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Monday, August 27, 2012

If Only the Party Could Keep Republicans Away From Their Own Convention

Birther Tea Party protester
I'm about to write a sentence I never though anyone would ever write: I was reading an article in the New York Times and came across a quote from Dan Quayle that made a lot of sense.

“The Republican Party needs to re-establish its philosophy of the big tent with principles,” said Dan Quayle, the Republican former vice president. “The philosophy you hear from time to time, which is unfortunate, is one of exclusion rather than inclusion. You have to be expanding the base, expanding the party, because compared to the Democratic Party, the Republican Party is a minority party.”

Think the GOP is going to start being more friendly to gays, women, blacks, Latinos, Muslims, etc. any time soon? Yeah, me neither. Which means that the brain trust who currently identify the hot button issues for Republicans are dumber than Dan Quayle. That's quite an accomplishment -- and not a good one.

The article highlights the biggest problem facing the Republican Convention. No, it's not tropical storm Isaac. It's the fact that the average Republican voter might show up and spoil everything.

[Many GOP leaders] said they were concerned about the crosscurrents that have churned the party, particularly since the emergence of the Tea Party movement three years ago. And on Sunday, thousands who supported the presidential campaign of Representative Ron Paul of Texas rallied here to challenge what they view as business as usual among Republicans.


Some leaders expressed worry that the turn to contentious social issues in the days leading up to the Republican National Convention, where the party platform is likely to embrace a tough anti-abortion stance and strict curbs on immigration, could undercut the party’s need to broaden its appeal. Many of them said they feared it was hastening a march to becoming a smaller, older, whiter and more male party.

Part of the problem with the GOP voter lies in the way they see themselves. In the Wall Street Journal today, conservative pundit Michael Barone writes, "The core of the Republican Party throughout its history has been voters who are generally seen by themselves and by others as typical Americans -- but who by themselves don't constitute a majority of what has always been an economically, culturally and religiously diverse nation."

So the average GOP voters see themselves mainstream Americans -- but they aren't. When they "defend their values" (i.e., attack other Americans), they're actually contracting their base and causing themselves to lose ground, while perceiving their attacks as a defense of the ground they hold. In this sense -- and perhaps only in this sense -- they are conservatives. They want nothing to ever change and want those things that have changed to change back. In most other senses, they're mostly radical extremists.

So the Tea Party, which GOP leader after GOP leader identifies as the biggest problem in the NYT piece, see themselves as just average Americans. Everyone knows that President Obama's a secret Muslim Kenyan Marxist who wants to deliver the nation to UN world dictatorship by building a NAFTA superhighway. They actually believe this is the mainstream of American thought. So they don't censor themselves or modulate their message. They just go out and bellow "the truth" as they see it, secure in their certainty that everyone else will see it that way too.

So how do you keep people like that from making fools of themselves? You don't, because it's way too late for that. They've been fools for three years now. The best you can do is try to manage the chaos and hope for the best.

But the feverish base still has a lot of control here -- why else would there be a video tribute to Ron freakin' Paul? And what do they get in return for that tribute? Paul says he doesn't "fully endorse" Romney for President. So nothing, really.

And then there's the "Akin divide" -- with the not completely insane Republicans on one side and the nuts who think Todd Akin is absolutely right on the other. With a ridiculously strict ban on abortion written into the party's platform, the pro-Akin nuts are winning.

Republicans may yet be thankful for Isaac. By forcing them to cut one day from their convention, Republicans have reduced an embarrassing national display by 33%. It might've been wiser to cancel it altogether.


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