Friday, August 6, 2010

The Eight-Hundred Pound Gorilla in the GOP Bedroom.

There’s no way to get around it. Despite an economy that is weak and a recovery that is limping along, Republicans’ long-term plans to seize control of Congress in 2010 and the White House in 2012 are in jeopardy, and for the very reason that their immediate fortunes soared in the first place. The Tea Party is both the best and worst thing that has happened to the Republican Party in decades. On the one hand it has energized the base of the Party like nothing has since the good old days of Ronald Reagan; on the other hand it has revealed long-standing and profoundly toxic elements within that base that are particularly distasteful to the general electorate when brought out into the light of day.

Witness the continued plummeting of Sharon Angle’s fortunes out in Nevada as a case in point. After defeating her Republican challenger Sue Lowden, Angle immediately jumped out to a 13-point lead over Democratic incumbent Harry Reid. In the weeks since, as more and more Nevadans learn of Angle’s stances, and more importantly her lack of qualifications, support for her within the base of the Party remains firm, but support among moderates and independents has all but eroded to all-time lows. As things stand now, even Rasmussen has her trailing Reid by a 45 to 43 margin.

And it isn’t just Angle. In Florida Charlie Crist, who is running as an independent, leads Republican and Tea Party favorite Marco Rubio by as many as 11 points depending on which poll you site. Only Rasmussen has Rubio ahead, and only by 2 points. The RCP average for Crist is 5 points. At the way this race is trending, Crist should win handily.

Whether it be the Senate races or the House races, the Tea Party candidates are starting to leave a nasty taste in many people’s mouths. There’s no denying the unrest within the electorate, but there’s also no denying that these candidates represent values, which when put under a microscope, are not even close to mainstream America. The GOP has put all its eggs into a basket that is starting to come apart at the seams.

Their strategy has been both predicable and consistent. From day one of the Obama Administration they have steadfastly refused to be a partner and bring workable solutions to the table, opting instead to say “No” at every opportunity; and they have irresponsibly stoked the fears and prejudices that were already deeply imbedded within the country and used them to ignite their political fortunes. Through the auspices of Fox News and virtually all of A.M. talk radio, conservative factions spread lie after lie about Obama and Congressional Democrats. Shouts of socialism, death panels, government takeovers, loss of individual freedoms, deficit spending – funny how that is never a problem when Republicans are in power – filled the ether and stirred the masses to a boiling point. Last year’s August Town Halls were a case study in how deplorable political discourse had become in this country.

But now, as they say, it is time to look at the eight-hundred pound gorilla that is in the room. The moderate Republicans are all but gone, replaced by a plethora of xenophobes, strict constitutionalists, birthers, anti-gay advocates, climate change deniers, and second amendment lunatics. They want their country back, as though someone had stolen it from them in the first place. Their base is as steadfast and as malevolent as ever. They should be. They have been waiting for a moment like this, it seems, forever. They are poised to seize control and lay waste to all Obama stands for. Like a mad dog they are frothing at the mouth at the possibilities that await them in 2011.

There’s just one fly in the ointment. While the majority of the country is uneasy and dissatisfied with the way the economy is going, they are also becoming increasingly uneasy about these Tea Party candidates. I mentioned in an earlier blog that I am not nearly as pessimistic about Democratic prospects this November. Not because I think that they have done, on the whole, a stellar job at running the country. Actually, I have been quite critical of both Obama and Congressional Democrats these past eighteen months. The progressive agenda I thought we were getting as morphed into a middle-of-the-road pragmatic hodge-podge that has disenchanted the Left and lit a spark under the Right. No the reason I remain optimistic about Democratic fortunes is that, despite what Limbaugh, Hannity, Palin and their ilk keep saying about the country being decidedly conservative, the truth remains that most Americans are far more progressive and forward thinking than conservative pundits are willing to admit. While they are understandably worried about the economy, when they get a good look at who the Republican Party is running in this year’s mid-terms, they become even more uneasy.

Not that the GOP won’t net gains with this strategy of fear mongering and race baiting. But me thinks, in the long run, among moderates and independents, it will cost them more votes than it will get them. The variable here will be Democratic turnout. If it is weak or low, Republicans could take both Houses; if it somehow gets energized, I still feel that Democrats will prevail in the end. And the Republicans will have no one else to blame but themselves.

That’s what happens when you go the way of ignorance and hatred. You gain the insipid, the ignorant, the frightened, and the racists. But while people in the middle may be desperate, I’m betting they’re not stupid enough to turn the reigns of government over to individuals who are neither capable of healing the country’s wounds, nor intellectually able to even understand what created them in the first place.

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