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Tuesday, April 09, 2013

GOP Loser-Heroes and the Conservative Cult of Victimhood

Sarah Palin at CPAC
One of the more overlooked hurdles to the big Republican Party rebranding project is the fact that the base loves victims. Sarah Palin perfected cashing in on this tendency, making a career out of being a victim of the "lamestream media." And their love of victims necessarily makes them lovers of losers. Anyone who can play the victim card while saying, "I just might've won if it wasn't for..." is a hero. As is the case with Mike Huckabee, you can even get a show on Fox News. This isn't universally true, of course -- neither John McCain nor Mitt Romney are too beloved by the base these days -- but that's more a case of taking their losses with a measure of dignity and grace than anything. To be a rightwing loser-hero, you have to complain and gripe and whine and basically throw a child's "It's not fair!" sort of tantrum. For whatever reason, poor losers are winners in wingnuts' eyes. Graceful losers are RINOs.

But how constructive is it to continually refight the last battle? No matter how much she complains and whines, the 2008 election isn't going to be overturned somehow and Sarah Palin made vice president. Nursing grievances serves no useful purpose -- especially when you seem completely unwilling to learn a damned thing from your loss. At heart, the rightwing loser-hero represents as big a hindrance to the GOP as their runaway racism, sexism, homophobia, and Christian supremacism. When you're trying to win elections, it probably is a good idea to listen to losers -- provided the purpose is to learn from mistakes. But it's a bad idea to listen to losers who blame everyone in the world but themselves. The belief that your campaign was perfect and the media, voters, and opposition was flawed is no way to get ahead in politics. Which means this tendency among Republican voters to idolize losers is a tendency Democrats should applaud.

Behold the stupid:

Since Republican National Committee chairman Reince Priebus introduced the “Growth and Opportunity Project” in mid-March, the party has proven over and over and over again that it just isn’t ready to change.

The latest example of the GOP being intellectually and politically stuck in the 2012 presidential primaries comes courtesy of one of the stars of those disastrous contests: former Pennsylvania senator Rick Santorum. According to Santorum, the Republican Party’s path to revitalization is not a new round of engagement with women, young voters, and other groups that delivered an electoral landslide to President Barack Obama in November. No, Santorum has a different plan for saving the GOP: defunding Planned Parenthood.

The Raw Story reports that Santorum presented his three-point plan to save the party in a fundraising email over the weekend: mobilizing “pro-family conservatives,” “refuting the lies and half-truths that our detractors in the GOP are spreading about us,” and attacking the women’s’ health care provider.
Yes, let's go with Rick Santorum's ideas, seeing as how they worked so well the last time. He's got the plan to win over those lady voters.


Also joining in on the fun is former GOP Rep. Jeff Landry of Louisiana, who announced with much fanfare that he was starting a SuperPAC called Restore Our Republic. ROR will, according to Politico, "give conservatives aligned with the GOP’s activist base the same outside support that establishment-side Republicans get from independent expenditure groups." Without saying so explicitly, Landry makes it clear that his group is basically a RINO hunting safari, with establishment incumbents as the prey.

"Incumbents who are out there who are conservatives will never have to worry about us," Landry said. "And if you’re a Republican, you’re supposed to be conservative." Landry's effort will be co-helmed by Republican strategist Nachama Soloveichik, a former spokesperson for the Club For Growth, another RINO hunting camp. The end effect of all of this is that ROR would promote the sort of candidates that makes rebranding impossible.

Did I mention that Landry lost reelection n 2012? Yeah, the guy who just lost an election has the magic formula for winning elections. And people take these guys seriously.

Maybe the conservative movement shouldn't have been so accepting of the "help" offered by self-serving grifters like Sarah Palin. Because somewhere along the line, they've taught their base to believe that it's the losers who hold the keys to winning elections. This reasoning has it that -- for example -- immigrant bashing isn't the problem, the problem is that they aren't bashing immigrants enough. And it's the same on down the line: the War on Women, scapegoating minorities, the homophobia, the Islamophobia, etc. The problem isn't that there's too much of this in the GOP -- the problem is that there isn't enough. Turn on talk radio or Fox News and you'll hear it over and over and over -- people didn't vote Republican because they didn't see "true" conservatism. The old Republican rule comes back: if what you're doing isn't working, you just need to do more of it. You need to hate more and smear more and scapegoat more, because that's what voters really like.

If the GOP rebranding effort is going to work, they're going to need to take these regressive loser-heroes head on. They need to realize that, by pushing incredibly unpopular stances in the name of "true conservatism," these victimhood-mongers are actively working against the party. Because these people practice the politics of exclusion -- and they've excluded so many voters that they can't possibly win national office. Exclusion and alienation are, after all, practically the same thing.

Their big advice for winning more election is basically to actively drive more voters away. If they had any brains at all, Republican leadership would treat these fools like political lepers. Instead, they put them in their Hall of Heroes.


[photo by Gage Skidmore]

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