Cheney went on the air to insist that it would be a mistake for the GOP to “moderate” because it would mean fundamentally changing their philosophy; to show how far he has run away from the real world, he was talking to a radio guy way out in North Dakota when he said this.
In the same vein, the National Council for a New America, the GOP’s effort to overhaul its image, was slapped around by the arch-conservative Family Research Council; the FRC said the “New America” effort means moving away from Reagan, which in the opinion of the rightwing is what lost the last two elections for them. Mike Huckabee also slammed the “New America” effort because it didn’t stress social issues enough. The “New America” effort was launched by rock-ribbed Republicans like Mitt Romney and Jeb Bush – and even they are not extreme enough to satisfy the loony right. They are trying to straddle over the widening gap between the party hardliners and the other two-thirds of the country, but even Yao Ming doesn’t have legs that long.
Mark Sanford, echoing Michael Steele’s belief that people must come to the party doctrine, rather than the doctrine adjusting to match the beliefs of party members, said Republicans are “essentially franchisees” who must obey and do what the party tells them. Aren’t you a party leader too, Mark? Who is the all-powerful custodian of this rigid, outmoded doctrine, that no one can come along to update it, ever? Does this custodian, perhaps, smoke cigars and speak into a giant gold microphone? Does he not realize that the nation and the world have changed beyond recognition since Reagan came riding into town 30 years ago?
It is pretty difficult to cling bitterly to a doctrine that is sliding further and further away from the reality of what Americans want and need, and still make political progress. As Michael Grunwald ably pointed out in Time magazine, GOP doctrine is rapidly veering away from the real world and into the world of fantasy: tax cuts for the rich increase revenue, gay marriage is an abomination, American support for abortion dropped 8 points in a year, no to universal health care, yes to waterboarding and preemptive war and 40-year-old weapons systems, the New Deal made the Depression worse, carbon isn't a problem, the earth is cooling, Democrats should be called the Socialist party, Obama will take your guns and pick your doctors....Permanent tax cuts for the rich and on capital gains, cut spending on schools and food safety and financial rules and flu vaccines, replace Medicaid and Medicare with vouchers and block grants, use means testing to get the freeloaders out of Social Security.
This fantasy-driven world of their has devolved into tilting at windmills. In addition to the existing fantasies about Obama taxing us into the stone age, rationing life-saving care and taking all our guns, they are slamming Obama for a Guantanamo detainee policy that doesn’t exist yet, a Democratic health plan that doesn’t exist yet (just as Dole did in 1994), and a Supreme Court nominee that hasn’t been nominated. The far-right loons are already starting a whispering campaign against Sotomayor and buying up domain names in the name of potential Supreme Court nominees, so that as soon as Obama makes his pick, they can attack whoever it is (meanwhile the Democrats just gave Specter the chair of the Crime and Drugs Subcommittee; so he has a better chance to win in 2010 and is less likely to screw with Obama’s Supreme Court nominee).
This angry, clueless, doomed Southern cult which the GOP has become has solid control of perhaps half a dozen states now; the cycle of self-destruction continues as the party tilts further to the right, moderates quit in disgust, making the party tilt even further to the right, lather rinse repeat. A few months ago the GOP was insisting that America is a center/right nation; now they have declared war on the center. Senator DeMint said openly that he would rather have 30 GOP Senators who are purists than have 60 if it meant including the limp-wristed centrists. Are you listening, Ms Snowe? They still don’t want you.
Cheney said it’s time for the old party hands to get out of the way for the young talent. But who? Palin’s numbers have dropped 31 points in her home state; Ridge’s home-state numbers caused him to back away from a Senate run against Specter; Jindal embarrassed himself on live TV, Romney is stuck in the laughable “New America” informercial, and Pawlenty is stuck in the lose-lose Franken-Coleman vortex. Steele has been humiliated yet again, with the RNC now including two new guys running press and communications.
The thing is, the party does have young talent, but they are mostly moderates: Crist, Rell, Daniels and Huntsman have taken centrist, sell-able positions on social issues, the environment and taxes – but it is exactly that sort of apostasy that will get them char-broiled by the hardliners who vote in presidential primaries.
The Grunwald item is a great read:
**UPDATE** -- How is the GOP strategy working?
The approval rating of the GOP's leaders in Congress is now at....13 percent.
Their numbers are twice as bad as Bush's.