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Saturday, March 24, 2007

The Party of Fear

Republicans just can't seem to catch an electoral break lately. Coming off an election that saw the republican majority in congress crash and burn, the GOP is still bleeding support among voters. A new poll by the nonpartisan Pew Research Center for the People & the Press finds that very few people identify with republican values -- such as they are.

L.A. Times:

...50% of those surveyed identified with or leaned toward Democrats, whereas 35% aligned with Republicans.

What's more, the survey found, public attitudes are drifting toward Democrats' values: Support for government aid to the disadvantaged has grown since the mid-1990s, skepticism about the use of military force has increased and support for traditional family values has decreased.

Is it the war that's causing this widespread dissatisfaction with the GOP? Not according to the poll. While war in Iraq plays a large part, the GOP is losing people on other issues as well.

Democrats have wondered what the deal was for a long time. Poll after poll had shown that voters agreed with democrats on many core issues, such as domestic policy, health care, and the environment. It's been kind of a headscratcher as to why that hasn't translated into votes in the past.

It's still a little unclear as to why these issues are suddenly resonating with voters, when the fact that they didn't actually agree with republicans wasn't a hurdle before. One man who thinks he has the answer is that towering intellect, Rush Limbaugh.

Transcript from Limbaugh Online (emphasis his):

I've always said that one of the things that happened in the last election, the November election, was that Republicans lost the so-called center, the undecideds. I think that is the partial explanation for this, but there's more. "The survey found the public attitudes are drifting toward Democrats' values: Support for government aid to the disadvantaged has grown since the mid-1990s. Skepticism about the use of military force has increased and support for traditional family values has edged down. Those findings suggest that Republicans' political challenges reach beyond the unpopularity of the war in Iraq and Bush." Let me tell you something, Jeff [a caller]. There's no surprise in this to me. I've been saying this for I don't know how long: When you have a president who will not articulate conservative principles, who will not lead a conservative movement as Reagan did, this is what you get.

Yeah, that's it. Bush doesn't talk about conservatism enough. If only he could do all the crazy stuff that conservatives want -- like declare a 'culture of life,' explain why tax cuts are the answer to every economic problem, and crack down on out of control civil liberties.

I'm going to have to disagree with Rush here. What's happening is that republicans under Bush have shown who they really are -- a bunch of ideologically driven cultists who believe that conservative theory trumps reality.

The GOP has spent so much time fine-tuning its message for 'the base' that it's completely lost everyone else. Who, other than the religious nuts, thought that interfering in the Schiavo family's end of life decisions was a good idea? Who looks at Walter Reed and Hurricane Katrina and reconstruction in Iraq and thinks privatizing every damned thing that government does is working great? Who, looking at the war itself, still thinks that smacking everyone with a mallet passes for a foreign policy?

As I wrote yesterday, the GOP base is a bunch of lunatics. People who think that the UN's trying to take over the world. People who believe that every nation on Earth is a de facto enemy. People who want to teach kids in public schools that every religion other than christianity is satanic -- that is, until they dismantle the public school system. People who believe that every damned person in America should carry a gun.

But there's more to it than just that. At the core of the modern conservative message is one sentence -- a command, really -- "Be afraid." Or, more accurately, "Don't be brave."

When I was growing up, we expected death from above at any minute. The world would end in one big nuclear nightmare. Someone would get their wires crossed, launch a strike, the other side would retaliate, and that'd be it.

Thing is, I don't remember living in fear. Occassionally, some opportunist ass like Joe McCarthy would come along and scare the bejeezus out of everyone for political gain, but it never lasted. Cooler heads eventually prevailed.

Now, we're supposed to be afraid of terrorists. I've been told by the loonier of those on the right that if we don't fight 'them' (whoever 'they' are) in Iraq, they'll come and take over the United States. Don't bother asking these fools how terrorists are going to manage to pull that off, they haven't got that part figured out yet. They just will, OK?

So we're supposed to let the feds tap our phones and read our emails and search our houses without warrants. We're supposed to give up a little freedom, then a little more, so that we don't have to shoulder the burden of actually being brave. That way, we'll have more time to freak out about gays and evolution and whether women are having abortions.

But be afraid of something.

That's why conservatism is on the decline. People are tired of being afraid and letting government protect them from every damned thing.

They want to try being brave again.


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