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Wednesday, November 12, 2008

The GOP's "Deliverence strategy"

Salon is a members-only access outlet for many of its articles, but this analysis by Gary Kamiya of the GOP's problems are the kind of thing that make a subscription worth it in my book.

The GOP's last chance: Become Democrats

The McCain-detesting Coulter wrote, "The only good thing about McCain is that he gave us a genuine conservative, Sarah Palin. He's like one of those insects that lives just long enough to reproduce so that the species can survive. . . . Limbaugh managed to refrain from comparing McCain to an insect, but he joined Coulter in anointing Palin the future queen of the Republican Party. . . .

It's hardly surprising that buffoonish entertainers like Coulter and Limbaugh are sticking to their guns: Their livelihood depends on catering to the rabid GOP base. But you'd think that the right's cooler heads would realize that something has gone terribly wrong with a party and a movement that can seriously consider nominating Sarah Palin for president. . . .

The GOP faces two problems for which it has no answers. The first is that its two main branches are fundamentally incompatible. The right has always been divided between a libertarian, free-market, anti-government, no-tax wing, and a traditional-values, moral-issues wing. These are strange bedfellows. . . .

[W]hen the American people realized that the Iraq war was a disastrous mistake, the terrorist boogeyman shrunk to its rightful proportions. . . . As national security has faded, the last thing holding the right together is its hatred of the Democrats and everything they stand for. This glue still binds the party's ideologically driven base. But for the GOP to win national elections, it has to convince moderates of the same thing. And in this election, moderates decisively rejected the Republicans' arguments.

Moderates rejected the GOP for two reasons: because Bush's presidency was a disaster, and because they didn't like the GOP's harsh, ugly tone. That tone is the result of the fact that the party was taken over long ago by "movement conservatives," true believers who bitterly oppose secular modernism and everything associated with it. Their hard-line Jacobinism, imbued with an inchoate sense of angry resentment, drives the right's culture war . . . which is why McCain's ugly campaign was no accident.

The problem is that moderates are completely turned off both by the GOP's performance and by its extreme, demonizing worldview and rhetoric. . . .

When you add all these things up, there is nowhere for the GOP in its current form to go. . . . If the right continues to make the culture war its main strategy, it will shore up its base with working-class white men in rural areas. But this "Deliverance" strategy, in which the GOP lets the Democrats have every part of the country where large numbers of people live together and targets lone white men surrounded by vast open spaces, is only a ticket to dominance in places like Utah, Arkansas, Idaho and Oklahoma, with their rich treasure trove of 22 electoral votes.

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