It occurred to me that good strategic reasons explain why the Republican party has become sandwich board silly. Let’s run through the institutional advantages that have kept the party afloat until now.
* Money from rich people. Other movements have come and gone, but since FDR established the middle class and poor as the Democrats’ base Republicanism’s beating heart has been the interests of wealthy establishment in America. Too bad for them business executives are often greedy but rarely stupid.
Bob Clark of Missouri and Victor Hammel of Pennsylvania are CEOs of large businesses who tend to back Democrats but also donate to Republicans. Clark runs Clayco, a St. Louis real estate development firm. Hammel leads J.C. Ehrlich, a pest-control company based in Reading, Pa..
They are the types McCain had hoped to attract. Instead, Clark, who raised thousands for Bush in 2000, has raised more than $500,000 for Obama. And Hammel, who regularly gives money to Republican Sen. Arlen Specter, has donated $2,300 to Obama.
“Barack is definitely more liberal than I am,” Clark said. “But I’m willing to compromise on some of those issues for what I think is the greater good.”
Hammel said, “I would rather pay a little higher tax on a higher profit than a lower tax rate on lower profits.“
* Communication. Let’s admit that Reagan and a generation of Republican Congressmenl did an impressive job of selling an agenda that by and large Americans hate. Clinton might have inverted that but Republican strategy and his own weaknesses effectively turned Big Dog’s charisma against him. George Dubya started the slide, although in my opinion it wasn’t the President’s famous problem with clear English, good faith arguments and telling the truth that did him in but rather his pathological loyalty issues. After ritually humiliating staff like Colin Powell who had real rapport with the public and the media, the the administration’s public face by term two included such memorable figures as Michael Brown, Harriet Miers and Alberto Gonzales. Sarah Palin, Sam Wurzelbacher, Rick Santelli and Bobby “Kenneth” Jindal just underline the point that Republicans have lost the knack for talking to ordinary people. Against John Kerry the GOP might have at least played for a draw; Barack Obama is eating them alive.
* Issues. What is left in the Republican toolbag that Bush didn’t already try? We got tax cuts. We tried privatizing government operations, cutting environmental oversight and deregulating finance. We invaded a foreign country just to watch it die. America codified every point in the Republican agenda short of killing the inheritance tax, and as long you count ‘success’ as the overall well-being of America, none of it worked. The party still needs to please the Christian taliban, but out of power policy proposals won’t do them any good there. The GOP’s religious right strategy basically boils down to (1) gaining power on some other issue agenda, and then (2) using said power to quietly please the Christianist crazies. If Republicans honestly proposed whatTony Perkins and the AFA want they would never see step (1). Since worshipping a comic book version of Reagan’s legacy that has some important pages stuck together is the only part of the Republican agenda that they can talk about in polite company, and they already tried that, the elephants are basically stuck.
As the old saw goes, when you have the facts you bang the facts. When you have the law you bang the law. When you have neither, you bang the table. Too bad for the GOP they can’t even compete at that.