Gap-astrophic Failure

Steve Benen flags down the real story so far in the GOP primary:  it’s not Mitt’s finishing problem, or clods of Santorum gumming up the works, or even Newt’s ego self-immolating like a phosphorus elemental in a gasoline refinery, but the significant turnout deficit compared to just four years ago.

So, what were the totals last night? In Minnesota, with nearly all of the precincts reporting, 47,826 Republicans participated in the caucuses, down about 23% from four years ago.

In Colorado, with all of the precincts reporting, 65,479 GOP voters showed up, a drop of nearly 7% from the 2008 totals.

And in Missouri’s non-binding primary, with all of the precincts reporting, turnout stood at 251,868. That’s quite a few for a primary dismissed as a “beauty pageant,” though as Cohen noted, the comparison is admittedly flawed.

Nevertheless, we can start to take some larger lessons away from the larger trajectory. For one thing, none of this makes Mitt Romney look especially impressive — he’s losing states he won four years ago; he’s struggling to get his supporters to participate; and he’s failing badly to match his 2008 vote totals at this stage in the process. It’s starting to look like Romney only wins when he spends several million dollars on attack ads to destroy his main challenger.

For another, this is part of a pattern. As was reported on “The Rachel Maddow Show” on Monday night, if we look just at self-identifying Republicans in the exit polls, turnout dropped 11% in Iowa, 15% in New Hampshire, and 16% in Florida. Though turnout in South Carolina was strong, it’s proving to be the exception, as evidenced by additional weak numbers in Nevada and in yesterday’s contests.

The GOP bet everything on the “Tea Party as the new majority” after 2010, and that assumption is rapidly turning into one of the biggest political meltdowns in a long time.  Awesome.  The further to the right they go, the more they lose from everyone else.  Even their primaries are self destructing.

If you were a woman, a minority, a non-Christian, LGBT, a government or union employee or you make less than six figures a year, why would you care to vote in the GOP primaries since the party already classifies you as the enemy?  I mean what what, literally leaves the 27% if that much?  More like 2.7% at the rate they’re going.  The only state where turnout was up?  South Carolina.  That speaks volumes.

We’ve still got loads of work ahead of us, but damn it feels good to see the sun again.

96 replies
  1. 1
    deep says:

    South Carolina… AGAIN. WTF. Bunch of home-grown terrorists down there.

    Seriously, Sherman didn’t go far enough.

  2. 2
    Mino says:

    Could someone please tie up Max Baccus and hide him in a closet until the payroll tax bill is passed?

  3. 3
    fasteddie9318 says:

    @Mino:

    Could someone please tie up Max Baccus and hide him in a closet until the payroll tax bill is passed?

    Why put a definite end point on something that would so obviously be good for the country?

  4. 4
    chopper says:

    love. it. wingnut apathy is almost as sweet as wingnut tears.

  5. 5
    Disco says:

    “It’s starting to look like Romney only wins when he spends several million dollars on attack ads to destroy his main challenger.”

    Which is a good lesson for the fall campaign. Either Obama gets down there in the mud with him, or it’s President Romney. Luckily Obama understands this. John Kerry did not.

  6. 6
    Legalize says:

    I like to read wingnut blogs from time to time (sufficiently Jameson-infused for my own safety), and almost all of the commenters are convinced that (a) the low turn-out is a good sign because it means that voters will come out in droves to vote against the Kenyan; (b) the vast majority of Americans are “conservative” as defined by wingnuts; and (c) “the media” is conspiring against conservatives to not let them get their message out to Americans – who, again, totally love what they hear when the media doesn’t censor the message.

    Seriously. Some of these people can spell, form coherent sentences, and I assume, walk around and lead normal lives. How can some matters of fact and reality penetrate the bubble, while others cannot?

  7. 7
    SpotWeld says:

    The “Tea Party” was a large group of people who were dissatified, and told that the best thing they could do was go were they told to go (town hall mettings, political rallies), do what they were told to do (be distruptive, ask about the birth certificate, yell about death panels) and most importantly leave when they were told to leave (when the cameras were off).

    Now, the Tea party is all ramped up to do that again, except the GOP’s strongest asset, a unified voice, is fractured. So, the Tea Party just sits and spins.

  8. 8
    FlipYrWhig says:

    @fasteddie9318: It should continue until the end of hostilities.

  9. 9
    Bulworth says:

    a non-Christian

    Although professed Christians constitute a lot of Americans.

  10. 10
    NobodySpecial says:

    It’s looking like Bizarro 1984, and I love it. All we need now is Newt to blow up at the convention to make the parallel complete. EDIT – whoops, that was ’80. But I still want the ’84 victory margin.

  11. 11
    PeakVT says:

    Baring an unforeseen major economic or geopolitical crisis, Obama is going to win. The problem is the down-ticket races, specifically in the Senate.

  12. 12
    Mark S. says:

    If you were a woman, a minority, a non-Christian, LGBT, a government or union employee or you make less than six figures a year, why would you care to vote in the GOP primaries since the party already classifies you as the enemy?

    Gay abortions and dogwhistles. Even though they’re losing on almost all of the culture war fronts, it’s the only way they can rile up the base.

    Personally, I think the stupidest thing they’ve done in the past couple years was to go after teachers. It made them look like irredeemable assholes.

  13. 13
    Ash Can says:

    OT: This weekend’s CPAC conference will be hosting GOP presidential candidates, Senate and House leaders, plus White Nationalist leader Peter Brimelow. (H/t Little Green Footballs)

    What? What’s that about a dog whistle? I’m sorry, I can’t hear you — the GOP has been blasting train horns, sirens and shit into my ears for so long I’ve lost my hearing.

  14. 14
    Samara Morgan says:

    paging soonergrunt.
    ineffable sweetness.

    On Saturday, Icelandic member of parliament Birgitta Jónsdóttir posted a nomination letter on her blog on behalf of the three-member parliamentary group The Movement, proposing suspected WikiLeaks source Bradley Manning as a candidate for the 2012 Nobel Peace Prize. Nobel Peace Prize nominations can be submitted by any member of a national assembly, among others.
    __
    The Icelandic parliamentarian has been a vocal supporter of WikiLeaks since it leaked the “Collateral Murder” video of a 2007 Baghdad strike by U.S. forces that killed at least a dozen unarmed civilians, including two Reuters reporters, which is widely believed to have been acquired and sent to WikiLeaks by Manning himself…
    __
    We have the great honor of nominating Private First Class Bradley Manning for the 2012 Nobel Peace Prize. Manning is a soldier in the United States army who stands accused of releasing hundreds of thousands of documents to the whistleblower website WikiLeaks. The leaked documents pointed to a long history of corruption, war crimes, and imperialism by the United States government in international dealings. These revelations have fueled democratic uprising around the world, including a democratic revolution in Tunisia. According to journalists, his alleged actions helped motivate the democratic Arab Spring movements, shed light on secret corporate influence on our foreign policies, and most recently contributed to the Obama Administration agreeing to withdraw all U.S.troops from the occupation in Iraq.

    i think i’ll go drink some of Allahpundits delicious tears.
    He cant even bear to say the word “santorum”.
    so refreshing and delicious.

  15. 15
    Mark S. says:

    @Legalize:

    (a) the low turn-out is a good sign because it means that voters will come out in droves to vote against the Kenyan

    I’m pretty good at wingnut logic but even that doesn’t make any sense to me.

  16. 16
    dogwood says:

    @Bulworth:

    Although professed Christians constitute a lot of Americans.

    The majority of my closest friends are very good Christians, active in their churches. They are Catholic, Presbyterian, Methodist and Lutheran. None of them has ever voted Republican.

  17. 17
    beltane says:

    My mother’s Republican friend who said he couldn’t vote for any of these candidates must have a lot of company.

  18. 18
    The Bearded Blogger says:

    They’ve been rope-a-doped. We’re nearing the eight round, and the Kenyan is gonna turn out to be from Zaire.

  19. 19
    jibeaux says:

    @Mark S.:
    It made them look like it that much more obvious that they are irredeemable assholes.

    Great point, though. It was a big talking point here in NC, how teachers don’t care about kids, they just care about those sweet sweet dollar billz, and the teacher’s unions are such bullies. NC HAS NO FUCKING UNIONS AND THE TEACHERS HAVEN’T GOTTEN A RAISE IN FOUR YEARS. Punching bag fail.

  20. 20
    Mark S. says:

    @jibeaux:

    Almost everybody knows a few teachers. They know teachers don’t make a hell of a lot of money.

  21. 21
    Zach says:

    Making 200k already gets you down to 5% or so depending on how you count it… it’s been a bit particular to me over the past few years that no Democrats tried to start a class war that might actually be pretty effective… the bottom 95% vs. the top 5% who have top-flight private or public education for their kids, generous health insurance, investments and home equity, etc. There’s a pretty small slice of the country that’s actually “secure” in that sense. I think you could have some success pitting everyone else against them… I’m glad no one’s doing this; just surprised.

  22. 22
    Mino says:

    @jibeaux: Santorum has the cure for that. Home schooling!

    Watching that smooth face pontificate about the dangers of government overreach, when he would drop us right into the Handmaiden’s Tale, well, it boggles.

  23. 23
    jibeaux says:

    @Mark S.: My kids’ teachers are limited to 500 copies per nine weeks. Sooooo with 25 kids or so per class you’re talking 2 copies a week. For tests, homework, communication with parents, handouts, everything. When they run out, they have to go to Kinko’s, they can’t just ask parents to donate paper because there’s no fucking TONER. I have gotten emails from these people at 11:00 at night before, scheduling conferences and following up. If I ever had to talk face to face with one of these assclowns denigrating teachers, I might not be able to stop myself from spitting on them it makes me that mad.

  24. 24
    The Bearded Blogger says:

    @PeakVT: But a large enough collapse on the presidential front could sink the GOP in the senate and house (not to mention state government)

  25. 25
    Culture of Truth says:

    They’re going after hotel maids now, who are unionized and terribly overpaid, which hurts us all, apparently.

  26. 26
    trollhattan says:

    Speaking of things Republican, Charlie Pierce took a little time from election coverage to skewer St. Ronaldus on his 101st. Worth a couple minutes of spleen-venting.

    http://www.esquire.com/blogs/p.....gs-6653286

  27. 27
    Culture of Truth says:

    I do believe this White House knows the best defense is a good offense. They are now pointing out that the GOP is about to nominate someone who enforced the same contraception policy the GOP is currently whinging about.

  28. 28
    Martin says:

    I have a hypothesis.

    It was noted last night on the teevees and places that Mitt won in MN in 2008 because he was viewed as more conservative than McCain or Rudy. But in 2012, he got clobbered, with the evidence suggesting that he’s viewed as the moderate relative to Santorum and Noot. Now, we all know that Mitt has only moved right since 2008.

    My hypothesis is that the GOP has finally moved right of their own electorate. Between the wingnut welfare recipients and the hyperbolic one-upping of anything reasonable that Obama should suggest, mix in millions of negative attack ads from SuperPACs that draw distinctions by making ever more outrageous claims and demands for every more extreme policy positions, that the GOP has actually outflanked itself.

    It explains the high unfavorables of all the candidates, the erosion of support by Mitt in places like MN where there is no naturally aligned candidate, and the low turnout in the primaries – because they’re actually turning off part of their base. The CA GOP has lost almost 10% of their registered voters in the last year. The Dems haven’t picked up as many, so I think the number of disaffected establishment GOP voters is really growing as they’re getting caught between this feed-the-rich/feed-the-church/kill-the-brown-people battle within the party.

    Anecdotally, I know my mom is in that camp. She was a state delegate in 2008. As a pro-choice, pro-gay rights classic fiscal conservative, she couldn’t even bring herself to vote in the Iowa caucus this year. She should have been Mitt’s target demographic right down the line, but she can’t stand him. She says it’s the inconsistency of his positions – the usual flip-flopper charge, but when pressed, it’s that he’s moved from moderate to extreme positions. It’s not that she thinks he’s insincere in his current positions, it’s that she’s afraid he was insincere in his past positions and that a supercharged GOP would keep him from acting like a moderate on social issues.

    Broadly what I’m hearing from Republicans isn’t that the GOP candidates aren’t conservative enough – just that they’re not ‘electable’. They don’t necessarily like Obama, but they think these guys are either weak or insane. I think the candidates and the party have moved in the direction of the loudest voices and the largest wallets, and not in the direction of the most voters – not even the most conservative voters.

  29. 29
    The Bearded Blogger says:

    @Martin: Precisely. The GOP has been rope-a-doped. In order to staunchly oppose Obama, who was always willing to meet the GOP halfway, they have moved too far to the right: too far to have a candidate who can satisfy the base (no candidate could be pure enough), way too far to win a national election, and, most interestingly, too far to remain viable in the long run, or to track back convincingly.

  30. 30
    The Bearded Blogger says:

    @Disco: Actually, isn’t there a sort of saturation immunity to negative attacks? I mean, what else can they throw at Obama that hasn’t been heard a thousand times?

  31. 31
    wrb says:

    Does the low turnout now matter?

    Maybe they don’t care which of their assholes slays the skinny muslim Harvard-boy, they just want to get on with the slayin’

    Then it’s hoods on and mount up.

  32. 32
    Samara Morgan says:

    @wrb: turnout matters because the GOP needs 65% of the WHITE VOTE to beat Obama.

  33. 33
    Pococurante says:

    @Martin:

    She says it’s the inconsistency of his positions – the usual flip-flopper charge, but when pressed, it’s that he’s moved from moderate to extreme positions

    Most Republican voters are quick to approve of politicians who “do what it takes to get elected and then do those things I approve of”.

    That’s what is so fascinating about today’s GOP. Even that level of cynicism is not enough to escape the RINO purge.

  34. 34
    Berial says:

    @Martin: You could be right, but I want to ask, what effect do you think the healthcare debate in particular has had on the Republican base? The Republican base trends ‘old’ and the elderly are VERY prickly about their healthcare. Could it be that this is an issue for them?

    I ask, because other than pissing off liberals anyway they can(including being against ‘obamacare’ with no specifics), wanting to make sure women aren’t allowed to have sex except at the convenience of their husbands, and making damn sure the rich aren’t taxed, I don’t know what ‘ideals’ the Republicans actually stand for.

  35. 35
    Eli Rabett says:

    There are two conclusions to be drawn

    1. Money is tight for Romney after carpet bombing FL
    2. See 1. His team is small and stretched tight.

  36. 36
    wrb says:

    @Samara Morgan:

    The question was whether turnout now is really indicative of what turnout will be when Obama is the opponent.

  37. 37
    Commenting at Balloon Juice Since 1937 says:

    Was 2008 even a good turn out year for Repugs? I would think they’d be a bit discouraged after eight years of fail.

  38. 38
    Martin says:

    To add to my previous comment, I think the Clint ad + controversy is really a snapshot of the problem the GOP has gotten themselves into.

    Clint is featured in an ad that basically says nothing more than “America is awesome, America can do great things when we work together, Chrysler epitomizes that awesomeness, buy our cars”. And the GOPs response to that message was basically “Fuck you for taking Obama’s pro-america, pro-let’s pull together message” as if to suggest that no, America isn’t awesome, America either shouldn’t pull together, or can’t do great things when they pull together, and oh yeah, we’re still pissed that Chrysler still exists.

    Holy fuck, how hard do you have to punch yourself in the junk before you feel it? Is that really the message you want to leave in the hands of the voters? I mean, okay, it’s a good piss-off-liberals moment, but for anyone who isn’t rabidly Obama-is-a-secret-terrorist, and may even lean conservative, are you sure you want to tell them that you’re opposed to American returning to greatness if it might give Obama some kind of benefit? Really? I realize that petty is a common conservative trait, but I don’t think it’s an aspirational conservative value.

    I’m still kind of blown away that the GOP is actively (even from Rove, their top messaging guy) pushing against a pro-America message.

  39. 39
    geg6 says:

    @The Bearded Blogger:

    I wonder about that, too. Even some of my closer-to-wingnutty-than-not acquaintances are murmuring about how they are all just a bunch of kooks and that Obama is a citizen and a Christian and why don’t they just shut up.

    It’s astonishing, really.

  40. 40
    Suffern ACE says:

    @Berial: “Shouting at other foreign powers to let them know what’s what” diplomacy is also a key plank.

  41. 41
    Bubblegum Tate says:

    @Legalize:

    (a) the low turn-out is a good sign because it means that voters will come out in droves to vote against the Kenyan

    I’ve not seen this argument. How, exactly, do they support the idea that low primary turnout = high election turnout?

  42. 42
    MikeJ says:

    @jibeaux:

    Punching bag fail.

    It’s only a fail if it costs them votes. I’d guess that the majority of people in North Carolina think that a teacher can’t be fired even if he or she were to shoot up heroin and masturbate in front of a class of third graders. It’s not about reality.

  43. 43
    Steve says:

    I think we all remember what primary turnout was like in 2008 when Clinton and Obama went head to head. And we didn’t have a hated opponent to get the base fired up (the way Republicans do right now with Obama). All those people showed up because there were tons and tons of Democrats enthused about voting for both of the leading candidates.

    I don’t think the GOP primary turnout tells the whole story about what will happen in November, but it’s hard to convince me that it means nothing.

  44. 44
    geg6 says:

    @Martin:

    I’m still kind of blown away that the GOP is actively (even from Rove, their top messaging guy) pushing against a pro-America message.

    Me, too. Another instance where the phenomenon I mention in #38 comes to the fore. Their own audience isn’t buying it, nor do they want to.

  45. 45
    Berial says:

    @Suffern ACE: True. They are the “any war, any where, any reason, all the time” party.

  46. 46
    Curtis says:

    @Martin: But if this were the case, why didn’t Huntsman come out on top? He certainly appeared more moderate. Do you think he was viewed as weak and unelectable?

  47. 47
    The Bearded Blogger says:

    @Martin: I used to jokingly suggest that Obama and Pelosi come out strongly against drinking and driving and eating bacon three times a day, in order to skew the demographics of the country in favor of democrats. This is sort of what happened, actually

    @geg6: Kind of gives me hope in regart to citizens united: unlimited media power has diminishing returns. Still badly needs to be overturned, though (plus fairness doctrine reestablished)

  48. 48
    JCT says:

    @Martin:

    but for anyone who isn’t rabidly Obama-is-a-secret-terrorist, and may even lean conservative, are you sure you want to tell them that you’re opposed to American returning to greatness if it might give Obama some kind of benefit? Really? I realize that petty is a common conservative trait, but I don’t think it’s an aspirational conservative value.

    This. And even beyond — I think Rove and Co left even the crazy wing nuts sort of perplexed. Even they couldn’t figure out how the resurrection of Chrysler (and America’s pride/accomplishment in pulling this off) is a “TERRIBLE” thing. Talk about jumping the shark.

  49. 49
    Amir Khalid says:

    @Samara Morgan:
    You don’t seriously think Private Manning is a real contender for the Nobel Peace Prize, do you? Or that his nomination by an Icelandic parliamentary backbencher validates in any way the act for which he is facing a court-martial?

    I say this to disparage not Birgitta Jónsdóttir’s motives, but her judgement — which, to judge by her citation of Manning’s deeds, seems lacking. She attributes to the fallout from what Manning exposed events that were in motion before he leaked anything to future Simpsons guest star Julian Assange: the US was planning to withdraw from Iraq since before Obama’s election, and the Arab Spring was precipitated in Tunisia by a street vendor’s suicide months before Manning leaked anything.

  50. 50
    barath says:

    @JCT:

    Gingrich, ever the opportunist, took the anti-Rove (and thus anti-Romney) position of saying that he liked the Chrysler ad.

  51. 51
    Martin says:

    @Berial:

    You could be right, but I want to ask, what effect do you think the healthcare debate in particular has had on the Republican base? The Republican base trends ‘old’ and the elderly are VERY prickly about their healthcare. Could it be that this is an issue for them?

    I think healthcare is having some effect, but it’s kind of all over the place because healthcare is such a broad topic. You have some lower-income conservative voters that are struggling with healthcare and seeing some real benefits. There’s only so much cognitive dissonance you can ask from your voters. Older folks are seeing some benefits too, so the GOP is trying to walk many contradictory lines here: old people (our voters) deserve an entitlement, but nobody else does. The Dems are bankrupting Medicare but they want to cut Medicare spending (not benefits). Inevitably, you’re going to lose some people in those contradictions, particularly when you are offering no clear alternative. Voters will believe you’re going to hand them all a unicorn, so the alternative can be pure fantasy, but they aren’t even offering that.

    I ask, because other than pissing off liberals anyway they can(including being against ‘obamacare’ with no specifics), wanting to make sure women aren’t allowed to have sex except at the convenience of their husbands, and making damn sure the rich aren’t taxed, I don’t know what ‘ideals’ the Republicans actually stand for.

    Yeah, the birth control fight I think is a losing fight for the right in a big way. Abortion keeps women voting marginally more democratic – not that it’s a single issue vote for most of them, but it tips just enough of them. Birth control is a WHOLE other can of worms though. Up through 2010 it’s just been a little hyperventilating around the edges as an understandable wedge issue, but that initiative in Mississippi and the ones in Colorado are really waking people the fuck up that they’re actually serious about this.

    And the whole 1%/99% implications of the healthcare fight haven’t really been laid bare yet. I expect we’ll see that in full glory once the nominee is set.

  52. 52
    The Bearded Blogger says:

    @Curtis: The GOP is to the right of their general electorate, and to the left of their primary electorate.

  53. 53
    FormerSwingVoter says:

    @Culture of Truth: Why maids? That doesn’t come out of taxes. Are they honestly offended that someone other than them can make a livable wage of any kind?

  54. 54
    Suffern ACE says:

    @JCT: Well, the worst thing about Chrysler was that the Private Equity Firms and their related funds didn’t get their investments back when they took bought it from Daimler. It was a tragic time, I tell you.

    They lost big on their investments in Ally Financial, too. It just sucked to be them. Probably just as bad for those PE firms than it was for those workers. Worse probably. Those workers could always find other jobs, but each bit of money, because it is not fungible, is unique and can never be found again. It was like burning the Library of Alexandria, actually.

  55. 55
    jibeaux says:

    @Martin: It has to be. I mean, without birth control I’d have about a dozen kids or be dead by now, and would be paying for college and diapers. Most of us are not actually interested in that, or in having our plight be the topic of the next Nick Kristof/Sheryl WuDunn book.

  56. 56
    jibeaux says:

    On this general topic, I hope no one accepted V/RC’s check last night and tried to take it to the bank. That would be a trip to the bank you’d never get back.

  57. 57
    The Bearded Blogger says:

    @jibeaux: Have you considered coming over tits? Or the way of Santorum…?

    @FormerSwingVoter: Unions gum up the magic of free markets

  58. 58
    jibeaux says:

    @The Bearded Blogger: Um, I’m a lady. If I were a man I’d have about a hundred kids.

  59. 59
    wrb says:

    @Mark S.:

    (a) the low turn-out is a good sign because it means that voters will come out in droves to vote against the Kenyan

    They’ll be rested?

    They tire easily, ya know.

  60. 60
    Lockewasright says:

    @PeakVT: The more obvious the impending Obama win is in late October the lower GOP turn out will be in November and the greater our down ticket success.

  61. 61
    Culture of Truth says:

    Gingrich said he liked the Eastwood ad, suggesting that although he is a gigantic asshole who overreaches, he still has smart political instincts.

  62. 62
    Legalize says:

    @Bubblegum Tate:
    Delusion. Scream louder. Belief. Etc. It’s how they justify every nonsensical thought that wanders between their ears.

    What’s remarkable to me is that one winger can make an entirely incoherent argument and 5 others will dutifully non their heads and agree.

    Wingers are collectively the strangest improv group ever formed.

  63. 63
    Culture of Truth says:

    @FormerSwingVoter: Maids are overpaid and pampered, and “we all pay” for their fancy lifestyle — why, they spend all their time in luxury hotels!

  64. 64
    Catsy says:

    @PeakVT:

    Baring an unforeseen major economic or geopolitical crisis, Obama is going to win. The problem is the down-ticket races, specifically in the Senate.

    I think the down-ticket races are a lot safer with Mittens than with Noot or Frothy. The latter two would get crushed by Obama in the general, but they’re sufficiently extreme nutjobs to motivate the conservative base to come out and vote.

    With Mittens, a whole lot of Republicans stay home, and those Republicans probably won’t vote in the downticket races either.

  65. 65
    Bubblegum Tate says:

    @Legalize:

    Wingers are collectively the strangest improv group ever formed.

    BOOM!

    That is one odd train of thought, though…I’ve seen wingers do some amazingly tortured justifications for bullshit theories, but that one? WTF?

  66. 66
    burritoboy says:

    What I think is being ignored is the emotional cycle that the Republican party has put it’s supporters through. In most respects, the American right is driven by a collection of emotions, not by any specific policies. A core emotional-nostalgic bundle, if you will.

    You can see this throughout their media infrastructure. Manipulating emotions is what Rupert Murdoch’s empire does (and it does it around the world, by no means limited to the US). It’s what Rush, Beck, Savage, O’Reilly and so many others do.

    The problem with that strategy is that it’s extremely difficult to keep emotional levels at a fever pitch over any long period of time. The fever pitch of the Tea Party predictably burned itself out in a bit over 12 months. The reality is that the US Constitution is designed to make governing a very slow process – so winning the House of Representatives turned the Tea Party into just another Congressional Caucus, which meant the stunning emotional highs were over (to be replaced by excruciating negotiations, which are precisely something a movement driven by emotional needs cannot abide).

    Further, another problem was that the Tea Party was a right-wing populist movement that was secretly founded by the types of oligarchs hated by populists (Dick Armey, the Koch brothers, Roger Ailes, etc). Thus, the Tea Party had no overt leadership – the backers wanted the votes of a populist movement but without the populist leadership that comes with such a movement (the backers didn’t want a challenge to their own power). There is no way for a right-wing populist movement to survive without a leadership structure – they’re authoritarians, after all.

    Even worse, the current American right has a lot of problems using reason. Their appeal is based on that emotional-nostalgic bundle discussed above. But what that means is that, without a single leader, there is no rational way, within current American conservatism, to prioritize what’s important and what’s less important. Without being able to prioritize, the current American right just splinters and there’s no way to pull the splinters back together.

    Ultimately, what held the GOP together from the early 1960s onward, was a single, shared economic vision – a particular form of economic ideology that all segments of the GOP strongly supported. When that ideology became implausible due to the 2007 financial crisis, the later attempt at right-wing populism eventually crashed against the reality that the glue that held the GOP together is gone.

  67. 67
    The Bearded Blogger says:

    @jibeaux: [Perry] Ooops [/Perry]

  68. 68
    burritoboy says:

    The people who say that the conservatives can simply emotionally manipulate their base endlessly – well, there are certain limits to how much anyone – even geniuses at this like Murdoch or Rove – can do this. High emotional levels can only be sustained for limited periods of time, and it takes a certain amount of “rest” before you can re-build to that emotional high-point again.

    In practical terms, the conservatives basically wasted their emotional high point of 2010, and they’re simply not going to be able to regain those emotional heights for a certain amount of time. The Tea Party Congressmen needed to deliver some really satisfying successes – and they didn’t, which means conservatives are in a rest and rebuild period (at best).

  69. 69
    Culture of Truth says:

    @burritoboy: 65.burritoboy,

    everything you say is insightful, but I would add one thing – for much of this noise machine, winning is irrelevant because governing is not terribly important, and that which is can be done by lobbyists.

  70. 70
    Scott says:

    @Martin: My coworkers and Facebook friends who aren’t into politics have been completely mystified about why the Chrysler ad was supposed to be controversial or why the Republicans hate it so much. I’ve felt torn between telling them why they’re so mad, and just letting them continue to wonder.

  71. 71
    The Bearded Blogger says:

    @burritoboy: What a great comment

  72. 72
    burritoboy says:

    Culture of Truth,

    I agree with you, but it’s important to note the following:

    The popularity of right-wing populist movements cannot be sustained without wins. The noise machine can be sustained indefinitely as organizations, but that doesn’t mean the noise machine will generate huge amounts of support.

    Again, this is an inherent and fatal flaw with having a fake populist movement.

  73. 73
    Citizen Alan says:

    [W]hy would you care to vote in the GOP primaries since the party already classifies you as the enemy?

    Why to ratfuck, of course! I am seriously considering voting Republican in Mississippi’s open primary. All the Democrats on the ticket are running unopposed, but in addition to the Republican Presidential race, Alan Nunnelee has TWO primary opponents, one of whom is a Teabagger loon! If Nunnelee (who voted to abolish Medicare and raise taxes on the bottom 95%) has to waste money on a run-off or, even better, loses to the Teabagger, then it can only improve the odds for his Dem challenger, Brad Morris.

  74. 74
    Mark B says:

    @burritoboy: Not even. The conservatives where promised the moon if they elected Teapartiers. They did their part and didn’t get the moon. They didn’t even get a Moon Pie. A lot of them are turned off to politics in general and aren’t going to show up again. They’ll never vote for Obama, but they won’t vote for the Republican candidate either.

    Of course, there are a lot of them that are just too dumb to realize they got screwed in 2010. They’ll be back in 2012. But it’ll still be fewer than the high point. Not to mention that in 2012, the higher turnout of the general election won’t see the disproportionate effect of the fringe voters who show up during off years.

  75. 75
    Martin says:

    @Curtis:

    But if this were the case, why didn’t Huntsman come out on top? He certainly appeared more moderate. Do you think he was viewed as weak and unelectable?

    Huntsman didn’t win over the loud voices and the media in general panned him, so voters don’t really know anything about them. The conservative voters are no different than liberal ones in that most don’t pay particularly close attention to politics – and if they don’t see Huntsman on Fox News or the View or whatever they watch, he doesn’t exist.

    The left really doesn’t have this kind of a problem. The Kucinich wing of the party is so laughably small and lacking in authority, that they are easily ignored. But you get Hannity or Rush to get a big boner over Newt and he’s going to win some primaries, just on the reputation from a couple of radical assholes. That’s now magnified by the ability of the Koch brothers or Adelson to come in, drop millions of dollars to spread their message, and it can look like there’s broad, genuine support for someone that might only have half a dozen backers. And as a voter, you can’t ignore the power of that.

    And primaries, because they don’t demand a quorum, can give a lot of voice to an ever smaller subset of the party – as is happening now – just by alienating some other subset of the party. It’s the same effect as the voter suppression business – winning through lower participation. A win is a win, whether you get more participation or less, and I think unintentionally the GOP is suppressing their own party, but nobody is really noticing the real consequence of these wins – they just look like wins.

    Contrast to 2008 when Obama didn’t win just by collecting more votes than Hillary – he won by getting more people to participate, and to choose his side. I think the numbers worked out that if Hillary had gotten her 2008 vote totals in any previous election, she’d have won the nomination in almost every previous Dem primary contest. It was clearly a case where Obama won by making the tent way the fuck bigger. The GOP is making theirs ever smaller – which we’ve known about, but they were at least consolidating voters that way. For every moderate that they lost, they gained another religious fundamentalist or racist. But now I wonder if they aren’t losing more than they’re consolidating – at least everywhere but Appalachia/Dixie.

  76. 76
    Mike E says:

    Heard a fascinating Diane Rhem show where, despite the two vs two panel format, resulted in a cogent discussion about the Catholic institutions providing contraception coverage, then took on SGKFail. My local station had a pledge drive going on so it was truncated, but still hit a high level nonetheless.
    Which leads me to…@Culture of Truth: mebbe you can haz translate, plz? If’n you’re not too busy fighting video bobblehedz?

  77. 77
    Felanius Kootea says:

    @Disco: Did anyone else get Russ Feingold’s hand-wringing email lamenting the fact that Obama isn’t going to just allow the Republican SuperPACs to destroy him with no response? I get the principle and admire Russ Feingold deeply and I’m glad he followed his principles to the end and got himself voted out of office by a candidate with deeper pockets and fewer principles. But the Wisconsin voters are worse off for it and I’ll be damned if I think Obama should do the same.

  78. 78
    Culture of Truth says:

    @burritoboy: I agree with you too – for a few years now I’ve periodically sent out an update to an old-fashioned e-mail group titled “The Coming Republican Crack-Up” about this phenomenon

  79. 79
    Martin says:

    @jibeaux: Birth control is CONTROL. It’s that simple. It’s a basic human need to have control over one’s life, and the very instinct that drives our moral opposition to slavery, or our recognition that prison is punishment, should drive our support for birth control.

    It’s another thing that astonishes me. No male would ever tolerate giving up that control through policy. Trust me on that. So suggesting that women would agree to do it is, well, to be disconnected with reality.

  80. 80
    Rafer Janders says:

    @Zach:

    the bottom 95% vs. the top 5% who have top-flight private or public education for their kids, generous health insurance, investments and home equity, etc. There’s a pretty small slice of the country that’s actually “secure” in that sense.

    Even in that top 5%, many of them are only one job loss, car crash or medical catastrophe away from losing it all. It’s still hand-to-mouth, paycheck to paycheck, just at a higher level.

  81. 81
    gelfling545 says:

    @FormerSwingVoter: Well, you see, it’s not enough just to BE rich. You have to have the misery of others as a contrast to make you FEEL rich.

  82. 82
    nellcote says:

    In November goopers will have culture war propositions/referendoms on the ballot to bring out their voters.

    The epic gooper fail of the primaries won’t matter if they can sucessfully supress the vote.

  83. 83
    burritoboy says:

    Nellcote,

    How well will culture war propositions fuel turnout if people’s primary concern is the economy? Culture war is all well and fine in good economic times, but it might well be a negative in bad economic times. And talking a lot about culture war issues opens a door to the Democrats’ retort: “You’re only talking about [culture war issue] because you have no economic plan. We, on the other hand, do have an economic plan. That’s why we’re out here talking about things that matter to Americans right now and not [culture war issue]. Here’s what our plan will do………”

  84. 84
    Berial says:

    @Martin:

    Yeah, the birth control fight I think is a losing fight for the right in a big way. Abortion keeps women voting marginally more democratic – not that it’s a single issue vote for most of them, but it tips just enough of them. Birth control is a WHOLE other can of worms though. Up through 2010 it’s just been a little hyperventilating around the edges as an understandable wedge issue, but that initiative in Mississippi and the ones in Colorado are really waking people the fuck up that they’re actually serious about this.

    As a resident of Mississippi I was pleasantly surprised that “Personhood” shit got voted down. My guess is that the women folk took one good look at that initiative, actually TALKED about what it would mean amoungst themselves, and voted it the hell down.

    I’m hoping that the initiatives put forward, wake some people up, and MS trends a little more to the Democratic side this next election because of it(I’m dreaming I know). Maybe a few lower races can go Democrat that wouldn’t have otherwise, but this being Mississippi, I still expect the state to go overwhelmingly for whatever Republican is put in front of them for president.

  85. 85
    Martin says:

    @burritoboy: Well, I think you’re right in broad strokes but a little off on the driver. Conservatives are driven by moral arguments, and even good moral arguments have to be able to stand against reason. For example, the call by the right that civil rights should have been settled by popular vote rather than the courts and Congressmen from outside the affected states. Civil rights was based on a moral argument that needed to be able to trump even really good, really strong democratic, economic, populist arguments. It’s a classic case of doing what’s morally right over doing what can be most rationally argued.

    We forget that. We forget to make the moral arguments. We argue that we need to raise taxes on the wealthy to balance the budget, but that’s not a moral argument – it’s a a solution to a math problem. If we presented it as a moral argument – that individually everyone agrees that success deserves to be rewarded, but at the same time, overrewarding some, and underrewarding others creates a moral hazard to the nation, as the incentives for those at the lower end of the ladder become insufficient to drive people to do better, and the incentives for those at the upper end of the ladder encourage individuals to overreach – to cheat on their success. Further, while there should be consequences for a failure to apply oneself, the consequence for that should not be death, or to be relegated to a permanent underclass, or even to deny your children the hope that they could succeed where their parents could not.

    The ‘let him die’ shout out during the Ron Paul debate answer was really fascinating, not because the GOP is irrational – their basis for that response (and the cheering that went with it) is rational. Their basis is that people that have worked hard and sacrificed for health insurance should be rewarded for that, and those that haven’t shouldn’t be. Okay. I don’t think the left disagrees with that. We disagree with the initial assumptions – that people should have to work hard and sacrifice for something so basic as their own health. But given the initial conditions, we’re all more or less on the same page. But the left hasn’t:

    1) Successfully provided a sufficient moral argument for why we shouldn’t have to accept that initial assumption, why we can do universal healthcare, and why we morally should. We’ve tried – a bit, but it didn’t take.
    2) Successfully pushed against what is morally the right consequence for the person who doesn’t buy health insurance. The ‘let him die’ need to be contrasted with the mandate. Death is an immoral punishment for failure to buy a product. A fine is. We’ve never made that argument, so the GOP has nothing to push against, and so they’ve run right out over the edge of the cliff into an immoral open space in defense of a moral position on fairness.

    It’s not really that they’re irrational here, it’s that they’re incomplete here. Moral arguments need to have counters, and we’re not offering them, and we’d probably be way more successful if we were. That emotional appeal on the right isn’t because conservatives (well, most of them at least) like to watch people suffer, it’s because the emotions stem from the moral argument, even if the moral argument is a lie. And what we do is point out the lie and leave the moral argument in place, untouched, still doing its thing.

    What’s the moral argument for the birth control requirement? There is one. It’s a good one. It’s not been made.

    What’s the moral argument for the mandate? For the proposed tax policy? For environmental legislation?

    I know everyone will wave those off and say “Why should we have to make those!” Well, because we do. Because that’s the language that conservatives speak. Civil rights was a moral argument from the north to the south. Medicare and Social Security were both moral arguments. The shared economic vision of the right consolidated due to a lack of moral pushback from the left. Johnson was probably the last Democrat to make that argument – but Obama started to really make it again in the SOTU.

    The shared economic vision from the right is a moral one – success should be rewarded. And they’re going to push that moral view all the way to its extreme in the lack of a moral counterargument – and all we’ve offered is mathematical counterarguments. Every argument they levied about welfare wasn’t financial. It wasn’t that the welfare queens were bankrupting the country. Hell, they never put an economic cost on it at all – it was simply unfair. It was part of the same shared economic vision backed by a moral argument on fairness. And the Dems countered with what? Statistics?

    Elizabeth Warren feels like the real deal because she speaks about consumer protection and economic fairness in moral terms. We all paid for the roads that allow the business owner to be successful, so in fairness the business owner should pay society back for those. That’s an argument conservatives will hear. The math can be worked out once everyone is speaking the same language. But we aren’t acknowledging the true source of that emotional appeal on the right, and it’s really damaging us.

  86. 86
    feebog says:

    Only in Wingnutistan could you extrapolate that low turn out in the primaries equals higher turnout in the general election. It is pretty obvious that a large percentage of the Republican party is dissatisfied with their choices for their nominee.

    The Red State blog types hate Mittens, but can’t seem to make up their minds between Noot and Man on Dog.

    The Paultards are not moving away from ole’ Gramps, but as the primary season unfolds it becomes more and more apparent just how small his base of followers really is.

    The Wall Street Banksters are mostly with Rmoney, but as Shelly Adelson and the Koch Brothers have demonstrated, it only takes one or two billionaires to ressurect a campaign.

  87. 87
    El Kabong says:

    The wingnuts are more likely consoling themselves thus:

    (a) the low turn-out is a good sign because it means that means nothing because voters will come out in droves to vote against the Kenyan

    FTFY

    It doesn’t matter how charged up the Romney or not-Romney supporters are. What matters is how charged up are the not-Obama supporters.

  88. 88
    Berial says:

    @Martin:
    I agree that the ‘right’ is all about (their version of) morality, but you have to agree, that it’s pretty damn hard to push back morally, against an obvious lie that the other side refuses to admit is a lie.

    C: You are PUNISHING economic winners!
    L: How are we punishing them? They are paying LESS than everyone else as a percentage of what they make!
    C: L isn’t meeting me half way!
    L: ???

    C: Welfare queens are driving Caddys!
    L: WHERE? Where are these people? Find them and we’ll fix it.
    C: L is just buying votes!
    L: ???

  89. 89
    AA+ Bonds says:

    AA+ Bonds Fox News Yabba-Dabba-Doos:

    Doug Schoen kneecaps Romney, for hit counters and Ailes

  90. 90

    @Martin: I am very imoressd with your argument, and intend to fieldtest it myself!

  91. 91
    Martin says:

    @Berial: Ignore the lie. The lie is a distraction that only serves to prop up the moral argument. You’re overfocused on the welfare queen driving a cadillac when they’re saying that welfare is unfair. While we’re trying to refute the lie, they’re convincing people that welfare is unfair, and next thing you know, welfare is gone. The lie had nothing to do with that.

    We get overfocused on beating the lie that we leave the moral argument unaddressed.

    They argue that the tax policy punishes economic winners – this is an appeal to fairness. We need to counter that they were able to be an economic winner due to benefitting disproportionately from the infrastructure and services that we all pay. They should pay disproportionately more because they benefit disproportionately more. If you’re two times more productive than me, you should earn two times more. But if you earn 1,000 times more than me, you can’t possibly be 1,000 times more productive on your own effort – it must be due to you having an advantage that others have provided and paid for, and it’s reasonable to ask that you pay something additional to cover the cost of that advantage you gained. This is also an appeal to fairness, taken from a different and more expanded viewpoint.

  92. 92
    MCA says:

    First off, thank you to Martin and burritoboy. That’s some high fallutin political theory and strategery going on right there. Perceptive, thoughtful and well-honed on both your parts. And people think this is a snarling refuge – find me the equal of this discussion on Hot Air.

    Anyway, I thought it might be instructive to look at the ’04 Dem primaries and turnout figures to get some sense of how to treat the early disappointing figures for the Republicans this year. That seems a pretty analogous scenario – party outside the White House after 8 years of controlling it despises the current President, and is desperate to get rid of him.

    Turns out the Democrats weren’t blowing the doors off the voting booths in ’04, either:

    http://www.usatoday.com/news/p.....nout_x.htm

    http://journalistsresource.org.....-caucuses/

    What to make of this? I don’t know, frankly. On the one hand, I had hoped to find that Kerry came pretty damned close on the back of a fairly fired up Democratic base, but still failed. Turns out, however, he came pretty damned close with the lowest primary turnout the Democratic Party had ever seen. This does not give me hope that the Republicans’ shitty turnout to date means they’re doomed to a complete and utter ass-whupping.

    On the other hand, maybe the lesson to take is that Kerry didn’t win, and perhaps might have if the party had been as fired up to defeat Bush as everyone seemed to claim it was. I could see a similar narrative if Obama wins in fairly close fashion this Fall – there was a lot of big talk early on, but when push came to shove the Republicans couldn’t find anyone charismatic enough to mount an upset, as demonstrated by their dismal primary voting numbers.

  93. 93
    Cain says:

    @FormerSwingVoter:

    @Culture of Truth: Why maids? That doesn’t come out of taxes. Are they honestly offended that someone other than them can make a livable wage of any kind?

    It’s about building momentum. It’s what some companies do when suing other companies. They build their case by suing somebody that can’t defend themselves or perhaps make them settle and then they use that to go after the next ring until they go up against the big boys flushed with the money they got from the settlements and case law.

  94. 94
    mclaren says:

    The evidence of of catastrophic fall-off in GOP primary voting seems clear, but your diagnosis hasn’t gotten anywhere near the cause.

    You hypothesize that the problem is that the GOP has drifted too far to the right. There’s no evidence of that. In fact, the more extreme the candidates’ right-wing positions, the better the GOP voters have responded. Just consider the open applause for Rick Perry’s statements about executing people.

    No, what seems to have gone on here is that the base of the republican party has been so completely turned off by Romney’s Mormonism that they’re not even voting. I predicted that, by the way.

    If Romney actually does turn out to be the Republican presidential nominee, I further predict record low conservative voting turnout in the general election. The evangelical fundamentalist Christians who make up the base of the Republican party just won’t vote for a Mormon because they think it’s a satanic cult. That’s what’s really going on here with the low GOP voter turnout.

    As definitive disproof of your hypothesis that right-wing extremism from the GOP is depressing voter turnout, study this article “The Increasingly Republican States of America.”

    America has descended into barbarism, and the far-right extremism of the GOP makes a perfect fit without our brave new barbarism. Torture? Americans love it! Murdering innocent women and children? Americans dote on it! Denial of science, including global warming and Peak Oil? Americans adore it! Americans are 100% on board the Soul Train toward barbarism and abandonment of jury trials and throwing out the rule of law, and the more of it Americans get, the more they cheer and applaud. The GOP is perfectly positioned to take advantage of America’s brave new barbarism, and it’s only a matter of time before a Republican president appoints a horse as senator and crucifies dissidents on the White House lawn. And Americans will turn out in droves to cheer and take snapshots.

  95. 95
    Bago says:

    Seriously, CPAC has induced a literal headdesk. It’s the top post on wonkette right now, but sweet Jesus it distills down to “he remembers things to not make the same mistakes”.

  96. 96
    Bago says:

    @Martin: Oh you and your appeals to Adam Smith.

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