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Thursday, November 09, 2006

Republican Spin: The Elections Were a Victory for Conservatives

I don't really seem to get tired of saying it; the Democrats ate Republicans' lunch tuesday night. And Republicans, being Republicans, are blaming everyone but themselves -- not that they aren't blaming each other, just not themselves personally. Despite the fact that the GOP was dissolving long before the elections, they seem to think that their problems are all everyone else's fault.

In a two party system, both parties are coalition parties, by necessity. The Republican coalition has been tearing itself up with an idea of ideological purity. Club for Growth, which puts tax cuts above all, coined the term RINO -- or Republican In Name Only -- to describe Republicans who don't think that tax cuts are the only reason government exists. Evangelicals will tell you that a Republican is a pro-life, gay-hating christian by definition. The security types -- i.e., the cowards Bush's scare tactics appeal to -- are willing to throw every right out the window, which makes everyone else nervous. The fiscal conservatives pretty much hate them all and don't like the way Bush hands out money to anyone who wants it -- which puts them at odds with the hawks, who want to throw money at boondoggles like missile defense and have no problem with military contractors engaging in war profiteering.

Most GOPers are a mix-and-match of these guys. But the idea that Republicans have a single ideology is ridiculous.

So, it's kind of surprising to see that the GOP does have a message now -- that message being that Democrats are in disarray and are using conservative dems to get elected.

Rush Limbaugh:

The Democrats, particularly in geographic areas of this country, they know they don't stand a prayer as liberals, so they put these conservatives up, and that allows Democrats to win the House electing a far-left leadership. It's the leadership that's going to run the House, not these ten or 12 new freshmen that are going to owe Nancy Pelosi everything. So two years down the road you say, "Well, if they don't do what their constituents do," that's going to then depend on Republicans in those districts to nominate candidates who can go out and tell the voters, "Hey guess what? The Democrats fooled you back in 2006. They nominated a bunch of people they said had your values and they may have, but when they got to Washington the Democrats didn't allow them to practice your values, it's up to you to get rid of them." That's what campaigns are for. It's what I mean about not carrying water for these people. If they can't come up with this themselves, for themselves, then fine, swim or float, whatever they do on their own. This is so simple to me.

Of course, everything's simple to Limbaugh; he's not really much of a deep thinker. Another thinker, although a bad one, is Laura Ingraham (to CNN's Larry King):

Well, I think one thing we're seeing, Larry, is that the Democrats who are in these interesting races, whether it's Casey in Pennsylvania or Harold Ford Jr. in Tennessee, or even James Webb in Virginia, all these Democrats are running fairly conservative campaigns. I mean, we had Harold Ford Jr. talking about how "I'm the guy who loves Jesus and loves guns," last weekend. You have Casey who is pro-life and Webb, former Reagan administration official.

So, the Democrats who I think are perhaps on the verge of doing something amazing for the Democrat [sic] Party, are actually, you know, looking fairly conservative -- and, I don't know what that says about the future of the Democrat [sic] Party -- but, as a conservative, I think Ronald Reagan is up there smiling down on us right now saying that, all things considered, conservatism isn't doing so bad.

And, just in case you think this idea is local to the low-watt minds of rightwing talk, Bill Bennett told CNN Newsroom, "I think if the Democrats get the House back, they will do so with the benefit of some Republican impersonations."

OK, Bennett's a talker too, but he's also an actual pundit. This is what's known as a 'narrative'. If enough people tell this story, it becomes sort of folk history -- whether or not it's true. The problem with this narrative is that it conflicts with other GOP narratives. We've been told that Democrats want to lose to terrorists, for example (no one ever explains why). If this is true, why do all these supposed conservatives want to be Democrats? But stories don't have to be in agreement. Cognitive dissonance is a Republican art form.

And, like most narratives, this one isn't true. The story is just a story. Even before all the results were in tuesday night, Thomas Schaller, author of Whistling Past Dixie: How Democrats Can Win Without the South, wrote Taegan Goddard at Political Wire:

There seems to be a developing narrative which suggests that expected Democratic victories this year are somehow the result of Democrats "running as conservatives." Republicans, and conservative Republicans in particular, have an obvious stake in perpetuating such a narrative. But it is patently untrue.


This transformation is occurring at the Senate, House and gubernatorial levels. Indeed, because Rust Belt Republicans will be replaced by progressive Democrats, regardless of the final totals tonight, the 110th Congress, in both chambers, will become more progressive as the Democratic shares grow and less conservative as the Republican shares shrink...

If you look at the big picture, you see that it was progressive Democrats who made the biggest gains, not conservatives. This wasn't the year of the Bob Caseys, it was the year of the Sherrod Browns. From Media Matters:

...this incoming crop of Democrats largely agrees on the most contentious social issues of the day: All but two of the 27 challengers support embryonic stem cell research and only five describe themselves as "pro-life" on the issue of abortion.

It's odd how a party stricken with an drive to ideological purity is willing to call these Democrats 'conservative' -- it's a sure bet they'd be called phony Republicans if they crossed party lines.

Looking at reality -- it's a habit I have -- there's no way you can see this as a victory for conservatism, modern or otherwise. This was the electorate looking at Republicans and telling them they suck. Real progressives made real gains, especially in the red state west.

Even a third of white evangelicals agreed. But thats probably a case of Republicans stringing evangelicals along for decades and accomplishing almost nothing for them.

Which sends me on a side-trip. If you're a religious right type and you're reading this, watch congress between now and January. Now that they don't have to worry about being re-elected, the lame duck congress will get busy on their real agenda. The GOP serves Mammon, not God.

Let the big cash out begin.


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1 comment:

Invective in Verse said...

The Bald Eagle
I saw an eagle, flying low,
All bald and ponderous, and slow
But still a quite disturbing sight
For both its wings were on its right.

It could not help but circle 'round
And spiral down towards the ground,
Then when upon the ground it lay
Its wings fell off in rank decay.