Saturday, January 31, 2009

Shrinking Fast, GOP Now the Party of Rush Limbaugh, Sarah Palin and 'No!'

Original Link:

By David Knowles

A curious thing has happened to the Republican Party in the wake of its resounding defeat in the November elections. Rather than recalibrate and update its message to meet the challenges of the troubled times in which we live, it has decided to double-down on the philosophical bets that led to its recent losses. No greater evidence this bunker mentality can be found than in the de facto anointment of Rush Limbaugh to the ceremonial post of party king.

If it sounds far-fetched that a firebrand talk-show host actually wields this much power, consider the recent about face of the one Republican who actually had the nerve to criticize Limbaugh. Via CNN:

Republican Rep. Phil Gingrey of Georgia apologized Wednesday for criticizing conservative hosts Rush Limbaugh and Sean Hannity, assuring his supporters that "I am one of you."

"I regret and apologize for the fact that my comments have offended and upset my fellow conservatives--that was not my intent," Gingrey said in a statement.

Yes, it would be unthinkable to offend the man who makes a living offending people. But who are Gingrey's (and Limbaugh's) fellow conservatives these days? A new study by Gallup reveals an altered American landscape, one in which red state islands are increasingly surrounded by a sea of blue.

Here's Nate Silver's take:

That's right: just five states, collectively containing about 2 percent of the American population, have statistically significant pluralities of adults identifying themselves as Republicans. These are the "Mormon Belt" states of Utah, Idaho and Wyoming, plus Nebraska, plus Alaska. By contrast, 35 states are plurality Democratic, and 10 states are too close to call.

While the Mormon factor might, at first glance, seem like good news for Mitt Romney, the fact is that those areas will go Republican no matter who the party puts forth. Ditto for Alaska and Sarah Palin. The trick is in fielding a candidate who can win outside of the safe-zone.

Palin contends that she is that candidate, and this week took steps to prove it. Unveiling SarahPAC, the Alaska Governor continues her PR offensive on the country. But, as with much of the GOP's press materials, the offerings seem strangely retrograde and light on substance. To wit, while not offering a single policy proposal on her website, Palin-PAC boasts:

SarahPAC believes the Republican Party is at the threshold of an historic renaissance that will build a better future for all. Health care, education, and reform of government are among our key goals.

With all due respect, health care, education, and reform of government have been the key goals of every person to run for president for the last century (including Obama). Then again, in the absence of specific new ideas, there's always the fall back rhetorical stand: What Would Reagan Do? While that mantra seemed just dandy in last year's pre-crash primary season, calls for further deregulation don't sound so sweet anymore. So, without a viable way forward, the party has opted to repeat after Limbaugh. Yesterday, House Republicans cleared their collective throat and said "No!" to the new stimulus package.

"No," it turns out, might not be such a bad word to hear from the GOP. There's plenty in the stimulus bill that could use trimming and refining. But "No" won't win elections. "No" won't attract new voters. Matt Lewis put up an excellent assessment of the contest to see who will lead the RNC, and I'd agree with him that the people best suited for the job are the ones who see that there's a problem with the party, not those who send out racially-charged songs to their back-slapping constituents.

Meanwhile, Obama continues to garner headlines for reaching out to Republicans and attempting to build consensus across party lines. Yes, Americans are watching both parties. Should the stimulus fail to bring the country out of its economic mess in the next four years, they'll blame Obama and the Democrats. It's as simple as that. But waiting around and hoping things don't get better is one hell of a lousy strategy for rebuilding a party.

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