Republicans and The Crazy

Last year, I wrote a series on “Politics 101,” in which I talked about what various of the “frustrati” needed to do to become a base of the Democratic Party.  Not just claim they were, but to actually become one.  In one of the earlier posts, I had lesson #5:  You have to do it yourself.

You want the party to listen to your concerns?  Then get involved with your local party.   Don’t expect someone else to do it for you.

I’d like to say I came up with that just because I’m smart, but the reality is that it’s exactly what happened in the Republican Party.

I’ve written any number of posts about the Republicans, including more recent ones decrying the open racism that they’re evincing.    Scott Erb has an excellent post on the Republican “crazies.”

For the Republicans, this is mess they brought on themselves.   Since Reagan was elected in 1980 the formula has been the same: give voice to some of the radical fundamentalist positions to get support, and then ignore them when governing.   Reagan could wax poetic on his pro-life stance, but never made it a priority in his Administration.   Karl Rove wooed the religious right to support George W. Bush because they provided high voter turnout, enthusiasm and money.   Yet their influenced declined after the election.

But in 2010 the crazies started to take over the asylum.   The GOP calculus went awry

I agree with part of this, but it wasn’t in 2010 that the crazies started to take over the asylum.  It started over 30 years ago, and for the past several years, the crazies have been running the asylum.  As I said in my earlier posts on politics,

  It’s pretty simple.  They got involved.  They recruited candidates, provided warm bodies for campaign staffs, voter contacts, door-to-door work, money, and made sure they got their people into the voting booth.  They did it over and over again,

At the time I was giving a lesson to various “frustrati,” but that’s exactly what “the crazies” did to the Republican Party.   While some harbor hopes that the more moderate voices – the “sane Republicans” – will speak up, or that Mitt Romney will somehow develop a spine and return the party to realism, the problem with those hopes is that they rely on the idea that the sane actually control the party.  They don’t.

In order to understand why I say that,  you have to understand how political parties – and in particular national parties – are structured.  They’re not really “top down” organizations, they’re “bottom up.”  That is, local party organizations (town, city, county) elect delegates to the state party, which then selects delegates to the national party.   Local parties select candidates for local offices, along with “vetting” or “approving” candidates for other offices.  The delegates they elect to the state party create the platform for the party in that state, determining its direction.  The state parties in their turn create the national platform.

What we’ve had for the past 30+ years is a concerted effort by various far-right groups to move into the party structure at the local level, onto the state level, and now the national.  They’ve been quite successful at it, too.  What 2010 saw was the final step in that process.  Yes, it was aided by massive amounts of money from various backers like the Koch brothers, but the candidates and control of the party were already mostly in place before that.   The actual result of 2010 was to enable them to purge the remaining “moderates” from their positions.

The other aspect of why there are so many “crazies” in office, or running as party candidates on the Republican side is who is voting in primaries.   Primaries are “base elections,” where “the average voter,” or even “the average party member” isn’t going to show up.  It’s where the activist factions show up, and make their impact.   While most of us know at least one (or more) sane Republican personally, that doesn’t mean that that person one of the ones voting in primaries.    So you have cases where someone like Bob Bennett suddenly getting shown the door.  Not because he wasn’t conservative, but because “the crazies” showed up in force to oust him as “not conservative enough,”   while the “sane” ones didn’t.   In the general election, they depend on suppressed turnout of Democrats and independents, along with the sane Republicans voting the party line, because they’re loyal to the party.  It worked for them in 2010.

Which is why I don’t expect the Republican Party to change this election cycle, or have any hope of Mitt Romney suddenly veering back to the “moderate Republican” he was as governor.  He can’t.  The party he leads has been taken over by its far Right component, and the “money people” who thought they controlled it are now riding a tiger.   He has to play to that, or he stands little chance of winning.

What will it take for the Republican Party to change?  Losing.  Lots and lots of losing.  They’re already on a path towards that, because they went for the short term gain of embracing the most radical – and racist – parts of their party.  In the process, they’ve alienated not just African Americans, but also Hispanics, women, and independents.   In the long term that choice will come back to bite them – and it might bite them this year.

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14 Comments

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14 responses to “Republicans and The Crazy

  1. I was once a registered Republican (and after that a registered Democrat) and since about the election of Clinton an independent. Becoming something other than a Republican Party member was a good move as I have watched both parties over the last – almost – 20 years. I saw things I didn’t like back then in that party and my opinion hasn’t changed.

    Extremism is where it is stuck – held by those crazies as you call them. Will it get better? I don’t honestly know, but there is little they )or the Dems either – though they would stand a better chance than the Republicans atm) could do to entice me to give being an independent. Maybe if more people were independents the parties would not have such a lock on the national political system?

    • The Democrats haven’t fallen prey to their crazies so to speak was because it’s still a “big tent” for the most part, and the more extreme aspects tend to have a marked disdain for the nuts-and-bolts of politics.

  2. Chris Andersen

    The only time I’ve seen this happen with the Democrats when in 2005, after Bush won re-election, Howard Dean took over the chairmanship of the DNC by effectively getting Deaner delegates to push his nomination through (this, despite the fact that the parties big names almost all opposed him being named chairman).

    • Vic78

      Why didn’t the dems keep the substance of Dean’s program? His program was really what the party needed to put the GOP on the defensive. Texas should be purple right now. There shouldn’t be a blue state with a republican governor.

      I’m confident that the dems will keep the Senate. I’ll be looking at them funny if they don’t fix that filibuster rule. I’m sorry I’m just a little frustrated with the dems.

    • Dean was, I think, a necessary chairman. While the “big names” didn’t want him, the problem was they didn’t really have anything to offer beyond “hunker down and do what we’ve always done.” Losing both houses of Congress and two straight Presidential elections meant that serious changes were needed. The “50 state strategy” was a big reason for the Democratic comeback. One might note that many of the “Blue Dogs” which so irritate the far left were recruited to run during Dean’s tenure.

  3. Vic78

    I’m hoping the frustrati find a new calling. Politics isn’t for them. There’s no telling what kind of lunacy they’ll produce. I’m hoping that more ‘others’ will get involved politically and not be discouraged by the stupid.

    The GOP are stupid for cultivating their base for as long as they have. They had to know that the crazies were eventually going to have real power. If the GOP is serious it’ll take 12 years from now to recover. Had they acted decently toward the president, it would’ve been these 2 Obama terms.

    • The problem is that the “money people” – the ones who fund most of this – really only care about getting what they want, which means more money (no taxes) and the ability to do what they feel like. They’re “portable” in many ways, so things like this country banning all abortions doesn’t effect them. They just hop a plane to a country where it’s legal. While they may personally be rather aghast at the crazies, it doesn’t have any effect on their personal lives.

  4. I think that if Mitt Romney showed some spine – aggressively distanced himself from the extremists and actually stood for something on principle, he’d be a stronger candidate. As it is, he’s worried about losing his base so he says nothing of substance — have you ever seen a convention with so LITTLE about what they would do if they won? It’s the ‘wimp’ factor, Romney wants to run a company, he doesn’t want to lead a country.

    • What’s astonished me so far is that he refuses to say anything substantive – let alone detailed – about what he would do in office. For someone who constantly complains about wanting the election to be about “issues,” it first helps if he had actual stands on issues to begin with. Saying “I don’t want to get into specifics” is more along the lines of “trust me, I’ll do something.” 🙄

  5. I honestly wonder if any state or national level candidate ever does want to get into specifics? It seems there is often a lack of specifics and I can ventures guesses as to why: 1) Don’t have specifics yet, just a concept; 2) Don’t wish to give away the details to have them fought against before gaining office; 3) Just don’t have specifics, period.

    I consider Romney’s sound bite “proposals” to be hot air. I honestly don’t believe he has any specifics.

    • There are “specifics” in terms of “I want to do precisely this in this time frame,” which most candidates don’t want to get into, and “specifics” in “I think we could address these problems by using these types of solutions” which most candidates do get into. Romney on the other hand, seems to be remarkable vague about all of them, including concepts. About the only concept he seems to be firm on is “I’ll say what you want me to say.”

    • As a followup, his speech was remarkably … vague … on anything beyond general “I’ll create jobs, make us energy independent, etc.” No plans for how he wants to accomplish that, not even generalities. As you said, “sound bites.” What’s funny about it is that I can look back at 2008, and see that both candidates were much more detailed on what they wanted to do if elected. With Romney, we’re being asked to take it on faith. Which, given his inability to say anything that passes a fact-check, doesn’t inspire a whole lot of faith on my part.

      • Has Obama’s message been any more specific? I’m not comfortable with the “It will all start to get better if we continue to do what we’ve been doing for 4 more years”
        We’ll I’m not willing to give hos policies more time to eventually fix the economy

        • Yes, as a matter of fact, it has. Just because you can’t be bothered to read through all the actual detailed policies – as well as the success of the ones he has implemented, doesn’t mean they don’t exist, and that things aren’t better than they were 4 years ago, despite relentless Republican obstruction.

          Then again, you probably believe in Romney’s magic prescription of giving the wealthy 5 trillion dollars in tax cuts, increasing the defense budget drastically, not cutting medicare (except to do away with it) and somehow managing to not increase the deficit and balance the budget.