The rhetorical question of the day is, “Do Conservatives Want to Win?” Joe Gandelman points out that in recent years the Republican Party has reacted to voter rejection of their whackjob agenda by doubling down on their whackjob agenda.
Whether conservatives even want to win is a serious question in light of the reaction to the Republican National Committee’s brutally honest “autopsy” on why the party lost the 2012 presidential election. The RNC concluded that the party should change such things as the number of primaries, its image among minority voters, its positions on immigration reform, its ground game — and become less “scary” to voters. It all amounts to this: At least look more moderate. But “moderate” remains one of the filthiest words in the Republican Party, and the feeling is kinda mutual: Moderates voted for Obama in droves.
Indeed, many conservatives are rejecting the RNC’s tough-love report faster than Michele Bachmann running away from a reporter. And it makes you wonder: What are they thinking?
The GOP is divided into two factions symbolized by what New York’s Dan Amira calls “the world’s worst investor, Karl Rove, and the world’s worst vice-presidential candidate, Sarah Palin.” Rove, an establishment figure and Bush family stalwart, wants to win. Palin, darling of the Tea Party, the grassroots, and talk-show fans, wants purity — which she believes will bring victory.
I agree with Ed Kilgore that the baggers are not so much indifferent to winning as they are to playing the long game.
But if your goal is something a bit more ambitious than winning the next election, other calculations come into play. Suppose you want to impose so total a degree of domination of a major political party that you destroy your intraparty enemies and plow and salt the ground upon which they once trod. You go RINO-hunting, whether or not you think that may contribute to short-term success in general elections. Or suppose you are pursuing a “big-inning” strategy in which is less important to you to “score” in each election than it is to produce big results—e.g., enactment of the Ryan Budget, game-changing judicial appointments—then that, too, might indicate a willingness to undergo some strategic defeats.
They’re thinking may be less strategic than eschatological, however. I’m not talking about literal Christian eschatology, or belief in the End Times. It’s more like a habit of mind — cultivated by messianic religious thinking — that sees humanity growing toward some ultimate, foreordained end. I think the true believers among the baggers truly believe they are somehow working toward America’s, if not humanity’s, ultimate destiny — a place where white supremacy and paternalism rule. So, keeping the faith is more important than winning elections, at least in the short term.