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What Went Wrong With The GOP

As Steven Taylor noted this morning, David Frum has an interesting piece at New York Magazine today in which he explores how he went from one of his party’s most respected voices to persona non grata in most conservative circles:

America desperately needs a responsible and compassionate alternative to the Obama administration’s path of bigger government at higher cost. And yet: This past summer, the GOP nearly forced America to the verge of default just to score a point in a budget debate. In the throes of the worst economic crisis since the Depression, Republican politicians demand massive budget cuts and shrug off the concerns of the unemployed. In the face of evidence of dwindling upward mobility and long-stagnating middle-class wages, my party’s economic ideas sometimes seem to have shrunk to just one: more tax cuts for the very highest earners. When I entered Republican politics, during an earlier period of malaise, in the late seventies and early eighties, the movement got most of the big questions—crime, inflation, the Cold War—right. This time, the party is getting the big questions disastrously wrong.

Frum’s article is long, and well worth your attention. In it he cites a number of factors that have shaped the Republican coalition in the post-Reagan, post-Cold war era, but one in particular struck my interest:

Extremism and conflict make for bad politics but great TV. Over the past two decades, conservatism has evolved from a political philosophy into a market segment. An industry has grown up to serve that segment—and its stars have become the true thought leaders of the conservative world. The business model of the conservative media is built on two elements: provoking the audience into a fever of indignation (to keep them watching) and fomenting mistrust of all other information sources (so that they never change the channel). As a commercial proposition, this model has worked brilliantly in the Obama era. As journalism, not so much. As a tool of political mobilization, it backfires, by inciting followers to the point at which they force leaders into confrontations where everybody loses, like the summertime showdown over the debt ceiling.

But the thought leaders on talk radio and Fox do more than shape opinion. Backed by their own wing of the book-publishing industry and supported by think tanks that increasingly function as public-relations agencies, conservatives have built a whole alternative knowledge system, with its own facts, its own history, its own laws of economics. Outside this alternative reality, the United States is a country dominated by a strong Christian religiosity. Within it, Christians are a persecuted minority. Outside the system, President Obama—whatever his policy ­errors—is a figure of imposing intellect and dignity. Within the system, he’s a pitiful nothing, unable to speak without a teleprompter, an affirmative-action ­phony doomed to inevitable defeat. Outside the system, social scientists worry that the U.S. is hardening into one of the most rigid class societies in the Western world, in which the children of the poor have less chance of escape than in France, Germany, or even England. Inside the system, the U.S. remains (to borrow the words of Senator Marco Rubio) “the only place in the world where it doesn’t matter who your parents were or where you came from.

Kathleen Parker made a similar point in a column looking at the GOP field that ran over the weekend:

[T]he conservative brain trust once led by William F. Buckley has been supplanted by talk radio hosts who love to quote Buckley (and boast of his friendship) but who do not share the man’s pedigree or his nimble mind. Moreover, where Buckley tried to rid the GOP of fringe elements, notably the John Birch Society, today’s conservatives have let them back in. The 2010 Conservative Political Action Conference was co-sponsored by the Birchers.

Meanwhile, the big tent fashioned by Ronald Reagan has become bilious with the hot air of religious fervor. No one was more devout than the very-Catholic Buckley, but you didn’t see him convening revivals in the public square. Nor is it likely he would have embraced fundamentalist views that increasingly have forced the party into a corner where science and religion can’t coexist.

Scientific skepticism, the engine that propels intellectual inquiry, has morphed into skepticism of science fueled by religious certitude. In this strange world, it is heresy to express concern about, for example, climate change — or even to suggest that human behavior may be a contributing factor. Jon Huntsman committed blasphemy when he told ABC’s Jake Tapper that he trusts scientists on global warming.

What Huntsman next said, though refreshing and true, ensured that his poll numbers would remain in the basement: “When we take a position that isn’t willing to embrace evolution, when we take a position that basically runs counter to what 98 of 100 climate scientists have said, what the National Academy of Sciences has said about what is causing climate change and man’s contribution to it, I think we find ourselves on the wrong side of science and, therefore, in a losing position.”

Of course, plenty of Republicans agree with this appraisal, including other presidential candidates. They understand that the challenge is to figure out to what extent humans contribute and what humans can reasonably do without bankrupting the planet.

Nevertheless, the Republican base requires that candidates tack away from science toward the theistic position — only God controls climate. More to the point, Rush Limbaugh says that climate change is a hoax and so it must be. Huntsman may as well be a Democrat. c

It takes courage to swim against the tide of know-nothingness that has become de rigueur among the anti-elite, anti-intellectual Republican base. Call it the Palinization of the GOP, in which the least informed earns the loudest applause.

No doubt, both Parker and Frum will get excoriated by commentators on the right for what they’re saying here. Indeed, to a large degree, both of them have been written out of acceptable conservatism in much the same way that people like Bruce Bartlet and David Stockman have and in which Jon Huntsman has bizarrely been ignored in the 2012 race despite his record and his conservatism. Who exactly decides who gets written out of the movement isn’t always clear. Sometimes it’s Rush Limbaugh, sometimes it’s one of the Tea Party groups. Sometimes, all it takes is for a politician or pundit to endorse Mitt Romney over the supposed “true conservative” alternative, whether that happens to be Michele Bachmann, Rick Perry, Herman Cain, or Newt Gingrich at the moment. The most important thing to note about this new brand of GOP conservatism, though, is that there’s little ground for dissent from the party line as set by the talk radio culture that Frum refers to.

It’s important to note, I think, that the primary purpose of the Limbaugh’s and Hannity’s of the world has almost nothing to do with politics, and even less to do with having an honest discussion of public policy issues. They exist primarily as entertainers, and their goal is to garner high ratings to allow their syndication companies and local radio stations to charge high advertising rates. They don’t make money by being honest about the issues, they make money by getting people to listen. Because this is their goal,  they all tend to follow the same pattern of repeating, with little theoretical or evidentiary support, the talking points of conservatism as they happen to be at the time. Those talking points can change on a dime — remember how quickly Rush Limbaugh’s utter disdain for John McCain during the Republican primaries turned to adulation once he won the nomination, only to turn back to disdain after he lost — with almost no recognition of the fact that the host may be contradicting themselves from one day to the next. All that matters is that they’re mindlessly repeating something, day after day, to which the audience can respond “Hell, yeah” It also helps to be able to serve up what James Joyner once referred to as “healthy chunks of red meat, generating faux outrage, and flaming the passions of a single minded audience than to persuade people towards your point of view. ”

John Derbyshire, who is certainly no squish, noted the problem back in 2009:

By yoking themselves to the clueless George W. Bush and his free-spending administration, they helped create the great debt bubble that has now burst so spectacularly. The big names, too, were all uncritical of the decade-long (at least) efforts to “build democracy” in no-account nations with politically primitive populations. Sean Hannity called the Iraq War a “massive success,” and in January 2008 deemed the U.S. economy “phenomenal.”

Much as their blind loyalty discredited the Right, perhaps the worst effect of Limbaugh et al. has been their draining away of political energy from what might have been a much more worthwhile project: the fostering of a middlebrow conservatism. There is nothing wrong with lowbrow conservatism. It’s energizing and fun. What’s wrong is the impression fixed in the minds of too many Americans that conservatism is always lowbrow, an impression our enemies gleefully reinforce when the opportunity arises. Thus a liberal like E.J. Dionne can write, “The cause of Edmund Burke, Leo Strauss, Robert Nisbet and William F. Buckley Jr. is now in the hands of Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity. … Reason has been overwhelmed by propaganda, ideas by slogans.” Talk radio has contributed mightily to this development.

That’s about as far away from the Firing Line style of conservatism as you can get, and the impact on the political culture of the right is quite apparent.

The biggest impact has been what Parker refers to in her column as the “Palinization” of the GOP. While Mitt Romney remains as the establishment Republican candidate to beat (an ironic place to be for the man who was the conservative golden boy in 2008), the GOP base and the Tea Party have spent the last  year hitching their banner to the likes of Sarah Palin, Donald Trump, Michele Bachmann, Rick Perry, Herman Cain, and now Newt Gingrich. Even when one points out the inadequacies of many of these candidates when it comes to the basic skills one would think a President needs, the response from supporters tended to be something along the lines of saying that their lack of intellectual heft was “refreshing,” whatever that means. The rejection of basic science, or even scientific inquiry, seems to be a requirement to be considered part of the clib among this species of conservatism as well. So, we find that a movement that was founded by men like William F. Buckley and Russel Kirk, and celebrated intellectualism in more ways the one, has devolved into one where a phrase like “we don’t need no fancy book learnin'” seems to be more of a badge of honor than a joke.

Frum ends his piece with by citing the hopeful fact that, even within the GOP, the Tea Party consists of at most 1/3 of self-identified Republicans. Hopefully, he says, the red meat conservatives, the people like Jon Huntsman and Mitch Daniels and Chris Christie, for example, will speak up and pull the conversation away from the nonsense that it seems to devolve into all the time. Of course, Daniels and Christie chose not to run and Huntsman is ignored by his party, largely I think because he committed the “sin” of accepting a job representing his country from Barack Obama. As long as the Limbaugh-Hannity-Coulter wing of the GOP is setting the agenda, then I don’t see how the GOP reverts back to the kind of party it was under Ronald Reagan.

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About Doug Mataconis
Doug holds a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May, 2010 and also writes at Below The Beltway. Follow Doug on Twitter | Facebook

Comments

  1. sam says:

    “Backed by their own wing of the book-publishing industry and supported by think tanks that increasingly function as public-relations agencies, conservatives have built a whole alternative knowledge system, with its own facts, its own history, its own laws of economics.”

    See, Julian Sanchez on epistemic closure and modern “conservatism” (Frum, Cocktail Parties, and the Threat of Doubt):

    One of the more striking features of the contemporary conservative movement is the extent to which it has been moving toward epistemic closure. Reality is defined by a multimedia array of interconnected and cross promoting conservative blogs, radio programs, magazines, and of course, Fox News. Whatever conflicts with that reality can be dismissed out of hand because it comes from the liberal media, and is therefore ipso facto not to be trusted. (How do you know they’re liberal? Well, they disagree with the conservative media!) This epistemic closure can be a source of solidarity and energy, but it also renders the conservative media ecosystem fragile…[A]nything that breaks down the tacit equivalence between “critic of conservatives and “wicked liberal smear artist” undermines the effectiveness of the entire information filter. If disagreement is not in itself evidence of malign intent or moral degeneracy, people start feeling an obligation to engage it sincerely—maybe even when it comes from the New York Times. And there is nothing more potentially fatal to the momentum of an insurgency fueled by anger than a conversation. A more intellectually secure conservatism would welcome this, because it wouldn’t need to define itself primarily in terms of its rejection of an alien enemy.

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  2. legion says:

    The modern GOP has definitively passed from a political philosophy to a full-on evangelical religion. Facts that contradict the tenets of this religion do not cause questioning or doubt – they are used as de facto evidence that outsiders are persecuting them for their beliefs. Dogma is distributed by people who are not elected – like Limbaugh, Norquist, and Beck – and anyone who doesn’t toe the line on every point is called out as not just incorrect, but actively evil. It is based purely on faith, and even when repeated evidence contradicts that faith, they just proclaim it more loudly. I have this discussion with my father-in-law on a regular basis – he talks about how he “feels” things are, and I bring him direct quotes and facts that show he’s worng, but it never changes his opinions…

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  3. sam says:

    As to how this happened, look no further than the Southern Strategy and the evolution of the the evangelical movement into the base of the Republican Party. A group of uneducated yahoos with a perpetual persecution complex now controls the fate of one of the great political parties of the United States.

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  4. jan says:

    Generally a good piece, Doug. I disagree with some of the ingredients. However, the main theme, detailing how rigid the republican party has become, has merit. I would go further, though, by saying the democratic party has suffered the same mutation, by going further left as well. In fact, I would even theorize that both parties have pushed each other further right and left in their attempts to not be politically out-maneuvered by the other.

    I remember reading articles years ago, by right-of-center pundits, saying that the R’s had to become more aggressive and less conciliatory in their negotiations with the dems, because their compromises oftentimes led to the dems not keeping their end of the deal, especially when it came to spending cuts, after revenues went up. This was true with Reagan and papa Bush.

    So, IMO, it’s a two sided coin reflecting the same behavior from both parties.

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  5. MBunge says:

    What’s happened to conservatism is that it’s finally going through the same breakdown in standards the rest of the country went through in the 60s and 70s. The problem is that standards are what conservatism is all about. It’s conservativeswho are supposed to stand up and resist/object to transgressions of intellectual, emotional or cultural guidelines but you first have to do those things with yourself before you can extend that judgment to others. It’s not a coincidence that WFB deligitimized the Birchers at the birth of the modern conservative movement.

    Mike

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 6 Thumb down 0

  6. EddieInCA says:

    “What went wrong with the GOP?”

    Quite simple actually. A few crazies got popular (Limbaugh, Hannity, Beck, Boortz, Gallagher), and people like you, Doug, and Dr. Joyner, chose to not call them on what they were: Charlatans and phonies. Instead, you allowed yourselves to be used as idiots by a party which was increasingly racist, cynical, and, most of all, intellectually bankrupt.

    Pretty soon, even bigger crazies got popular (Palin, Bachmann, Perry), and, again, rather than run screaming from these crazies, too many “Republicans” chose to rationalize the behavior. At this point, you Doug, got smart and said “Efff this.” But you still didn’t, and won’t, make a full, clean break. You’re not a Republican (as you claim), but you still overwhelmingly support the same party as the crazies – based on your last six months of posts.

    Dr. Joyner is even worse, unfortunately, because he still has some affinity for the party that was such a strong part of his Southern upbringing.

    It’s fascinating to see the mental gymnastics both of you go through trying to rationalize the insane rhetoric coming from the GOP, while still trying to hold on to your pragmatic, honest views.

    What went wrong with the GOP? Look in a mirror.

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  7. Nikki says:

    Buckley died and there was no one left to pick up his mantle and keep the coalition together. Short-term political gain became the goal, so the Birchers and evangelicals and the rest of the fringe were welcomed back with open arms. I guess the party figured it would be easier to win elections by disenfranchising voters and destroying unions than by persuading people to vote for conservative ideas. So…when do we get to attach the “traitor” meme to all congresspeople who have signed and who adhere to Norquist’s oath? After all, doesn’t placing that oath above the oath they took when they were sworn into office amount to treason?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 12 Thumb down 4

  8. Hey Norm says:

    @ Jan…
    You numbskull…

    “…I would go further, though, by saying the democratic party has suffered the same mutation, by going further left as well…”

    Democrats in general, and Obama specifically, are operating in the center.
    The PPACA is a Republican, moderate, centrist policy that both Romney and Gingrich supported but no longer do in order to pander to the right wing nutcases like you. Real liberals wanted single payer. Obama and the Democratic Congress passed a free-market solution to a problem for which Republicans have no answer since they abandoned their own policy.
    Democrats have repeatedly offered to cut entitlements in exchange for revenue increases which the Tea Stained caucus refuse. Something like 8:1 spending cuts to revenue increases. You think that is liberal? The Tea Stained causus refuses to move from their tax cut catechism and their allegiance to Grover Norquist.
    Republicans have veered right in response to a centrist Democratic party.

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  9. sam says:

    @jan:

    I would go further, though, by saying the democratic party has suffered the same mutation, by going further left as well.

    And you’d be wrong. Nothing in the Democratic Party approaches the disdain for learning, the know-nothingism, the anti-scientism, the general glorification of ignorance, and the religious bigotry of the Republican party, certainly as far as its base goes. Absolutely nothing.

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  10. Moosebreath says:

    “Nothing in the Democratic Party approaches the disdain for learning, the know-nothingism, the anti-scientism, the general glorification of ignorance, and the religious bigotry of the Republican party, certainly as far as its base goes.”

    I’d go slightly less far than this. The Democrats had elements like that who were a significant segment of the party through the mid 1980’s, and who generally had their positions ignored first under Clinton and then Obama. It is telling how little influence people like Jesse Jackson and Dennis Kucinich have had on the Democrats in the last 20 or so years. When the Republicans do the same to the Norquists and Limbaughs, the pendulum will swing back.

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  11. andrew says:

    “I remember reading articles years ago, by right-of-center pundits, saying that the R’s had to become more aggressive and less conciliatory in their negotiations with the dems, because their compromises oftentimes led to the dems not keeping their end of the deal, especially when it came to spending cuts, after revenues went up. This was true with Reagan and papa Bush.”

    Bingo. Unfortunately it took most Republican politicians a few decades to figure this out.

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  12. ponce says:

    You numbskull…

    It is a futile task to try to get boneheaded Republican partisans like Jan to stop being boneheaded Republican partisans.

    “The other side does it too!” is the standard Republican affirmation to any accusation against their party.

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  13. casimir says:

    there are some people in my family who should take this to heart.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 5 Thumb down 1

  14. Rob in CT says:

    The alternative reality is the scariest part.

    When ordinary liberals and conservatives (not pundits, though it happens with pundits too I guess) try to have a conversation about issues, it usually bogs down almost immediately because they can’t agree on the baseline facts.

    Conservative media have mastered the art of feeding disinformation to people who aren’t likely to do any fact checking.

    Every once and a while my mother forwards me some email she’s gotten from a conservative outlet. Dutiful son that I am, I use my google-fu to check up on the claims. Every single time, it’s a pile of garbage. I report this back to her. She ignores it. Rinse. Repeat.

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  15. reid says:

    The idea that Democrats have been moving left is such a joke, as people have pointed out. How many of the D’s from the south, west, and midwest are pro-gun and anti-abortion? Not exactly liberal planks there. They could change that D to an R and you wouldn’t blink. And we all know they’re easily cowed, so as the media has charged to the right, a lot of them have moved more to the center and beyond.

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  16. mantis says:

    I would go further, though, by saying the democratic party has suffered the same mutation, by going further left as well.

    And that would be a funny joke. Tell another one.

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  17. Rob in CT says:

    I think it’s clear that both sides of the ideological spectrum have their kooks. The question is not “are there kooks?” but rather “are the kooks driving the bus?”

    The kooks have far, far too much power within the GOP. The Dems have marginalized their kooks. They are still out there, but they have little to no political power.

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  18. Hey Norm says:

    @ Rob…
    Good point. I agree.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 2

  19. sam says:

    @Moosebreath:

    I’d go slightly less far than this. The Democrats had elements like that who were a significant segment of the party through the mid 1980′s, and who generally had their positions ignored first under Clinton and then Obama.

    But isn’t one of the problems with that attempt at equivalence that at no time was the Democratic “reality” shaped by anything approaching this:

    [A] multimedia array of interconnected and cross promoting conservative blogs, radio programs, magazines, and of course, Fox News.

    Sure the Democrats had their elements, as you say, but they were just that, elements on the periphery of the party, never approaching the center where the power is. At no time did they form the core of the Party, as the yahoos do now in the Republican party.

    It is telling how little influence people like Jesse Jackson and Dennis Kucinich have had on the Democrats in the last 20 or so years. When the Republicans do the same to the Norquists and Limbaughs, the pendulum will swing back.

    Well, as I intimated, J and K weren’t all that influential even in their heyday. As for the Republicans doing the same to Norquist and Limbaugh, which Republicans do you mean? The Frums of the world? Those folks have already have disavowed N & L, much good it ‘s done them (in fact, it’s done them much ill). I’d like to think you’re right as to the future of the Republican party, I really would, but I don’t think you are. I think the Republican party become trapped in a political Klein Bottle of its own making. And there is no way out.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 12 Thumb down 1

  20. swbarnes2 says:

    My parents were Republicans, and my dad was an intelligent guy, so I started college leaning Republican, but when I was in college, I realized that the party on the wrong side of such brain-dead obvious issues as gay marriage and teaching evolution in schools would never be on the right side of anything. You can add the legality of torture and acceptance of climate change to the list now, too.

    But Republicans can’t win elections without the voting bloc that is enthusiastically on the wrong side of those issues. That voting bloc is not going away any time soon, so Republicans will never stop pandering to them. There will be no return to some Platonic Republican party shorn of horrible nonsensical politcal beliefs. There is only the emprically observable Republican party, which can’t stop legislating based on what makes vicious small-minded people feel good, and never will.

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  21. michael reynolds says:

    It’s hardly breaking news that the GOP is intellectually dead, or that it is run by and for the stupid. And please, can we get away from the deification of Reagan? He was the originator of stupid Republicanism. He’s the one who convinced theretofore sane Republicans to buy into his magic beans theories of economics.

    What’s surprising to me is that people like James and Doug haven’t had the energy to do anything about it. They’re like people living in a rapidly deteriorating neighborhood who lack the will to stop the deterioration or the gumption to move out themselves.

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  22. Janis Gore says:

    Oh, Michael, give them a break. They’re leftists, socialists, and RINOs as it is.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 9 Thumb down 2

  23. Liberty60 says:

    @jan:
    Piling on here-

    In fact, I bet you would be hard pressed to name one single policy proposal by the Obama administration, that was more liberal than anything LBJ or Nixon did.

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  24. Lit3Bolt says:

    Part of the reason is geographic, by which the GOP has hemmed themselves in to the South and evangelical Midwest and has abandoned colleges, cities, and popular culture in favor their own Potemkin versions of each of these things. The racist and religious elements of the GOP cannot confront modern society, and can only retrench further and further into enclaves. Here’s hoping they die off before the country burns.

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  25. ponce says:

    What’s surprising to me is that people like James and Doug haven’t had the energy to do anything about it.

    James and Doug are simply card carry members of the Republican base.

    Do you really believe they’ll vote for anyone besides Romney/Not Romney?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 5 Thumb down 2

  26. OzarkHillbilly says:

    @Liberty60:

    I stopped reading any more than the first sentence of any Jan comment along time ago. I wonder why you guys still do?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 4 Thumb down 2

  27. michael reynolds says:

    @ponce:
    Doug counts himself as separate from the GOP. But both he and James are intellectuals, so I’d have thought that sheer embarrassment would have forced them further away from the GOP’s “conservative” base. It’s like they can do algebra but they’re stuck in the remedial second-grade math class. How James can avoid feeling utterly mortified when called a Republican is a mystery.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 14 Thumb down 2

  28. ponce says:

    How James can avoid feeling utterly mortified when called a Republican is a mystery.

    You must have missed James’ recent post where he laughed about a pregnant woman and a 13 year old boy getting run over near the OWS protest in Washington, D.C.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 10 Thumb down 1

  29. Lit3Bolt says:

    @michael reynolds:

    Because both James and Doug would be thrilled to hop on the gravy train that is the conservative base. They keep their Republican credibility on the off chance they get that book deal or TV spot or think tank invite. You don’t get an invitation to the con by being intellectually honest or principled. Thus the “I’m a Republican, except I slightly disagree with their every stated position” or the “I’m not a Republican, but I slightly approve of their every stated position” balancing act James and Doug respectively perform.

    I too could quickly hop on the wingnut welfare gravy train by writing a book that repeats the sentence, “I hate that evil socialist, Barack Obama. God bless America.” 12,000 times and it would immediately be a bestseller. The point is, selling manufactured hate to the Republican base is like selling cigarettes to Japanese salarymen or whiskey to unemployed Irishmen; there might be some slight adjustments for flavor, but the basic product is the same and you’ll always have a high demand market.

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  30. Hey Norm says:

    Ozark…
    I think it’s like a NASCAR race…you just watch to see the crashes.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 4 Thumb down 1

  31. ponce says:

    The point is, selling manufactured hate to the Republican base is like selling cigarettes to Japanese salarymen or whiskey to unemployed Irishmen; there might be some slight adjustments for flavor, but the basic product is the same and you’ll always have a high demand market.

    True,

    But the problem for James and Doug is on the supply side…any wingnut can supply this hate…and they do.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 5 Thumb down 1

  32. Neo says:

    It isn’t that either party has lost their minds, but that many haven’t come to understand that the country has moved into a place it has never been before. Comparing the present to virtually any situation of the last 80 years is almost meaningless.
    The course ahead includes spending cuts in the federal budget of about 25% to 35%, then taxes on everybody .. the rich all the way down to the poor.
    If it sounds unbelievable, then denial isn’t only a river in Egypt.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 6 Thumb down 6

  33. Neo says:

    @michael reynolds: Projection at it’s best

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 8

  34. Ben says:

    @ponce:

    Ponce,
    James has unequivocally said here that he will vote for Obama over any Republican nominee other than Romney, Huntsman, or Johnson. I fear you are correct about Doug, though.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

  35. Ron Beasley says:

    I think the best thing that could happen for the Republican Party is to nominate a teabagger approved candidate who loses badly to an incumbent that shouldn’t be able to win. The worse thing that could happen is to nominate Romney and see him lose which would drive the party even further into the crazy zone.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 9 Thumb down 2

  36. Moosebreath says:

    sam,

    “Well, as I intimated, J and K weren’t all that influential even in their heyday.”

    My memory of the 1980’s seems very different than yours. I recall a very active disarmament movement, race-based viewpoints on everything (whether or not the rest of the the country felt it had a racial component), and general feeling that America had been overtaken by other countries (especially Japan). I also recall Jackson winning the largest number of delegates in the 1988 Super Tuesday primary and a rallying around Dukakis thereafter to ensure Jackson did not win the nomination.

    “As for the Republicans doing the same to Norquist and Limbaugh, which Republicans do you mean? The Frums of the world?”

    No, the Republican base voters. Kucinich is treated as a joke today by nearly all Democrats, and Jackson only slightly less so. When that happens to Norquist and Limbaugh among Republicans, we will be getting somewhere.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 7 Thumb down 1

  37. Jib says:

    @sam: Actually, I think the Dems DID let the kooks run the bus for while. Starting In the 70’s and through most of the 80’s. And the dynamic was much the same, the country was moving right but there was a strong very left ideological base in the Dems that wanted to move even farther left. The rise of the McGovernites at a time when most Americans wanted to back off the Great Society but were looking for a return to the New Deal, not the Reagan Revolution was a disaster for the Dems. Having to choose between a party to the left of the Great Society or the Reagan Revolution, they choose Reagan.

    Same thing is happening to the Repubs now. People would be happy to go back something resembling the original Reagan Revolution but the Repubs insist on moving farther right. The repubs are very lucky they are running against Obama and not a true leftist. However the longer this goes on without resolution, the stronger the move to the left will be.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 6 Thumb down 2

  38. john personna says:

    What a funny thread … I hope you’re feelin’ the love, Doug and James.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

  39. Thomas says:

    Why should I take anything from David Frum seriously when this man was Bush’s speechwriter and wrote the very uncivil “Axis of Evil” speech that threatened war with not one, not, two, but three countries????

    I am supposed to take a lecture from Mr. Axis of Evil Frum on the topic of civility and sanity? My God! Frum was and still is a shrill for the Bush War on Terror program!

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 5 Thumb down 6

  40. Dazedandconfused says:

    Great piece Doug.

    I would hold out an additional hope, although I’m probably whistling past the grave yard here. These polls, the data upon which everybody is fretting about, most all appear to me to be of “likely Republican primary voters.” This has been but a tiny percentage of the electorate over the last several decades.

    Who will show up this time? Nobody knows for sure.

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  41. JR in WV says:

    @jan:

    The Democratic Party is more left-wing now-a-days?

    You must be smoking crack!

    The whole country is conservative, the Democrats don’t even come close to moderate, when compared to liberal parties in the other great democracies of our era!

    The Republicans applaud executions of innocent prisoners and mock patriotic soldiers on national TV.

    The Democrats are afraid to criticize this despicable behavior for fear that they will hurts the feelies of the poor conservatrons! There are no curse words available that would be sufficient to describe the Republican party, and the Democrats are afraid to call a spade a black playing card, lest they get called unkind to principled conservatives. ye gads! The mind boggles!

    These Repugnants are more crazed than the Red Army of Cambodia! They don’t believe that the earth goes around the sun! They believe the world universe was created in a 6-day work week 6000 years ago! Why would any person able to reason and use logic even listen to those crazed rats?

    I have to go now, and take my medications, lest I do myself an injury. Thanks so much for letting me speak my mind.

    Bye now!

    J

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 11 Thumb down 4

  42. sam says:

    @Moosebreath:

    I also recall Jackson winning the largest number of delegates in the 1988 Super Tuesday primary and a rallying around Dukakis thereafter to ensure Jackson did not win the nomination.

    Actually, Dukakis won more than Jackson, but not by much. But your point is taken. I still maintain that the political base (and center) of the Democratic party has never been dominated by, for wont of a better word, an extreme faction to the extent the current Republican party is. I fear there are not enough sane Republicans left to oust the crazies that now dominate. Perhaps the Republican party will go the way of the Whigs that preceded it and a new party will emerge. I have little hope for the current GOP.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 1

  43. MarkedMan says:

    @Lit3Bolt: “Like selling whiskey to unemployed Irishmen?” Really? How about “Like selling fried chicken to blacks”? Or “Piggy banks to Dutchmen”? Or “Christian babies to Hebrews”?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 2

  44. An Interested Party says:

    Why should I take anything from David Frum seriously when this man was Bush’s speechwriter and wrote the very uncivil “Axis of Evil” speech that threatened war with not one, not, two, but three countries????

    But that’s the point…when someone like this is considered a RINO, you know that many of those who make up the base of the GOP have really lost their minds…

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  45. G.A.Phillips says:

    Doug you sure write some good libtard magnet….

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  46. Janis Gore says:

    Fine, G.A. What do you think needs to be done in this great country of 300,000,000?

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  47. Bleev K says:

    @Janis Gore: Janis, you have to begin with simpler questions for G.A., you know like “How old are you?” “What school are you in?” “What pokemon is your favorite”, etc.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 5 Thumb down 1

  48. Janis Gore says:

    No need to be unkind, Bleev.

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  49. jukeboxgrad says:

    According to his son, William F. Buckley said this:

    I’ve spent my entire lifetime separating the Right from the kooks

    Buckley is dead, and he lost that battle. The GOP has been assimilated by the kooks.

    Richard Posner described the problem:

    I sense intellectual deterioration of the once-vital conservative movement. … My theme is the intellectual decline of conservatism, and it is notable that the policies of the new conservatism are powered largely by emotion and religion and have for the most part weak intellectual groundings. … By the fall of 2008, the face of the Republican Party had become Sarah Palin and Joe the Plumber. Conservative intellectuals had no party. … The conservative movement is at its lowest ebb since 1964.

    (link, link)

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 8 Thumb down 1

  50. ponce says:

    The GOP has been assimilated by the kooks.

    Are you saying that there are Republicans who secretly don’t believe dreck like, “lowering taxes increases government tax revenue” but are too afraid to say it?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 8 Thumb down 1

  51. anjin-san says:

    What went wrong with the GOP?

    The answer can be found @ Jan…

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 1

  52. A voice from another precinct says:

    @Rob in CT: I’m much luckier than you. My mom used to send these things to me but stopped because she realized that i’ve “been brainwashed by the left into believing their lies.”

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 4 Thumb down 2

  53. G.A.Phillips says:

    Fine, G.A. What do you think needs to be done in this great country of 300,000,000?

    Blame Obama and bash the intellect of atheists….

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 7

  54. Terrye says:

    [T]he conservative brain trust once led by William F. Buckley has been supplanted by talk radio hosts who love to quote Buckley (and boast of his friendship) but who do not share the man’s pedigree or his nimble mind. Moreover, where Buckley tried to rid the GOP of fringe elements, notably the John Birch Society, today’s conservatives have let them back in. The 2010 Conservative Political Action Conference was co-sponsored by the Birchers.

    There was also a huge backlash against this with several conservative politicians speaking out publicly against it. It might have been nice to mention this.

    I think both parties have allowed their extremes too much power. The Democratic party is no different, in fact if anything they have let the nuts run the nut house over there. I used to be a Democrat. I left the party because of the left. I belonged to the party when it was not OWS, or just the unions or just college professors and kids..it was mainstream. No more. So maybe you could write this kind of article about both parties.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 15

  55. Terrye says:

    John Derbyshire, who is certainly no squish, noted the problem back in 2009:

    By yoking themselves to the clueless George W. Bush and his free-spending administration, they helped create the great debt bubble that has now burst so spectacularly. The big names, too, were all uncritical of the decade-long (at least) efforts to “build democracy” in no-account nations with politically primitive populations. Sean Hannity called the Iraq War a “massive success,” and in January 2008 deemed the U.S. economy “phenomenal.”

    Oh come on..Bush was not exactly a favorite of a lot of these people. All you have to do is look at his record on immigration to see that. He was not clueless…you know what? I don’t like Limbaugh and Levin and Malkin. I do not listen to them or read them or anything else. But I respected Bush and I thought he got a bad rap from both the left and the far right and here you are quoting someone who is complaining about both Bush and the far right as if they were simpatico. He was not clueless..we would be better off today if he was still president.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 13

  56. superdestroyer says:

    @reid:

    The most conservatrive Democrat is to the left of the most liberal Republican. There is almost no overlap between Democrats and Republicans.

    The idea that there are conservative Democrats in incorrect. Please name all of the anti-abortion Democrats who have ever taken a policy position that would reduce access to abortion.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 6

  57. Terrye says:

    And btw it might be worth noting that Frum worked for Bush…so I guess he did not think he was clueless. And yet here you are quoting him and trashing Bush.

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  58. Terrye says:

    @superdestroyer: I am not sure about this. Senators Graham {R} and Manchin {D} have joined forces to try and get the Bowles-Simpson debt commission recommendations to a vote. I would say these two men have a lot in common politically in spite of the fact that they are in different parties.

    Do not confuse the noise makers with rank and file Republicans.

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  59. superdestroyer says:

    @An Interested Party:

    Frum is not a RINO but an Israel first neo-con. I am amazed that no one has mentioned that one of the major problems with the Republicans is that is gave control of its foreign policy to Israel-first neo-cons like Frum. Frum would spend the U.S. bankrupt and spend an endless number of American lives if he thought it would benefit Israel.

    One of the good things that has happened since 2004 is the eviction of the Israel-first neocons from the Republican Party.

    Frum is just trying to find a way to turn the Democratic Party into an Israel-first party.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 5 Thumb down 2

  60. superdestroyer says:

    @Terrye:

    Bush is beyond clueless. Bush was a shoot-the-messager, refuse to face facts, idiot who refuse to do his homework and left the hard work to others.

    One of the major problems that the Republicans face is how to face the incompetence and stupidity of 20 years of having the Bush clan in charge. Frum is a courtier to the Bush clan and would love to have such easily manipulated people in charge again.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 7 Thumb down 0

  61. superdestroyer says:

    @Terrye:

    Lindsey Graham is an supporter of open borders. Anyone who supports open borders and unlimited immigration is unable to understand the long term implications of policy. Open borders means higher taxes, more government, poorer school, and a poorer environment. Graham is just another cheap labor, crony-capitalist Republican who is too stupid to understand policy.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 2

  62. superdestroyer says:

    Frum does not have any credibility on the issue. Look at the issues that Frum skips over to include Karl Rove, demographics, immigration, education, quotas, affirmative action, higher education.

    Frum seems to say that middle class private sector employed whites are idiots who should just do as their told by the Republican insiders. No wonder those people listen to Rush instead of Frum.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 0

  63. Dave Schuler says:

    @sam:

    Agree with sam in the third comment, above, 100%. Add to that gerrymandering, safe seats, and seniority rules in the Congress and it explains how the most extreme elements came to dominate the party, leaving no for moderates.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 1

  64. john personna says:

    @Terrye:

    I think both parties have allowed their extremes too much power. The Democratic party is no different, in fact if anything they have let the nuts run the nut house over there. I used to be a Democrat. I left the party because of the left. I belonged to the party when it was not OWS, or just the unions or just college professors and kids..it was mainstream. No more. So maybe you could write this kind of article about both parties.

    I don’t think so, simply because the best examples you can name, OWS and the unions, do not at all control the Democratic party. They are not on the legislative radar for Democrats in power.

    They are exactly the opposite of what you claim. They are further left reactions to the moderates in power.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 7 Thumb down 1

  65. george says:

    And btw it might be worth noting that Frum worked for Bush…so I guess he did not think he was clueless. And yet here you are quoting him and trashing Bush.

    You’ve never worked for someone you thought was clueless? Most folks have at one point or another – and go along with it if the money’s good or it seems to be a good addition to their resume.

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  66. Barb Hartwell says:

    I think what went wrong is their inability to be themselves They flip flop so much trying to be everything to everyone and they only make asses of themselves. When they are themselves their base drops them. They say Democrats want it all Republicans cannot even agree what they want.

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  67. Barry says:

    @Ron Beasley: “I think the best thing that could happen for the Republican Party is to nominate a teabagger approved candidate who loses badly to an incumbent that shouldn’t be able to win. ”

    I used to think this, and hope for a total flop on the GOP side in 2012, but after 2008-10 have come to believe that any purging of the crazies on the right will take the death of the current leadership and older base, and a new generation of GOP people taking over.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 4 Thumb down 1

  68. mattatat says:

    @superdestroyer: http://motherjones.com/mojo/2011/02/va-regulate-abortion-clinics-hospitals

    Oh noes that took me 2 minutes via the power of google. You can find many many more examples of Democrats attempting to limit access to abortion. If you had paid any attention at all to the healthcare debate you would of seen several prominent Democrats working on trying to restrict funding for abortions and options for women’s health. You never did care for inconvenient facts though….

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 6 Thumb down 1

  69. superdestroyer says:

    @mattatat:

    Two state senators in Virginia are irrelevant. Democrats in the U.S. House when the Democrats were the majority are irrelevant. They can vote for restrict abortion to appear more conservative knowing that the majority will not let it happen. It is one of the oldest tricks in politics to supporting something that will never pass.

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  70. somercet says:

    I replied to the previous article, please search for this name there.

    The wishful thinking is pretty extreme here. Buckley and Co. were anti-gay drug warriors for many years. The somewhat musty Catholicism that hung over National Review in the early years was a welcome corrective to an increasingly mushy mainline Protestantism, but also lead to repetition of recondite points no one cared about.

    It’s interesting to reflect back on Buckley’s high point: the 1979 Panama Canal debate against Reagan, who was for keeping the Canal. Buckley cheerfully admitted that Reagan could not have won office with any other position, while noting that losing the Canal was also necessary as unrest in Panama would damage his Administration. Also, Buckley was gracious in his defense, offering ringing defenses of red-meat conservative issues even as he politely asked for generosity to Panama. It’s on YouTube. I suggest Mr Frum, who is in savage violation of Mr Reagan’s law, watch it.

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  71. Neo says:

    The real problem is that while the Republican party had been taken over by “the kooks,” the Democratic party is certifiably insane.

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  72. Neo says:

    @Thomas: Frum did not write the “Evil Empire Speech”

    Anthony R. Dolan, Reagan’s chief speechwriter at the time, said he doesn’t remember exactly which excised parts of the Parliament speech, often called the Westminster Address, resurfaced in the Evil Empire Speech. But he said it wasn’t unusual for a White House writer to try the same words twice.

    “You mean, was I recycling? Yes,” Dolan said in an interview. “Sure, we did that all the time.”

    Dolan, now a Washington, D.C., consultant to key Republican officeholders, was principal author of both the Westminster Address and the Evil Empire Speech, but he doesn’t claim either speech as his own.

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  73. Nora says:

    @Rob in CT: Your mother, and others like her, is looking to change your mind, not her own. Her mind is made-up and is based not on reason, but on faith. Faith that her saints (Rush, Beck, Hannity) would never lie to her. There is no reasoning with faith. Since faith is all that is left of the conservative movement, reason is dead on arrival. This is precisely why Democrats cannot have a conversation with someone from the radical (and they are all radicals now) right. Never argue with a fool, a drunk, or a madman.

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