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The Perils of Being Right and Wrong

By       Message David Michael Green     Permalink
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And you gotta hand it to the White House – they’ve played these fools like fiddles. Calling Limbaugh the “de facto head of the Republican Party” was as sure a bait as imaginable for getting the de jure head of the party to worry about his manhood and thus lash out at the Rustic One by calling him “ugly”, among other epithets. Until the next day, that is, when Macho Mike, Man of Steele, was on the phone apologizing profusely to the actual de facto, de facto head of Republican Party and his big fat radio audience, begging to keep his job. He did, so far, but Republican National Committee staff have not been quite so lucky, as around seventy of them have either quit or been fired under the new Steele Curtain regime, and the RNC house is empty these days.

But if it seems like this is all some cartoonish clown show, instead of the leadership of one of the two major parties of the world’s most powerful country, you ain’t seen nuthin’ yet. Ol’ “What’s Wrong With Failure” Mike is just getting started. As he recently explained to the New York Times: “‘I’m very spontaneous,’ comparing working with him to riding a roller coaster without knowing when the next dip or curve might come. ‘Be prepared; you have no idea,’ he said. ‘Just buckle up and get ready to go.’”

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Ooooooohhh! Baby! Gangsta! What a manly man! What an appealing swashbuckler! Boy, is he ever gonna peel away the black vote from Barack Obama! Boy, is the GOP ever gonna be getting its act together under Michael Steele’s stewardship!

I give the dude about one more month, after which I expect the Republicans will decide that abortion’s not such a bad thing after all.

Not that it matters a whit, anyhow. Steele’s pompously inflated exercises in idiocy are to the implosion of the GOP what a gnat is to a drowning elephant. Even if the gnat swims real, real hard, the big beast is still goin’ down. With the possible exception of Howard Dean, nobody knows who party chairs are anyhow, and for good reason. Does anyone think Mitch McConnell or John McCain are going to take direction from some staff flunky who’s never even won an election on his own? Does anyone think that a chairman could significantly change the fortunes of a party from where its real leaders are taking it anyhow? This guy could have all the leadership chops and strategic smarts of Alexander The Great and it wouldn’t matter a bit.

The GOP’s problem is its ideology, plain and simple. Their toxic brew of regressive policies, sold through hate-driven marketing techniques, all backed by the engine of kleptocratic thievery, just isn’t getting traction anymore. Just as it was inevitable that Bristol Palin and her nineteen year-old boyfriend, Levi Johnston, won’t be getting married after all (golly, didn’t see that one coming at all!) – Republican family values notwithstanding! – so was it clear that the GOP would end up being its own worst enemy. Americans show an amazing capacity for stupidity, to be sure, but just the same they will usually figure out in the end that what’s bad for them is bad for them.

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The GOP is toast today, not because of the pathetic idiots at the helm, any one of whom could have become the Fourth Stooge, but because it has nowhere it can go, regardless of who leads it.

It has basically three choices, ideologically speaking.

It can stay where it is. But even the anvil-heads within the party can see that that’s a prescription for (more) disaster. Getting your clock cleaned in two elections running has a way of getting one’s attention. Near-death experiences tend to motivate change.

But, of course, that leaves the rather large question of what kind of change. You can see the party struggling with this every day, but I personally don’t see a viable solution anywhere on the horizon. Option Two is to turn to the right, and there are quite a few dingbats in the party who are making that argument right now. Evidently suicide by election is neither rapid nor violent enough for this lot. Of course, having governed with a hard-right agenda for eight years now, it becomes a bit awkward to make the claim that they haven’t been conservative enough. That’s why you’re now seeing the astonishing visage of party flacks trying to recreate George W. Bush as a non-conservative. Here’s John Bolton, for example: “Too many people identified Bush as being conservative, and we know that's not the case”. Or Mike Huckabee: “Lenin and Stalin both would have loved Bush and Paulsen's bailout plan”. Wow. Lenin and Stalin. Like, THE Lenin and Stalin? Gosh, imagine how bubble-headed Huckabee would have sounded if he had given in to the temptation to exaggerate here!

It’s quite amazing, not to mention absurdly improbable, this astonishing Bush-the-left-winger rap (who knew?). As such, the only thing they really talk about is spending (no war policy, no stem-cell stuff, no Terri Schiavo, no foreign policy issues), and since money is all that it’s really about for them, that’s not such a surprise. Nor is it a surprise that they didn’t object to W back when he was President Bush, rather than now that he’s former President Bush. Nor is it shocking that they don’t also criticize regressive demi-god Ronald Reagan, who presided over a tripling of the national debt in his voodoo economics spending spree. I guess you can only cover so much, you know?

But, golly, even if this made the slightest bit of sense, think of how rigorously batty you’d have to be to believe that if the Republicans only become more regressive, they’ll start winning elections. You know, like, if only they started more wars based on lies! If only they slashed Social Security and Medicare, in order to balance the budget! If only they let more cities drown! If only they intervened into every family’s personal medical crisis with congressional legislation! If only they deregulated Wall Street, so that we could have more frequent and far deeper recessions! If only they could give us further tax cuts to enrich the wealthy even more, and impoverish our children even further! If only they could make sure more of us die by blocking additional scientific research! If only they could make sure more of us die painfully by criminalizing not just medical marijuana, but all remedies! If only they could alienate more young voters with their homophobia, more Hispanics with their xenophobia, more women with their Palin pandering, and more blacks with their Magic Negro routines! If only they could replicate John Yoo, so that even the remaining shreds of the Constitution could themselves be shredded!

What a winning platform, eh?!?! Hard to imagine nobody else has thought of this before!

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Of course, the only remotely plausible thing the GOP could actually do to ever hope for subsequent success would be to move toward the center, which is Door Number Three. Even that won’t work for quite some time, if it ever does. People are not soon going to forget the Rushpublican brand, and my guess is that Obama is going to continue to be popular for a long time to come, even if his policies don’t solve the economic crisis he’s been handed. But one could imagine, much as with Labour and the Tories in the UK, that a decade or two from now the Democrats will get lazy and corrupt and stupid enough to lose to a deradicalized Republican Party that runs on a non-ideological appeal purely focused on competence, as an alternative to the messed-up incumbents.

The problem for Republicans is that they can never get there. Perhaps after a third trouncing in 2010, but not now. And I’m even skeptical that that would be enough. This party is owned by the radical right – especially the social conservative base. These freaks are not going to let go, and they are going to punish horrifically any defectors from their ideological purity. John McCain is a real object lesson here. Having secured the nomination only by accident when two other candidates split the true-believer vote in a series of winner-take-all primaries, he was never embraced by his own party, who saw him as suspiciously liberal. John McCain! These are people who think – and will continue to think – that Sarah Palin is a really inspired choice who could make a great president. They even secretly still think that about Lil’ Bushie, though they’re at least sentient enough to realize that it’s impolitic to say it.

Progressives should count their blessings, after decades in the wilderness.

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David Michael Green is a professor of political science at Hofstra University in New York.  He is delighted to receive readers' reactions to his articles (, but regrets that time constraints do not always allow him to respond. His website is (more...)

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