It is fair to say that the Republican Party is being tugged to the right. With the party in the minority, conservatism has become a self-driven thing, willing to turn on the GOP establishment. It probably makes Republicans in D.C. nervous; conservatives have shown their willingness to support a third-party candidate, and there’s a looming threat that credible Republican politicians will face brutal primary battles backed by conservative activists, FreedomWorks, and the Club for Growth.
There’s no parallel pressure from moderates to tone down the messaging. The backlash over Sarah Palin’s “death panels” claim is the only mitigating lesson on blowing out the putative effects of Obama’s policies as far as humanly possible, and establishment Republicans will be left to gleefully and grimly warn that health care, cap-and-trade, and stimulus spending will mean the end of everything. (And who’s to say it won’t? If the movie 2012 taught us anything, it’s that particles can start fluctuating at will.) In 2010, we won’t yet know whether health reform will work as intended, so all these accusations will simply hang in the ether, untethered to verifiable fact.
But if Republicans don’t strike those notes, the conservatives will be left a little disappointed, and that’s not what the GOP wants right now.
Personally, I think this is a dumb strategy. If they were smart, they’d get all David Broder/Mitch Daniels budget scold on our asses. Not that that would be any more honest, it would just make them seem less frightening. The Khmer Rogue scares people and that’s not a good thing.
But the key phrase here for me is “untethered to verifiable fact”. Good says (not incorrectly) that this may be exacerbated by the fact that HCR won’t have kicked in yet, but there’s something bigger than that going on: everything about our public dialog is untethered to verifiable fact, whether it’s climate change, the economy, national security, even to some extent the president’s place of birth.
I don’t know what the right description is here: “post-reality”, “post-truth”?