Or, why the GOP presidential candidates are such losers — Paul Krugman writes,
How did American conservatism end up so detached from, indeed at odds with, facts and rationality? …
… My short answer is that the long-running con game of economic conservatives and the wealthy supporters they serve finally went bad. For decades the G.O.P. has won elections by appealing to social and racial divisions, only to turn after each victory to deregulation and tax cuts for the wealthy — a process that reached its epitome when George W. Bush won re-election by posing as America’s defender against gay married terrorists, then announced that he had a mandate to privatize Social Security.
Over time, however, this strategy created a base that really believed in all the hokum — and now the party elite has lost control.
You’ll recognize that “appealing to social and racial divisions, only to turn after each victory to deregulation and tax cuts for the wealthy” was the subject of Thomas Frank’s book What’s the Matter With Kansas? And of course cultural/racial warfare was cranked up back when red-baiting was losing its punch. This has been going on for decades. So why are the chickens coming home to roost now?
The complete answer probably is the stuff Ph.D. dissertations are made of. Possibly the single biggest reason is the Faux News factor, or the degree to which the Right has managed to manipulate mass media into delivering its message while freezing out progressive perspectives. A big chunk of the electorate is being “informed” exclusively by Heritage Foundation talking points.
But in the past, the message was still being mostly controlled by the elite, so the masses would all be herded in the same direction. Thanks to Citizens United, however, anybody with a few million bucks to throw around can manipulate public opinion, too!
In 2000, there was no Sheldon Adelson underwriting videos about George W. Bush’s business career, for example. The GOP was able to package and market Bush as a successful business man and governor. Were Dubya running today, I doubt he could get away with that. It’s like a hundred Karl Roves have bloomed.
So, yeah, the GOP field is a pathetic mess. But were other recent presidential candidates any better? Here’s the complete list of candidates for 2000, according to Wikipedia:
George W. Bush, Governor of Texas
John McCain, Senator from Arizona
Alan Keyes, former U.S. ECOSOC Ambassador from Maryland
Steve Forbes, businessman from New Jersey
Gary Bauer, former Undersecretary of Education from Kentucky
Orrin Hatch, Senator from Utah
Elizabeth Dole, former Secretary of Labor from North Carolina
Pat Buchanan, publisher and author from Virginia
Dan Quayle, former Vice President from Indiana
Lamar Alexander, former Governor of Tennessee
Robert C. Smith, Senator from New Hampshire
John Kasich, Representative from Ohio
Herman Cain, CEO of Godfather’s Pizza from Nebraska
There’s a couple of ’em who were possibly not crazy, but that’s about all I can say for them. And Bush was as big a joke as the rest of them, but the GOP elites had tight enough control of the message to package Bush as a respectable candidate.
When Citizens United first came down, there was a lot of sturm und drang about how the GOP would use the new rules to beat up on Obama and Democratic candidates in general. I’m not sure people gave enough thought to how these rules would affect primary races, or to the fact that the first party to really be affected by them would be the GOP, since they actually have to choose a candidate for 2012.
Maybe when this election is over, Republicans will rethink their opposition to election reform.