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Hullabaloo


Monday, March 18, 2013

 
Even the self-damning Republican report doesn't go far enough

by David Atkins

The GOP establishment is finally out with their big self-flagellating report. The primary focus, as expected, is on minority outreach and epistemic closure:

“The Republican Party needs to stop talking to itself,” the report says. “We have become expert in how to provide ideological reinforcement to like-minded people, but devastatingly we have lost the ability to be persuasive with, or welcoming to, those who do not agree with us on every issue.”
But the party believes there is a ray of hope in its gubernatorial prowess:

“The GOP today is a tale of two parties,” the report says. “One of them, the gubernatorial wing, is growing and successful. The other, the federal wing, is increasingly marginalizing itself, and unless changes are made, it will be increasingly difficult for Republicans to win another presidential election in the near future.”
But even this greatly stretches the truth. Most of the governorships in purple and blue states were picked up during the 2010 Tea Party wave. The reasons for that wave can be endlessly litigated, but one of the biggest factors was that many Democrats stayed home believing their job to be done by electing the President, while Republicans successfully conned a huge number of seniors into believing that the Obama Administration was using the Affordable Care Act to take away their Medicare money and give it to the "undeserving." That weakened the Democrats' advantage on the issue of Medicare and healthcare in general among seniors at the time, which dealt a devastating electoral blow in an already adverse economic situation. That problem has reversed somewhat but not fully.

It was an unusual set of circumstances, but one that locked in gerrymandering that has kept the House in Republican hands, further encouraging extremism on the Right.

But there's nothing particularly special being done by Republican governors to make them more popular than the Republican Party at large--with the possible exception of Chris Christie who is despised by the GOP base.

From an electoral perspective the Republicans' problem is dire, and looking to the accident of their governorships isn't a particularly fruitful path forward.

Now, it's true that a wry observer of recent budget politics might ask whether any of this matters, since Republicans are winning on the budget despite their position of apparent weakness. That's a fair point from a certain perspective. But it's also important to realize the growing strength of the progressive caucus, the newly strident voices of progressive politicians like Elizabeth Warren, and how far we have come as a movement since 2004, to say nothing of 1994. These things do take time to coalesce; tipping points can be sudden and unforgiving to those caught on the wrong side of them.

Even more importantly, political party structures aren't just made of the special interests who fund them and the individuals who carry out their wishes. Only people who have never deigned to sully themselves with actual political organizing believe that. Parties have enormous bureaucratic weight of their own. Within parties, individuals who have spent their lives building relationships and petty kingdoms depend on the electoral success of their friends to secure patronage networks. It's those patronage networks that solidify and secure future power.

Charles and David Koch might be happy with America's current economic situation, regardless of the GOP's electoral fortunes. Wall Street may find it easy to buy off either party with reckless abandon.

But establishment Republicans will not be content to continue to lose the potency of their patronage networks by continuing to lose elections. The Party is going to attempt to rectify its situation for its own bureaucratic reasons.

But that will be difficult to do. The base won't let them moderate their positions, and the unusual nature of their gubernatorial victories is giving them false hope.


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