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Sunday, October 22, 2006

Coalition of the Barely Willing

One of the dangers of writing a blog is that you'll eventually wind up repeatting yourself. And I do -- often. But that's because so many things bear repeating. So here it goes -- in a two party system, both parties are, by necessity, coalition parties. I think this is extremely important to remember when you're talking about american politics. Both the Republican and Democratic parties represent more than one school of thought and, therefore, represent more than one constituency who believe their issue is the most important issue in the world.

What the Republican Party is doing right now is relearning that fact. After six years of pretending to stand for one thing -- and that one thing being the neocon utopian vision -- they're finding that not everyone in the party agrees. The fiscal conservatives were happy enough with tax cuts -- until the spending got seriously out of control. The hawks were happy with the war -- until mission creep set in, the objectives became vague, and it started going south. And, as I've pointed out again and again, the religious conservatives have been happy with the rhetoric -- until it became clear that there'd never be any actual action on their issues.

There are more in the GOP coalition -- the global free marketeers, the libertarian-minded, the gun nuts, the corporate stooges, the talk radio brainwashed, etc. And each group thinks they're the real Republicans and everyone else is merely an ally.

The problem with coalitions is that any consensus is loose. Everyone in the GOP coalition was happy with the direction of the Republican Party so long as it looked like they'd get around to their issue eventually. Now that it's clear that only a very small minority of concerns are driving the GOP, the coalition is beginning to dissolve.

New York Times:

Tax-cutters are calling evangelicals bullies. Christian conservatives say Republicans in Congress have let them down. Hawks say President Bush is bungling the war in Iraq. And many conservatives blame Representative Mark Foley’s sexual messages to teenage pages.

With polls showing Republican control of Congress in jeopardy, conservative leaders are pointing fingers at one another in an increasingly testy circle of blame for potential Republican losses this fall.

“It is one of those rare defeats that will have many fathers,” said David Keene, chairman of the American Conservative Union, expressing the gloomy view of many conservatives about the outcome on Election Day. “And they will all be somebody else.”

It's often said that Democrats don't have a clear message, but that's because they are a party that recognizes their coalition status. They are merely the antiwar party by default. The Republicans haven't been a working coalition for some time -- in the mind of most of the party faithful, there are 'real' Republicans and bench warmers. If you're not part of Grover Norquist's tax cutting, government shrinking, near-anarchist wing of the party, for example, you're a RINO or a 'Republican In Name Only'. 'Real' Republicans believe in only that one issue, the rest is just slop for the hogs.

Likewise the religious right -- for them, there's no such thing as a Pro-Choice Republican. The corporate stooges aren't happy with evangelical environmentalism, the libertarians aren't happy with Bush's record, and the gun nuts are pretty much always unhappy.

When coalitions fail, they tend to fall into a blame mode. The GOP is getting this game of hot potato started early.

Right Wing Watch:

Yesterday, an article in the right-wing Washington Times, owned by Rev. Sun Myung Moon and much more bullish on GOP prospects than other outlets, warned that conservative voters were “disillusioned” and right-wing appeals are sounding more desperate:

The Republican Party can stave off defeat with a strong turnout on Nov. 7, party leaders are telling the faithful -- but they are finding it tough to sell that message to some disillusioned conservative voters.

"The message hasn't gotten across because a lot of people are sick and tired of thinking the only reason for going to the polls is to vote for the Republicans because they are lesser of two evils," said Tom McClusky, vice president for government affairs at the Family Research Council (FRC), a leading social conservative group.

"Conservatives aren't motivated to come out, is what I'm finding," said conservative campaign consultant Rick Shaftan, who is based in Sparta, N.J. "They see no reason to re-elect the people who are in office."

In an e-mail to supporters, Perkins singled out the Washington Times article as being designed to “discourage voter turnout”:

Story after story on the elections seem to repeat the same spin--that conservatives are too turned off to turn out the vote. With headlines like "Conservative Voters Likely to Stay Home," many of the press seem to be hoping for a self-fulfilling prophecy. But the truth is, these articles aren't intended to get the facts straight or to talk about the broader cultural issues of moral decline that have given rise to the recent scandals. They're meant to discourage voter turnout--plain and simple.

So now, the heretofore reliably crazy Washington Times is a -- what? -- lefty rag? Certainly no 'real' republican paper would publish an article stating the obvious fact that the GOP is heading for an ass whoopin' -- the Times is impure. For more examples of finger-pointing, the NYT has a great sample.

And I'm guessing that this idea of purity is going to handicap the GOP at least until '08. The way things look now, absolutely no one is interested in repairing the coalition -- they only seem interested in blaming and driving out the 'impure'. As I wrote before, this could lead to future third party problems. Historically, this has been the right's biggest electoral problem.

A lot has been made of Nader's run in 2000. But the truth is that third parties have been the bane of the right in recent history. The left has Ralph Nader, but the right has Ross Perot and John Anderson. The party least likely to admit its coalition status is the most likely to split. This is especially true given that the GOP has programmed its base to believe that Democrats are the purest evil.

All in all, this is going to be a lot of fun to watch...


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