04 May 2009

Republicans: Which Way Did We Go?

Mr. Right is dismayed by Senator Specter's insinuation that the Republican party has somehow become more extreme in recent years. Specter's diagnosis doesn't conform with Mr. Right's own account of GOP misfortunes since 2004. In his view, the party's failures have coincided with a move toward the center. The Republicans' problem, as far as he's concerned, is that it has become too moderate. He believes that if the party had kept to the same platform and the same message that Reagan employed in 1980 and Gingrich employed in 1994, it would still control the government today. After all, Republicans won by landslides in those years (though he concedes that Carter in 1980 and Mondale in 1984 were weak opponents). By his logic, the same message should win every time, regardless of conditions outside the ideological universe. But I have to wonder exactly how many people looked at the McCain-Palin ticket (half of which Mr. Right admires; guess which.), and then voted Obama-Biden because, "Those Republicans, they're just too moderate."

The problem with his analysis is that he presumes that non-ideologues perceive the relative ideology of Republican candidates the same way he does. This is unlikely. I suspect that people regarded even McCain as "conservative" or "too conservative" for 2008. But leaving aside the question of whether McCain is "conservative" by Mr. Right's standards, my co-worker simply can't accept that what's been happening since 2005 has been a repudiation of a certain kind of conservatism. He can only assume, I presume, that real conservatives were demoralized by McCain and by the congressional Republicans' failure to stand up to the Democratic majority after 2006, and stayed home from the 2008 voting.

But for all his disgruntlement with the party, he scoffs at the notion of splintering. He insists that third parties prove themselves at the local level before going national, as if the American Bipolarchy didn't impose the same unfair test of expertise at every level of electoral politics. But if he feels that way, I told him, then his people need to start winning Republican primaries. He answered glumly that there was a hurdle to jump before that one, which was getting "conservatives" to run in the primaries. In places like our part of the country, he shrugged, it was nearly impossible. At that point, it's hard to know what to tell the poor man. He may have to content himself with constant complaining against the government and most of the political establishment -- but that may be what makes his kind of so-called conservative happy in the end.


Anonymous said...

I think Mr. Right, like most conservatives, needs to understand that the majority of people in this country do not share his viewpoint and for good or ill, that makes him part of a shrinking minority. In a democracy (or rather a democratic-republic for those purists out there) it is the will of the MAJORITY that decides the direction of the government. If you are in a minority, even if you are the most morally superior person that exists, you will not get what you want.

Samuel Wilson said...

Ever since Nixon's time, Republicans have believed in the existence of a "silent majority" that is presumed to think like Republicans but is reluctant to express itself. Mr. Right's view, I presume, is that this silent majority is still out there, and can be enticed to assert itself only with the proper conservative enticement. Reagan and Gingrich did it, but McCain could not. I really don't know what it would take to convince him that the silent majority now exists only in the die-hard Republican imagination.

Anonymous said...

To those who believe in the "silent majority", I can only say "Silence equals consent."