The anthropomorphization of the GOP

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rino-768px.pngThis post has been percolating in my brain for a couple of months, and the topic for even longer, but other business has prevented its completion until now.

As I read conservative blogs, I see a great deal of understandable frustration with different aspects of Republican Party politics: The National Republican Senatorial Committee's support (later withdrawn) for Charlie Crist over Marco Rubio. Dede Scozzafava getting the Republican nomination in NY-23 and then withdrawing in favor of a Democrat to stop a conservative from winning. Some bloggers are upset that Christine O'Donnell and Sharon Angle won Senate nominations, some are upset about the lack of general election support for Angle and O'Donnell. Bloggers are bummed by the candidates remaining in the presidential race, the candidates who dropped out, and the candidates who never got in.

The common thread in all this discontent is that at some point, someone will blame "the Republican Party" for the problem. Back in mid-February, when I started writing this post, I gathered a few examples. It was that point between the first few primaries and Santorum's early February caucus sweep and Super Tuesday, by which time the presidential field had boiled down to four candidates, each unacceptable in some way, and none of them fully reflective of the zeitgeist that produced the Republican congressional landslide of 2010.

For example, here's a tweet from Jimmie Bise, Jr.:

*We* will fix the godforsaken mess they have made of our country. The Republican Party has one option -- do what we say, or pay. Hard.

From a February 16, 2012, blog entry by Melissa Clouthier:

The Republican party has consistently chosen big money candidates....

The Republican party continues to cling to big government ways and means.

The Republican party leaders cannot articulate conservative values...

Before the Tea Party came along, the Republican Party was a hot mess. The New York, California, Nevada, Ohio, and Colorado GOP (just to five states off the top of my head) stunk. Calcified, self-protective, hierarchical, detached, and consumed by infighting, it's rich that people want to blame the Tea Party for failure when the Tea Party new blood is coming in and attempting to right the sinking ship.

Two years ago, I wrote that Mitt Romney was a weak candidate and that the GOP leadership should be looking, and intently, for better alternatives. They chose to travel the path of least resistance.

As for me, I'm not particularly attached to any of the candidates. It would be nice for a GOP complainer to make an affirmative conservative, or even Republican (read the party planks) case for Mitt Romney. I have yet to see it. But I do see a lot of pre-emptive blaming of the Tea Party.

Sorry, the GOP needs to look for another scapegoat. Looking in the mirror would be a good start.

Stacy McCain responded:

The GOP (with a break for Ronald Reagan) has been just as sold out to Progress as the Democrats for the last century. The party planks had become a joke. The GOP has gerrymandered our culture with the Democrats in exchange for creating a Ruling Class. One can nearly see where the Democrats had a point, calling the GOP hypocritical for showing affinity with the Tea Parties.

And more from Melissa a few days later:

That might have been true if the Republican party hadn't already burned every bridge with the base. They didn't just burn them though, they torched them and put conservative heads on spikes along the way. (Not sure about that? What happened to Sarah Palin couldn't have happened if the Republican hierarchy, lead by John McCain hadn't sat on their hands.)

The Republicans have been pushing back at the conservative base. They insulted them with No Child Left Behind and creating loads of agencies in a post-9/11 world and sealed the deal with government bailouts of banks, Wall Street, GM, and every sort of shifting money from taxpayers to irresponsible institutions and people.

Dan Riehl painted with a slightly narrower brush with his use of the "establishment" modifier:

After significant Tea Party-fueled gains in 2010, for all practical purposes, the establishment GOP has ignored and even tried to mitigate that force with little more than lip service as repayment for their support. Now, they want to kick out the Christian asses that sit in their phone banks and the Christian soldiers that do the grunt work for their campaigns.

It's as if two significant constituencies are begging the GOP to man up and, if you'll pardon the phrase, win one for the Gipper, while a feckless D.C. bedridden GOP sinks its head into the pillow and whimpers, we're not up to the task.

These are signs of a very sick party. We may soon find out whether, or not, it's terminal. At present, the prognosis is already not very good.

Again from February, Jen Kuznicki asked, "Am I To Understand That Value Voters Are Being Rejected By The Republican Party?"

Does the Republican Party think that without touching on the cultural decay of our country, all at the hands of liberals, they will be able to win in November? Perhaps. I have seen the friendliness of local Republicans toward liberal Democrats who have said, "I used to be a Republican, until they started in with the social issues." It is as if the Republican Party would rather have liberals in the party to replace the value voters.

It seems to me that they attack Rick Santorum for actually naming the culprits. He is being thrown overboard for the Republican Party's asinine attempt to bring liberals and neo-liberals, (Ron Paul types) into the party with seats at the table and notebooks in hand.

At about the same time, Ace fretted that the Republican Party wasn't really serious about winning and was more interested in being a protest party obsessed with ideological purity

I believe the party wants to lose.

I believe the party has decided the problems facing us are so big that they cannot be overcome.

I believe the party has decided, maybe subconsciously, maybe consciously, that we are not up to the task, and the best thing to do is just duck out and Blame the Other Guys. Let them Own Their Problems.

If that's the plan, let me know. We don't have to contend very hard at all if our goal is to lose.

Easiest thing in the world, losing. Even easier when you've gotten practice at it.

I believe the party does not think it is capable of working positive good in policy. If so, I take it as knowing itself best, and perhaps it's time for a new party.

Now, many of you are nodding your head in agreement, and I share the frustration expressed by these conservative bloggers with the current political situation. But I respectfully disagree with their assignment of blame to this entity called the Republican Party. That's not because I think that this entity called the Republican Party is blameless, but because I think it doesn't exist.

OKGOP-logo.jpgTo put it into terms a software engineer might understand, "Republican Party" is not a useful abstraction. It encompasses too wide a range of people and institutions and forces. There are party officials at the precinct, county, state, and national levels. There are the elected officials: legislators and county commissioners and mayors and congressmen and senators. There are the consultants and fundraisers and strategists. At the federal level, there's the RNC, the NRCC, and the NRSC, and there are parallel organizations in every state.

There are the big-dollar donors, and there are the phone callers, door-knockers, and envelope stuffers. There are the party auxiliary groups -- National Federation of Republican Women, Republican men's clubs, National Federation of Republican Assemblies, Young Republicans, College Republicans. There are those focused on getting the language in the county platform just so, and those who manage the logistics for the county convention. And then there are the millions of voters who register as Republicans or who take the Republican ballot or who vote Republican in the general election but otherwise have no connection to party matters or political campaigns.

All these individuals and groups have their own motivations and interests often in conflict with one another. All of them can be said to be "the Republican Party" in the sense that my blogpals use the term, but none of them can be said to be "the Republican Party" to the exclusion of the other groups.

To anthropomorphize the GOP, to treat it as a person with volition, emotion, and intellect, is to fail to think things all the way through. It's a sign of not digging deeply enough to find the real actors and the motives that drive the problems we all observe. A political party in America is a playing field over which interests compete. It's an empty vessel waiting to be filled.

I write as someone who has been involved in the nuts and bolts of Republican Party politics as an active participant or an observer since I was 12. I've been a precinct chairman, a state committeeman, a delegate to county, congressional district, state, and national conventions, a member of the county and state party executive committees. I've been picked by the state executive committee to be on the official at-large delegate slate, and I've been on the executive committee interviewing and voting on those at-large delegates. I've chaired platform and rules committees at the county and state levels and sat in as an observer at the last two Republican National Convention rules committee hearings. I've been the Republican nominee for a city council seat. I've provided technical support to more campaigns than I can count. I was around for the last big wave of newcomers in the late 1980s; those newcomers are the folks in charge of the party nowadays.

On the other hand, I'm not on good terms with Tulsa's current Republican mayor, I backed the second-place candidate for governor, and I often find myself at odds with big Republican donors when it comes to local issues. I worry that our massive majorities in the State Legislature will be taken captive by crony capitalism, the same hubris that led to our 2006 downfall in Washington. I can hardly be said to be part of the Republican establishment.

I am a Republican for one reason: It is where American conservatives make their political home. Conservatives of any sort -- social, fiscal, defense and foreign policy -- are no longer welcome at all in the Democrat Party.

I'll be going to BlogConCLT this coming weekend in Charlotte, N. C., and I'm looking forward to the opportunity, outside the official sessions, to visit with my fellow conservative bloggers -- both party insiders and outside observers -- about the forces behind the problems identified above and what practical steps can be taken to give conservative principles the best chance of prevailing at the ballot box and on Capitol Hill.

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3 Comments

Roy said:

Your tags, Mike, (establishment, Repub Party, RINOs) say it all. Well, almost.

Actually you've been thinking about this for a lot longer than just a few months. At least since a few years ago when you persuaded me (that election, at least) not to avoid voting just because the choices were not just abysmal, but evil.

OK, to condense your post to an aphorism of one of your heroes, namely Pogo. Your argument reduces to "We have met the enemy, and he is us."

Looking forward to the Revolution. Well, no. This year's primary process mocks the Tea Party, holding its principles up to open ridicule. Actually I'm looking forward to (and praying for) Revival.

Yet, in the meantime, LGO (life goes on). Can't abandon responsibility. Sort of a condensation here (to the quintessence this time) of the debate about Christian involvement in politics.

Graychin said:

Everyone who votes Republican (whether that party exists or not) seems to share a longing for a "true conservative" to lead them out of the wilderness. But every candidate seems to fall short. Worse, there is no consensus on what it even means to be a "true conservative." Usually it seems to mean someone who agrees with ME on everything.

Rick Perry would show some compassion for non-citizens who lived in America illegally for most of their lives? Away with him! Not "conservative" enough!

Ironically, not even the sainted Ronald Reagan measures up as a "true conservative" any more. Look at his record!

So - no "big tent" for the Republican Party (such as it is)? Team Obama will be pleased. I guarantee it.

Roy said:

I appreciate Graychin's comments when I come across them. He writes with acumen, and he did so above. That comment reduces to,"Compromise or die".

I can follow the reasoning. I wonder, tho, if the converse is not equally reasonable: "Time for the other guy to compromise". In fact, seems that when principled people run, they tend to win more often than they get defeated.

About this Entry

This page contains a single entry by Michael Bates published on April 17, 2012 12:02 AM.

BOHICA: Chamber & County start agitating for another tax hike, regional unification was the previous entry in this blog.

Live from BlogConCLT is the next entry in this blog.

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