Saturday, November 17, 2012

Who I Am, What I Am, What I Believe In...

At some point, ideology becomes stupidity
Once again, the Republicans find themselves struggling with the hard tyranny of facts and reality.  They believed that their political constituency could constitute a national majority, and they believed this national majority was immutable.  They believed they could exclude vast swaths of the American population, using hatred to energize their tribal contingent, and contempt to convince others that the economics of compassion and community had somehow become dangerous.  They spit bile at entire groups that might otherwise have been persuadable, and repeatedly sought to criminalize basic human liberties while crying out in panic that it was their opposition that was a threat to freedom.  Unsurprisingly, at least to anyone who didn't live in the right-wing media bubble, these policies were unable to generate a national consensus.

So now they find themselves confronting their own political mortality, forced to recognize that while Americans can be herded like frightened sheep, they also, at some point, can recognize a political and economic threat to their well-being and that of their families.  They are beginning to acknowledge that their policies are so cruel and so destructive that they actually alienated more voters than they convinced.  They clearly have come to recognize that you cannot conceal this vicious policy agenda by refusing to provide specifics, as anyone who has ever bought a used car can see through that tactic without difficulty.  And they are beginning to accept that they are going to have to reduce the hatred and vitriol in their message, at least toward a few select groups they have previously demonized, in order to expand their base of political support.

There is no doubt that strictly from a political standpoint, they can do this.  They could moderate some of their hardline social and economic stances and successfully expand their base of voters.  They face strategic challenges in that effort, but tactically the way forward is fairly clear.  But it raises one gigantic question - to what extent do they actually believe in these policies, as opposed to supporting them for technical or political reasons alone?  A very good example is the evangelical protestant community - they have already demonstrated their commitment to ideology over their desire to do what is necessary to win elections.  In both 2010 and 2012 they sacrificed significant opportunities to gain additional Senate seats by nominating unelectably extreme candidates.  It seems fairly obvious - if you truly believe you will suffer eternal torment for a given vote, it's not likely that you will cast that vote even if it is in your political best interests to do so.

So the challenge facing the national Republican Party is fairly straightforward.  No matter what policy you might point to, there are at least some people who think it is the only policy that matters - these "single-issue" voters are true believers in their own right, and exist all across the political spectrum.  But a large-scale political operation has to mostly ignore them in their broader calculation, because for every single-issue voter on one side of a given issue, there is  another on the other side.  Your candidate will get those that agree with him or her, and you can't persuade the others with favorable positions on other issues.  But beyond those, the party management will have to determine on what issues a larger portion of their electorate will allow them to bend, and try to calculate if a move to the left on a certain subset of policies will actually gain them the votes they need to once again be competitive.

And of course, if it turns out that the party's ideological commitment to tribal hatred and the upward redistribution of wealth is too strong to be overcome, they will see more and more of their more moderate electorate becoming "independents" and supporting the Democratic candidate, rendering them ever more irrelevant in the future...


  1. I was told there would be an epic piece on Mali...

  2. Yeah, but stuff keeps getting in the way. Now I've got to do a catch-up piece on Goma and at some point I'll have to spit some venom at the Israelis again.


    A pundit's work is never done...

  3. I hadn't noticed the gun store's 'phone # before. Not that much of a patriot, is he?

  4. Oh, I dunno. That simple, reliable and effective AK gas action sort of belongs to the world now. I'm not a huge fan of 7.65x39 but the design function is hard to argue with - it's in many ways better than the M16/AR15 design sensibility...

  5. Go ahead and start in with the whole direct impingement argument right...


  6. Do the Weapon Shops of Ishtar still deal in firearms *other* than assault rifles? Coz the focus on AK47s is not really supporting the 'rational, utilitarian hunters' image of gun ownership.

    1. Certainly. The Barrett Fifty is quite popular with the wealthier shooting community.

      In fairness, the AK is easy, fun and cheap to shoot. Lots of capacity, low recoil, you can go out and burn through 500 rounds just fooling around.

  7. Feck. "Weapon Shops of Isher". Stupid fingers.

  8. So now they find themselves confronting their own political mortality, forced to recognize that while Americans can be herded like frightened sheep, they also, at some point, can recognize a political and economic threat to their well-being and that of their families.

    I dunno, it seems like losing the presidency but having what they have is still a pretty strong position. It depends on the extent to which it's a grift, and given the ideology...