Palin Last Nail in Republican Coffin?
Quite a few reports came out yesterday buttressing rumors that there were tensions between John McCain and Sarah Palin which caused a feud within the campaign team. It’s only fitting, I suppose, since the selection of Palin has highlighted and exacerbated a growing fissure within the Republican Party itself.
Fox New’s Carl Cameron dished last night about rumors that Palin was even more unprepared than we thought, like not knowing that Africa was a continent rather than a country or being clueless about which countries were in NAFTA:
Cameron continued the assault on Bill O’Reilly’s show, continuing to use the word “knowledgability” to describe what she lacked:
In “Internal Battles Divided McCain and Palin Camps,” NYT corespondent Elisabeth Bumiller details some of the petty squabbles and disputes over such things as the prank Sarkozy call and the wardrobe brouhaha but this section puts it all into perspective:
Finger-pointing at the end of a losing campaign is traditional and to a large degree predictable, as Mr. McCain himself acknowledged in a prescient interview in July.
“Every book I’ve read about a campaign is that the one that won, it was a perfect and beautifully run campaign with geniuses running it and incredible messaging, etcetera,” Mr. McCain said then. “And always the one that lost, ‘Oh, completely screwed up, too much infighting, bad people, etcetera.’ So if I win, I believe that historians will say, ‘Way to go, he fine-tuned that campaign, and he got the right people in the right place and as the campaign grew, he gave them more responsibility.’ If I lose,” people will say, “ ‘That campaign, always in disarray.’ ”
Quite right. Had McCain somehow managed to win, we’d be hearing about all the Obama staffers who couldn’t believe Joe Biden was so boneheaded as to promise a grave national security crisis if his guy won and Biden staffers complaining about Obama’s ill-considered remarks to Joe the Plumber or Obama’s diva qualities being demonstrated by his penchant for giant outdoor rallies with Greek columns. Since they won, however, the mistakes are minimized.
Regardless, these revelations about Palin are embarrassing, if true, and seem petty at this juncture. Michelle Malkin and Ace are absolutely right that it’s cowardly for these rumormongers to be dishing anonymously.
Palin, for her part, is being extraordinarily gracious, at least in public, saying all the right things about McCain and about letting president-elect Obama have his moment.
RedState honcho Erick Erickson says his team is “tracking down all the people from the McCain campaign now whispering smears against Governor Palin to Carl Cameron and others.” Fair enough. He then goes on:
We intend to constantly remind the base about these people, monitor who they are working for, and, when 2012 rolls around, see which candidates hire them. Naturally then, you’ll see us go to war against those candidates.
It is our expressed intention to make these few people political lepers.
Don’t make us add you to our list. Do you really want to be next to Kathleen Parker in the leper colony?
I was about halfway through a draft of this post which decried a New McCarthyism and a witch hunt against those Republicans who dared speak out against Palin when it occurred to me that I’ve had more than one adult beverage with Erick and that he couldn’t possibly mean that. Either this was a late night rant that he’d walk back in the morning or I was reading too much into the whole thing.
So I emailed him asking, “Is it your intention to sabotage candidates you’d otherwise support for hiring staffers who say mean things about Sarah Palin? And perhaps anyone else who says anything mean about Palin? Not sure how else to take Don’t make us add you to our list.” He assured me that, “We’re just trying to rattle cages. It’s pretty clear there are four staffers and one former staffer in the McCain camp who are out to save their own reputations by throwing Palin under the bus. Just trying to get them to back off. I’m positive, because i have my own campaign sources, that the vast majority of what they are saying is B.S.”
The whole Palin thing, though, worries me. I take people like George Will and Christopher Buckley and Colin Powell at their word when they say the selection of Palin was very troubling to them. And, to the extent Palin did lack “knowledgability,” it’s not her fault that she was jumped directly from Rookie League ball to the World Series. Michelle Malkin is absolutely right here:
Let’s assume the rumor-mongers are telling the truth for a moment. Who does it damn more: Sarah Palin or McCain and his vetters who green-lighted her for the vice presidential nomination? Don’t need an Ivy League degree to figure that one out.
But here’s the thing: As Stacy McCain has argued eloquently for some time, the grassroots of the party love Sarah Palin. His sentiment that, “We need more grass-roots activists and fewer intellectual elites” is surely widespread. It’s also a path to permanent minority party status.
My political awakening occured in late 1979, with the Iran Hostage Crisis, and grew steadily over the next year as Ronald Reagan battled Jimmy Carter for the presidency. At that point in time, the Republican Party was said to have an “Electoral College lock” on the White House — California was a solid GOP state at the time — and it took extraordinary things like the combination of Watergate, an energy crisis, and runaway stagflation to get a Democrat elected. At the same time, though, the Democrats were overwhelmingly the dominant party. They had majorities in most state legislatures, held most of the governorships, had been in control of the House of Representatives for decades, and were ensconsed as the majority party in the Senate.
Reagan changed all that. He managed to build a coalition of anti-communists, fiscal conservatives, and social conservativesthat swept Carter off to build houses for the poor, brought in a wave of Republicans on his coattails, and started a national realignment that culminated in the 1994 Republican revolution.
The social conservatives, mostly Southern evangelicals, took over the party, starting with the school boards and county commissions and eventually the state legislatures, the breeding ground for future Congressmen and governors. The result, for a time, was a majority party or, at least, one on par with the Democrats in party ID and more easily mobilized on election day.
The coalition has long been an uneasy one, with the social conservatives disdained by the Rockefeller Republicans and vice versa. The demise of the Soviet Union and end of the Cold War made it harder to keep the coalition together but it has more-or-less held together. All the while, though, moderate and liberal Republicans have gradually been driven from power. Olympia Snowe is all that’s left of them in the New England states, now a one-party region.
The frontrunners for the 2012 nomination are Palin and Mike Huckabee. I don’t see how either gets beyond 40 percent of the national popular vote, let alone takes back any state that Obama won this go-round. Not only will they not appeal to independent voters, they’d both alienate the Crunchy Cons, South Park Republicans, Goldwater Republicans, Rockefeller Republicans, and essentially everyone else outside the hard core evangelical base.
There’s got to be a better way.
There’s going to be a bloodbath. A lot of people are going to be excommunicated. David Brooks and David Frum and Peggy Noonan are dead people in the Republican Party. The litmus test will be: where did you stand on Palin?
Matt Yglesias‘ response at the time is apt:
I’m actually one who thinks that the occasional ideological purge can strengthen a movement, but this would be a seriously odd basis for conducting such a cleansing exercise. Nuzzo is talking about a blind test of loyalty, not any kind of substantive demarcation of conservatism.
A GOP where the likes of Brooks and Noonan aren’t welcome would be a fringe party, indeed.
UPDATE II: George Will makes similar arguments in his column today, although his view of what’s happening is a bit more, well, conservative.
As this is being written, Republicans seem to have lost a total of 55 House and 11 Senate seats in the past two elections. These are the worst Republican results in consecutive elections since the Depression-era elections of 1930 and 1932 (153 and 22), which presaged exile from the presidency until 1953. If, as seems likely at this writing, in January congressional Republicans have 177 representatives and 44 senators, they will be weaker than at any time since after the 1976 elections, when they were outnumbered in the House 292 to 143 and the Senate 61 to 38.
After the 1936 election, when the Republican nominee against FDR, Kansas Gov. Alf Landon, carried only two states, both in New England (hence the jest, “As Maine goes, so goes Vermont”), there were 29 congressional seats in New England and Republicans still held 15. With Tuesday’s defeat of Connecticut Republican Chris Shays, Democrats hold all 22 New England seats. As recently as 1996, when New York had 31 House seats, Republicans held 14; after Tuesday, they have just three of 29. With the loss of the seat on Staten Island, Republicans will hold at most one urban seat.
Since John Kennedy was elected from Massachusetts in 1960, all of the elected presidents (leaving aside Gerald Ford), before Tuesday, came from Georgia, Arkansas, Texas and Southern California. In 1960, there were no Republican senators from the South. (In 1961, John Tower of Texas became the first since Reconstruction.) But when the next Congress convenes, 19 of the probable 44 Republican senators — 43 percent of them — will be from the South, understood as including Oklahoma and Kentucky. The South is beginning to look less like the firm foundation of a national party than the embattled redoubt of a regional one.
Still, the Republican Party retains a remarkably strong pulse, considering that McCain’s often chaotic campaign earned 46 percent of the popular vote while tacking into terrible winds. Conservatives can take some solace from the fact that four years after Goldwater won just 38.5 percent of the popular vote, a Republican president was elected.
True that. But it took some extraordinarily bad governing and an unpopular war to do it. And it would be another three decades before the GOP won a majority in the House of Representatives.