25. 25

    […] John Cole, who adds this valuable point: [Republicans] would be wise to remember that the American public is, […]

  26. 26
    JasonF says:

    My big fear is that a large enough portion of the electorate will confuse the inevitable obstructionist reaction to President-elect Obama’s proposals with some sort of return to the principle of limiting the government’s power, and thereby be suckered into voting for Republicans next time around.

  27. 27
    Smith says:

    A few conservative commentators have been trying to do some deep reflection and realize they need to change, but the "base" is already frothing at the mouth over the prospect of President Obama.

    On his radio show, Limbaugh has been hammering that this is an "Obama recession" and will turn into an "Obama depression." He and Hannity are already starting the memo that Obama is going to take your social security away. For crying out loud, the "base" is accusing Obama of being the reason behind the bad economy. They are already trying to sink his presidency before he even takes office. Look for Dittoheads to start filling your newspaper LTE’s about Obama being the reason for the economic downturn despite the fact that he hasn’t even taken office yet.

    I doubt the base will change – they will continue to stay angry and blame Obama for every little thing that goes wrong in their lives. Also, according to someone on Pam’s House Blend, Fred Phelps is planning on protesting Obama’s grandmother’s funeral. Classy bunch.

  28. 28
    b-psycho says:

    The Republicans are not only the angry white guy party, but the OLD angry white guy party.

    Barring a wholesale gutting of the party they’re screwed. Not lengthy wilderness period screwed, but extinction screwed. That is, unless they’ve got a plan to turn those old folks into zombies after they keel over.

  29. 29
    tavella says:

    Phelps may discover the difference between picking on some poor soldier’s family, and alarming the Secret Service.

  30. 30
    tavella says:

    @Montysano:

    Yeah, that was it — there was plenty of local and state fucking up, but for nearly an entire fucking week there were people stranded on overpasses and starving in shelters, and the cavalry never came. Even as civilians were driving and boating in, carrying relief they had personally gathered.

    It was simply unbelievable, unforgivable incompetence and neglect.

  31. 31
    Gemina13 says:

    a majority of the country put up with everything until they saw video of their countrymen drowning in New Orleans- I would call that patience, and I remember it well. Hell, I even initially tried to defend Bush during Katrina (I still think the locals did a shitty job evacuating people- those poor people, and I mean that in every meaning of the word poor, should never have been there), and it finally became inescapable.

    Before I address this quote, let me just say: the Republicans are between the sword and the wall on this one. They can give thanks that they weren’t massacred on the 4th, but they came pretty damn close. If they continue to obstruct the Democrats in the name of bigger giveaways to corporations, or for denying money to the poor and veterans because "we can’t afford it," they’ll end up using a closet for their caucus chamber.

    If they have any members with more brains than idealogy, they’ll play "happy warriors" and actually come up with working strategies. Nothing I’ve seen so far indicates the GOP has anyone close to being their modern-day Moses. I really hope they like the wilderness. I hear the Judas goats are especially delicious when they’re cooked over dried piles of bullshit.

    Now back to the quote. I turned from a concerned liberal in 2004 to a rabidly partisan blogger in 2005, to the point where Republican friends told me they were frightened all that rage would impact my health. Then Katrina happened. By Wednesday, they were joining me in calls for Brown’s and Chertoff’s heads, and wanted to skin Bush alive. I’m happy to say that, out of the seven or eight, five voted for Obama, one for Ron Paul, and the other abstained but wished us well.

    (And they were right about my health. My diabetes and blood pressure shot out of control until 2007.)

  32. 32
    binzinerator says:

    Republicans have a big problem. Nope, it’s not figuring out how to rebuild their party after consecutive defeats in national elections (that’s easy). Nor is it finding new leaders in Congress (also easy) or latching onto fresh ideas that might improve the Republican brand (easiest of all).

    Easy, easier, easiest? Do tell.

    No kidding. Evidence of Barnes’ cluelessness of the real problem is there in his own words. The twit calls it ‘the Republican brand’. It’s the jargon of product-speak uttered by a marketeering hack who has forgotten how a party’s ideas and philosophy of governing actually translate on the ground into real tangible things that can affect people, even in catastrophic ways. It is no doubt much easier to come up with snazzy new packaging and taglines than to fix the real blood and pain of Iraq, torture, Katriana, Schiavo, Wall Street, home mortgages, etc.

    Dumbass thinks all it will take is new packaging for people to buy the dogshit again.

    I am so glad these goopers are this clueless.

  33. 33
    Capri says:

    Two thoughts – if Obama pushes through lobby reform and turns off the corporate teat, the Republicans will have no choice but to play ball and try to govern. They aren’t being obstructionist for the hell of it, but because they are being paid to. Reform is something Obama talked about all the time on the stump. but it didn’t get much attention.

    If I were Obama I’d distract the right wing talkers/loonies by throwing them a bone to chew on. Something that would keep them so focused they wouldn’t have time to examine anything else he did. The bone? A presidential commission to look at the fairness doctrine. I’d put Randi Rhodes, Jane Fonda, and Dennis Kuchinich on it, with Ed Schultz to provide "balance." I really don’t think the right wing talkers could get past that, and every time their attention wandered I’d have the commission release a preliminary report so that they’d refocus.

  34. 34
    RobW says:

    Capri: excellent suggestion about distraction/diversion.

    Also, I’d remind Obama (as long as we’re giving him advice he’ll never read) that one reason W was so successful at getting his radical agenda passed was that he didn’t give one little rat fart about "overreaching." Every time he’d issue a new executive order or outrageous signing statement, he’d have another one going before anyone could even react. There was no let-up at all. You want to change things? That’s how you do it. Assume the other party will obstruct as much as they can. Fine. Throw so much at them that they flat won’t be able to obstruct it all.

    Scott deB I’m hoping that, for the first few months, the Obama administration will be shining a light into all the dark corners of the Bush administration, and this will keep Congressional Republicans on the defensive. It doesn’t even have to be done in a partisan manner—just invite the media to rummage through a few of the closets in the Executive Branch (following Obama’s promise of greater transparency).

    Ooh, yes. One thing he can do right away, like minutes after sitting at his desk, is rescind Bush’s first executive order, the one that sealed the records of the Reagan/Bush I administrations and just let the journalists and historians go to work.

  35. 35

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