Political Animal


March 02, 2012 10:31 AM Can’t Have It Both Ways

By Ed Kilgore

One of the things about checking out of political talk for a day or two is that it offers a moment for regaining perspective. Checking back in today, I see a panel on MSNBC where a Republican consultant is complaining that Republican candidates are talking about anything other than the economy. I hear Rick Santorum complaining that “the media” have invented the current preoccupation with contraception. I read background reports that congressional Republicans feel trapped by the furor over the Blunt-Rubio Amendment, and wish it would all go away.

For much of the last year, Republicans have been saying constantly that all they have to do is to focus monomaniacally on the economy and they can’t lose in 2012. But somehow or other, they don’t. When the Catholic bishops went ballistic over the administration’s contraception coverage mandate (or to speak more strictly, over the scope of the “conscience exception” it provided), the air was filled with Republican cackling over the epochal, victory-sacrificing mistake Obama had made (echoed, as a matter of fact, by some Democrats). The GOP presidential candidates were all over the issue, shouting about this unprecedented threat to religious freedom.

Now that the controversy hasn’t turned out like they anticipated it would, suddenly Republicans are pretending they never cared about it to begin with.

The simple truth is that the GOP’s conservative “base” cares passionately about “cultural issues,” is constantly rewarding candidates who exploit them, and has elevated to totemic status blowhards like Rush Limbaugh who palpably want to return to the patriarchal mores of the 1950s.

I’d have more respect for Republicans if they just came right out and admitted that these spasms of cultural reaction—these “Terri Schiavo Moments”—are highly illustrative of the vision for the country’s future that they and their party stands for. You could make a pretty strong case that the GOP deployment of economic arguments—and certainly the fiscal arguments they only care about when they are not in power—is the real distraction from the fundamental determination of conservatives to re-create the society of their imagination, where Dad was large and in charge in every home, where Authority was rarely challenged in the classroom, the boardroom, or the bedroom, and where America itself was only wrong when it failed to fully exercise its righteous power.

But even if I’m exaggerating the power of cultural issues, it really is time to call ultimate B.S. on the whining of Republicans when their dog-whistles and out-loud overt appeals to advocates of cultural counter-revolution backfire on them. You made this bed over decades of efforts to mobilize cultural conservatives, boys; you have no one but yourselves to blame if it turns out a majority of Americans decide you have gone around the bend.

Ed Kilgore is a contributing writer to the Washington Monthly. He is managing editor for The Democratic Strategist and a senior fellow at the Progressive Policy Institute. Find him on Twitter: @ed_kilgore.


  • T2 on March 02, 2012 10:46 AM:

    around the bend. yes and in a big, very obvious way. Republicans carry the opinion that everyone thinks like they do, and Fringe TeaBag Republicans feel that everyone should be MADE to think like they do.
    But guess what, most Americans are looking at the state of the GOP today...with horrid presidential candidates and rabid TeaBagger Congressmen who actually want to wipe out the birth control pill and protecting Billionaires from paying taxes, and they just shake their heads and say one of two things: "We've got to get these people out of the decision making process"...or "the whole process is shot and I'm putting my head in the sand". We saw the result of the second in 2010...and if that doesn't get the "head in the sand" folks out this time, then the people that everyone can clearly see are Nuts will then run the asylum. Couldn't be clearer.

  • stormskies on March 02, 2012 10:52 AM:

    The sad fact is that Repiglicans have no capacity to accept the responsibility in their own actions, and always need to feel 'victimized' by 'something' so that they can then create 'scapegoats' for that which they are responsible for. It is their m.o.

    Within this is their delusion that if only the focus could be the economy then somehow they would win hands down over Obama. Based on exactly fucking what ? Going back, and worse, to the very Repiglican policies that created our economic problems in the first place ?

    Their universe is a delusional universe that is formed by a set of interlocking delusions in which actual factual reality can not penetrate. Their psychological stability is dependent upon it.

  • Mimikatz on March 02, 2012 10:58 AM:

    The controversy rather highlights the chasm between th e GOP elites, who want above all less regulation and more redistribution of wealth upwards (Romney is their guy) and the less affluent base, who have been manipulated with cultural issues for decades to take their eyes off of how the redistributionist policies of the elites screw them. They are very susceptible to arguments that demonize "the other" as the source of their problems, whether pointy-headed intellectuals, blacks and immigrants, non-believers, or whatever, to distract from the elites' retrograde economic policies. This is the problem with focusing on "the economy". What can they talk about but taxes and freeloaders? But that doesn't satisfy the base's emotional needs because the policy prescriptions are bogus.

  • Ken D. on March 02, 2012 11:02 AM:

    The Wall Street wing of the conservative alliance gets tax cuts, bailouts, anti-unionism and deregulation. The culture war wing gets rhetoric and trench warfare, but very little in substantive results for their causes. (Witness the progress of gay rights.) It is weird, but it has worked surprisingly well for a couple of generations now, to the severe detriment of our beloved USA.

  • Mudge on March 02, 2012 11:02 AM:

    It is always cathartic to call B.S.on Republicans, but they never learn. Not nowadays anyway. Steve always felt better doing it, and the audience here always gave a resounding oyez, but it never pierced the hides of any wingnuts. They are fact immune.

    You have a self-righteous base who will vote against their economic, and usually social, interests every time. They hate blacks or Muslims or liberals or the government and their party never fails to channel that hate. They eat it up when Obama is called a Socialist, although there seems to not be a socialist bone in his body, if one uses facts as the basis to assign a label, rather than just rhetoric. Even that Federal judge in Montana hates Obama, probably enough to vote for Lucifer if he ran against Obama, Santorum notwithstanding.

  • Al B Tross on March 02, 2012 11:04 AM:

    Ding Ding Ding !! We have a winner!!

    Spot on observation!!

    The Authoritarian Right have always talked about money and economics, but when we point out reality and their own statistics turn against them, they reveal their true Authoritarian nature, their desire to control ALL aspects of our lives, our peaceful assembly, our speech, our sex, our bodies and minds.

    Now if any in the MSM will dare to voice the same observation, that would be news!!

  • TR on March 02, 2012 11:27 AM:

    blowhards like Rush Limbaugh who palpably want to return to the patriarchal mores of the 1950s.

    I'm not sure Rush wants to return to the 1950s. I mean, did they even have sex tourism in the Dominican Republic back then? No? Then he doesn't want it.

  • DAY on March 02, 2012 11:28 AM:

    Garnering votes is easy, governing is hard.
    Human nature suggests that most politicians will take the easy road to the money.

  • treetop on March 02, 2012 12:15 PM:

    "Made this bed," "mobilize," and "gone around the bend" all in one sentence? When mixed, you shouldn't use so many metaphors!

  • schtick on March 02, 2012 12:27 PM:

    I find it rather amusing that women have finally gotten pissed enough to bring this crap to everyone's attention. I doubt it would be mentioned otherwise. I guess we should thank the Komen Foundation for getting the ball rolling.
    Rush's problem is that he was of the notion that women aren't supposed to even like sex, nevermind take anything to prevent a pregnancy. I also think he missed his calling because he flunked the priesthood test and he's been upset ever since.

  • g on March 02, 2012 2:13 PM:

    The simple truth is that the GOP’s conservative “base” cares passionately about “cultural issues,” is constantly rewarding candidates who exploit them,

    I'm frequently struck by the triviality and - for want of a better phrase - non-jurisdictional inappropriateness of the right wing base's concerns.

    While this is only an anecdote - I was listening to progressive talk radio while driving the other day. A conservative had called in and had waited patiently on hold for quite a long time. When finally allowed to speak, the caller's big concern was why doesn't the President do something about all these young kinds skipping school? (He must be a bad President, because the school-skipping kids were all black, and he's obviously LETTING them skip school to favor them over white kids).

    Not only did the caller think that preventing school truancy was the President's job, he paitently waited on hold for 30 minutes to make that point.

    I was boggled.

  • Doug on March 02, 2012 10:28 PM:

    Too much of the Republican "base" has always consisted of what used to be called "fringe" voters, now better known as "right-wing whack jobs". Apparently these people got tired of the stale platitudes offered them by the Republican establishment types and decided THEY could do better themselves. So they went out and took over the Republican Party from the bottom up. Or, at least, enough of it.
    Now the GOP is discovering just why these people were kept on the "fringe"...