Tuesday 3 November 2009

Four 2012 GOP hopefuls crippled in GOP purge

The media, for some reason, is trying to focus solely on Virginia and New Jersey today so they can portray today’s voting as a negative referendum on Obama, an idea so idiotic that poll respondents have refuted it repeatedly and even Haley Barbour shot it down. They are neatly ignoring all the other races today (including a California race which is veering sharply to the left). The obvious exception is the New York race which is a lulu. Hoffman is being exposed as an ignorant flat-tax rube who admits that Glenn Beck is his mentor, and the teabagger effort to preemptively scream “FRAUD” in the New York race was undermined when their own troops were caught harassing voters with anti-abortion chants at the voting sites; the cops had to be called in. Imagine if this had been skeery negro Democrats carrying on at the polling places like that – you can just imagine the wingnut howling. But it’s okay when THEY break the law.

The Palin-Rush wing of the GOP, and Freedomworks leader Dick Armey, want to purge moderates from the party. One strategist said that if Hoffman wins, the effort will “metastasize”. They think they’re defending the Constitution and that it’s time to “take back America ” from that furrin black feller, and the moderates just get in the way. Their argument is that it is the moderates who are disloyal to the party because they are disloyal to…the conservatives; they really don’t perceive any disloyalty in their recent sabotaging of their own candidate Scozzafava or their attacks on fellow Republicans, because for them their delusional ideology is even more important that the party itself. They believe that the party establishment values compromise, electability, winning and retaining power more than purity and principle, and they would rather lose than compromise (Good! Leave the winning to us!). They not only reject the Reagan-era sentiment that Republicans don’t attack each other, but also the Rove/Atwater theory that, although focusing on the base is good, the aim is to get to 50 percent plus 1 and just win, baby.

It sounds as though the wingnuts want to retain control over the GOP rather than starting over with a third party. The aim is to launch primary challenges against any Republican candidate who doesn’t obey them in all things, or, worse, cooperates with Obama and the Democrats. They have already prepared challenges for more than a dozen races. They don’t understand that such a strategy is even more impractical for congressional races than it is for presidential races: the primary fights will waste money and will drive candidates to the right and make them unelectable, even in a year like 2010 which was supposed to be the GOP’s year before the wingnuts launched their revolution. The real irony is that it is unnecessary: if the GOP had stuck by Scozzafava and sent her to the Hill, she surely would have been a loyal servant of Boehner like all the other GOP members, because the Republicans, unlike the Democrats, have firm party discipline. So there was no need to toss her out – they screwed her over just to prove they could.

So who are the wingnuts targeting for destruction? Everybody. Conservatives who are deemed to liberal, for any or no reason; conservatives who supported the stimulus or the bailout; who are pro-choice; who supported Bush’s big-spending ways; who dare to even talk to Democrats about health care; who preach pragmatism; who support compromise and reject extremism; who supported Scozzafava; who don’t support the anti-moderate purge itself.

The extraordinary thing here, is that in a very short time, this wingnut revolution has damaged no less than four strong presidential candidates for the GOP. Newt Gingrich, the Godfather of the conservative revolution, is now being targeted, and so is Mitt Romney (with all his flipflopping and his vaguely Marxist record in Massachussetts I’m not surprised). But the more fascinating victims of all this are, ironically, Sarah Palin herself, and Tim Pawlenty.

The New York conflagration has reminded all of America about the incredible destruction which Palin can wreak upon the GOP whenever she jumps into a political fight. She joins the GOP ticket and quickly sinks the McCain campaign. She jumps into the health reform debate screeching about “death panels” and makes the entire conservative movement look like fools. And now she has stepped into the New York race and launched the purge of GOP moderates. How much more damage can she do to the GOP, before somebody from the GOP establishment puts a bullet in her head some murky night? The problem being that there may not BE a GOP establishment left much longer.

The rise of the wingnuts has also made another potential president look really, really bad. One guy who got the message loud and clear when the wingnuts waved their switchblades in his face was Tim Pawlenty. Here’s moderate, centrist Timmy a few months ago, talking about the need for Republicans to reach out to women and minorities, and to come up with their own solutions rather than just tearing down everything the Democrats do:

“Ronald Reagan was president a long time ago. A lot has happened since then. So the challenge for us is how do you take the principles from the late ’70s and ’80s and apply them to the circumstances and issues and opportunities of our time.”

During the summer Pawlenty began to feel the heat from the right, and like Romney before him, began flipflopping: he flipped on climate change, he condemned the stimulus package and then bragged about getting the money, and was forced to backtrack after mouthing off in favor of secession.

Recently Pawlenty was supporting Scozzafava, but now he’s a changed man: he never even heard of Scozzafava. And he’s starting to talk about litmus tests for “real” Republicans: “Well, you can’t be for card check, you can’t get endorsed by ACORN, you can’t support the stimulus bill, you can’t be for bank bailouts, that would be a starting point, Chuck. But if you’re for all those things, you’re probably not a Republican.” Palin couldn’t have said it better. He also refused to express any respect for the now-toxic Olympia Snowe (she has actual conversations with Democrats!). Great! One more GOP presidential hopeful is now unelectable.

So this purge has damaged Newt and Romney, and has made Palin and Pawlenty look foolish for going along with it. For that matter, it will probably ding Huckabee once the wingnuts find out how liberal his record as governor was.

The key thing to remember is this: no Republican can go far enough to the right to win the acceptance of the wingnuts in the primaries, and still be far enough to the left to win the general election.

There are, in fact, some voices of reason in the GOP. Some non-wingnut conservatives are lamenting that the quest for simon-pure ideological purity is a sure way to shrink the GOP down to nothing: the wingnuts refuse to accept that their views are minority views, and that the party needs moderates, but Gingrich, Boehner, Tom Davis and others say they want moderates in the party. Conservative blogger Rick Moran was blunt: “the Anti-Reason Conservatives - those who reject reality in favor of persecution complexes, wildly exaggerated hyperbole, and a frightening need for vengeance against their imagined “enemies” - despite the fact that those imagined foes agree with them on virtually everything they think they stand for.” If the wingnuts retain power in the party and purge the apostates, could the moderates, instead of joining the Democrats, form a centrist third party? THAT is what Obama and Emanuel are probably watching for, and why they are tacking to the right.

Some in the media are trying to take the “two sides to every story” line, asserting an equivalence between the two parties when that has proven untrue so many times. They assert that the far left could do to Obama what the far right is doing to the GOP establishment. They forget that the progressives showed, all summer, a willingness to compromise, to get things done. They even tolerated Lieberman’s repeated betrayals (although he really is on his ninth life). And the Democrats still have a centrist wing – the GOP, not so much.

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