The Future of the Republican Party

Photo: © Ba-mi |

Last weekend I outlined a maybe-future post called “advice to conservatives.” I was thinking about how conservatism could adjust to reality after a Democratic victory and, basically, not drive over a cliff.

However, this morning I think they’re unstoppable. The kindest thing we can do for them is locate the cliff they’re speeding toward and wait at the bottom with the body bags.

I give you, for example, “Win or Lose, Many See Palin as Future of Party” in today’s New York Times. She’s the bright, shiny thing the true believers are drawn to now, like moths to a flame.

I give you “The Sarah Party,” by Robert Stacy McCain:

I saw the Republican Party today, standing in line to see Palin at Shippensburg University. The line stretched for more than half a mile — people waiting outside for hours on a windy 40-degree day — and though the doors opened more than two hours before the event, security still wasn’t able to get everyone through the metal detectors by the time the rally began. Let’s see Buckley or Kathleen Parker or Ken Adelman draw a crowd like that.

This is my personal favorite, by a blogger at Redstate:

The McCain campaign should purchase a half hour on the same networks, or at least ONE of the networks, and let it be known in advance what it will be, because it will be VERY news-worthy and cause people to want to tune in. They should announce that for half an hour, Sarah Palin will take questions from Dan Rather, live, unedited, no area off limits. … a strong performance by Governor Palin with America watching should pretty much guarantee McCain the election.

The above is not a joke. The guy really believes this. Redstate also has “The Seven Reasons McCain-Palin Are a Lock to Win,” which some of you might find amusing.

The Right is wrestling with two competing theories at the moment. Theory One is that McCain actually is winning (see “lock to win” article linked above), and the polls are misrepresenting reality because either the pollsters or the media reporting on the polls are in the tank for Obama. The other theory is that the only reason Palin-McCain are losing is that the media is [sic] in the tank for Obama. That a majority of the American people might actually prefer Obama is, of course, unthinkable.

(I personally think that whatever breaks Obama is getting from media come from media recognition of Obama’s popularity — being nice to him gets better ratings, especially among the younger demographic — recognition that he’s probably going to win, so no one wants to piss off his communications and PR people; and guilt over the role some of them must realize they played in getting The Creature “selected” in 2000 and 2004.)

The problem, of course, is that for years the educated elites of the GOP — George Will, Peggy Noonan, et al. — have provided a facade of something resembling rationality that somehow obscured the demagoguery, fear-mongering, resentment-stoking and bias-baiting that the GOP relies on to keep its base together. But the keepers of the facade are in the lifeboats, so to speak, and the seething core of ignorance, fear, resentment and hate is exposed for all to see.

No doubt the elites already are planning ways to chip away at the Obama administration, reassemble the facade, and whistle the base home to the kennel. The danger to them is that Sarah Palin may not follow the script. Right now the plebeians are in love with her, and the patricians may find that Palin’s whistle is louder than theirs.

I’m not saying Palin has a serious chance of being the GOP nominee in 2012. There’s talk she’ll have a hard time being re-elected governor of Alaska; we’ll see. I’m saying that when the election is over the GOP will have to deal with her, somehow, whether the elites like it or not, because a chunk of the base will feel more loyalty to her than to the GOP establishment.

At TPM, Linda Shapiro talks about the part of the base that is running away from Palin: “Of the 70 odd conservative politicians, pundits and newspapers that have turned from McCain to endorse Obama this fall, 38 of them have cited Palin as a significant contributor to the decision.”

You see the problem. Is “the base” the “70 odd conservative politicians, pundits and newspapers”? Or the people who flock to Palin rallies? The GOP needs the former for legitimacy and the latter to win elections. Palin already is a wedge driving these two constituencies apart. What will the GOP do?

Update: Here’s another piece of the puzzle. Jonathan Martin writes at The Politico that conservatives are planning a big post-election powwow to set the future course of conservatism.

One of the topics of discussion will be how to fashion a “national grassroots political and policy coalition similar to the out Reagan years,” said the attendee, a reference to the development of the so-called New Right apparatus following Jimmy Carter’s 1976 victory and Reagan’s election four years later.

“There’s a sense that the Republican Party is broken, but the conservative movement is not,” said this source, suggesting that it was the betrayal of some conservative principles by Bush and congressional leaders that led to the party’s decline

I think “the conservative movement” is kidding itself, but let’s go on.

But, this source emphasized, the meeting will be held regardless of the outcome of the presidential race. “This is going on if McCain wins, loses or has a recount — we’re not planning for the loss of John McCain.”

Either way, Sarah Palin will be a central part of discussion.

If the Arizona senator wins, the discussion will feature much talk of, “How do we work with this administration?” said the attendee, an acknowledgement that conservatives won’t always have a reliable ally in the Oval Office.

Under this scenario, Palin would be seen as their conduit to power. “She would be the conservative in the White House,” is how the source put it.

What makes Palin more of a “conservative” than McCain, especially if they’re talking about the Reagan model of conservative?

Should McCain lose next Tuesday, the conversation will include who to groom as the next generation of conservative leaders – a list that will feature Palin at or near the top.

I would love to know who has been invited to this meeting, and who hasn’t. Here’s a clue:

Few believe that the Republican party will respond to another brutal election by following a path of moderation, but conservatives are deeply dispirited and anxious to reassert the core values they believe have not always been followed by Bush, congressional leaders and their party’s presidential nominee . Many on the right, both elites and the rank-and-file, see a rudderless party that is in dire need of new blood and old principles: small government, a robust national security and unapologetic social conservatism.

Rush Limbaugh, a powerful figure in the party whose influence has spanned years of the GOP in and out of power, gave voice to this frustration Tuesday, saying candidly that “there is no elected or political leadership in Washington or in the Republican Party that people can rally around,”

This is a guess, but I’m thinking that this meeting is for people, like Limbaugh, who made their bones in the party by being the spearheads of the Lee Atwater-Karl Rove political attack machine. If so, this is less about “movement conservatism” than it is about how the Republican Party will choose to market itself in the future.

19 thoughts on “The Future of the Republican Party

  1. Pingback: The Heretik

  2. I love this post. Soothing music to tired ears.

    Palin’s future will tell us a lot about the Republican party’s future.

  3. Welcome, Obama Republicans! It’s a big tent. No moose on the menu, and we like country music too (Faith Hill and Tim McGraw).

  4. You seem to accept implicitly that Obama has been getting an unduly easy time with the media. I don’t think that’s the case.

    First, his potential dirty linen has been aired a while ago, while Palin, as a complete unknown until two months ago, has been necessarily subject to close scrutiny and in fact there’s still a lot we don’t know about her.

    Second, McCain has turned on the media, which used to give him an easy ride because he liked to spend time with them and answer all their questions. In the last three months or so he’s spent less than an hour with reporters — and those brief meetings were basically him making statements. He’s had critical supporters thrown off of the bus, and he’s also had black reporters ejected from his rallies. This is not the way to make friends and influence people.

    Obama hasn’t shown the same kind of erratic behavior that McCain’s shown, with his “let’s cancel the debate,” lying to Letterman, pseudo-suspending his campaign, and above all his bizarre and cynical choice of the winking idiot as a running mate. Obama’s judgments have been much sounder, so there’s less to criticize.

    McCain’s campaign has been very nasty, and newspapers are doing much more fact-checking than in the days of Kerry, where they basically printed “he said, she said” stories. McCain himself has been nasty. He’s become unlikable for many people. Obama, even when he’s been exhausted, has remained thoughtful and polite. Those things matter. Even journalists have feelings.

    So I think there’s good reason for McCain to be given a harder time, and it’s nothing to do with the media being concerned about getting better ratings, or the “recognition that he’s probably going to win, so no one wants to piss off his communications and PR people.” I think there’s just less to be critical of with Obama. Even the GOP have to resort mainly to lies and innuendo when trying to be critical of him.

  5. You seem to accept implicitly that Obama has been getting an unduly easy time with the media.

    I wouldn’t say he’s gotten an “unduly easy time,” but it’s an improvement on how the media treated Al Gore and John Kerry.

  6. >

    No, no, it was the _failure_ to betray those principles by Bush and Congress that led to the Republican party’s decline.

    Also, at present ‘conservative’ is an Orwellian term. Taken in the non-Orwellian sense, the R’s are now a radical party, and the D’s are now a conservative party.

  7. Elucidation of the above; I tried to paste in some text from above, and failed. The text in question was a source saying that betrayal of some conservative principles led to the R party’s decline.

    Also; note that the R’s are a radical _right_ party, and the D’s are a conservative _left_ party.

  8. Liddy Dole and the Slinging of Shit.

    Take, for example, the Elizabeth Dole Campaign in North Carolina. She’s been falling behind her opponent in the polls so she comes out with this ad which can be viewed at Under The LobsterScope.

    If you watched it, here are some facts:

    1. The voice at the end saying “There is no God” is not Democrat Kay Hagan, although the ad would lead you to believe it is.

    2. The Democratic candidate is a Sunday School teacher and an elder at her Presbyterian church.

    3. Hagan does not support removing the “Under God” from the Pledge of Allegiance.

    Dole’s 30-second ad, which is running on television in North Carolina but has not (understandably) been promoted by the GOP, uses a September fundraiser co-hosted by 40 people, including a representative of the Godless America PAC, to falsely accuse Democrat Kay Hagan of being an atheist herself. Hagan did attend the fundraiser that included the author Wendy Kaminer and her husband Woody Kaplan. Kaplan serves on the board of the Godless Americans PAC, whose agenda includes putting atheists in office and removing the pledge from schools. It also supports liberal candidates whether they are believers or non-believers. This in no way means Hagan is an atheist or a supporter of the PAC’s named cause.

    In prepared remarks, Hagan said the following:

    I am outraged…That is not my voice at the end of the ad, and I do not share their beliefs.
    * This was an event with nearly 40 hosts, including an ambassador and a sitting U.S. Senator (John Kerry).
    * We have already contacted our lawyers and are proceeding with a cease and desist order sent to Elizabeth Dole.
    * This kind of politics should not be tolerated.

    And Liddy Dole should not be respected by Democrats or Republicans.

    Under The LobsterScope

  9. I really enjoy me some Dixie Chicks.

    Me, too, Joel! Apologies for overlooking them!

    That little Natalie, she’s my favorite.

  10. I have to say I’m amused by that Red State poster who imagined that a live 30 minute Sarah Palin-Dan Rather interview could yield a “strong performance” that would win McCain the election. If the people close to Palin thought she could give a strong performance in that venue, they probably would have arranged it, don’t you think?

    What other wonderful things can we imagine that would win McCain the election? An endorsement from the Loch Ness Monster? Space aliens appearing in giant saucers like in Independence Day with McCain/Palin stickers on the bottom? A sudden attack of Mole Men from the center of the Earth?

    A “strong performance” by Palin over 30 minutes with Dan Rather. What an imagination!

  11. A lot of the drunken, delusional silliness we see coming out of the right is likely to come to an end sometime during the evening of November 4. When the music finally stops, the KoolAid will be wearing off big time, and the red portion of the country is going to be heading into one mean hangover. The whole future of the Republican party will be recalibrated in those stone cold sober moments after the last ballot is cast.

    Sarah Palin is a bellwether. Her fate will reveal how much power the corporate cons have over the theocons. I don’t know when her gubernatorial duties end – either through the natural end of her current term, or through impeachment, or through yet another term to come – but I suspect people are on the phone right now trying to line up a slot for her on Fox News. Get her out of the way of the serious people running the party while making her useful to the same. How cool that the monster these people created finally incarnated to destroy them. Shiva Palin, the destroyer.

    What’ll be interesting is how the Democrats play this. We’ve already welcomed a ton of moderate Republicans, and if Obama plays his cards right, and if we get enough seats, we should be able to earn the trust of the public. We could become the sanity party, a counterpoint to the frothing mass of Palinites, the Free Republicans, the remnant of the GOP.

  12. “Also; note that the R’s are a radical _right_ party, and the D’s are a conservative _left_ party.”
    Thank you, paradoctor. I wish more people would understand this.
    A conservative left party (not “centrist”, whatever that is) has not been conceivable in the BS political discourse that dominated this country for the last forty years. It would have solved most of our problems, but it didn’t have any shock value.

  13. The problem with the cliff image is that if the right wingers go off the cliff, then, one way or the other, they are likely to take a lot of Americans with them. People like Newt Gingrich and Karl Rove are not done; they are without conscience and they will be leading the charge of the opposition if Obama wins.

    If McCain wins, of course, this is what voters are likely to get:

    1. More cronyism since midlevel Republicans will probably stay on.
    2. A blind eye to corruption, same reason as above.
    3. More deregulation. (McCain can’t help himself).
    4. More tax cuts for the rich while everyone waits for trickle down.
    5. A third war, probably with Iran.
    6. A president who is now comfortable with lying.
    7. A deepening of authoritarian policies.
    8. The strong likelihood that the economy will continue to tank.
    9. More of the same, more of the same, more of the same.
    10. And Palin, a member in good standing of the know nothing wing of the Republican Party, will be waiting eagerly to pick up the pieces.

    Why is this election even close? If Americans still care about the future and not what some bozo says on a robo call or at some right wing rally, Barack Obama will be the next president of the United States. But if he is, Democrats better start sharpening their sales skills because they basically have two years to make their case. Most Americans still have no clue how close we are to the cliff and how much work it’s going to take to turn things around. We’re not at the cliff yet, but we are already on the downward slope where the rocks affect footing.

  14. Moonbat, I agree with your assessment also. Except for the Fox news thing..Palin lacks the intellect and articulation skills needed for any news slot if serious analysis and the conveyance of that analysis is a requirement. From what I’m seeing, she can barely rough out concepts when her audience is already in tune,but if she has to deal with a critically thinking audience… she’d be lost.

    I see her ideally suited for the televangelist circuit. Maybe a co-host for the 700 club or the Trinity Broadcasting Network. She’d be handling an audience who already believe that to think critically is to be in rebellion against God. Her audience would already be primed to gulp down whatever nonsense she put out. She’s well versed in Christian jargon and would have a sound testimony in doing battle with Satan in the political arena. She would automatically be granted superstar status in the evangelical realm because she held fast to the defense of the unborn.

  15. You all have given very precise and interesting predictions about the future of the Republicans. On the broader issue I think it is worth addressing this idea people are pushing of the blamelessness of “conservatives” in the rotting of the Republican party. What are these ill-defined vessels that have had so much power in the last 28 years in America? Are we really going to think that Sean Hannity has ever read Edmund Burke? Is their any substance left for these conservatives but to endlessly talk about how “principled” they are as opposed to godless liberals? I say no. I think its time for these religious fanatics to start a third party named the theolican party. This would be a chance for us to see how well putting the ten commandments in public places works as a political crusade.

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