Tuesday, May 12, 2009

The GOP is clearly thriving

Call it schadenfreude if you like, but I really enjoy watching those on the far right as they flail around trying to convince everyone that the Republican party isn't dying. It's an even mix of delusion and desperation, which unfailingly serves to convince all watchers that yep, the Republican party sure is dying.

Today we have a fine example of that, in a Star Parker-penned editorial entitled No need for a GOP eulogy.

Poor Ms. Parker doesn't like the way people are saying the GOP is dead!
The columns are all over the place, and all the analyses seem to be the same.

The Republican Party is supposedly deader than a doornail. Except in a handful of states in mid-America and in the South, Americans, according to these columnists, see Republicans as irrelevant, out-of-touch, mean-spirited dinosaurs.
Well, that's probably because Republicans are irrelevant, out-of-touch, and mean-spirited. I wouldn't call them dinosaurs, though. Dinosaurs are pretty cool, and as far as I can tell the coolest Republican in the world is Kelsey Grammar. That's definitely a sub-dinosaur level of coolness.
But, may I remind folks, that we just had a presidential election in which 130 million voters cast ballots and the difference between the winner and the loser was 9 million votes. Not exactly what I would call an insurmountable divide.
Personally, I would call the difference between Obama's 69,498,215 votes and McCain's 59,948,240 votes 9.5 million. But maybe that's splitting hairs.

Of course, when you consider that even 9 million votes is about 15% of the total votes for McCain, that seems a little more sizable than the way Ms. Parker frames it. Math is fun!
Nor should we forget that there was that window following the Republican convention when the McCain-Palin ticket was leading.
Yeah, for like two days after the Republican National Convention McCain was actually ahead!

If only people had voted back then, when half the country thought Sarah Palin was just some MILF-y governor and not the repugnant idiot they later recognized her to be, then the Republican ticket would have (possibly, and just barely) won. Informed electorates are bad news for the GOP, I guess.

Having exhausted the "Republicans are strong because we lost the election" line of reasoning, Parker turns to a recent poll to further strengthen undercut her argument.
A new Wall Street Journal/NBC poll shows 42 percent self-identifying as Democrats compared to 31 percent as Republicans. But the same poll shows 35 percent identifying as conservatives compared to 24 percent as liberals.
Umm, so? That conservative/liberal split doesn't really mean good news for the GOP. Unless she's just pleased that conservatives have done a fine job of convincing people that the word "liberal" is a pejorative.

Here's the source data (evil PDF link) for the poll. As you can see, Parker has her numbers right. But the implied interpretation that the GOP is doing okay because more people self-identify as conservatives than as liberals is just nutty.

It's not really surprising that more people self-identify as conservatives than as Republicans, since there are presumably at least a few conservative Independents and Democrats. But if we assume that the vast majority of Republicans identify themselves as either somewhat or very conservative (which I think is a fair assumption), then that means that very few Democrats or Independents think of themselves as conservative at all.

What's more, the 35% of the country that self-identifies as "moderate" therefore must lean heavily towards either the Democrats or "strictly independent." Mostly the former, since only 19% of respondents identified as strictly independent.

Was this supposed to be evidence that the GOP isn't a party of far-right kooks who are driving away moderates (and everyone else)? Because if anything it just suggests that yeah, the GOP is totally driving away moderates.

Of course, Parker may be happy about this. Segue to ranting about Arlen Specter...
According to Dick Polman of the Philadelphia Inquirer, Arlen Specter's switch to the Democratic Party shows what's wrong with Republicans -- they can't tolerate moderates -- and not what is wrong with Specter.

But there is little doubt that Specter changed parties because polls were showing him getting his clock cleaned in the Republican primary by conservative Pat Toomey.
Yes, he was going to get beaten by Toomey in the Republican primary. Because he's too moderate for the increasingly hard-line conservative Republican base which votes in the primaries.

Apparently Ms. Parker interprets that to mean that Specter is a weenie-head, not that moderates can't win election in the Republican party. Now, Specter is indeed a weenie-head, but he was clearly driven out by the far-right Republican base.

Of course his switch was all about self-interest. He's said as much. But the only reason it's in his self-interest to switch is because the Republican base wouldn't vote for a moderate. If they would, he would have no reason to leave.

At this point the editorial sinks into a boring mire of whining about how Arlen Specter is a big jerk who isn't as awesome as George Washington. I'll ignore most of that tedious nonsense (because who really gives a shit?) and just skip to the end.
We should also recall Washington's guidance in his farewell address that "Of all the dispensations and habits which led to political prosperity, religion and morality are indispensable supports."

It's a message as relevant to today as when Washington wrote it in 1796, and relevant to every American of every background.
I guess atheists aren't Americans. Maybe Sweden will take me.

This is, however, a nice example of just why the GOP is dying. They just can't resist any opportunity to tell other people how to live their lives. If they can do so by quoting someone who died before the advent of indoor plumbing, so much the better!

Okay, last couple of lines.
Republican Party problems started from straying from principles, not from sticking to them.

The party's future lies in principles, not in pandering. We need George Washingtons. Not Arlen Specters.
Yep, it's another Republican saying that the way to stop moderates from leaving the GOP is to focus even harder on "principles." Which is wingnut-speak for "become even more conservative and drive out all the moderates!"

Good luck with that, guys. It's been working great so far.