Distrust Poisons GOP Campaign

A lot of people have noted that the GOP candidates are all, like, boooring when they’re not being boor-ish. In Salon, Michael Scherer had a hard time sticking to the last Republican debate (even though cat-fights finally broke out between the major contenders) because the AL Championship was on Fox’s other channel.

Fox News anchor Brit Hume, his American flag lapel pin in place, opens the latest Republican debate by boasting that it will be “seen and heard” on Fox News Channel, Fox News Radio and FoxNews.com. He does not mention that almost no one will be watching or listening, especially in New Hampshire, because right now the Fox Network is broadcasting Game 7 of the American League Championship Series between the Boston Red Sox and Cleveland Indians. Fox has effectively stolen its own audience from itself.

Even stalwart Republicans aren’t exactly jumping up and down. Dr Steven Taylor (don’t ask me what he’s a “Doctor” of) over at the right-wing PoliBlog is yawning.

WaPo notes that Evangelicals Lukewarm Toward GOP Field, to which I say: why should evangelicals be any different than the rest of Republicans? Aside from the Ron Paul supporters who are so enthusiastic that they actually believe he is being under?polled by somewhere between 20 to 40 percentage points in some bizarre polling conspiracy, I would argue that there isn?t a candidate in the GOP field that really has generated broad (or even narrow) excitement.

Really, why else did Fred Thompson generate so much initial excitement for really no good reason except that he had a deep voice and had been on the teevee?

Seems silly in retrospect, doesn’t it?

The general consensus seems to be that the lack of excitement (even Bob Dole had more going for him than these guys) is a function of the similarity of their views and their desperately funny attempts to outdo one another proving who is toughest and dumbest on “national security”. From Tom Tancredo’s Canadian fence to Mitt Romney’s proposed doubling of the size of Gitmo, the GOP field as a whole seems to be engaged primarily in a doomed exercise wherein they push every single one of W’s disastrous policies to its ludicrous extreme while simultaneously trying to distance themselves from those same policies. This makes for compelling comedy when you don’t have anything better to do, but by the 6th or 7th time around it gets to be like hearing the same joke 6 or 7 times in one day – no matter how funny it is, the impact is significantly diminished when you know the punchline by heart.

Other reasons/excuses are offered, of course, from the unstartlingly prosaic lack of charisma to the assumption that it doesn’t matter who the Pub candidate is because he’s going to lose anyway. But I have a slightly different perspective. I think it’s possible that there is another explanation that may take us further along the road to understanding why the Pub base is so profoundly disinterested in its own candidates despite what they keep insisting is the world-shaking importance of this election – distrust in what the candidates say.

Virtually every important segment of GOP voters have been profoundly disappointed by the Bush Administration. Rove used code during both of W’s campaigns to promise them all, from anti-abortionists to theocrats to anti-taxers to social conservatives, that Georgie was the guy who was going to make it happen for them. Roe v Wade was going to be overturned, the US was going to become a Xtian state where Bible law would replace secular law, the budget would be balanced and any surplus returned, Intelligent Design would replace science in our schools’ curricula, and the gay community would once more be shunted out of sight into closets where no one would have to, you know, see them.

None of this happened despite all his promises except the tax give-away, and that went to the richest of the rich with very little trickling down to the mass of the Republican base. Roe wasn’t overturned, Bush presided over the biggest deficits in history, the govt was sold to commercial interests rather than religious ones, and those pesky gays are still out there in the open demanding the same rights as everyone else. Immigration is still a problem that no perceivable progress has been made on, the Iraq occupation is a murderous debacle, the administration and its 6-yrs of a Republican Congress have been exposed as the most corrupt since Grant, and all of this – the result of a largely unrestricted conservative agenda – has just about killed movement conservatism as a force in American politics for the foreseeable future.

It isn’t just disappointment that’s palpable from the Pub base. There’s a sense of betrayal roiling just beneath the surface, a feeling that these candidates represent the same constituency and the same point of view that just did them in. Every one of these guys is, not to put too fine a point on it, lying to them to get their vote. Not one of them is a TB, and anyway, what difference would it make if they were? They voted a supposed TB into office twice – sort of; at least they made it close enough for the elections to be convincingly stolen – and their pet TB betrayed them anyway. They got almost nothing they wanted and nothing at all of what they were promised.

The years of constant lying from Bush and his administration lackeys may have destroyed American credibility overseas but it has had a similar effect on his own party. The GOP has lost credibility with its own base. They were led to expect so much and received so little that there’s no longer a belief in anything the slate says. They’re half expecting that, even if one of them is, against all odds, elected, he won’t deliver any more than The Great God Bush did.

Lying has certain short-term advantages but in the long run it hurts the liar as much as it hurts those he lied to. I think it’s distinctly possible that we’re seeing the fruits of the Bush lies in the lukewarm reception of the GOP candidates by a wary, distrustful base who applaud the lines but don’t believe the people who say them.

4 Responses to “Distrust Poisons GOP Campaign”

  1. matttbastard says:

    Dr Steven Taylor (don’t ask me what he’s a “Doctor” of)

    Dr. Taylor’s CV.

    I take issue with labeling Taylor a “stalwart Republican” and “Right-wing”; both are highly inaccurate designations, as anyone familiar with Taylor and his writing can attest to. “Centre-right” would be more apt, emphasis on ‘centre’. The fact that Taylor is unimpressed by the available field of GOP POTUS candidates won’t surprise anyone who’s ever read his blog regularly (or his posts @ Outside The Beltway, where he’s left of Joyner on most–if not all–issues).

    Save the scorn and snark for those who actually deserve it.

  2. matttbastard says:

    Taylor says it better himself.

    (Now, if you had been talking about PoliPundit and his reflexively Bush-licking clan of unrepentant, reality-averse 2625%ers…)

  3. mick says:

    “Stalwart” is hardly an insult. I read a couple of other random posts and accepted Salon’s descritption because it seemed to fit what I read. If you say he’s center-right, fine. I still don’t see how that makes my characterization inaccurate. Would you prefer “center-right-wing”? It’s just labeling for reference, unless of course “right-wing” carries a heavier, nastier connotation for you than simple placement on a spectrum of belief. For the record, I don’t consider the terms “liberal”, “conservative”, “left-wing” or “right-wing” to be automatic pejoratives. They’re descriptive. If I had said “wingnut” or “moonbat”, you’d have a case, but I didn’t. He seemed Republican and right-wing to me – at least what I read seemed that way – but he certainly didn’t sound like a whacko and I didn’t characterize him as such.

    But for the “Dr” you get nothing. At least he has a poli-sci doctorate, which is at least relevant as opposed to a doctorate in scientology or dentistry, but using it on a blog is tantamount to artistocratic condescension. I know that trick and I don’t like it. It’s appropriate on a medical or science or educational blog, perhaps, but not on a political one. There it’s just bragging. I don’t give a damn what his degree is in. His opinions don’t carry any more weight than yours or mine but putting the “Dr” up front is a clear suggestion that I’m supposed to think they do.

    Juan Cole has a doctorate but doesn’t fell the need to throw it in my face, and his opinions carry a lot more weight than Mr Taylor’s. I spent a lot of time in academia and this is the professorial equivalent of the CEO who makes sure he has a tall desk surrounded by short chairs so everybody he meets with feels smaller. It’s manipulative and cheesy. He’d be better off without it.

  4. matttbastard says:

    Whatever, Mick.

    I didn’t say you used the term in a pejorative sense, just that I felt it was inaccurate (as I would contend if someone labeled eg Kevin Drum ‘left wing’). And yes, I thought that your overall tone was unnecessarily scornful, especially since you apparently know nothing about Taylor other than what you gleaned from a brief aside in Salon and a quick scan of his blog. As for ’stalwart’, he’s been off the GOP reservation for some time now, although is not quite as vehement in his disillusionment as eg John Cole.

    The comparison to Juan Cole is entirely inapt. Cole’s specialty is Middle-East studies; Taylor’s primary area of study is Latin America. So, yes, I would give Juan Cole’s opinions more consideration re: events in Iraq, Lebanon, or I/P (same goes for Marc Lynch); but would Cole’s analysis on Plan Colombia or democracy in Latin America trump Taylor’s? Are Taylor’s years of intense research and study in the region automatically invalid simply because you resent his title? (Yes, Mick, I’m sure he goes by ‘Dr’ just to preemptively invalidate any dissenting opinion, especially yours. Generalize much?)

    But what the hell do I know? I’ve only been following his blog for, oh, about 3 years now. And I don’t even have an undergrad degree, let alone a doctorate; strangely enough, I’ve never felt intimidated by the ‘Dr’ title.

    All that said, judging by your tone, I have a feeling this is going to be an unproductive discussion.

    So consider this fin.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Connect with Facebook