Tuesday 17 November 2009

chaos and opportunity in the GOP

The GOP brand gets weaker every day. Only 22 percent of Americans identify themselves as Republicans now, way behind both the Democrats and the Independents; among other things, this means the GOP would need a huge majority of independents to reject Obama, just to get a tie in 2012. Also the latest ABC poll shows that 72 percent of Americans support the kind of limited public option offered in the Senate bill.

The GOP isn’t helping itself with its seemingly endless series of embarrassments. GOP screeching about Obama’s bow to the Japanese emperor blew up in their faces when the media posted images of Bush kissing the king of Saudi Arabia and holding hands with him, and Nixon bowing to Mao. More and more conservatives are ridiculing the GOP whining and yammering about trying terror suspects in criminal courts. Beck made conservatives look even more ridiculous by equating Obama with a rapist: "We're the young girl saying 'no, no, help me,' and the government is Roman Polanski." And the RNC had to admit a week ago that their employee health plan covers…abortion.

The newspaper of record for the wingnut movement, the Washington Times, is collapsing – the Op-Ed editor is now complaining to the EEOC (!) on grounds of religious discrimination. Meanwhile the Tea Party Express and the Tea Party Patriots are locked in a nasty, spitting, hair-pulling brawl, complete with expulsions and expensive lawsuits, over the direction of the wingnut movement; among other things, the TPP people think the TPE people are too subservient to the GOP – some wingnuts really do consider the GOP as the enemy worth rebelling against and attacking at election time -- and accusations of shoddy business practices are filling the air. One teabagger announced he would rejoin the GOP only if the national party met a lengthy list of demands, particularly declaring war on all Democrats and anyone who votes for health reform. The splintering of the wingnut movement into an alphabet-soup of competing movements like the TPP and TPE calls to mind Monty Python’s satire of the dozens of Palestinian terror movements in “Life of Brian”.

But establishment Republicans still kowtow to the rightwing loons. Pawlenty, terrified of the wingnuts, is tacking to the right, flipflopping on climate change, and veering wildly to starboard on ACORN, death panels and the 10th Amendment. And Palin, for all her airheadedness, still seems to be a major player in the conservative movement, simply because everyone is terrified of her and her wingnut followers. Mark Kirk, GOP Senate candidate in Illinois, who originally ridiculed the selection of Palin as vice presidential candidate, is now sucking up to get her endorsement. No dice. Palin also launched the death panel insanity and the intra-GOP lynching of Scozzafava – like it or not, everybody pays attention when she has another one of these grand mal seizures of wingnuttery.

Also, Politics Daily points out that because a number of Republican presidential primaries are winner-take-all, in 2012 Palin could rack up a bunch of early victories in places like wingnut-rich Iowa and South Carolina, and wrap up the nomination quickly the way McCain did last time. One spoiler could be Huckabee, who also has wingnut cred and is now more popular with the party faithful (or perhaps Romney who has more money than God). The party could change the rules, or try to unite behind an anti-Palin candidate, but that would require a unity of leadership which the party doesn’t seem to have right now.

The current chaotic, leaderless state of the GOP could provide the kind of power vacuum that Palin could exploit, whereas in normal times no credible political party would ever nominate her.

The Democrats smell blood: they know the wingnuts have overstayed their welcome within the non-crazy 80 percent of America. Robert Reich is joining the chorus of Democrats calling for Reid to ignore the Blue Dogs and get going on reconciliation. Tom Harkin is among those planning to counter GOP obstruction efforts by forcing Republican Senators to stay on the Senate floor 24/7 to make their obstructive tactics stick.

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