Wednesday, April 07, 2010

Republicans: Steeled for Defeat?

One can only smile with amusement at the travails of the Republican National Committee chairman, M ichaelSteele. He seems to attract bad publicity, and both party stalwarts and the parties' enemies gleefully pile on.

The current gaffe has to do with a $2000 charge on a RNC company card expensed at a "lesbian bondage strip joint". I can't imagine who would have done it, unless it was a prank, a disaffected Republican lesbian, or a saboteur (saboteuse?) Steele had nothing to do with it, didn't go there, and may or may not have personally disallowed the charge, but the damage is, somehow, out there (again, one should ask who was responsible for that. I know the cover-up is usually worse, politically, than the crime, but this may be an exception. Better to be ruthless, conspiratorial, and secret than ridiculous--just ask Dick Cheney).

The previous gaffe involved the production of ugly, semi-racist talking points to create fear and attack Democrats for fund-raising purposes, a Power Point presentation of scandalous content and dubious authorization. Once again, Steele was limited to complete denial and dismissal--reasonably plausible, but insufficient.

So now a bunch of mainstream (read: Bushite) party leaders have gotten together to form a new, parallel organization to raise money for Republicans apart from the discredited national committee: Freedom something-or-other. Perhaps this represents the beginning of a definitive solution to the long-standing question of "the size of the tent" for the party. Rather than large or small, why not two tents?

This is an improvised approach, and surely it won't last longer than the current midterm elections or Steele's departure from the RNC, whichever happens first. But, I think that there is in this, in all sincerity, a glimmer of a solution to the current post-2008 problem the party has.

Essentially, there needs to be one party organization for the neo-Bushite elitist party group (the traditional party leaders, who almost always control national outcomes), and one for the new party of Tea. These two groups are at odds, politically, and they basically can't stand each other, either. Except for hating Democrats, they have nothing in common. They need each other, though: the former party of governance, disgraced as it may be, for gravitas and credibility; and the Tea Party, to provide some enthusiasm and a semblance of a coherent point of view (Reaganite anti-statist "freedom") to voters. There is a perennial, truly coherent thread behind the Bushite party's policies, a hypocritical coating of freedom talk over welfare for corporations and the wealthy, but it must never be presented or seriously discussed publicly.

After the 2010 party primaries, the two fronts can work as a coalition to elect the individual Republicans each group prefers. There will be a reckoning, but it will not be until 2012, when the party's nominee is chosen. Once again, they will be faced with the the choice of hanging together or hanging separately, and that will be interesting to watch as they decide. Typically, they come together, but if the elitists unite behind someone like "Obamacare" Mitt Romney or Eric Cantor, it will be hard to bring in the tea-baggers; meanwhile, the "elite corps of impudent snobs" (to use the late William Safire's great line, delivered by arrogant hypocrite Spiro Agnew in the '70's to describe New Left radicals) would never accept someone out of the traditional mainstream like Sarah Palin, Ron Paul, or the new guy, ex-New Mexico governor Gary Johnson. The only likely hopes for unity would be someone marginally acceptable to both, like Huckabee or Pawlenty.

In the words of our President, "Go for it!" I would accept that Democrats should be expecting some losses of seats this year, due almost entirely to the lagging state of economic recovery, though not control of either House, and should try to dig in and limit losses of state houses. It seems preposterous that the party of financial crisis, bailout, and the Iraq invasion should be regaining ground so soon, but I see this as a second-order pendulum swing: the primary, long-term direction is still to their detriment.

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