The Republicans are casting about figuring out what to do next. The 24/7 news channels are cutting them some slack because they are going nuts over what Obama is not telling them. Otherwise Id be throwing longneck after longneck into Wolf Blitzers kisser as he lamented the doom and anticipated passage of the Grand Old Party to the Final Roundup with cloying gravitas.
So what just happened? How did the GOP get to this point? What is likely to happen to the GOP before the next election cycle? Ill tackle the first part and follow up with the other two later.
Some things never change: With the campaign over some are engaged in the usual mutually assured destruction like the anonymous McCain staffers leaking all over Governor Palin and Palins media offensive (starting today, Larry King, no less) in retaliation. OK, someone has to give entertainers like OReilly and Matthews something to talk about. Id just hate it if Chriss leg stopped tingling.
Some are delving into what actually happened. The easy answer begins with noting that prior to mid-September the race was statistically tied, something that gives the Republicans the edge since they have an amazing ability to win these close races. Then the meltdown hit and wiser heads did not prevail. If you can keep you head when all about you are losing theirs……perhaps you just do not understand the situation.
It was not an altogether natural phenomenon. The House needed to pass the bailout. Meanwhile the representatives were being deluged with furious emails, phone calls, telegrams, faxes and letters warning of carnage if Wall Street got the golden parachute at the expense of Main Street. Minds were focused on the fact that those furious voters would go to the polls in a month. The best of all worlds would be for the measure to pass by just a few votes but who was going to expose the jugular? In times of crisis we come together and share the load, dont we?
Only in Hollywood.
There was a masterful bit of political jujitsu when Speaker Pelosi correctly read the GOPs floor management during the first attempt to pass a bill to prop up the financial system. She noticed that neither the minority leader nor the minority whip were doing anything to work the floor: This means that the 60% of the centrist Democrats (the flaming liberals were adamant against doing anything for business) and a piddling number of Republicans could vote for the measure, placing the majority of the heavy lifting on Democrats who would thusly suffer disproportionately at the polls. So Pelosi gave a Hell, fire & brimstone denunciation of Reagan and Reaganomics just before the vote that sent the Republicans into a fit of purple-faced passion, thereby stampeding the Republicans into voting 60% against the measure. Wall Street, in effect, gave Obama and the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee a $1.2 Trillion Dollar campaign contribution and the Republicans were left wearing the black hats. The 24/7 media then goes ape and now Main Streets minds are finally focused.
There is more to it than that.
The basic problem is George W. Bush. McCain might as well as hired Osama Bin Laden to drive the Straight Talk Express.
Big problem number two was that the media was totally for Obama. This is not necessarily a partisan stance on their part since the concentration of corporate media power is solidly in Republican hands at the editorial and directorial level. What put them in the tank for Obama was the story: A rags to riches rise of a kid from the south side of Chicago (ignoring that he was raised in Hawaii) is the American dream. It cuts both ways since they were Bushs Cuddle Club in 2000: Gore had all the charisma of a paperweight while Dubya was the Prodigal Son and deserved that fatted calf served at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue. (Also we had a budget surplus at the time, Enron sold at 91 bucks a share and 911 was just an emergency telephone number). If they can sell it they will: If it bleeds, it leads.
McCain Mark 2008 is not the same model that did so well in 2000. The thread generally runs that that he sold his soul to the social conservatives (anti-abortion, prayer and creationism in public schools, etc.) when he went to Liberty University to kiss Fallwells ring. None of the several gestures like this that he made to the social conservatives within the party did much good. Meanwhile, this behavior was leading centrists on both sides to wonder what the hell was going on with Mr. Straight Shooter.
McCains ineffective gestures to the social conservatives directly led to the Palin pick. It was the best of all worlds: Pick up the social conservatives (and how!) and slingshot the scorning of Hillary by Obama to pick up the womans vote. I was impressed by the coldness and what I thought was the cunning of the pick at the time.
The warning signs were evident early, though, when Reagans former campaign manager, Ed Rollins, said that all the media attention focused on Governor Palin could pose a problem:
As a campaign strategist I want to hear from the Vice Presidential candidate three times: The day theyre announced; The day they give their convention speech; And the night of the debate.
If I hear from them any other point of time or if you (Media) write about them any other time, its probably trouble.” Then we got the prepackaged opposition research from her gubernatorial campaign, followed by the Couric interview and, of course, Tina Fey. SNL ratings went through the roof and McCain looked like he had vetted his running mate on Facebook.
The last problem was that McCain was consumed by the battle between the angels of his better and worst natures. He would tear into Obama one week, contemplate on how this affected his personal honor and then pull back. To his eternal credit he steadfastly refused to bring Wright into the campaign. The 527 groups were not so inclined, though.
The political theatre of pausing his campaign fell flat and contributed to the on again, off again impression. It was odd that he dramatically called off his campaign and canceled the debate only to return to Washington to accomplish nothing and then continue with the debate anyway. The lack of a follow-through undermined all his efforts. It also made him appear to be erratic in the face of Obamas unnerving serenity.
Next time, Nixon, populism and the dumbing down of the GOP.