Thursday, September 24, 2009

Republican Identity Politics

Over at The Palmer Lyceum (which I believe is named after a new nighttime sleep aid), I read a post suggesting that Romney might have a problem in 2012 if Obamacare passes as a similar program to what Romney did in Massachussetts, and blogger Steve P asks:
...what will he do if there is no public option included in the eventual bill? What cover will he seek then?
And the answer, of course: 9/11, 9/11, 9/11.  Let's bomb Iran.

Seriously though, Romney's biggest problem is that he's Mormon and lots of evanglicals think that Mormons are scary cult members. (And honestly, you do too, so you've got something in common with them here.) And his next rhree problems are that he's not a Southerner, not a war hero, and looks like the sort of guy that most conservatives would want to spit chewing tobacco on; and that includes the women.  And yes, even though most conservatives are city folks who don't chew tobacco, they all like to imagine themselves as being the sort of people who do.

But Romney's shift on the issues isn't any bigger problem than the shift these people took with their own positions; and how they went from Small Government Conservatives to Big Government War Mongers and back again, all based upon the occupant of the Whitehouse. These people would vote Stalin-Mao if they vowed to bring some of that purge action to our coastal regions.  This isn't hypocrisy; it's self-deception.  They believe what they need to believe in order to support the people they want to support.

The Base Hated McCain

McCain didn't win the nomination because he slanted to the right.  He won because he was a war hero who wanted to double-down on Iraq.  And that's why he found himself dead in the water once Obama won his nomination, as McCain didn't have any real platform that would work in a general election.  Obama's sales pitch was a fine-tuned machine by the time he beat Hillary, while the only things McCain could talk about were Iraq, Vietnam, and Obama.  And the only change in that was after he nominated Palin, and had to keep defending that boneheaded decision.

And that's the weird thing about that election: McCain didn't move to the center after the primaries, as he hadn't been running an issue campaign.  Rather, he moved to the right in order to appease the righties who were upset that he won.  Because they never supported him.  And that needs to be remembered: For as all-powerful as the conservative base is perceived as being, they hated McCain.  It was all the other Republicans who supported him; the ones we rarely hear from.  They preferred the tough talking war hero over all the others.  The base lost that primary contest.

That's what all the big fakery with Palin was about: They knew they were going to vote for McCain in November and needed some political cover for doing so.  So they pretended that Palin was such a brilliant choice that she overcame their disdain for McCain.  But that was all fiction.  They were going to vote for McCain and Palin provided them with the excuse to do so.  And for as much as they're still in love with her, it's merely because she's telling them what they want to hear because she thinks they're her meal ticket. 

But they're not in love with her; they're in love with the person she's pretending to be.  But she doesn't understand conservativism any better than she understood the Bush Doctrine.  Palin's not a conservative; she's a shape-shifter.

Fitting the Suit

And getting back to the point, it doesn't matter what Romney says.  All that matters is who he is.  And if they accept him, it'd be because he showed that he can spit tobacco on people too.  It's not about adopting the right positions, but adopting the right attitude.  They accepted a phony like Bush because he pretended to be a Texan and a born-again (plus, they wanted to avenge the loss of the first Bush), but that was a one-time deal they lucked into. 

And I agree with Scott that things don't look good for Republicans at this point; as anyone short of the zombie Ronald Reagan is going to have a hard time being conservative enough to get the nomination, yet mainstream enough for the general.  McCain made it only because he was a wounded vet who said encouraging things about our chances in Iraq, and even he got trounced by Obama.  Unless Romney gets an arm blown off while saving his platoon in Iraq, I don't see what chance he has of getting the nomination. 

But if they got someone with the proper bio, they can be as liberal as they want to be.  That was Palin's big mistake.  The base already liked her, as she was supposedly a rugged hockey mom who ate, she was sort of hot and these guys will take whatever they can get.  So she should have posed as a rural social conservative who supports big government liberalism; which is what she actually was in Alaska, so it wouldn't have been difficult.  The krazy konservative routine was total overkill, which not only hurts her in a general election, but with the people who picked McCain, as well. 

Again, it's not about supporting the base's issues.  It's about making the party believe that you're good people.


Scott P said...

For as all-powerful as the conservative base is perceived as being, they hated McCain. It was all the other Republicans who supported him; the ones we rarely hear from.

You're right, McCain was never particularly popular with the base, but Palin made him more palatable in the general. As far as how he got through the primaries, I touched on it a bit (I think, hell even I don't read all the crap I write) by mentioning that there were enough moderates to have an effect. I think those are some of the "other Republicans" you speak of. On the GOP's current trajectory, I just don't see them having nearly as much pull in relation to the far right, conservative base in 2012 as they did in 2008

PS -- Oh yeah, and thanks for what I think the kids refer to as a "Shout Out".

Doctor Biobrain said...

Scott - He wasn't just unpopular, they HATED McCain. Limbaugh in particular would rant endlessly about how much he hated McCain, while the freaks at RedState essentially had an "Anyone but McCain" attitude. And it was all because they saw McCain as being a disloyal Republican, which in their eyes is even worse than a liberal. I'm telling you, the whole "We Love Palin" thing was a farce. They pretended that she made him palatable because they were going to vote for him anyway and needed to rationalize it. They really wanted to punish the party for forcing McCain on them, but just couldn't do it. Palin fixed that problem.

And I really don't think it was the moderates because there AREN'T many moderate Republicans left. It was because he was a war hero who ran almost exclusively during the primaries as a war hawk who had a secret plan to save Iraq. And you have to remember that McCain's only competition was Romney and Huckabee; and Romney dropped out in mid-February. McCain won largely by default. I mean, the issues were fairly standard among all three of them, as all three had toyed with moderates at one time or another, but only McCain had the good bio and the street cred. Plus, he was the best known of the three. Issues had nothing to do with it.

And one big thing to remember is that McCain DIDN'T pull to the right at any point last year. Sure, he paid it some lip service, but much of his platform is considered socialism these days; including his support of the bailout. But his real platform was his service in Vietnam and that Obama couldn't be trusted. Because conservatives don't care about issues. They only care about the people involved.