Thursday, October 23, 2008
Not split, but shattered
In 1964, and again in 1976, there were famous and open splits in the Republican Party, battles between the conservative and moderate wings, named at the time for the person who led each faction. In 1964, the battle was joined by the Goldwater Republicans and the Rockefeller Republicans, and the victorious Goldwater faction led the party to a stinging landslide defeat. In 1976, it was billed as Jerry Ford vs. Ronald Reagan, and while the moderates prevailed at the convention, the party could not overcome being the party of Nixon, who is now remembered for his paranoia and criminal acts, which overshadow the fact that he governed in a pragmatic and moderate way, especially by today's standards.
The problems in the G.O.P. today are far worse. The party is not split, but shattered into an uncountable number of pieces, and it is nearly impossible to name the leader of each sect. Every faction will still stand together under the flag of low taxes, but after that, what do they really stand for?
First, the moderates are the bleak remnants of a defeated army. The names usually mentioned are Olympia Snowe and Susan Collins, perhaps the competent Dick Lugar. Their only recent bright light is Arnold Schwarzenegger, who has been conspicuously absent from the scene this election cycle. Is that his choice or McCain's, or has the media just grown tired of his stale celebrity and decided not to mention him anymore?
The story of the conservatives is even worse. Which conservatives are you talking about? Who speaks for the religious wing, for example? Mitt Romney, Mike Huckabee, George W. Bush? Or is it an unelectable kingmaker like Dr. James Dobson, who anointed Sarah Palin as pure and worthy, forgetting his open contempt for John McCain.
And what about the fiscal conservatives, those who truly care about spending and not just low taxes? Who is their standard bearer? They showed their strength the first time the bailout bill was brought forward and defeated, and those who remained unbribed and stayed true to their convictions and popular opinion on the second vote are not a small group. They could do a lot worse than put forward Ron Paul as their spokesperson. While he did not do a good job of garnering votes in the primaries, his followers are decidedly loyal, and his fundraising abilities are astounding.
And then there are the "movement conservatives", the writers and pundits whose now dead mentor was William F. Buckley, the people who John McCain now calls "the cocktail party set". The topic of Sarah Palin has split their ranks into two very nasty camps. Buckley's son Christopher has even written that he will vote for Obama due to his disgust with the pandering pick of Palin, and neocon drunk Christopher Hitchens has followed suit. Others like George Will, Kathleen Parker and Peggy Noonan will merely cluck and roll their eyes and still on Election Day, hold their noses and pull the lever for McCain, who has disappointed them again and again during the campaign.
Palin still has a squad of supporters among the right wing writers, though many of the males seem to have the same awkward crush towards her that I have towards Indira Varma or Elizabeth Kucinich or Ursula Plassnik. I feel some sympathy for Rich Lowry and Bill Kristol and Fred Barnes and Tony Blankley and Pat Buchanan as they express their embarrassing and adolescent admiration, though my sympathy is tempered by the fact that I have some taste and they don't.
(Note to Pat Buchanan: I realize you are Irish, and therefore can't help yourself, but saying the same stupid thing in a voice a half octave higher does not make it more true. Be a man and learn to use the baritone for emphasis, not that high pitched bargain counter tenor whine that is your exceedingly annoying trademark.)
Then we come to the siren that drew the Republican ship to the rocks, Sarah Palin herself, plucky hockey mom and gosh darn reformer. Her defenders love to remind people that she is the most popular governor in the country, as though that proves that people are 100% behind her extreme views on abortion and man's part in causing climate change and biblical literalism and the constitutional powers of the vice presidency.
I have three words for these people.
Alaska Permanent Fund.
Since the 1970s, every citizen of Alaska has been given a very nice bonus from the state for sitting around on their fat butts and doing nothing. This welfare check went from $1,600 in 2007 to $3,200 in 2008, and why wouldn't the Alaskans give some credit to the cheerful gal who doubled their share of the pie they didn't bake?
Whose money is it? Why, it belongs to the oil companies, of course.
While I understand the concept of It's Okay If You're A Republican, shortened to IOKIYAR in internet lingo, if anyone else did this what would John McCain call it?
b) spreading the wealth
c) class warfare
d) all of the above
I'm not even sure the Red Meat Republicans know they have a socialist mole in their midst. Many of them don't seem to be thinking with the big head, if you know what I mean.