Twilight Of The RINOs?
The GOP Establishment is in crisis, but it has nobody to blame but itself.
David Brooks laments the extent to which Republican Party leaders have essentially stood by and done nothing for the past decade or more while their party has been taken over by a base that seems intent of dragging the party down the road to electoral destruction:
All across the nation, there are mainstream Republicans lamenting how the party has grown more and more insular, more and more rigid. This year, they have an excellent chance to defeat President Obama, yet the wingers have trashed the party’s reputation by swinging from one embarrassing and unelectable option to the next: Bachmann, Trump, Cain, Perry, Gingrich, Santorum.
But where have these party leaders been over the past five years, when all the forces that distort the G.O.P. were metastasizing? Where were they during the rise of Sarah Palin and Glenn Beck? Where were they when Arizona passed its beyond-the-fringe immigration law? Where were they in the summer of 2011 when the House Republicans rejected even the possibility of budget compromise? They were lying low, hoping the unpleasantness would pass.
The wingers call their Republican opponents RINOs, or Republican In Name Only. But that’s an insult to the rhino, which is a tough, noble beast. If RINOs were like rhinos, they’d stand up to those who seek to destroy them. Actually, what the country needs is some real Rhino Republicans. But the professional Republicans never do that. They’re not rhinos. They’re Opossum Republicans. They tremble for a few seconds then slip into an involuntary coma every time they’re challenged aggressively from the right.
Without real opposition, the wingers go from strength to strength. Under their influence, we’ve had a primary campaign that isn’t really an argument about issues. It’s a series of heresy trials in which each of the candidates accuse the others of tribal impurity. Two kinds of candidates emerge from this process: first, those who are forceful but outside the mainstream; second, those who started out mainstream but look weak and unprincipled because they have spent so much time genuflecting before those who despise them.
Neither is likely to win in the fall. Before the G.O.P. meshugana campaign, independents were leaning toward the G.O.P. But, in the latest Politico/George Washington University Battleground Poll, Obama leads Mitt Romney among independents by 49 percent to 27 percent.
Leaders of a party are supposed to educate the party, to police against its worst indulgences, to guard against insular information loops. They’re supposed to define a creed and establish boundaries. Republican leaders haven’t done that. Now the old pious cliché applies:
First they went after the Rockefeller Republicans, but I was not a Rockefeller Republican. Then they went after the compassionate conservatives, but I was not a compassionate conservative. Then they went after the mainstream conservatives, and there was no one left to speak for me.
Perhaps not surprisingly, there hasn’t been much discussion of Brooks’ Op-Ed in the conservative blogosphere. The one post showing up on Memeorandum at the moment from a conservative blogger is by Erick Erickson wherein the CNN pundit/radio host/blogger bizarrely accuses Brooks of comparing the Tea Party to Nazis because of his use of a modified version of Martin Niemöller’s famous quote about how German’s intellectuals sat by and said and did nothing as the Nazis rose to power. Erickson doesn’t address the merits of Brooks’ argument at all, but this isn’t entirely surprising. After all, the argument isn’t really addressed to people like Erickson, it’s addressed to the party elites who are looking at the political world that the Erickson’s of the world have helped create and wondering what the heck happened to their party.
What stands out about Brooks’ lamentation is the fact that it seems to be far too little, far too late because the problems that Brooks complains of go back far further than a mere five years. Where were they during the 90s when conservatives were pursuing bizarre conspiracy theories against the President and his wife? Where were they when the Bush Administration used a terrorist attack as an excuse to pass a PATRIOT Act that was little more than a wish list of law enforcement tools that had been requested for years, most of which have barely even been used in the pursuit of terror suspects over the past ten years? Where were they when discriminatory laws against gays and lesbians were used as a springboard to election victory in 2004? Heck, where were they when a supposedly conservative Administration increased government spending and power at a rate unseen since the Johnson Administration?
P.M. Carpenter has this rejoinder to Brooks’ obviously rhetorical questions:
I can answer that, Mr. Brooks. They were lounging in their cloakrooms’ soft-leather, wingback chairs, breezing their eyes across conservative columns that dwelled, for example, on socioeconomic functions of “happiness,” rather than conservative columns that relentlessly smashed the emergency glass and frantically rang the alarm bell: Has this party gone fucking nuts — or what? Granted there have been a few conservatives, such as Andrew Sullivan, doing just that; but on the whole authentic conservatives have tended to sigh and tsk-tsk instead of unambiguously condemn.
By and large, that’s exactly what pundits like Brooks have been doing this whole time. It was all well and good for them to spend the last five years or so writing columns that let them show off their intellectual skills, but while they were doing so all those events that they now say they lament were going on in their own party and they weren’t saying much about it at all. Perhaps it’s because they didn’t want to get their names taken off the right guest lists for the right parties. Perhaps it’s because they didn’t want to burn bridges until they were sure which side was going to win the on going battle. Whatever the case was, it’s kind of weak and hypocritical for them to be complaining now when they were silent for so long.
The other side of the coin, of course, are the “establishment” politicians in the GOP that are thinking the same thing that people like Brooks are now writing. They too remained largely silent while what Brooks calls the “wingnuts” took over the party. In some cases it was out of fear. After all, look at what has happened to those politicians who have dared to take on Rush Limbaugh, or the Tea Party, and call them out for their nuttiness. Of course, if more people were speaking out then it would’ve been harder to suppress the critics, so on some level you can criticize them for being cowards. Those who weren’t afraid to speak out, of course, were silent because they enjoyed the political support that Republican alliances with these types of groups brought. Well, as the saying goes, they that sow the wind shall reap the whirlwind. It’s kind of pathetic for politicians who have spent decades exploiting the far right for political gain to complain now when those forces are becoming dominant in their party. That’s what you get for playing with fire.
James Joyner has expressed the hope in several recent posts here at OTB that the Republican Party will return to sanity at some point. Even if it takes an election cycle or two, I hope he’s right because the one thing this country needs desperately is a strong two-party system populated by opposing parties that at least accept the idea that compromise is necessary. Right now, one of those parties has rejected that idea entirely and the current state of Congress is testament to the results of that attitude. But the blame for the current state of the Republican Party doesn’t just lie with Sarah Palin, Michele Bachmann, and Rick Santorum. It lies with the party leaders and conservative pundits who let them get away with what they’ve managed to do over the past five years.
Rhinoceros in African sunset photo via Shutterstock
This is indeed a real case of both sides do it.
I think this is something that can be blamed on Bush/Cheney. There are weak people in the Republican leadership because that’s what the Bush administration wanted – it was a top down operation. All they wanted was yes men – independent thought not encouraged. In the beginning FOX news and Limbaugh took their talking points from the Bush Administration and the RNC. When the Bush administration was replaced a vacuum was created and it was FOX news and Limbaugh creating the talking points. The problem with this is that FOX and Limbaugh are primarily in it to make money and there market is the “wingnuts” so the wingnuts got a voice.
Brooks misses the mark by asking, “How did this happen?
He should be confessing, “I (among many others) allowed this to happen.”
Wrong. They banked every tax decrease and considered the rest “noise.” Until, that is, the noise drowned them out.
Heh! I clip your quote and your quote puts me in the moderation queue. Please fix.
I also got caught in moderation.
My crime? A TPM link.
Stood by and did nothing? They engineered it…or has no one ever heard of Karl Rove.
This world wasn’t created by the Ericksons, he’s just a little opportunist trying to make a buck who floated to the surface like all the other flotsam and jetsam like Breitbart, Coulter, Hannity et al. It was created by people like David Brooks who for years in venues like the NR, the McNeil Lehrer Newshour and latterly the NYT, shilled for the Republican party and applauded every attack on the legitimacy of Clinton including the impeachment; and then moved on to celebrate every economic and foreign policy disaster dreamed up by the Bush admin from invading Iraq thru huge tax cuts that were going to pay for themselves to their refusal to properly regulate the financial industry. Letting the loons out as long as they did what Rove told them was fine with Brooks (and others of his ilk like Frum) but once they started taking over the place he starts complaining about it.
And this is another of your fictions Doug. Are you seriously suggesting this only happened five years ago. We’re you perhaps asleep during the 8 years of the Bush admin when the Republican noise machine was operating at maximum decibels? And one of the pundits amongst those now seeking to evade responsiblity is David Brooks.
First off, excellent post, Doug. As much as I have disagreed with you at times, you’ve been bold about criticizing Republican extremism.
Second, if you want a name to blame for the suicide of the Republican party, I have one for you: Roger Ailes.
There’s a famous Lenin quote. “The Capitalists will sell us the rope with which we will hang them.” Well, this capitalist, Mr. Ailes, has sold the GOP the rope with which they have hung themselves. His creatures, Hannity and Beck and O’Reilly and the rest, have so distorted reality that they’ve made self-correction impossible. Along with the despicable Rush Limbaugh, they’ve turned right wing paranoia into a religion and burned all the heretics.
Race-baiting, gay-bashing, the scapegoating of immigrants, lies and lies and still more lies, a constant diet of hate and fear, 24/7/365.
Yes, the GOP establishment is a collection of cowards, but it was Mr. Ailes who cowed them. The GOP establishment which spent so much time whining about the liberal media, was undone by radical right-wing media. Justice with a side of irony.
One of the few remaining RINOs has just called it quits.
I’m not ready to see Doug quite as a uniter, but there is no question that he fired shots at many on the fringe.
FWIW, those on Morning Joe have called this Jeb Bush quote the line that will be remembered for this election cycle:
And they’ve certainly got a point. When you’ve got Jeb Bush saying “I used to be a conservative” it might be time to call for the check and go home.
David Brooks still is being published??
In any event, I read that puff piece and found it to be quite amusing. The faux concern by Brooks. The attendant melodramatic prose. Then the blog post itself was a howler. The reference to the PATRIOT Act?? Comedy gold. Even the loopiest of liberal Democrats possessed sufficient cognitive abilities to vote in favor of that statute. In the ensuing decade that law with only slight modifications has been extended and extended and extended and extended anew, and in large part made permanent, including over a period of time in which Democrats controlled the entire Congress with a filibuster-proof majority in the Senate to boot. The reference to the marriage referendums also was a howler. Even in places like Oregon the people have voted by overwhelming majorities to ban same-sex marriages. Hell, in California the people voted to ban same-sex marriages. Why wouldn’t a political party try to take advantage of the vox populi?
Putting that all aside, as to the merits of Brooks’ pontification, the problems with the GOP primary base go back decades and although indeed they have gotten far worse over the past several years — fueled in large part by the real-time echo chamber of the Internet and talk radio — it’s important to keep in mind that for every O’Donnell-Castle fiasco there’s at least one Mark Kirk. Then there’s still Lisa Murkowski, Snowe & Collins, Dan Coats, Mitch McConnell, so on and so forth. This year’s presidential primary has and continues to be a fiasco, but that’s a function of a weak field led by a Mormon. The perfect storm. Not likely to be repeated.
As for the GOP establishment, they’ve got a lot on their plates. Try to imagine having to run the gauntlet of the national mass media and the unions while simultaneously trying to break through the thick skulls of Zombieland and simultaneously keeping wraps on the right-wing nuts. Not so easy.
Even still the lunatics haven’t completely taken over the asylum and even still the GOP will prevail in many major elections over the next several decades; despite the best wishes to the contrary on the part of the media/academe/union cabal. In a two-party system it’s quite difficult to make one of those parties disappear.
I have to agree. Once you create an alternative reality in which Obama is simultaneously Nazi-Communist-Anticolonialist Kenyan-Black Power-Muslim actual reality will be crowded out to the point that you can’t just say: “It’s insane to nominate Santorum, it’s insane to push the party further to the right, because if we do, we’ll never win a presidential election again.”
I mean, Obama is an empty suit, an affirmative-action President that couldn’t find his way to a stage without a teleprompter, right? How could Santorum or Palin or Bachmann or Cain beat him?
And if tax cuts lead to surpluses; government cuts lead to growth; ensuring all people have to have private insurance leads to the loss of all freedom; and tax cuts for the rich lead to all boats rising uphow can you NOT nominate someone like Santorum or force Romney to decry his own healthcare program and be against all bailouts?
What do you wanna bet that Fox News, the NY Post, some local, state and federal officials and several members of the NYPD will all get caught up in the same scandal currently ongoing in the UK? It’s all Murdoch’s legacy.
BTW, the economists have been coming up with some interesting numbers:
This doesn’t mean that taxes should be that high of course. There are lots of reasons to go lower. It just shows that we have a bit of headroom.
One’s heart goes out to them.
And by the way, another sign that the GOP is falling apart, and the twilight of the RINOs is very real.
Snowe just announced she is retiring. Huge news for the Democrats.
Tsar Nicholas’ brain is still alive?
He’s a guy who took the name of a spineless, anti-semitic nincompoop who managed to lose an empire and get his own family killed in the process. What do you expect?
This doesn’t surprise me. She’s a decent woman and I’m sure she’s had to cast a lot of votes in the last year that she had to know were against the interests of Mainers. It’s a poor state. She was going to be primaried and would probably have won the primary but it’s a hell of a lot of aggro to put up with for what? If she wanted to stay in the senate she should just have switched parties, the Dems would have welcomed her with open arms.
Interesting to see people who have made a deal with the devil professing surprise when the flames begin to consume them…
Because they always thought the crazy was a) containable and b) for show. A lot of the fireballers used to be like Chris Matthews. people who live for the horse race, and know that none of what they say means anything but winning a news cycle and motivating the proles. Clinton body count? Eh, we know Rush is just playing. The president governs like a Kenyan? D’Sousa has always made a living being provocative. Obama is using the Tides foundation to take your guns via UN Agenda 21? OK, maybe Beck is a little far out there, but he’s just a showman at the end of the day.
The problem is that you rile up the base with this enough and some of them don’t buy that it’s theater. it’s real to them. That’s how you get the Sharron Angles and the Christine O’Donnells of the world nominated. That’s how you get the John Birch Society at CPAC. That’s how you get Pam Geller claiming that Obama’s real father was Malcom X.
But the GOP kinda let that slide because hey, if we contain it, it’s a weapon. They haven’t been able to contain it since 2010, they just didn’t realize it at the time.
In a way the David Brooks of the world are more to blame for this than the Erick Ericksons. Erickson always acted like an extremist, but Brooks chose to ignore people like Erickson so long as they were convenient.
I blame this on Reagan. You can’t go for three decades of electoral life and not air grievances about the whackjob sitting next to you.
” It lies with the party leaders and conservative pundits who let them get away with what they’ve managed to do over the past five years.”
I think your timeframe is too short. The roots of this go back to the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Lyndon Johnson is supposed to have said, directly after signing the act into law, that the Democrats had lost the South for a generation. Well, it’s been a little over two generations, but he was prescient. In the aftermath of the act’s passage, the GOP launched its Southern Strategy, and it’s now having to live with the success of that strategy. The GOP has become a regional party dominated by aging white evangelicals. The party leaders and conservative pundits stood by while that strategy worked its malevolence and, as far as I can recall, said very little against it.
@MM: An awful lot of the awful things in our awful world rest on the words “political convenience.”
I’m glad Brooks noticed what the rest of us noticed long ago. And yes, it’s been going on for longer than 5 years. Hell, birtherism is almost 5 years old.
The most complete story of this strange self-immolation by the Repubs was written not too long ago by James Fallows. It’s a lengthy article based on an interview with a formerly-Republican congressional staffmember. Google: Goodbye to All That: Reflections of a GOP Operative Who Left the Cult.
@Tillman: This is true,and completely understandable. I guess I just wish that the pundits and the insiders would own it.
You don’t get to fill a house up with feral cats, then come back in a week and say “geez, I sure am concerned about this ammonia smell.”
@MM: What a great analogy!!!!
I still have scars from trying to warn people what was coming in my 2006 Impostor book.
It goes way beyond this. Brooks has shilled for the GOP for two decades during which time he’s applauded pretty well everything they’ve done including the incitement of the lunatic base against
rationality. He’s even written books on subject (Bobo.s anyone). This pretense by people lke Doug that he’s some kind of moderate is either disingenuous or shows a lamentable ignorance of the facts of the past 10-20 years.
If you’re the real Bruce Bartlett, you’re one of the people I most admire both for your penetrating economic analysis which I read regularly, and for your guts in speaking out against this collective lunacy that’s enveloped the GOP.
(David Brooks) From his column in The Weekly Standard, March 10, 2003:
“The American commentariat is gravely concerned. Over the past week, George W. Bush has shown a disturbing tendency not to waffle when it comes to Iraq. There has been an appalling clarity and coherence to his position. There has been a reckless tendency not to be murky, hesitant, or evasive. Naturally, questions are being raised about President Bush’s leadership skills.
“Meanwhile, among the smart set, Hamlet-like indecision has become the intellectual fashion. The liberal columnist E. J. Dionne wrote in The Washington Post that he is uncomfortable with the pro- and anti-war camps. He praised the doubters and raised his colors on behalf of ‘heroic ambivalence.’ The New York Times, venturing deep into the territory of self-parody, ran a full-page editorial calling for ‘still more discussion’ on whether or not to go to war.
“In certain circles, it is not only important what opinion you hold, but how you hold it. It is important to be seen dancing with complexity, sliding among shades of gray. Any poor rube can come to a simple conclusion — that President Saddam Hussein is a menace who must be disarmed–but the refined ratiocinators want to be seen luxuriating amid the difficulties, donning the jewels of nuance, even to the point of self-paralysis.
“But those who actually have to lead and protect, and actually have to build one step on another, have to bring some questions to a close. Bush gave Saddam time to disarm. Saddam did not. Hence, the issue of whether to disarm him forcibly is settled. The French and the Germans and the domestic critics may keep debating, which is their luxury, but the people who actually make the decisions have moved on to more practical concerns. . . .”
Now of course Brooks now writes handwringing columns for the newspaper he described as a self parody. He’s an intellectually dishonest fraud and there’s a mountain of evidence to prove it.
He’s also an idiot in tweed which sans the tweed would describe most of the DC bubble talking heads.
I can see why Doug thinks he’s a moderate because he’s master of false equivalencies (something of a Doug speciality).
ps. I’m rather fond of tweed myself.
David Brooks on Bush economic management before the tsunami hit
It’s true the prescription drug bill was unpaid for, though I would mention the market elements in that reform have proven to be fantastically successful. Beyond that (and the small matter of the tax cuts, which Republicans are not complaining about) his administration was reasonably tight on spending.
And I haven’t tried very hard but I’m sure we’re going to see a blizzard of examples of this guy’s intellectual dishonesty from left and right over the next few days.
Btw Doug I withdraw my claim that you’d ignored the period prior to five years ago. You didn’t ignore it but I thought you were implying this problem had only got really bad in the last five years. I can see now that your horizon was definitely longer. Apologies.
You can’t come up with another unfunny, boring and overly-used catch phrase after all this time?
I think a better name than RINO is Road Kill Republicans.
They got run over by a speeding 18-wheeler and now some of them aren’t feeling well. Only a few like Bruce Bartlett and David Stockman had the courage to point out that the Grand Old Party was going insane.
I was just remarking on that.
If you are, welcome, I respect your thinking and work.
If only your tired, cliché-ridden, one-note wonder act would disappear…of course, that would deprive the rest of us such ample material to ridicule…
@JohnMcC: Here’s that article you were referring to…quite devastating…David Brooks couldn’t write something this honest and this brutal if his life depended on it…
Look what happened to every Republican who has either attempted to come to a compromise with a Democrat, or even point out any inconsistency within the Party:
Bartlett, Frum, Sullivan :: Jones, Aaronson and Rutherford.
The only thing propping up the remaining hardliner 27% is ironically the non-Fox media, who have shown an amazing lack of courage when it comes to reporting flat-out lies.
This autumn is going to be so soul-killing . . .
That’s not exactly right. The article you’re talking about was written by Lofgren, not Fallows, and I don’t think an interview by Fallows of Lofgren had anything to do with it. However, Fallows noticed the article and helped promote it.
But aside from that, you’re absolutely right that it’s an excellent article. The article is here (Interested Party already provided that link, but this article is so important I wanted to provide it again).
Fallows discussing the article is here.
Both of these items are absolute required reading (along with everything Bartlett has written). My advice: if you haven’t already done so, stop what you’re doing and read those articles right now. Every word.
It never gets new, Tsar. Time to
findsteal a new line.
“Let it go, Jim, it’s dead.”
But then the question becomes: Is Jeb Bush really a conservative? Can a party support open borders, unlimited immigration cheap labor, expanding entitlements, and a massive security apparatus while talking about cutting spending and getting the government off people’s backs.
The reason that the “Republican Establishment” has fail is that they put cheap labor, ear marks, and expanding entitlements ahead.
The Republican Establishment has demonstrated zero leadership just like the Democratic Establishment has demonstrated zero leadership. However, the big spenders have an easier time with the lack of leadership because money buys them lots of friends.
@superdestroyer: The reason the GOP is failing is because it has embraced party over principles, allegiance over governance.
I think the better argue is that the RINOs put personal privileged ahead of governance. For the RINOs the privileged is the reason for being in politics. Of course, the liberal progressives have the same perspective of wanting the privileges while avoiding the impacts of their own policies.
I don’t how many Republicans are in the same boat as me but I’ve been a registered Republican since 1972 but increasingly I wonder why. I have voted Democratic both locally and nationally for the last few elections after voting for Bush in 2000. Next week I have to go get a drivers license renew and I may just change my party registration while I’m at it.
I won’t feed the troll. Immigration policy does not equal “open borders.” No crossing stations, dispansion of the Border Patrol, equals “open borders.”
@scott: If you want to be completely left alone, change your status to “Libertarian”. I’ve never received any junk mail at all. They may blether on about “freedom” and “letting people decide by themselves”, but the truth is, the Libertarian Party couldn’t organize a piss-up in a beer factory.
First off, thank you Doug. I’ve given you tons of shit about this issue, but honestly, you would be surprised about how many people would be delighted to welcome sane conservatives back to the fold. I urge you to continue to stand with the Andrew Sullivans, the Bruce Bartletts, the David Frums, the Mike Lofgrens, the James Joyners, and the William F. Buckleys (who in his twilight still condemned the Bush Insanity) who have wondered “Why is my Party so God-Damn Insane?”
Honestly, I WANT sane Republicans. I welcome sane Republicans. Be as fiscal conservative as you want to be, just don’t be completely divorced from reality and claim tax cuts automatically lead to higher growth in any and all cases, or make common cause with fascists.
Now just abandon the poor-hatred, the gay-bothering, the slut-shaming, the drug war prison graft, the obsession with vouchers, the burning hatred of hippies, the obsession with the 1960s as the cause of all ills in America, the instinct to leap when Israel says Jump, the gun worship, the Reagan idolatry, the fear of Rush Limbaugh, the Catholic Church, the resentment of higher education, the urban paranoia, the global warming denialism, blaming the media, the authoritarian bent, the war-mongering, and the soulless, anti-community, narcissistic philosophy of libertarianism and you’re good to go, lol.
Let us not forget there are several very wealthy families and individuals who are bankrolling the more extreme actors in the Republican Party today.
@Lit3Bolt: Yah, I’ve always found it interesting that Libertarians, for all of their blethering on about letting self-associating organizations form to take care of things rather that Teh Ebil Gummitt, get very pissed off when the choice of the local, self-organizing group, *is* to create a government….
Give up, Libs. As soon as you get any gaggle of people living together bigger than two or three dozen people, they’re going to to automatically figure out some form of organization structure with one or more honchos at the top who will be the Big Enchilada. You can’t run a modern economy on Paleolithic warrior bands, much as you might like to pound your chests about being self-sufficient he-men. Your choice is going to be either warlords (as in Somalia), a religious cult (Calvin’s Geneva), or government….
*sigh* Why does everyone think that anarcho-capitalism is the be-all, end-all of libertarianism?
Oh, right. Thanks, Ludwig von Mises Institute.