Groundhog Day

Today if Rush Limbaugh casts a shadow over the Republican Party, it means eight more years of Dems controlling the White House and Congress.

Thomas Schaller writes in Salon,

What is the state of the GOP at the dawn of the Obama era? The GOP has not quite ebbed to New Deal or post-1964 Democratic landslide levels, but it has certainly reached its lowest point since the comeback congressional cycle of 1966. Obama’s 53 percent national popular vote share is the highest for a Democrat since 1964, and there is no obvious set of formidable Republican presidential challengers for the 2012 election.

As Salon’s Mike Madden observed from interacting with volunteers and activists on hand at the Capital Hilton in Washington for the national meeting, “If the mood and the speeches at the winter meeting are any guide, Republicans are seeking refuge from electoral defeat in an alternate reality, one where the public still loves them — or would if they could only improve their sales pitch. And where going along with President Obama’s agenda just isn’t in the cards.” If any further evidence is needed, consider this little gem: On the afternoon the 168 national committee members were electing Michael Steele their new chairman, fully 10 days into the Obama administration, the “national leadership” page on the RNC’s Web site still depicted George W. Bush and Dick Cheney as president and vice president.

I just checked; the RNC page has been changed to congratulate Michael Steele.

Schaller goes on to describe a party that can’t decide where it’s going. There is no leadership to speak of. There are no rising stars that look like viable presidential candidates in 2012, although of course they’ve got some time. Basically, the party has a pack of right-wing extremists in the House who think it’s still 1994; some reasonably competent, more moderate but low-profile governors; Sarah Palin (Schaller doesn’t mention her, but I don’t think she’s done messing with the GOP yet); some aged senators who plan to retire; Jim Bunning, who appears to be brain dead but refuses to quit; and a handful of moderate senators that the base doesn’t like.

As I remember it, as far as rising stars go the GOP was in a similar place in 1996. There was no obvious, dominant, star-power candidate to take on Bill Clinton. The best they could come up with was Bob Dole, who was long past his sell-by date.

But then the GOP insiders must’ve decided that George W. Bush would be their rising star in 2000. So they packaged him as a moderate and began their sales campaign. A perfect storm of public complacency, media complacency (plus corruption, incompetence, etc.), wussy Democrats, the right-wing propaganda media machine, dirty tricks, and a lapdog Supreme Court put George W. Bush in the White House. I firmly believe that were it not for 9/11 he would have been bounced in 2004, but of course we’ll never know.

I’m sure party insiders already have been discussing who they will promote as the next heir to Ronald Reagan and how the heir will be packaged for public sale. I’m not counting them out. If the public becomes disappointed in the Obama Administration the GOP will have an opening, and if the entire party can get behind one guy in the next couple of years they could pull off a comeback. Right now it looks like a long shot, but it’s possible.

My larger point, though, is that the extremist, Gingrich/Rove/Norquist Republican Party has been pulling off a trapeze act for some time. Their dominance of media and Washington has far exceeded the real public support for their agenda for many years. And the ideological whackjobs the base tends to fall in love with are unsalable to the general public on a national level. In 2000 they packaged Dubya as a moderate, remember. And now with shifting demographics — their base is getting older, and there are only so many socially dysfunctional white men to go around these days — there is no way they’ll be able to keep the same old trapeze act in the air much longer.

David Lightman writes for McClatchy that the GOP’s winning strategy these days is opposing President Obama. That’s it. That’s all they’ve got. Oh, they’re still talking about cutting taxes and shrinking government, but is anyone (but them) listening?

The strategy carries enormous risks, however, because it could suggest that Republicans are eager to put the brakes on emergency aid to millions of Americans who are trying to survive what’s fast becoming the nation’s worst economic downturn since World War II.

Yeah, that does seem chancy.

It also creates a risk that the GOP, which no longer has a single House member from any of the six New England states and no senators from a Pacific coast state, is in danger of becoming a regional, ideologically focused party.

“We’re all concerned about the fact that the very wealthy and the very poor, the most and least educated, and a majority of minority voters seem to have more or less stopped paying attention to us,” warned Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky.

Yes. Well, what’s more interesting to me is whether the Senate passes the stimulus bill, and whether the Dems have the spines to put back in the stuff that was taken out to appease the House GOP. Stay tuned.

15 thoughts on “Groundhog Day

  1. I swear the American electorate went brain-dead the day Reagan was inaugurated. Maybe it wasn’t the asecendency of Reagan and his feckless policies at all but a reaction to the Iran hostage crisis, the blown-all-out-of-proportion event which to too many was the sudden awareness that America wasn’t that powerful afterall – an illusion to begin with but that’s another story.

    Anyway, that was the advent of the Republican trapeze act, as you so aptly put it. And just maybe the electorate of today is capable of putting two and two together, of realizing that the standard Republican mantra of ‘cut taxes’ as the solution to all problems – economic, social and political – is a crock, like, Bush cut taxes and look where we are?

  2. “I firmly believe that were it not for 9/11 he would have been bounced in 2004, but of course we’ll never know.”

    Only Republicans (and their wholly-owned subsidiary, the Democratic ‘Leadership’) would look at the single biggest failure of a President in all of American History as critical tool for re-election.

    If America had an independent press, one not tightly controlled by a handful of far-right corporate entities (like Disney), if we had a Free Press, Bush would have been impeached before the start of 2002 for being grossly incompetent.

    But as Maha so astutely points out, the US media’s only position is far more supportive of the far-right Republican extremists than the general population.

    We saw a couple of glimpses of news media slipping, like the first three days after Katrina, but by Friday night, the corporate overlords re-asserted their stranglehold on the actual reporters that saw the floating dead with their own eyes.

    Again, if we had real journalists in America, instead of strictly controlled stenographers, Bush would have been impeached, again for gross incompetence.

    Bush was never the actual President, he was the Acting-President, just like Ron Reagan. Neither of those two had any power in their time in office, they were front-men for the people that really controlled what the Fed was doing.

  3. Barbara,

    You seem to poo-poo the notion that Sarah Palin will become the Republicans new leader! The comedian Rush Limbaugh sure seems taken by her and its a huge voice in the Republican party. I wish Palin and her total ignorance would disapear, but I doubt it. Imagine if President Obama becomes a Jimmy Carter President who tells Americans the truth – the American way of life will not last forever! Palin could have an to win over people who think god is responsible for the American lifestyle, and that could win her 51% of the vote in 2012.

  4. Crazy — I think Palin probably will be a leader of a big faction of the Republican Party, but not the entire party. I think the results of the last election showed us that most voters thought Palin was a joke.

  5. Not to sound nitpicky, but can we call Rush Limbaugh something other than a “comedian”? He’s no funnier than Joe McCarthy, George Wallace, or Anita Bryant (OK, sometimes she was unintentionally funny), and it seems the grossest of insults to group him with the likes of George Carlin, Richard Pryor or Lily Tomlin. Rush likes to call himself an “entertainer,” to avoid ever having to back up his propaganda with facts, but what he really is is a professional provocateur.

  6. “I firmly believe that were it not for 9/11 he would have been bounced in 2004, but of course we’ll never know.”

    He should, of course, have been at least discredited and ideally impreached for gross negligence leading up to 9/11. But once it happened, the Bushies had to cover their ass.

    Bush’s “The Pet Goat” moment combined with his panicked skedaddle to Omaha when the country was under fire would have gotten him court martialed even in the Texas National Guard. The brilliant initial Special Forces overthrow of the Taliban did not allow any posturing by the Chicken Hawks, nor did it promise any oil or significant graft and was not on the AIPAC agenda. Something else was needed to keep the air fogged enough to gain re-election from a gulled public. Hence Iraq. It worked.

  7. but what he really is is a professional provocateur.

    Is that the same as a professional shit stirrer ( like Lulu)? Limbaugh is an agitator whose stock in trade is to reinforce people’s insecurities and prejudices. I can appreciate his ability to talk, but his message is always a negative.. never uplifting or edifying..He can only tear down.
    What amazes me is how he can have a following of devoted listeners and that those listeners can’t seem to figure out over time that Rush’s overall game is to exacerbate their insecurities

  8. Is that the same as a professional shit stirrer ( like Lulu)?

    Exactly the same, except my version might sound more “official” on their tax returns… if either of them ever paid taxes.

    Rush understands exactly what he’s doing– he knows there’s big money and fame to be had in provoking the basest human instincts. Lulu, on the other hand, is nothing but bug eyes and incoherence– she is provoked, all the time, about everything. Rush is crazy like a fox, but Lulu’s just plain crazy.

  9. His message is always a negative.. never uplifting or edifying.

    That gives me an idea. OK, maybe a dumb idea, but here it is:

    What if the progressive blogosphere spent one entire day (or, more challenging, one entire week) in which they blogged exclusively on positive topics– celebrating accomplishments, profiling heroes, touting under-publicized ideas for mending some of the nation’s ills? Could it be done for an entire week and still address current events, or would bloggers end up having to resort to history and biography?

    For one thing, we’d need to completely ignore the opposition for that week. (Of course, this is getting less and less difficult.) If the Republicans are going to “Just Say No” to everything, we could spend a week (or a day) saying only “Yes” to those things that matter.

    I know this flies in the face of the old managing editor’s adage, “Good news doesn’t sell papers,” but then a lot of the old newspaper wisdom doesn’t apply to bloggers. Plus we’re living in unprecedented times, so maybe we need to try some unusual approaches.

  10. The stimulus package passed the house with zero votes from Republicans and a few defections from the Dems; but, something that has not been in the news is that Obama was able to get a bill passed without ANY Republicans. I think this is a good thing; but, the way it’s written up you would think it was the worst of tragedies. Why?

  11. Joan, I have a vague recollection that in a very few instances over the last several years, when Rush had stepped so very far over the line that he had to step back and address the transgression on air to avoid a libel suit, he said that he should not be taken all that seriously because he was just a commedian, after all; that it was all political satire. I’m pretty sure that’s when Olbermann started referring to him as “the commedian Rush Limbaugh.” We all know it’s crap; he’ll say whatever he wants, damn the fall-out, unless the fall-out hurts Rush personally. This, of course, makes him a spineless bastard with no real convictions, the perfect person to “lead” the current Republican party.

  12. Limbaugh’s insistence that he’s only an entertainer when he’s trying to hide his real role; that he never allows anyone on the air who challenges his viewpoint, either in person or over the phone – says it all: he’s a coward.

  13. The danger Democrats face is the eternal one: people want simple answers to complex questions. Sarah Palin is a simple answer if ever there was one.

    The Republicans can lie, stall and change directions randomly and not do much worse than what passes for Democratic leadership. It is so much easier to stand on the sidelines and snipe than it is to develop a comprehensive plan and execute it that the general public’s lack of desire to think or learn or investigate or submit to a challenge of their assumptions lends a hand to the Repugnant.

    If I saw a coordinated response from the Democrats, it would cheer my heart. If a Ross Perot chart session were developed for Obama’s plans, the ones who do want to learn would pay attention to it. If you have read many conservative sites, you’ll see that Perot’s charts are still being mentioned.

    Worst of all, I’m an optimist!

  14. Considering that Rush Dimbulb dropped out of college without finishing even his freshman year and that he has done so much synthetic heroin that he lost his hearing and had to have a cochlear implant, why would anyone care about his opinion on anything??

    He is a degenerate, morally bankrupt retard.

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