Sunday, November 09, 2008

Advice for Republicans for 2012 

(Cross-posted at Daily Kos and My Left Wing.)

The Grand Old Party looked more old than grand on Election Day as the Democrats played schoolyard keepaway and made the Republicans run home crying for mommy. (But Nancy Reagan was too busy accepting an apology from Barack Obama for his mean mean politically incorrect remark about seances.) Obama and Joe Biden ate John McCain's lunch on Nov. 4, and it looks like the hockey mom packed something tasty because the president-elect and the vice president-elect sure looked happy. They had the same big smiles that all honest decent Americans were wearing.

The conservative program took quite a beating and the"liberals" (also known as "regular people") delivered a devastating blow to the GOP in the presidency, the Senate and the House of Representatives. The nation and, just as important, the world liked what they saw and breathed a sigh of relief that - no matter what the future brings - the government of the most powerful country in the world is no longer being run by a very unattractive combination of crazy Christian fundamentalists and insane immoral oil executives.

So the GOP is asking 'what happened?' Shameless religious hypocrisy and transparent economic sophistry have never hampered the Republicans before!

Conservative commentators are blathering on and on with a number of vapid and laughable (and often contradictory) talking points, trying to find some way to minimize the true import of this humiliating and embarrassing defeat.

But if they really want to have a chance to take power in this country ever again, conservatives must be a little more realistic and face a few unpleasant facts about the delusional aspects of some of their talking points and the long-term pragmatic nature of the American people. I think elections could get very boring if the GOP continues its mindless and increasingly ineffective flailing - imagine a 2012 election where presidential candidate Sen. Sarah Palin, R-Alaska, only gets the electoral votes of Alaska, Utah, Oklahoma and Mississippi! - so, as a public service to America's political junkies everywhere, I have typed up some advice for the GOP that they should heed if they are interested in participating in the project to make America a better place for everyone instead of merely a paradise for wealthy Republicans without conscience:

Tone down the name-calling and the hate-mongering.
Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin spoke of a "real America," an America that seemed to be populated only by the good citizens who were stupid enough to fall for her dubious charms, implying that everyone who could see that she's a joke isn't a "real American." Iowa Sen. Tom Harkin's opponent called him "al-Qaeda's Tokyo Rose." Sen. Elizabeth Dole, R-N.C., called her opponent "godless" in campaign ads. And inane and deceitful attacks on Obama - from calling him everything from a socialist to the Black Hitler to a terrorist to the Anti-Christ to a radical Chrisitian separatist - were too numerous to start enumerating here.

The GOP went too far. Clearly. They looked like immature schoolyard bullies. They looked a bit unhinged, to be frank about it. Yes, it's true that this childish drivel has worked in the past - for example, the 2004 swift-boating of John Kerry and the shrill attempts in 2000 to paint Al Gore as a pathological liar - and there will always be a certain percentage of committed meatheads (the people who support President George W. Bush no matter what havoc his presidency wreaks on the nation) who will always be swayed by childish nonsense, no matter how blatant. These are Abraham Lincoln's "some of the people" who can be fooled "all of the time."

But the GOP should realize: You need more votes than those that can be provided by the committed meatheads. It is true that sometimes the deficit between real GOP votes and real Democratic votes can be made up through election fraud (such as in 2000 and 2004) or judicial activism (2000). But you can't always count on that when you have shown you can't govern effectively. The GOP got lazy. And they paid at the polls in 2008.

When the name-calling and the hate-mongering stop working, stop doing it.
Many conservative voters clearly don't care too much about hateful rhetoric: Look at the success of the Mormon hatemongers and their successful infestation of California with advertisements full of lying filth about Proposition 8. That worked, and Jesus has not stopped vomiting at the gullibility and silliness of many people who claim very loudly to be his followers.

But the backlash against the childish drivel of Sarah Palin and Elizabeth Dole and so many other GOP leaders was immediate and deafening. Yet they kept on. It made them look stubborn and stupid, and was all too similar to George Allen in Virginia in 2006 when he tried to back off his racist 'macaca' statement by saying he meant to say "Mohawk" ... to someone who wasn't wearing a Mohawk. Many conservatives who have no problem with blatant and not-so-blatant bigotry will think twice about voting for a stupid person, or about voting for someone who treats conservative voters as if they are stupid - See Sarah Palin, popularity of, for a major exception - even if they are largely sympathetic with his or her bigotry.

The blizzard of bigotry that issued forth in the last few weeks of the 2008 campaign did not make any inroads on the coming Democratic stampede, but the GOP kept right on mouthing their transparent idiocy. They clutched at straws, like a wayward outlier poll that showed McCain five or 10 points ahead, and refused to get it into their thick heads that it wasn't working. The GOP looked lost and out-of-touch. Even John McCain's half-hearted attempts to appear reasonable - such as when he corrected the woman who said Obama was an Arab - made McCain look like a man who had lost control of his party.

Yes, the hate-mongering energized the base, but was that REALLY a good thing? Imagine all the uncommitted, independent and/or low-information voters who had just started to pay attention in September or October. What did they see? Among other things, they saw Sarah Palin - hyped as the saviour of the party - getting punked by Katie Couric and speaking to large groups that looked like Klan rallies (just a few weeks after GOP commentators were telling us that big groups were a bad thing for Obama because it made him look like a mere rock star).

Those independent voters dropped their jaws and bugged out their eyes at what they saw. The "liberals" they knew were NOT exaggerating at how bad the Republicans are. The independents scratched their heads at GOP overkill about things like Bill Ayers, Rev. Wright, Tony Rezko, the terrorist fist-jab, Michelle Obama's alleged "whitey" comment, the "bitter" comment, arugula, Obama's "elitism," and other items from the GOP's neverending list of gibberish.

Maybe the Democrats would have been as bad about making stuff up if McCain and Palin hadn't been such easy targets on so many issues. But doesn't it say something about the Democrats that they didn't have to make stuff up?

Pick better slogans.
"Country First" was not really a very good slogan for the GOP. I think it back-fired. Millions of people who might have been eager to vote for the GOP's mindless jingoism and half-assed economic theories may have stopped for a minute and thought, "Country first? What does that mean, really?" and stopping and thinking is VERY BAD for the GOP. Millions of voters came to the conclusion that "Country First" meant only one thing and that one thing was "Obama." (Try something like "Piss off the hippies. Vote Republican!" THAT would work. Everybody hates hippies.)

Another problem with the "Country First" slogan was the way that it confused many voters in the GOP's major demographics. They were offended that "Western" wasn't tied for first or at least mentioned as second. These people split their votes between Bob Barr, Ron Paul, Alan Keyes and Chuck Norris. ("Piss off the hippies. Vote Republican!" would have worked very well with these people.)

Take some responsibility.
Just a little bit. Just every now and again. You don't have to make a habit of it. It's just that it looks good for the "party of personal responsibility" to take a little responsibility for its massive failures. Let's have fewer smug GOP nitiwts claiming "George W. Bush is a liberal" and then acting like this lame sophistry is some kind of clever observation. Don't blame black homebuyers and liberal policies for the mortgage meltdown. Don't blame 9-11 for the economic crisis. Don't blame the Democrats and/or the Clintons and/or Jimmy Carter and/or "the liberal media" and/or liberal bloggers and/or Michael Moore and/or George Soros and/or Jon Stewart for 9-11/rising unemployment/North Korea's nukes/Ted Stevens' corruption trial/Larry Craig's arrest in an airport bathroom/unfavorable coverage of the chimp of a president you put forward as the best guy for the job in 2000 and 2004/anything else.

Thus far, GOP hand-wringing over having their butts handed to them by the Democrats on Nov. 4 looks like the same old delusional douchebaggery that got the GOP in this hole. It may be better for the country if they just keep digging. But it might make the next 30 or 40 years pretty boring.

Govern more effectively.
By which I mean, govern effectively. Even a little bit. A little bit of effective government would have gone a long way to shoring up the votes of the nitwits who flock to the GOP and vote against their own interests every time. (Well, almost every time.) Fewer Asian quagmires. More effective management of the "necessary" quagmires. Fewer economic crises. Less helpless flailing-about in the face of natural disasters. Fewer major terrorist attacks on major American cities. (I think one is too many. The Bush Administration had three in one day, which Republicans may find acceptable (especially considering how effectively they manipulated national sorrow).)

Better choices for party leadership.
I know this one is really difficult because, after all, you only have Republicans to choose from. But, really. George W. Bush was really the best choice the GOP had in 2000 and 2008? Really? (And they expect people to treat them seriously when the only real talents they've shown are fooling really stupid people all of the time, fooling merely stupid people some of the time, and stealing elections to get a mentally challenged frat boy into the White House?)

Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., truly WAS the best choice in 2008, and the media version of McCain probably really would have been a good choice. (Either McCain changed a lot since the 1990s or he never was that media version. I suspect the latter.)

That McCain was the best choice highlights one of the biggest problems with today's GOP: They can really get all misty-eyed and laudatory about some very mediocre - at best - political personalities. (Like Ronald Reagan and Dick Nixon.) Rudy Giuliani and Mitt Romney could probably play statesmen on television, and they can at least pass a cursory examination by your average, uninformed, mainstream media-watching American voter. (Probably.) But Fred Thompson? Mike Huckabee? (I can't believe how far we are from the bottom of the list.) George Allen was mentioned as presidential material as recently as 2004. Getting away from presidential politics, the GOP has slime like Sen. Saxby Chambliss, R-Ga., nitwits like Sen. Jim Inhofe, R-Okla., and particularly unappealing combinations of sliminess and nitwittery like Sen. Norm Coleman, R-Minn., and Sen. Ted Stevens, R-Alaska.

No wonder Sarah Palin didn't look so bad to a lot of Republicans.

When someone makes fun of Sarah Palin, laugh.
She's a joke. The GOP really needs to get a sense of humor about some of their prominent figures. It's probably acceptable for them to act like they don't get it when some mean liberal makes fun of something like Ted Stevens' hilarious "Intertubes" memo, but they look really uptight, stubborn, out-of-touch and downright deluisonal when they get their panties in a twist because those mean liberals are making fun of Sarah Palin.

I saw an in-house editorial in a conservative newspaper that criticized "Saturday Night Live" for making fun of Sarah Palin. They called SNL a "comedy" show. Yes, they actually put comedy in quotes, as if it wasn't really funny to mock Sarah Palin so extravagantly. Those quote marks, very characteristic of many conservative commentators as they defended Sarah Palin with a series of increasingly unconvincing talking points and sophistries, gave that newspaper the appearance of isolation, lockstep partisanship, unexplainable self-importance and a little more than a touch of mental derangement.

Sarah Palin is not the dumbest prominent Republican. (That would be Mike Huckabee.) Palin is actually very smart ... for a Republican, especially for an Alaskan Republican. But she can be very easy to mock. Denying that obvious fact is not a good strategy for Republicans if they want to look relevant or competent or informed.

It's OK for conservatives to defend their heroes, no matter how lame (Ronald Reagan)and undeserving (Ronald Reagan) they may be to an objective observer. But there is a limit to what a GOP partisan can expect to get away with if he or she wants to dodge ridicule and remain a relevant and respected political voice. It is probably acceptable to relax and laugh at Sarah Palin's numerous grammatical and geographic difficulties, then claim that it doesn't really matter. "Liberals" can disagree with this, but it won't be so easy for them to characterize GOP partisans as delusional, stupid, out-of-touch and mindlessly authoritarian if these same GOP partisans only admit that Sarah Palin is frequently unintentionally hilarious.

Sarah Palin is young enough and ambitious enough and even charismatic enough (to a certain type of stupid person) that she may well be with us for several presidential cycles. So the GOP would be wise to heed this advice to avoid looking stupid and stubborn just to defend the potential future face of conservative America and the Republican Party.

Fortunately for America and the world, the very features that make conservatism and conservatives so dangerous, destructive and unappealing generally preclude pragmatism and self-criticism. Honest, decent people of the world probably don't have to worry too much about conservatives developing smarts enough to successfully disguise the more disgusting aspects of their ideology and their plans for America and the world.


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