Saturday, July 18, 2009

Party crashers

Any political coalition large enough to elect a President has internecine conflicts. While the Democrats' differences have been starkly visible for all of the past fifty years (remember when the House wanted a veto-proof majority against Jimmy Carter?), Republicans have been better at closing ranks and presenting a unified front to the world.

Remarkably, despite their thorough beatings the last two election cycles, Congressional Republicans are still united in fealty to discredited economic ideology (low taxation of the wealthy solves all problems) and to anti-sex social conservatism. Sure, there have been prominent dissenters from the GOP party line in the Senate, but the hold of Delayism over the party is choking and almost complete even with John Boehner running it.

Outside Congress in the semi-real world, however, Republican electoral losses have turned the smug self-satisfaction of 2004 into wild unpredictable panic. Who's going to run the party? Surely not Rush Limbaugh, although the wealthy owners of the GOP believe he's still in their camp and know they can't afford to offend him.

Michael Steele is certainly not going to run the GOP. Since he lacks a national constituency, he never was. He was a seat-warmer from the beginning, a way of kicking the can down the road while the factions prepared for their confrontation.

Sarah Palin, who as a world class narcissist is a couple of standard deviations beyond even the commonly narcissistic run of politicians, thinks she should be in charge. That would be hysterical if it weren't so scary.

Palin looks like a threat to take her "gun-toting, churchgoing, working-class whites" and go to a new party, uh, vanity candidacy. I've often advocated a new conservative party to supplant the Republican Party, which I view as irredeemable, but Palin's loose coalition of Idiocrats is not the responsible center-right counterbalance I hope for. A successful Palin party would end the United States (not that I think its success would be likely).

The GOP elites that Rick Perlstein reports on in Newsweek are not the elites that matter. What matters is funding, and Bill Kristol, Charles Krauthammer, and David Brooks are recipients of funding, not nearly so much originators of it. They disagree about Palin, and that's fun to watch, but that's more about the media and general election politics than it is about internal power struggles.

What we're really seeing is the tension that was always there between the three major factions of the GOP. The policies that have really mattered to the party have benefited the wealthies. The bullies and the fundies have had to do with table scraps, and they've noticed again that they don't get the respect they believe they deserve. As always, Grover Norquist's anti-tax management faction has to find a way to pacify the Republican rank and file, who are full of people who don't benefit from Republican economic policies.

Conservative so-called intellectuals don't actually matter in this fight. They are tools to shoehorn propaganda into the media. Perlstein gives them outsize importance.

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