Tuesday, January 29, 2013

The killing of Independent George

Many pundits on the Left are--right now--happily talking about the demise of the Republican Party. Some are crediting Obama with this destruction and urging him to push forward, to somehow vanquish the Grand Old Party. Others are talking about how the Republicans are destroying themselves, all on their own, and need little help from Obama or the Democrats. And there are pundits on the Right saying pretty much the same thing, pundits like Mark Levin (who I actually think is worth listening to, most of the time) and Sean Hannity. Meanwhile, others on the Right are urging Republicans--or conservaitives--to pursue better strategies.

Throughout all of these discussions on the Right is a common thread: the idea that conservatives within the Republican Party (real conservatives, though it's unclear who gets to make that call) need to do a much better job of getting their ideas across to the rest of the country. James Taranto (who I also think is someone worth reading) spends an entire column on the topic, though he ultimately is far less certain about the idea of "better messaging" than are many of his cohorts:
So maybe conservatives should snap out of it. If the left emerged triumphant from the slough of despond in barely a year, there's no reason the right can't do it too. But it's no clearer now than it was then that the answer lies in better "messaging." (Incidentally, maybe if you want to message good, you shouldn't use nouns as verbs.) And talking about the need for better messaging isn't going to win any elections. To be sure, neither is writing about talking about messaging. But we promise never to run for anything.
I think much of this talk about needing to be better at delivering messages is a consequence of Rush Limbaugh relentlessly pounding out his message, that conservatives always win in the arena of ideas. He's been saying that for more than a decade and I think he has been--unlike the GOP--quite effective in pushing the proposition.

Thus, for Limbaugh and many other pundits on the Right (like those noted above), the Republican Party fails because it has too many politicians leading it, too many faux conservatives (RINOs) who aren't really prepared to deliver a conservative message because they don't really believe in one. That may be a valid point, to some degree.

Meanwhile, over at Leftwing central (meaning MSNBC, MediaMatters, et al), the exact opposite narrative is accepted as a given: the GOP is in trouble because a bunch of extremist fanatics (i.e. conservatives) are pushing out all of the more moderate voices and making any kind of bipartisan action an impossibility. And frankly, there's some validity here, as well. Consider Sharon Angle, Tea Party favorite and former opponent of Harry Reid in the 2010 Senate Elections. There's little question that her particular extremism turned what could have been a Republican gain into a Democratic hold. The same is true of Christine O'Donnell in Delaware.

Don't misunderstand me, I have no problem with either of these candidates, insofar as both won their primaries and earned the right to run as the Republican candidate for their respective State's Senate seat. But again, reality is what it is. Both were simply not good candidates for State-wide elections because both could too easily be labeled as extremists, based on what they said and did. The Republican voters who put them in the race voted their consciences, I must assume, thus I have no truck with them, either.

At the same time, there are Republicans like Marco Rubio, who very much ran on principled conservative platforms and successfully won State-wide elections. Which is pretty much consistent with Limbaugh's point and inconsistent with the narrative from the Left.

As Obama's second term rolls on, however, most of theses pundits would have us believe we're at some sort of watershed moment, wherein the GOP teeters on the brink of annihilation. Don't you believe it. It's a bunch of nonsense. Why? Simple, the GOP is a political party; it always has been, just like the Democratic Party. And as one the two principle political parties in the United States, it's just not going anywhere, anytime soon. This should be obvious simply by looking at the Governorships of the States along with the State legislatures; in both arenas, the GOP holds a decided edge.

So why all the hullabaloo about the destruction of the Republican Party? Well, it makes good filler for a lazy media. More importantly though, people like to believe they live in critical times, that they are a part of something important, that they're on the cusp of something new. Thus, the death of one Party or the other has been proclaimed by some in the media every two or four years. You can almost set your watch by the arrival of such stories, in fact.

All that said, there is a danger here: the marginalization of the independent voter and independent thinker. The non-stop ideological posturing by politicians and the habit of the media to take sides on the same--we all know which side they're likely to take--provides little opportunity for voices of dissent. And this "end of the X Party" nonsense only makes things worse. After all, I just said that Mark Levin doesn't know what he's talking about (on this issue), and there are plenty of people who would--armed with only that bit of knowledge--seek to exercise me from the GOP (if I were actually a member) or from the ranks of the "real conservatives."

Of course, at the end of the day they'd still happily take my vote for their side in the next election (which again is why the idea of the GOP being destroyed from inside or out is ultimately nonsense). But you know, I don't just want to given anyone or any party my vote. I'll vote for whomever I desire, true enough. Still, I have my own views that are not always the same as the platform of either Party (and frankly, not always exactly the same as the candidate I vote for). And there's nothing wrong with that. Or at least there shouldn't be. We're told, after all, that the independent vote decides elections. And that's true.

But in the meantime, such voters needn't be silent. I take exception to both crops of pundits selling their stories, to both narratives. Because in selling their narrative, the Left side of the media--the dominant side--only takes issue with the so-called fringe on the Right; it requires people so grouped to explain why they are not nutjobs, to disassociate themselves from lunacy even when they have never supported said lunacy. In direct contrast, the fringe on the Left is simply treated for what it is. Meanwhile, many pundits on the Right are insisting that such fringiness doesn't actually exist and anyone who does try to disassociate themselves from it is somehow not a "real conservative," is somehow abandoning all true conservative principles.

And the latter group needs to realize what they are doing, because again the GOP isn't about to collapse. But justifying such talk with ill-considered op-eds and TV soliloquies serves only to create longer power vacuums, whereby national candidates for the next election cycle are forced into waiting games, for fear of upsetting the so-called base and ruining their chances. This is exactly what happened in the previous election, exactly why the Republican field was so thin.

Ultimately, it's a kind of giving in to left-wing tropes by working so hard, so soon to counter them, to demonstrate that these tropes are the opposite of reality. But just because they're untrue, it doesn't mean the opposite IS true. In other words, just because it's not true that the tea party/real conservative crowd is destroying the GOP, it doesn't follow that the moderate/ RINO crowd is destroying the Party. This is a false dichotomy, for it's really not an either-or proposition. But try explaining that to a talking head...

Cheers, all.