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Tilting at Windmills

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December 19, 2006
By: Kevin Drum

OFF CENTER?....Last year, Jacob Hacker and Paul Pierson wrote an influential and widely-read book called Off Center. It argued that the Republican Party had moved dramatically to the right of the American public, something that would normally spell electoral doom, but was getting away with this thanks to a broad and remarkably robust set of institutional controls it had put in place over the past decade. These controls hid the GOP's true aims, allowed moderates to fly under the radar when they supported hard-right legislation, and provided "backlash insurance" for incumbents when they voted for highly unpopular bills. (Quick summary here.)

At the time, Hacker and Pierson (kinda, sorta) argued that this was likely to last a long time. A year later, we know it didn't. The center reasserted itself in fine fashion. In the New Republic today, they take a stab at explaining what happened:

While the machine they built was capable of withstanding a Category Three storm, what hit Republicans this year was more like a Category Five -- mainly thanks to Iraq.

Jeez, guys, that's it? A whole book about the GOP's institutional hegemony, and now you say that all it took for this stuff to break down was for Iraq to get a little worse than it was last year? Hmmph.

Still, while they might have skipped a little too lightly over this explanation, they do have an interesting point to make: with Democrats now in control, most (though not all) of the Republican Party's institutional advantages are gone, and this means that in the future they're going to find it far more difficult to paper over the extreme rightward tilt of their caucus:

Now, Republicans are in serious trouble. Not only is their pay-to-play alliance with K Street in ruins, but they can no longer use their majority power to obscure their radicalism....After all, the GOP took its heaviest losses within its moderate ranks. In an even more conservative Republican caucus, there will be a powerful faction that blames defeat on insufficient clarity and urges a further pull to the right.

Democrats should give this faction the clarity it wants. In pursuing their own agenda, they need to put the GOP between the rock of its intense base and the hard place of swing voters on every key issue--from basic kitchen-table concerns (like health care and college tuition), to reform issues (like reestablishing pay-as-you-go budget rules and ensuring electoral fairness), to less controversial social issues (like stem-cell research).

Most people -- including a lot of rank-and file Republicans, I think -- simply don't realize just how radical the modern, Texified GOP is. But with majority control Democrats now have the institutional power to expose this at every turn, and Republicans have far less ability to hide it. If they're smart, Dems will use this newfound power at every opportunity.

Kevin Drum 4:50 PM Permalink | Trackbacks | Comments (83)

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Comments

I do not think this is as true as you think it is. Writing for a lefty audience, it's easy to think your ideological opponents are more extreme than they really are. OTOH, it will do no harm and, if I am wrong, substantial good for Democrats to follow your suggestion. So I disagree with your premise, but I'm happy to see the Democratic party follow such a course.

Posted by: Shelby on December 19, 2006 at 6:26 PM | PERMALINK

Here's my big insight into military theory which is largely cribbed from an old Chinese guy.

War becomes unpopular over time.

KD wrote, "and now you say that all it took for this stuff to break down was for Iraq to get a little worse than it was last year?"

It's not the deterioration of the situation that's caused the Iraq War to become exceedingly unpopular but the length of the war/occupation.

The public only puts up with knowing about war for a certain amount of time and then it sours on the effort.

The passage of time is the key issue.

Posted by: Carl Nyberg on December 19, 2006 at 6:26 PM | PERMALINK

Delay!

Posted by: eb on December 19, 2006 at 6:26 PM | PERMALINK
The public only puts up with knowing about war for a certain amount of time and then it sours on the effort.

The passage of time is the key issue.

I think that oversimplifies a bit; while time is a factor, casualties, perceived threat, and success/failure all play in, as does the popularity of the regime running the war outside of the conduct of the war.

Posted by: cmdicely on December 19, 2006 at 6:33 PM | PERMALINK

During the down side of a business cycle entrepreuners know to start looking for deals in areas they know will rebound when the cycle turns.

Democratic strategists seem only to be able to analyze why Republicans win so much. As soon as Bush invaded Iraq, a good political strategist would have known the ending was going to be a category five storm and begun planning for that time in the political cycle. I think we can now all acknowledge the Democratic Party 'thinkers' cannot think past Republican talking points and propaganda themes. I think they are that way because they are members of the same political monopoly and have many of the same goals.

Posted by: Hostile on December 19, 2006 at 6:36 PM | PERMALINK

It is actually easier to be in the minority because you don't have to cash your checks--you don't have to follow through on your promises. It was easy for Democrats to be in favor of ethics when they were out of power, but time will tell what happens when they are in power.

I hope the theory is right, but sooner or later Republicans will be able to point to Democratic failures and state that if only they were in charge...

Frankly, it's hard to imagine things getting all that much better for the Dems--an unpopular war, an unpopular President, and a homosexual scandal all worked together to bring the GOP down this year. At some point, Democrats will get blamed for whatever is wrong with the world now that they are in power. We have a chance to win the White House in 2008, but it is not like we are going to pick up 30 seats every two years in the House or get a filibuster-proof majority in the Senate. The Republicans will put up a fight.

Posted by: reino on December 19, 2006 at 6:52 PM | PERMALINK

I've been thinking of writing something for dKos which supports the "Iraq broke it" hypothesis. It occurs to me that the Iraq war, paradoxically enough, saved American democracy by preventing wholesale Bushicization of the government courtesy of its huge unpopularity and the subsequent electoral defeat of the Republicans in 2006.

Posted by: don Hosek on December 19, 2006 at 6:52 PM | PERMALINK

Americans are good people. They will come to realize that Every Sperm Is Sacred, and every woman needs to submit to the rule of their Husband!

Posted by: Al's Mommy on December 19, 2006 at 6:52 PM | PERMALINK

I think that the institutional controls the Republicans put into place are still in force. The Washington pundit corps is still heavily infected with their memes; their coverage of the Democrats is still much tougher than they ever were on the Republicans. A Blue Dog-Republican alliance is still capable of blocking Democratic priorities. And George Bush still has the veto, as well as all the institutions of executive power.

"Centrists" like David Broder will insist on "bipartisanship", and some naive Democrats will go along with him.

Posted by: Joe Buck on December 19, 2006 at 7:03 PM | PERMALINK

Kevin,
You should link from the words "Texified GOP" to your excellent summary of the contents of the 2000 TX GOP party platform.

That was an important piece, and people need to see it.

Posted by: -asx- on December 19, 2006 at 7:06 PM | PERMALINK

Are we really so far out of the woods? So far from danger that progressive ideas, like our constitution, can survive, say, a fake or real Green party challenger, or a Nader run, or lots gay men kissing on television screens across America?

Nader's good intentions have cost us a lot. Let's not do anything like that until the enlightenment is more firmly secured, ok?

Posted by: Johanne on December 19, 2006 at 7:13 PM | PERMALINK

I think that optimistic assessments about the future are very premature. The judiciary has almost completely been, to use Kevin's term, Texified, and Roberts and Scalito and Thomas are going to be sitting at the top for at least the next two decades. That's where the challenges to any funny things that the lame duck might want to pull off will be squelched. It will also be the SCOTUS where any progressive agenda that the Democrats are smart enough and visionary enough to advance will be stopped in its tracks.

Posted by: gregor on December 19, 2006 at 7:20 PM | PERMALINK

It was easy for Democrats to be in favor of ethics when they were out of power, but time will tell what happens when they are in power.
Posted by: reino on December 19, 2006 at 6:52 PM | PERMALINK

All one needs to do is look back at history. In 1994, there was Tip O'Neil, the check-kiting scandal, Marion Barry, and Barney Frank and even Chappaquidick weren't so stale that they caused chuckles. But compare that to the institutionalized corruption of the 2000-2006 Republican Rule, from the Texas Redistricting, Delay, changing ethics rules, the threat of the "nuclear" option, K-Street, Abramoff, Cunningham, Foley, and Hastert's coverup (as well as evidence that Foley paid hush money), "go fuck yourself", the Iraq War, contractor fraud, - it has been so systematic, and so broad, that nothing the Democrats have ever done, and nothing they are likely to do, could ever compare.

Now all they got is William Jefferson.

I'll start to worry when the Democrats try to ram through ethics committee rules to specifically exempt their Majority Whip, and in the process, threaten to change the cloture rules.

The story of The Republican Culture of Corruption is a story that will not change. It will only get better and better for Democrats as more investigations run their course, more subpoenas happen, more saved IM sessions and emails are discovered (take THAT and stick it in your paper-shredder!). The Republican Culture of Corruption is deeply embedded in the party platform. Their whole way of looking at government is "Get off our backs! (so we can get away with stealing)". I don't know if I can imagine anything that the Dems can do to top this.

However, I'm sure that the MSM will help them try.

Posted by: Extradite Rumsfeld on December 19, 2006 at 7:27 PM | PERMALINK

Most people -- including a lot of rank-and file Republicans, I think -- simply don't realize just how radical the modern, Texified GOP is.

I don't know something about this sentence is lacking, in logic, diction, or both.

Plus Kevin, for the love of the Alamo would you please get off this "Texasification" (the way you should type it) kick.

Yeah, there is some weirdness going on here, lots of local GOP horror stories elsewhere, too. So what?

You are still one-noting the Tex GOP platform. It is a document written by a few extremists that almost no Texan knows about and no one is held accoutable to it.

Posted by: Keith G on December 19, 2006 at 7:29 PM | PERMALINK

The Dems won't top the Republicans when it comes to scandals, but in four years our scandals will be the current ones and theirs will be history. The House is the corrupt and corrupting chamber of Congress.

Posted by: reino on December 19, 2006 at 7:32 PM | PERMALINK

If the Democratic Party, in the national and congressional sense of party, wants to attempt a generational majority, it needs to embrace and enact a comprehensive ethics and lobbying reform package.

Will the party lose larger donors? Absolutely. But rather then lament it, brag about it. Can the party make up the difference through small donors? Absolutely, but not immediately and not without a real commitment to doing just that.

The Democrats need to explicitly and loudly market themselves as the party of ordinary people. I guarantee it will work.

The public will be very skeptical, at first, but will come around when they see that the party means it.

Posted by: James E. Powell on December 19, 2006 at 7:57 PM | PERMALINK

As I have argued many times on this site, Hacker and Pierson's book foregrounds measurable political science-y variables that make them look smart while missing the far more important point: the primary reason the Republicans have been able to go so far off center is because they have been able to LIE WITH IMPUNITY.

They have been able to lie about their opponents' character because such claims are difficult to prove or disprove. And they have been able to lie about economics (e.g. effects of tax cuts) because such claims are also difficult to prove or disprove. And they lied their asses off about Iraq, which USED TO BE difficult to disprove as long as 1) the media didn't seriously question their bogus evidence, 2) they held a monopoply on information and 3) many of their claims were about future, which are obviously impossible to prove or disprove.

What happened is that the future became the present and the results in Iraq became too disastrous for anyone to credibly deny.

I made this argument many times on this site and in emails to Hacker and Pierson but they never bothered to respond. I would suggest that the reason they never responded is because I was right and my argument exposes their book as trivial and, in truth, a distraction from the really important reason why the Republicans have been able to get away with being so extreme.

TOLD YA SO!!!!!

Posted by: The Fool on December 19, 2006 at 8:03 PM | PERMALINK

Sign the petition to impeach Bush:
http://www.democrats.com/peoplesemailnetwork/88?ad=d0

Posted by: Extradite Rumsfeld on December 19, 2006 at 8:07 PM | PERMALINK

The Fool:
You are indeed, wise.

Posted by: Extradite Rumsfeld on December 19, 2006 at 8:10 PM | PERMALINK

Oops, in my earlier comment, I left out one of the most important reasons the Republican have been able to lie with impunity: because the Democrats have been acting like a bunch of frightened pussies who have no idea how to function as an opposition party.

Posted by: The Fool on December 19, 2006 at 8:17 PM | PERMALINK

While it is hard to deny that Iraq is the key issue, let's not forget about Katrina. Another factor was the succesful effort to put off the investigation into the Valerie Plame issue until after the 2004 election also saved their bacon but extracted a price after the fact that was another sliver of their defeat in the last election. Oh yeah, and Coingate. Also Delay, Abramoff and the other many House of Rep scandals.
The amazing thing is how well they withstood all fo this stuff, imagine what would have happened in the last election if it hadn't been for their institutional advantages. Iraq yes, but no less Katrina.

Posted by: Gord Brown on December 19, 2006 at 8:23 PM | PERMALINK

Drum:

Not to put too fine a point on it, but the lesson for the Dems is to build their support based on policies that do not depend on control of the strings of the purse and the levers of power.

CMD sez:

as does the popularity of the regime running the war outside of the conduct of the war.

IMO the arrow of causality goes the other way, ie, the popularity of the war clouds the public's perceptions of the administration's handling of domestic affairs, much more than the other way around.

Hostile:

That's one vicious and astute criticism of the Dems. As an entrepreneur, I agree that the opportunity is most ripe at the nadir.

Posted by: Disputo on December 19, 2006 at 8:27 PM | PERMALINK

the Democrats have been acting like a bunch of frightened pussies who have no idea how to function as an opposition party.

In the Dems (weak) defense, they had been out of practice for quite sometime. As a corollary, I believe that the underlying reason for the GOP's failure has been their inability to function as a majority party, though "inability" may be better characterized as "petulant unwillingness".

Posted by: Disputo on December 19, 2006 at 8:31 PM | PERMALINK

Oh come on, if only Dems hi-lighted the pay-to-play tune the GOP is so inherently consummate with, in fact Repugs are so ruptured by money, (and certainly not with God, except as a politial tool) that the PNAC lied about bring democracy to other countries, solely for uninhibited access to fossil fuel resources. Bush wants to increase troops because he's not giving up those billion dollar oilfield watchdog military bases.

Frank Herbert was right, “it’s the oil stupid”.

It's the pay-to-play Kevin.

With all the un-bid contracts, corruption in Iraq and the Bush supported Iraq government, lies the Republican congress and Prez say about social security policy, class actions lawsuits, bankruptcy bills, etc, etc, not the mention the loaded term “entitlement”.

SO AS I RECALL wasn’t it corruption that was the # 1 reason MOST voters didn’t actually go center, but rather have chosen honesty over dishonesty, and thus rejected the Republican Party in 06?

Remember Bush said the he was “shocked” that corruption matter to voters? Bush didn't think the American public actually cared about honesty. Bush actually thought it was okay to be as corrupt as he wanted to be and that honesty was no longer an American value. Fortunately, at least a few Americans still value honesty, even if its not the religious right.


Posted by: Cheryl on December 19, 2006 at 8:31 PM | PERMALINK

The danger is now that the Democratic Congressional majority can and will be used as a scapegoat for every failed Bush Administration initiative over the next two years. As the Bush Administration strategy for expanding the Middle East war fails, the GOP will simply blame everything on socialist Democrat cheese-eating surrender monkeys in Congress who refuse to give the military the tools to do the job. Savvy political observers will see this ruse for what it is, but it could resonate with average Americans, particularly if a major military disaster occurs that costs large numbers of GI's their lives.

Posted by: dr sardonicus on December 19, 2006 at 8:33 PM | PERMALINK

Iraq and Katrina were a Category six. The equalizer to institutional power is legislative power and oversight. Even Fox News is not quite Fox news anymore.

Posted by: aline on December 19, 2006 at 8:36 PM | PERMALINK

The Rs have fronted politics over policy for six years (h/t to John DiIulio), and thought they could do the same with Iraq ("Mission Accomplished" anyone?)

They've been playing defense since Iraq went south, doing the Off-Center variation of 50%+1 in the 2004 campaign (look at the W popularity numbers -- their slow climb to just over 50% peaked in 11/04).

Here in Oregon Bob Packwood played the fool enough of the people every six years game for years, mostly by doing what W did in 2004: Making himself the slightly less distasteful candidate to a bare majority of the voting public.

And The Fool has a good point re: lying with impunity. (The Beltway Pundits are play-by-play announcers, agnostic about policy and susceptible to the most attractive narrative.)

Posted by: MaryCh on December 19, 2006 at 8:52 PM | PERMALINK

Gord;
Yes. Coingate and Katrina were excellent examples of "All Politics is Local".

Posted by: Extradite Rumsfeld on December 19, 2006 at 9:03 PM | PERMALINK

I bought Off Center, read it, and enjoyed it, but I will never pay any attention to the work of these authors again. That "explanation" is an embarassment to the discipline of political science and exposes them as typical careerist charlatons. If they are empiricists of any sort, then they owe themselves and their readers an explanation for what went wrong with their theory.

Kevin, you gave substantial blog space to these people. Don't you feel a little chagrined?

Posted by: jonm on December 19, 2006 at 9:07 PM | PERMALINK

Johanne >"Are we really so far out of the woods? So far from danger that progressive ideas, like our constitution, can survive...Let's not do anything like that until the enlightenment is more firmly secured, ok?"

We are NOT out of the woods by any means but we CAN see the light where the edge is. Much work needs to be accomplished. Time to get busy & keep moving toward the light.

And The Fool nails it big time. Thanks !

"He that will not apply new remedies must expect new evils, for time is the greatest innovator." - Francis Bacon

Posted by: daCascadian on December 19, 2006 at 9:38 PM | PERMALINK

I have spent part of this afternoon in a conversation with a bunch of small business people including many conservatives. They seem to be receptive to the idea of some kind of universal health care or at least divorcing health care from employment. Is it me or was that kind of thinking anathama to conservatives pre 11/7? I have a hunch we have an opportunity. We just have to get the policy right and do a good job of presentation. People are ready for a change.

Posted by: Ron Byers on December 19, 2006 at 9:53 PM | PERMALINK

"Our government... teaches the whole people by its example. If the government becomes the lawbreaker, it breeds contempt for law; it invites every man to become a law unto himself; it invites anarchy."
--Louis D. Brandeis

The example of the Republicans has not been particulary exemplary of late.

Calling the Constitution "a piece of paper," didn't help their cause either.

Power to the people.

Posted by: Tom Nicholson on December 19, 2006 at 10:20 PM | PERMALINK

Please don't blame the GOP on Texas. Over 58 percent of voters rejected the GOP incumbent Governor. Dallas went Blue for the first time in two decades, as did Tom De Lays old district. And GWB is not from here. He is from a wealthy east coast family.

Posted by: Tom Perry on December 19, 2006 at 10:21 PM | PERMALINK

Americans will support a war for the defense of their country, but they won't support a war of aggression: thus the lies and misrepresentations. The home front cracks because of a sharp shock to their confidence in the governments prosecution of a war: in our case a growing clarity that the war was sold on a false basis, and is absolutely unwinnable as defined.

Posted by: Tom Perry on December 19, 2006 at 10:28 PM | PERMALINK

The problem is that the distance between Reps and Dems hasn't changed much. In other words, the Dems (with very few exceptions, and those exceptions are usually dismissed as "far left" -- like Paul Wellstone, for example!) have moved the same distance to the right, following the opposition. If you compare (on that well-known graph) the position of the Dems in 1960 with today, you'll find they've moved sharply upward towards authoritarianism and just as dramatically to the right towards economic conservatism. So both positions have changed, both Dem and Rep, moving noticeably to the right. But they've maintained the same distance from each other.

The problem is that those Dems who were born after 1960 take the current Democratic position as kind of "normal." The rest of us have remained well to the left of them (in the old center) and/or have left the party as it turned rightward.

The blaming of Texas is fashionable but it's both inaccurate and naive. One of the real differences in Texas Dems is that they have remained less authoritarian than their fellow Dems, though they tend to be more conservative economically. There's a new form of left libertarianism growing here among Texas Dems, very different from that of the Libertarian Party. I'm not sure, but I'm guessing Obama has caught that wave and that's why he's such a hit in New England, which has its own anti-authoritarian streak.

Posted by: PW on December 19, 2006 at 10:50 PM | PERMALINK

Frequency Kennth: "Kevin is asking the Dems to do more GOP-bashing. That seems pretty dumb to me."

That's an oddly reassuring notion, coming as it does from someone who hasn't called anything correctly since the day he first started posting on this site.

And how 'bout that Bush and his GOP congressional majority, F.Q.? They got "bashed" right into the minority. And if they insist upon continuing to reflect the unhinged wackadoodle views of right-wing yahoos like yourself, their next stop is political oblivion.

Posted by: Donald from Hawaii on December 19, 2006 at 10:56 PM | PERMALINK

No. The Dems just have to enact legislation that is popular with the majority and return to responsible government. Submit budgets on time, reduce the deficit, raise the min wage, work on expanding health care and return fiscal responsibility.

After years of Republicans going off target trying to impeach Clinton, fiscal irresponsibility, tax cuts for the wealthy, Terry Schiavo and more attention to flag burning amendments than running the government, the people will breathe a sigh of relief if Congress would only act like adults again.

Posted by: bakho on December 19, 2006 at 11:30 PM | PERMALINK

As several others have commented or alluded to, one thing which *hasn't* changes as a result of the 2006 election is the media. For reasons that are difficult to pinpoint, but seems to have to do with the conservative ownership of much of the media, a rightward shift to the political beliefs of many journalists, a desire to service the perceived rightward shift of the audience, and an institutional disinclination to buck authority, the media has (collectively) not been inclined to put the Republicans to the test, expose their mendacity and investigate their corruption and ideological extremism -- and without their willingness to do so, the Democrats will continue to compete on an extremely uneven playing field. The upshot of that is that the election, although a signficant step forward, is probably not as totally an indication of change as it might otherwise appear.

For this reason while I'm certainly happier than I was, I'm not nearly as optimistic about the idea that the Republican Party is going to fall apart quite so quickly.

Posted by: Ed Fitzgerald (unfutz) on December 19, 2006 at 11:47 PM | PERMALINK

The Texified Republican Party is most fundamentally the party of agressively self-aggrandizing big money, with a little window dressing of that old time religion. The Republicans were stupid, corrupt, and even somewhat unlucky, but the same big money players still own most of the institutions of power, including the courts, the media and the executive.

They will work agressively to buy some important Democrats, and Hillary could be their girl. I suspect that it will take a TR like figure to restablish a more democratic republic.

Posted by: CapitalistImperialistPig on December 20, 2006 at 12:01 AM | PERMALINK

That seems pretty dumb to me.

Then it must be a brilliant strategy!

Posted by: Col Bat Guano on December 20, 2006 at 12:40 AM | PERMALINK

We got asses kicked. plain and simple. We lied and the pro-Bush press couldn't hide it any longer.

We are the corrupt party now. We are the liars sitting in our own shit, wondering why no one will caucus with us anymore.

It is we, the Republicans who have pissed on everything Americans really care about. Notice Newt Gingrich who once I adored, and now he is suggesting that we shoot free speech in the leg and slow it down.

It is our shame, our hypocrisy, our bigotry that caused our downfall.

I am so ashamed to be a Republican now.

Posted by: Al on December 20, 2006 at 1:32 AM | PERMALINK

Yes Al, the Republican party smells like ass.

Posted by: AnotherBruce on December 20, 2006 at 1:49 AM | PERMALINK

It's sad when honesty from Al looks like sarcasm.

Posted by: craigie on December 20, 2006 at 1:52 AM | PERMALINK

If the Dems don't get us out of Iraq and impeach Bush, they will be shooting themselves in the foot. There are people like me who will be looking for third party candidates to vote for if the Dems don't start serving the people instead of their own wallets.

Posted by: NeoLotus on December 20, 2006 at 2:09 AM | PERMALINK

"most (though not all) of the Republican Party's institutional advantages are gone,"

Not true.

The GOP still controls the courts, including the Supreme Court, the institution that stole the 2000 election for them.

The GOP also controls huge chunks of the media, especially the broadcast media, TV and radio.

They are still favored by Big Money donors.

In short, the GOP still controls the Permanent Govt.

Posted by: Nan on December 20, 2006 at 2:17 AM | PERMALINK

Well Al, you could alway join this party dedicated to helping America find its lost moral bearings.

Posted by: Christian Nation on December 20, 2006 at 2:36 AM | PERMALINK

Nan - that is true, but there is change afoot on the Fourth Circuit. I just spent an hour writing the post I just linked. It is only one court, but it's a vitally important one because the Fourth encompasses D.C.

(God I'm such a geek).

Posted by: Global Citizen on December 20, 2006 at 2:43 AM | PERMALINK

we DO control the media

Thank Jesus for that.

Posted by: Al on December 20, 2006 at 2:51 AM | PERMALINK

Global Citizen >"...there is change afoot on the Fourth Circuit..."

Thanks for the heads up. I`ll try and follow the story.

Global Citizen >"...(God I'm such a geek)."

That`s what it takes to be an effective supporter of freedom so accept & enjoy it.

"The bond of our common humanity is stronger than the divisiveness of our fears and prejudices." - James Carter

Posted by: daCascadian on December 20, 2006 at 3:01 AM | PERMALINK

"...if they're smart..."

Yeah, big if. Theory ignores key point that often the best thing the GOP has going for it is lefty democrats - like the idiots who made Lieberman an independent - who do such grand work making god and guns wingnuts look almost palatable by comparison in eyes of the 'I don't know which way I'm supposed to lean' middle.

Posted by: saitnsimon on December 20, 2006 at 6:51 AM | PERMALINK

As Noam Chomsky has pointed out, many Republican voters didn't even know where their own candidates stood on many issues. For example, a significant percentage of GOP voters in 2004 thought that George W. Bush suppported the Kyoto Accords. They couldn't be more wrong. The same is true of national health insurance. So, I agree with your assertion that many of their more loopy, far-right viewpoints were not even visible to their own constituents. Part of the Democrat's structural disadvantage (which still remains today), is that they don't have the incestuous think tank-media-ad agency propaganda machine to churn out bullshit, smoke and mirrors the way the Republicans do. Robert Parry has written about this for years. Until they develop a comparable machine, Democrats will continue to be at a disadvantage.

Posted by: The Conservative Deflator on December 20, 2006 at 6:57 AM | PERMALINK

" It [Democratic Party] isn’t an opposition party. I have been saying for the last thousand years that the United States has only one party—the property party. It’s the party of big corporations, the party of money. It has two right wings; one is Democrat and the other is Republican. - Gore Vidal

Posted by: MsNThrope on December 20, 2006 at 7:59 AM | PERMALINK

"Most people -- including a lot of rank-and file Republicans, I think -- simply don't realize just how radical the modern, Texified GOP is."

not sure what "Texified" means, but otherwise this seems exactly right. The average voter that knows next to nothing about political positions and cares even less about politics, and that identifies as either a democrat or republican does so generally for reasons other than policy: they've always been a ..., their parents were a..., they liked so and so a long time ago, blah, blah, blah.

The republican party evolved into a cult starting in the reagan years, becoming the radicalized anti-American values group we have today, totally subserviant to its extremeists and driving away all manner of moderates and moderation.

The average republican voter would be horrified to know what it is they are identifying with. It is incumbent on everyone to continue to expose the republican party as the dangerous loons they are and the threat they pose to America.

Posted by: pluege on December 20, 2006 at 8:06 AM | PERMALINK

Well said, pluege!

Posted by: The Conservative Deflator on December 20, 2006 at 8:08 AM | PERMALINK

In the book Ubiquity, Mark Buchanan makes the case that an election like 2006 can be the result of a critical threshold being met, and over taken, after which you've reached the tipping point. Of course, once you're past that, its all downhill from there.

But what got them there? I'd argue that the tendency to try and get away with things simply caught up to them. They created a marvellous system of protections for their candidates and officeholders. What they did, though, was build up a surplus of problems and a cavalcade of outrages that they weren't bleeding off by running things competently, resolving issues, or reaching out to the other side.

They also did a completely stupid thing: they pounded on their opponents hard enough to make them fear for their politic survival, hard enough to make a significant portion of the party get mad enough not to take it any more. A party that had essentially spent years just taking it regained its footing while they were boasting about creating a permanent majority.

Still they screwed around, still they screwed up. They got so cocky about there power that they alienated even their base. All it would take is one more spark to set this fire.

And set it, it did.

Posted by: Stephen Daugherty on December 20, 2006 at 8:11 AM | PERMALINK

pluege,

May I add that the Reagan years began in the mid 60s - The cult started refining their practices in the 80s after they were able to take more control nationally. However, they began to show their colors in the California elections of 66. In the primaries, the Birchers joined forces with former Southern Democrats in the San Joaquin Valley to defeat the incumbent Republican US Senator, Thomas Kuechel. He was from the moderate to liberal wing of the Knight regime in Northern California. This was a very "better dead than Red" crowd, who believed that their principles were far more important than actually winning. They defeated Kuechel, who had been expected to move up the ladder on the minority side of the Senate. They voted for Max Rafferty in the primaries who was crushed by Alan Cranston, the Democratic candidate, in the main election. Max disappeared into the educational system of Alabama. But, the power base of the Californian Republicans had been established.

And, you are very correct - It truly is a Cult.

Posted by: thethirdPaul on December 20, 2006 at 8:53 AM | PERMALINK

Oh, in that 66 election, Reagan defeated Brown, the elder, for Governor. He appeared, at the time, to be slightly more sane than Max Rafferty. However, it was the same hard core Cultists who were the driving force. Lots of Californians switched from Orange Julius to Kool-Aid.

Posted by: stupid git on December 20, 2006 at 8:57 AM | PERMALINK

I do not understand why Kevin worries so much about the Republicans. Given current demographic trends in the U.S., the U.S. is quickly going to become a single party state for the Democrats. Of course it will not be very pleasant for the middle class given the condition of the bluest areas like D.C. or Detriot. At least in a one party state we will not have to hear any more disengenious arguments about how good divide government is for politics.

Posted by: superdestroyer on December 20, 2006 at 9:00 AM | PERMALINK

Tom Wolfe's classic: 'A cult is a religion with no political power.'

So it's a religion now. A religion with the power to tax, imprison without due process, and wage war. With articles of faith which have no correspondence with reality.

Faith is an island in the setting sun, But proof is the bottom line for everyone.
["Proof", Paul Simon]

Posted by: MsNThrope on December 20, 2006 at 9:14 AM | PERMALINK

Re: "At the time, Hacker and Pierson (kinda, sorta) argued that this was likely to last a long time. A year later, we know it didn't."

Do we really know it (the rightword move) hasn't lasted? Look, everybody's been saying that the neocons are finished, but I see them still making ppt presentations for ever more war.

Posted by: CSTAR on December 20, 2006 at 9:46 AM | PERMALINK

Frank Herbert was right, “it’s the oil stupid”.

"Spice", not "oil", surely?

Posted by: ajay on December 20, 2006 at 9:47 AM | PERMALINK

Happy Impeachment day!

http://www.cnn.com/ALLPOLITICS/stories/1998/12/19/impeachment.01/

Posted by: Orwell on December 20, 2006 at 10:06 AM | PERMALINK

"Most people -- including a lot of rank-and file Republicans, I think -- simply don't realize just how radical the modern, Texified GOP is."

And most simply don't understand just how reactionary the modern Democratic party is. But perhaps they will soon have opportunities to learn.

Posted by: Tyrell on December 20, 2006 at 10:19 AM | PERMALINK

KD: Most people -- including a lot of rank-and file Republicans, I think -- simply don't realize just how radical the modern, Texified GOP is.

I agree. But I've also read what you mean by Texified.

As far as defining the GOP this way, I think your previous post about the Repubs being the party of the South has more traction. I could be wrong, but I think the rest of the country associates the South with a region that's too far right, still racist (George "macaca" Allen), a stronghold for the rabid evangelical rightwing, and more interested in its provincial heritage (confederate flag) than in democratic principles, the state of the union, and the rest of America. The South isn't a "team player" in doing what's best for all of the country and neither is the GOP.

So in terms of framing what the GOP is, one approach would be that it's the party of and driven by the radical rightwing South. They're dividers, not uniters. Fits also with the GOP being a Cult (see pluege and thirdPaul).

I've lived in the South for 30 years and the natives still refer to the War of the Northern Aggression with high resentment for Yankees. Kooky grudge holders they are. Time to make the southern strategy a liability.

Yesterday, I saw a segment on CNN/Jack Cafferty about Repubs possibly needing a "social liberal" candidate like Rudy to woo back moderates and re-frame the GOP as not being the party of the far-right evangelical wing. Buyers, beware.

Posted by: Apollo 13 on December 20, 2006 at 10:24 AM | PERMALINK

I have some additional thoughts on this subject here.

Posted by: Ed Fitzgerald (unfutz) on December 20, 2006 at 10:28 AM | PERMALINK

Tyrell - would you offer an example to back up your assertion, please?

Posted by: Global Citizen on December 20, 2006 at 10:53 AM | PERMALINK

Please don't blame the GOP on Texas. Over 58 percent of voters rejected the GOP incumbent Governor. Dallas went Blue for the first time in two decades, as did Tom De Lays old district. And GWB is not from here. He is from a wealthy east coast family. Posted by: Tom Perry on December 19, 2006 at 10:21 PM

Texas repeatedly elected and re-elected George Bush, Rick Perry, Tom DeLay, and other such worthies. The old Republican Party in New England and most of the northeast has never produced a crop of pols with similar attitudes and policies. The Bushes are from here, indeed: they left, and found more welcoming soil in Texas.

Meanwhile, in MA, Mitt Romney either had to lie on a huge scale while running for Senate in 1994 and Governor in 2002, or has had to lie on a huge scale since 2003 in his attempt to run for the Republican nomination for president. Real northeast Republicans, like Bill Weld, Jim Jeffords, or Lincoln Chafee, are not welcome in today's Texified GOP.

It's good that Texas is starting to realize its mistake. It doesn't change the fact that the current GOP is something that grew in the South generally, and Texas in particular.

Posted by: Lis Carey on December 20, 2006 at 11:09 AM | PERMALINK

Simon Legre didn't come from Texas by accident.

Juneteenth did not originate from Texas by accident.

Kennedy was not shot in Texas by accident.

Posted by: Hostile on December 20, 2006 at 11:18 AM | PERMALINK

Real northeast Republicans, like Bill Weld, Jim Jeffords, or Lincoln Chafee, are not welcome in today's Texified GOP

My grandfather was a real Republican of the non-insane variety, a real belt-and-suspenders, no-nonsense kind of gentleman. Throughout my childhood he was the county chair of the party on multiple occasions. He passed away in January of 1995, but the last ballot he cast was straight Dem.

Posted by: Global Citizen on December 20, 2006 at 11:18 AM | PERMALINK

"And Kennedy was not shot in Texas by accident"

Funny thing that - Mrs t3P was in an elevator in Dallas in 63 - She was there representing California in the Miss Teenage America pagaent - said the elevator filled with Cowboy Hats - the men were talking about JFK - One of them said, "Well, somebody oughta shoot the son of a bitch" - Another added, "Someone will".

She stepped off the elevator in shock, but forgot about it until "that" day.

Posted by: thethirdPaul on December 20, 2006 at 11:33 AM | PERMALINK

It's a dead thread, so I will drag it off-topic for a moment without feeling like a hijacker.

As you may have heard, Lamar Hunt passed away last week. Lamar was the owner of the Kansas City Chiefs, and a "crazy, rich Texan" in the finest sense of the word. My favorite Hunt story comes from Jim Hightower's most excellent "Nothin' in the Middle of the Road Except White Stripes and Dead Armadillos" (or something like that).

When Lamar Hunt built a new mansion, he built an exact replica of Mount Vernon - except his was a little bit bigger than the original.

Posted by: Global Citizen on December 20, 2006 at 11:42 AM | PERMALINK

Kevin,

The institutional controls are still in place, and unless the Dems recognize this and move to destabilize/eradicate them, Republican radicalism will rear its ugly head again soon. Call this an overreach, but it doesn't signal the end of Republican dominance.

Among other things, right-wing dominance of the media (coupled with the popular "liberal media" canard) allows Republicans to still maintain far right positions without risking backlash.

For example, if Waxman issues a report finding that 7 high ranking members of the Bush administration intentionally ignored or quashed reports indicating that Halliburton was price-gouging, profiteering, etc., you know what will happen? Maybe those 7 members are indicted, in which case the media will find one Democrat (let's say William Jefferson of La) and talk about the corruption among Democrats and Republicans. Worst case scenario for the Republicans, the media turns on the Bush administration (along with the rest of the GOP joining in), and then the narrative will be: Bush administration corrupt, at which point the media will then anoint McCain the straight-talking antidote to Bush excesses.

The advantages on K Street, in the media, in privately funded "studies" (with spurious scientific or logical basis) supporting Republican positions, etc. are enormous. Don't think for a second that just because Republicans have overreached that these institutional advantages are suddenly gone.

Posted by: Kevin, you're wrong on December 20, 2006 at 12:00 PM | PERMALINK

GC,

But, he had a trace of Charlie O in him - Lamar always flew coach.

Reminded me of seeing his brother Nelson in the walking ring at Santa Anita - Spent a bundle of horses, but he always looked as though his suit came off the rack.

Posted by: thethirdPaul on December 20, 2006 at 12:05 PM | PERMALINK

I do agree with Hacker and Pierson that the gutting of the GOP moderate ranks in this election is going to make it a lot harder for them to hide the crazies in their ranks. Not only do many GOPers think they lost the midterms because they weren't conservative enough, the handful of new GOP House members are by and large hard-core righties, some of them batshit insane types (Bill Sali in ID and Michele Bachman in MN come to mind). Add that to returning nutjobs like Tancredo, Musgrave and Jean Schmidt and the Dems will have no shortage of material to paint the GOP as a party of right-wing loonies.

Posted by: gf120581 on December 20, 2006 at 12:08 PM | PERMALINK

He sure did. Mr. GC once flew from DFW to KCI and Lamar was in the seat across the aisle. Colorful character, and a pretty nice guy, too boot. Mr. GC could hardly walk after that hour layover somewhere along the way that was spent in an airport lounge. (Fortunately his brother was picking him up, he wasn't renting a car).

Posted by: Global Citizen on December 20, 2006 at 12:13 PM | PERMALINK

Al's Mommy: Americans are good people. They will come to realize that Every Sperm Is Sacred...

How true. And eggs are sacred, too. An unavoidable consequence is that, so as not to waste the seed spilt upon the ground by all those nasty adolescent boys, we must capture it, save it, and use it to impregnate any good Christian women who is not already pregnant, so as not to waste any sperm or eggs.

How long has it been since Al, your loving son, has had a new sibling?

This might cause some logistical problems, such as the distribution and pick-up of little jars to store the seed, but I'm sure the party that so successfully evacuated New Orleans after Katrina could handle it. I wonder if sperm has to be refrigerated to maintain potency?

Posted by: anandine on December 20, 2006 at 12:17 PM | PERMALINK

Drum: ..they do have an interesting point to make: with Democrats now in control, most (though not all) of the Republican Party's institutional advantages are gone..

Oh no..Hell no. The 2006 Congressional elections were a setback, a speedbump, an aberration brought about by a perfect storm of corruption, incompetence, and general nastiness on the part of the GOP. The 'base' of big money/big corporate/big religion is still in place, which means that big media will follow along with whatever today's storyline says.

Now that the most egregious offenders like DeLay and moderates such as Chafee have been purged from GOP system, mostly the hard righties in stealth mode remain. Santorum and Allen de-elected themselves through their words and actions as much as they were beaten by superior opponents.

The only exception is McCain, who is prepping for his run at the presidency in 2008. But look at who he's talking to recently: religious leaders and the conservative intelligentsia. He's chosen to get in bed deep with the existing Bush political organization in order to win over that's family's connections. And after spending the next six months co-opting Dubya's 'base' he'll suddenly go faux-moderate-straight-talk-express to get the swing vote.

..If they're smart, Dems will use this newfound power at every opportunity.

IMHO, that's the only way Dems will hang on in '08 and '12...Not only in terms of congressional oversight, but in effective, popular governance.

Posted by: grape_crush on December 20, 2006 at 12:26 PM | PERMALINK

Forget politics. I wanna know more about thethirdpaul being married to a former Miss Teenage California. Paul, you old dog!

Posted by: shortstop on December 20, 2006 at 12:57 PM | PERMALINK

Woof

Posted by: thethirdPaul on December 20, 2006 at 2:03 PM | PERMALINK

When the big dog gets off the porch, all y'all better lock up your daughters.


*[yes - I said "all y'all." The plural of "y'all" is "all y'all" and is technically more correct, linguistically, than merely saying "y'all."]

Posted by: Pale Rider on December 20, 2006 at 2:12 PM | PERMALINK

Remain calm, PR. Who among us would quibble with "all y'all"? Prolly the same people who think "all youse" is redundant.

Paul, one of my favorite raconteurs, dries up on us now. Damn.

Posted by: shortstop on December 20, 2006 at 7:15 PM | PERMALINK

For what it's worth, I think the dems will keep their advantage. Because you know, now we care.

Posted by: AnotherBruce on December 21, 2006 at 11:42 PM | PERMALINK

One of the things that is pretty much true is that it takes five years for the public to figure something out. Combine that with Democratic majorities in the House and Senate under Reagan + Bush Sr, followed by a Democratic President (Clinton) and you can see why the public didn't catch on till last year.

Posted by: Gibbon1 on December 23, 2006 at 2:33 AM | PERMALINK




 

 

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