GOP Base to S.P.: “Don’t Worry, We Still Heart U!!! ;-)”

November 8, 2008

A new Rasmussen poll shows that whatever negative effect Palin had on independents and undecideds as they went to the polls, the tractor beam she has on the GOP base has lost none of its power, with her approval ratings still above those of the guy who plucked her from obscurity.  And no, I’m not talking about Steve Schmidt:

Seventy-one percent (71%) said McCain made the right choice by picking Palin as his running mate, while only 65% said the party picked the right nominee for president.

Sixty-nine percent (69%) of Republican voters say Alaska Governor Sarah Palin helped John McCain’s bid for the presidency, even as news reports surface that some McCain staffers think she was a liability.

Only 20% of GOP voters say Palin hurt the party’s ticket, according to a new Rasmussen Reports national telephone survey. Six percent (6%) say she had no impact, and five percent (5%) are undecided.

Ninety-one percent (91%) of Republicans have a favorable view of Palin, including 65% who say their view is Very Favorable. Only eight percent (8%) have an unfavorable view of her, including three percent (3%) Very Unfavorable.

When asked to choose among some of the GOP’s top names for their choice for the party’s 2012 presidential nominee, 64% say Palin. The next closest contenders are two former governors and unsuccessful challengers for the presidential nomination this year — Mike Huckabee of Arkansas with 12% support and Mitt Romney of Massachusetts with 11%.

It’s interesting that Newt Gingrich is nowhere in the mix.  Apparently, the GOP intends to look to a personality rather than new ideas–or any ideas for that matter–to lead them out of the woods.  There’s at least one problem with that formulation, though:  the rest of the country isn’t buying what the Shillah from Wasilla has on sale:

The key for the 44-year-old Palin will be whether she can broaden her base of support. An Election Day survey found that 81% of Democrats and, more importantly, 57% of unaffiliated voters had an unfavorable view of her.

We had a spirited debate at dinner last night about whether the GOP would, Buckley-style, be able to muster the requisite introspection needed to refashion themselves as the party of the middle class.  Alternatively, as Paul Krugman harrumphed last week,

…the Republican rump, the party that’s left after the election, will be the party that attends Sarah Palin’s rallies, where crowds chant “Vote McCain, not Hussein!” It will be the party of Saxby Chambliss, the senator from Georgia, who, observing large-scale early voting by African-Americans, warns his supporters that “the other folks are voting.” It will be the party that harbors menacing fantasies about Barack Obama’s Marxist — or was that Islamic? — roots.

Why will the G.O.P. become more, not less, extreme? For one thing, projections suggest that this election will drive many of the remaining Republican moderates out of Congress, while leaving the hard right in place.

Also, the Republican base already seems to be gearing up to regard defeat not as a verdict on conservative policies, but as the result of an evil conspiracy. A recent Democracy Corps poll found that Republicans, by a margin of more than two to one, believe that Mr. McCain is losing “because the mainstream media is biased” rather than “because Americans are tired of George Bush.”

A number of commentators from all over the idealogical spectrum have pointed out that Obama’s 6-point margin was only large relative to the most recent history, and nothing like the drubbing of Goldwater in 1964 and Carter in 1980 which caused both parties to fundamentally re-assess who they were.   George Will argues that

Although John McCain‘s loss was not as numerically stunning as the 1964 defeat of Barry Goldwater, who won 16 fewer states and 122 fewer electoral votes than McCain seems to have won as of this writing, Tuesday’s trouncing was more dispiriting for conservatives. Goldwater’s loss was constructive; it invigorated his party by reorienting it ideologically. McCain’s loss was sterile, containing no seeds of intellectual rebirth.

Adding to the likelihood that the Krugman and Will are right is the odd fact, reported first in the New Yorker, that “thinkers” on the right such as William Kristol and Fred Barnes were among Palin’s biggest advocates before her nomination, and likely remain key guys in her corner. 

The Republican Party finds itself in the midst of what one might call a secular bear market, and the end of a bear market requires capitulation.   As long as two thirds of Republicans (and 100% of Bill Kristol and Fred Barnes) still think that the cure for the party’s ills is Sarah Palin, the GOP’s bear will continue to growl.

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Smells Like Anything But Teen Spirit

September 26, 2008

I was nursing a bum knee on the couch through most of the day.  Through most of the day and, I might add, through a charmingly light, pain-pill-induced mist  (boy, can I see why the rich and intermittently employed hoard these babies).  As a result, I was witness to the full day of all-out BAILOUT coverage from (seemingly) every media outlet imaginable.  Appearing before me was an endless assortment of bloggers, talking heads, elected officials, and surrogates for both Presidential candidates (apparently, the McCain surrogates didn’t get his “suspension” memo).

The image that sticks is one of a continuous parade comprised of a single marching band precisely big enough to circle a city block, with no blank spots.  They just go round and round.  Every few minutes, you see the same people again.  And they are playing, over and over, the same song.  It’s hard to play a song with almost all percussion instruments and the occasional horn–the subtlty of woodwinds being absurdly out of the question.   But it *is* a song, nonetheless, and we’ve heard it before.  Why, it’s by Kurt Cobain, late of Nirvana  and unfortunately for us all, late of the planet.  No wonder I had momentary suicidal impulses all day–thought it was the pills.   Emphasis mine to show how I’d roll with it on a Karaoke stage:

I’m a liar, AND I’M FAMOUS

Here we are now, ENTERTAIN us

I feel stupid, AND CONTAGIOUS

Here we are now, ENTERTAIN US……

In a nod to multi-culturalism, Cobain goes on to discuss a libido, an albino, a mulatto, and a mosquito.  While I’m sure all of these and more were on display on Fox today, that may have been the mist talking, and none of them is critical to my point.

Which is, mainly this.  Our economy may or may not be in a phase of barely pre-Chernobyl meltdown.  But if it is, our Congressional leaders are playing out “The Pepsi Syndrome” skit from Saturday Night LIve in the 70s.  All they really want to know is who committed the fateful spill of pepsi on the control panel key board, setting of an unexpected and disastrous chain of events.  While they argue, the reactor melts down.

Whether or not our economy is imploding, our political system certainly is.  We face undoubtedly the worst crisis that most of us has lived through.  And yet, a substantial majority of Americans believes that the whole ruckus pertains to protecting some rich guys on Wall Street. 

Why?  Because our voters are woefully uninformed and underserved by our echo-chamber, sound-bite media.  Because nobody in this devilishly complex situation is demonstrating the leadership skills–or balls– to explain the crisis to us in a way that is direct, meaningful to our families, and devoid of politics.  (President Bush got astonishingly close last night, far better than Paulson or any of the candidates has done).    And perhaps most importantly, we are at this us/them impasse  because the American people are so fed up with their leadership at all federal levels that their default reaction to *any* grand proposal is that they’re about to get rolled again.  Assume defensive crouch.

One of two things will break this vicious cycle of hapless hopelessness.  The economy really may melt down.  There’s nothing to bring people together like having 70% of the population standing in soup lines, as was the case in 1930.  Maybe that’s too extreme an analog, Senator Shelby, but go ahead and play chicken.  If you understand the economy that well, sell me a deep-in-the-money call on your stock portfolio.  I’ve been worried for a while now, so I have a little extra lquidity.  Channeling  HAL from 2001, A Space Odyssey:  “would you like to play a game, Senator?”

Or, a once-in-a lifetime leader steps up and becomes the nation’s teacher-, preacher-, handholder-, and scolder-in-chief.  George Bush Sr. said in 1992 that “the American way of life is non-negotiable.”  Barack Obmama is my guy, and I hope that he’s the one to say, “sorry folks, the era of American entitlement and exceptionalism is over.  It actually ended in 2001; we just couldn’t accept it.”  I truly hope he’s the one, and something like this might be a good start.  Because if he’s not, I’m nearly damned good and ready to follow the guy or gal who is.  Tom Friedman put it perfectly over the weekend:

But what could (McCain and Obama) say that would give you confidence that they could lead us out of this rut?   My test is simple: Which guy can tell people what they don’t want to hear — especially his own base….

Those are the kind of words that would get my attention. The last president who challenged his base was Bill Clinton, when he reformed welfare and created a budget surplus with a fair and equitable tax program. George W. Bush never once — not one time — challenged Americans to do anything hard, let alone great. The next president is not going to have that luxury. He will have to ask everyone to do something hard — and I want to know now who is up to that task.

The key word in that last sentence, by the way, is the one in italics.