What’s GOP-ing On?

I don’t spend a lot of time reading GOP sites (I don’t have much time, and their party’s success isn’t my priority), but was struck by the rate of GOP legislative retirements, and the assorted comments from the Democratic bloggers that the GOP is having trouble fielding candidates for the newly open seats.

That’s just crazy. I’d assumed that the dysfunctional and suicidal California GOP was relatively alone in its behavior, buit that seems not to be the case.

Why is that? And why is it – if the GOP is so weak – that McCain is doing so well in the polls? And – contra – why is it that he’s doing so badly in raising money?

Anyone have a fast and useful explanation for me?

45 thoughts on “What’s GOP-ing On?”

  1. These things go in cycles, McCain is more popular than his party, and that party has spent the last few years being pretty disconnected from its base.

    Combine all 3, and you get what you’re seeing.

  2. Fatigue from holding the reigns of power for so long, plus the lack of a central figure on the opposite side means the GOP doesn’t have a foci for the negative energy that it can muster. “Look at what they might do, they must be stopped!” doesn’t have the same urgency as “Look at what they’ve done, they must be STOPPED!” The Democrats had the same problems in ’00 after eight years of Clinton I.

  3. A President and a Congress who keep drifting away from their conservative base will inevitably wear out their welcome. The party leaders spent the last few years dribbling away their intellectual capital with each bill they passed, and now the conservative thought leaders are no longer in Congress, they’re in the private sector and perfectly happy to remain there. Not that there’s anything wrong with that from a philosophical POV, but it does rather strain the pool of candidates.

    If I had to pick a single issue as a showcase for the problem, I would point to the GOP’s complete inability to effectively respond on illegal immigration. This is an issue where the conservative position wins big on both sides of the political aisle, yet the Republican Congress failed to enact any credible legislation on it. Both Bush and McCain managed to come down on the _wrong_ side of it, which is a depressing sign for the party activists who usually energize the ranks.

  4. AL:

    I don’t really know. Like you, I’m not a Republican. Many of my friends are, however. Part of the reason for poor fundraising is, ironically, McCain/Feingold. It undercut the fundraising advantage of Republicans, without similarly handicapping Democrats. However, the money will flow into 527s, and that’s where the main battles will be fought. Money going to the candidates won’t be as important as it has been in the past.

    As for what ails the Republican Party, I actually think they’re only about halfway through their run. They’ll have a second wind. And, as we can see, Democrats haven’t yet learned their critical lessons.

  5. The Democrats had the same problems in ’00 after eight years of Clinton I.

    Actually the Democrats had this problem after two years of Clinton. The loss of congress in 1994 was followed by a wave of retirements, and for the next couple of years Newt Gingrich might as well have been president.

    They were considerably cheered up during the second half of the Clinton administration, mainly by the need to rally around the Clintons. It wasn’t very good for their party, but it was good for morale.

    And if they had not done that, they would not have candidate Hillary Clinton today. “Though hand join in hand, the wicked shall not be unpunished: but the seed of the righteous shall be delivered.” – Proverbs 11:21

  6. Just my personal bloviations, worth (at most) what you are paying for them…

    Armed Liberal:

    “I’d assumed that the dysfunctional and suicidal California GOP was relatively alone in its behavior, but that seems not to be the case.”

    The Republican federal legislature is indeed suicidal nationally.

    Armed Liberal:

    “Why is that?”

    When it had to decide after the great Thumping of 2006 whether there were lessons to be learned, it decided wrong. The survivors of the blue wave acted quickly to elect non-reform-minded colleagues to important positions, and the culture of corruption and lethargy was consolidated.

    Anybody thinking of running now can see that they will be joining a losing team that won’t change its ways.

    Potential contributors also see that these guys don’t cut it. They won’t win. They won’t deliver the goods that only the majority legislators can deliver. And they won’t use such a bully pulpit as the federal legislature offers effectively, because they’re too corrupt to be credible, too empty-headed, too wedded to selling ideas that immediate contributors like but that their voters don’t to have much of an audience, and too lazy to try if they did have voters listening to them.

    The party is in a “let save [himself] who can” state, also known as a “rout”, though this is in slow motion because it’s gentle politics and not battle. When each man looks around and sees the day is lost, he has to consider his own interests, and this historically has led to superficially odd-looking results like an army looting its own camp. (I forget which battle that was, but when an army has ceased to be an army and has instead become a number of armed individuals each looking only to his own immediate profit, odd things happen.) So, if it might be better for each individual legislator to grab contributions for votes that will be catastrophic if the party as a whole goes that way, and use that money to insulate himself from individual defeat, that’s what happens. It’s a prisoners’ dilemma game gone wrong.

    Of course I’m thinking of the war over illegal immigration needlessly promoted by George W. Bush and John McCain. In that case, many supporters of the party were so angry and alienated that they went on a contribution strike against the national party – and no great reconciliation followed that.

    For example, after Senator Brownback saw that McCain-Kennedy could not be jammed through, after having voted for it when it mattered, he changed his vote to being against it, to appease his voters. Everybody saw it, everybody laughed at him, and the matter ended there. That ending is not good enough to get small dollar contributors to open their hearts and their pockets. Yet that is about where the party is. If small contributors sacrifice from what little they have to get the fat-cat Republican legislators back in power, it’s obvious that they will just consider themselves validated, and go back to doing all the things that caused them to be rejected. Who wants to sacrifice from the family budget to enable that?

    Another example of a cascading collapse, as each individual looks to his own interest: the wreck of George W. Bush’s social security reform plans. After campaigning vigorously for social security reform and winning big, George W. Bush claimed his mandate, and made a drive for the kind of achievement that gets you a statue in the Republican hall of heroes. But he never got adequate support from the Republican federal legislature in both houses. For one thing, Bill Frist thought he was headed for his own date with destiny: President Frist! But since he hadn’t showed any loyalty up, there was no reason for those he counted on to support him in turn. Why should John McCain sacrifice his plans for Frist’s? So in the fight over judges, John McCain reasonably seized the limelight with the Gang of Fourteen. But in doing this, he put himself in a weak position to demand loyalty from others later. And he is getting little (enthusiastic) loyalty from conservatives. Tolerance yes, dollars no. That’s how it works in a rout: the lieutenant sees the profit for him in leaving the captain to go hang, forgetting that the sergeant may be making the same calculation about him, and so it goes all the way down to the water-carrier.

    Since – the way I’m telling the story – the main factor in 2004 that consolidated the Republican Party on a course for disaster was its own corruption and weakness rather than any external pressure, I might be expected to say why I think the party was internally inclined to go wrong. But I think the greater truth is that it needn’t have. There was momentum in the wrong direction, but it could have been overcome, and more easily then than now. People simply didn’t rise to the occasion.

    Remember, just before the Thumping, the Republican legislators gave themselves an early mark. Hugh Hewitt was practically begging them to do something: about judges, about a border fence, about anything, just to give long-suffering party supporters a reason to care. But no, extra holidays it was. Republicans still voted Republican, but they had nothing to say, no argument to make, on why anyone who wasn’t a die-hard loyalist should follow them, and independents abandoned the party pretty much en masse and that was that. Things like these happen for human reasons, not as an unavoidable consequence of ideology. You can go to work, or, since you set your own rules, you can have an easy time of it, till the roof falls in.

    After the roof fell in, the survivors consolidated their authority, and that’s why the roof hasn’t been repaired to this day.

    Armed Liberal:

    ” And why is it – if the GOP is so weak – that McCain is doing so well in the polls?”

    The surge seems to be working. John McCain showed immense courage there, as he often does, and he’s getting his reward.

    John McCain has his pro-life box checked, so he doesn’t have to deal with the extreme feelings associated with that issue. His record is long enough that he doesn’t have to bother about people doubting him, as they doubt(ed) Mitt Romney. He’s through and beyond that Republican mine-field.

    The single thing that has made conservative voters hate their legislators the most (collectively, not their own particular representatives bringing in the pork for them), is the waste of government money. McCain is the main Republican anti-pork guy, and has been since – it seems like – before soup was invented. He’s credible on this. So again, the wrath that falls on others does not fall on him.

    (He draws his own wrath, for McCain-Feingold. And a Democrat who was going to fight to get rid of that could kill him, but there is no such Democrat.)

    And John McCain is not George W. Bush, and has not been George W. Bush for a very long time. The Democrats need to tie Bush about McCain’s neck, and then they win, but McCain’s “I’m not Dubya!” status is established.

  7. They were considerably cheered up during the second half of the Clinton administration, mainly by the need to rally around the Clintons. It wasn’t very good for their party, but it was good for morale.

    Actually, a particularly savvy member of the DLC told Clinton that he talked too much. He suggested that Bill stick with one main idea for six months at a stretch, instead of casting all over the lot with innovative policy proposals every few weeks… and that such a subdued approach would fit better with the public’s attention span. It worked.

    I’m not just making this up. It actually happened. He got some good advice, and he took it.

    Apparently he’s forgotten it, though.

  8. Since – the way I’m telling the story – the main factor in 2004 that consolidated the Republican Party on a course for disaster was its own corruption and weakness rather than any external pressure, I might be expected to say why I think the party was internally inclined to go wrong. But I think the greater truth is that it needn’t have.

    I sort of agree, but I don’t think they’ve had their run yet. Joe is right that these things run in cycles, but it’s like crop rotation. The typical cycle to corruption lasts about 30 years. The recent elections were a false switch, because there was a particularly dense crop of Republican leaders, but there are still some very capable people in the party.

    Well, my analysis is worth no more than yous, of course. Same fee. But I don’t see that the Democrats are ready yet.

  9. These things go in cycles. The GOP has relatively few young, rising stars. More need to emerge.

    Bill Frist’s career ended in a wimper. George Allen had so much promise, but one gaffe derailed him by the tiniest of margins (unfairly, IMO). Rick Santorum is gone. Kenneth Blackwell/Lynn Swann/Michael Steele could have brought so much, but none of them won.

    On the plus side, people like Hastert, Lott, etc. going away is a good thing.

    Bobby Jindal is probably the brightest young star. There are also a few others. They do have a good crop of black Republicans, but have very few Hispanic Republicans, particularly young ones, rising through the ranks.

  10. There is no doubt that 2008 will lead to more losses of GOP seats in both houses, even if McCain wins the Presidency. The losses for the GOP will continue in 2010, until 2012, when there is a new resurgency, where the Democrats have to defend 24 Senate seats while the GOP has to only defend 9.

  11. Uhm, maybe in your part of the country, but…

    Pete Domenici is retiring due to health issues. We have two GoP stalwarts fighting it out for the nomination for his seat – in a traditionally Democrat state. One is Steve Pearce who is touting himself as the REAL conservative. The other is Heather Wilson who IS a real Conservative. Pearce is a gasbag who is ambitious beyond his abilities. Pearce gave up his seat in the House where he was pretty much guaranteed reelection to over reach and jeopardize the GoP ownership of that position. This is in spite of state GoP direction to not do so.

    I think that the sins of the GWB WH in domestic issues has cost the GoP for the future in many ways. It is pretty much a given that the American people want:

    Lower taxes
    Secure borders
    Reasonable fiscal policies
    Reasonable energy policies
    Immigration reform

    GWB has failed the GoP in ALL but one of these areas.

    His successes have been in foreign policy (I can hear the howls from the Libs on board now) and the response to 9-11.

  12. Culture of corruption is my problem with the GoP. I want good governance, not lip service and not people supporting crap like Delay. Tom Delay should have been run out of town on a rail. But the GOP does not seem to get this. So I have no one to vote for.

    Things the GOP could do to get my vote back:
    1. Real immigration reform. Put a triple wall fence up. Then legalize everyone already here. Stop messing around on this issue.
    2. A GoP that will fight pork instead of just lip service. Tax cuts are nice, but I would prefer they stop wasting my money more than I want my money back.
    3. A GOP that does not support people who comment crimes while in power. No more Tom Delays. Investigate power people who are in power, don’t protect them.

    Things that would make me vote for any party:
    1. Legalize drugs. End the stupid drug war.
    2. Reform prisons. NO ONE SHOULD DIE OR BE RAPED WHILE UNDER OUR CARE.
    3. End farm subsidies. We waste so much money and we distort the free market.
    4. Make board members of companies responsible for the crimes and misdeeds of the executives of these companies. They are supposed to be overseeing the running of these corporations but in reality it’s just PR. To make them really responsible you must make them share the punishment of those they are in charge of.
    5. Build massive amounts of nuke power plants. I want an end to air pollution and coal power plants put out half the air pollution in the US.

  13. AL asks:

    bq. Why is that? And why is it – if the GOP is so weak – that McCain is doing so well in the polls? And – contra – why is it that he’s doing so badly in raising money?

    bq. Anyone have a fast and useful explanation for me?

    To which talboito says…

    bq. Iraq.

    Well, he did ask for “fast”, but he also asked for “useful”.

    Care to unpack that some, talboito, or do you want it deleted as a drive-by eructation? Your choice.

  14. Armed Liberal asks:

    “Why is that? And why is it – if the GOP is so weak – that McCain is doing so well in the polls? And – contra – why is it that he’s doing so badly in raising money?”

    What I said before:

    Patrick Ruffini explains: (link)

    “As much as I don’t want to sound unhelpful, it’s time for a little tough love. If anyone thinks McCain raising $15 million in March is good news — and crucially, just $4M of it from online and direct mail — then they’re probably part of the problem rather than part of the solution.”

    I don’t keep calling John McCain “too old” because he looks old but because it seems that he thinks old. He’s not picking up the full potential of the Internet, in contrast to thoroughly modern Barack Obama.

    It’s not that John McCain dislikes the Internet. He loves it – and it’s saved his neck, by giving him a chance to talk to people, while old enemies like Hugh Hewitt were trying to bury him. But all McCain seems to understand it that this is a place where he can engage in give and take. The potential of online fund-raising has not registered.

    Also, John McCain has deeply offended the people he now needs to put up money so he can triumph over them again as President. McCain-Feingold and McCain-Kennedy are killers, and there is nobody the donation strike was directed at more than John McCain. (There is one institution it was directed at more than him: the very RNC he is counting on to fund him, now that he’s thrown in the white towel on the real money fight.) John McCain does better with people loosely attached to the Republican Party, but they aren’t going to send him a lot of money – they won’t send him any if he doesn’t do everything right online to encourage it.

    The contrast with Obama’s magnificent online small-dollar effort is devastating. In addition to doing everything right, Barack Obama has not offended the activist base of his party on any serious concern they have.

  15. The party has been led by an administration full of incompetents and worse for the past eight years. An administration without a philosophy other than Rovian pandering to voters fears and a moronic Neo-Con Foreign Policy.

    Now they look like they will experience a stunning rout in Congressional elections, repeating the downward arc that the democrats experienced under Clinton. In some ways the utter vacuousness and vanity of both tend to mirror one another.

    Where is the mystery here? History will couple these administrations as two sides of the same self-obsessed baby boomer coin.

  16. I think I’ll submit what may become a major thesis in about four to six years. Drawing on analogs from the wake of the Civil War, which saw the rise of the Grand Army of the Republic as a potent political force wielded by Union veterans, and eventually led to the nomination of U.S. Grant for President… I don’t think CentCom Commander will be the zenith of David Petraeus’ career.

    Of course, we don’t know what party he’s in. There was an intense effort of the part of Democrats to enlist Grant, but he played hard-to-get for quite awhile. They never quite gave up on Sherman, though.

  17. Democrats courted Eisenhower, too.

    But you may consider just how few Americans are in the armed services today, compared to the millions with direct experience (albeit many levels removed) of Grant and Eisenhower, as counter-evidence to your prediction.

  18. Andrew #:

    But you may consider just how few Americans are in the armed services today, compared to the millions with direct experience (albeit many levels removed) of Grant and Eisenhower, as counter-evidence to your prediction.

    That’s quite true. By the end of the Civil War about 2% of the population (on both sides) had directly participated and been injured or killed. There is nothing like that level of casualties today. However, the education level of the average Iraq veteran is far above the average education level of the general population (in contrast to Sen. Kerry’s observations) so their influence will probably be considerable. The percentage of graduate degrees alone suggests a major shift in academe as soon as they start to fill the ranks, and that will translate into a major shift in politics of the general population.

    Everything depends on the “Rathership” of the mainstream media, and their proclivity to over-commit, but it’s a fair guess. Time isn’t on their side.

    More significantly, it may just be true that the Petraeus strategy is the anolog of the Truman containment strategy that emerged around 1947, and that ultimately benefited the Republicans under Reagan. It need not have done so, of course, but for McGovern.

    What is it about the Democrats? Are they destined to always overstate the case for institutionalized compassion? Why are they so disinclined to tolerate dissent?

  19. #17 from Demosophist at 8:01 pm on Apr 26, 2008

    If I am not mistaken, Grant won the War, and for that matter so did Eisenhower. Both of these conflicts threatened all Americans very directly and immediately. Great sacrifices were made by all of the citizens and both wars were the center of all of the countries economic decisions that had large percentages of men under arms and engaged in battle.

    In comparison, Iraq is a bungled expedition, and the surge, no matter what one thinks about its success or failure is, in comparison little more than a policing operation.

    Petreaus appears to be a very capable dignified and appealing character in all this, but projecting him into \presidential politics seems to me to only re-inforce the paucity of talented people that now run for the presidency for either party.

  20. This is what conservatives offer us today.

    Despite her Bible mangling, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi presents herself as a “devout Catholic,” and was kissing the ring of Pope Benedict in Washington last week, no doubt honoring him as “Your Holiness.” But in the April 21 Time, she recommends the Dalai Lama to be in Time’s Top 100 (most influential people, and he’s also “His Holiness.” How many gods does Pelosi worship? Devout Catholics worship one God. Tibetan Buddhists worship a multiplicity of gods. Pelosi wrote:

    His Holiness the Dalai Lama describes himself as a “simple monk,” but he represents so much more to so many. He is a source of spiritual refuge, and has used his position to promote wisdom, compassion and nonviolence as a solution to world conflicts.

    (The Bush Administration also refers to the Dalai Lama as His Holiness, but it’s OK if you’re a Republican. I’m trying to see what Joe Lieberman calls Mr. Ratzinger of Rome.)

  21. TOC #17:

    There is a currently an analog for the balance of power containment strategy adopted by Truman, but its scale and detail is much different. However, it can rightly be called the Petraeus Strategy. The point is that its working in Iraq (see recent analysis by Robert Kaplan, et al). It will probably work in Afghanistan and Pakistan, eventually. While this is rather inconvenient for those Democrats who’ve staked their futures on a US defeat, the fact remains that the successful implementation of such a strategy will redound to whichever party brings it home, no matter who started it. There simply isn’t an alternative, nor has any been offered.

    As for the impact of the veterans, as I said above they’re much more highly educated than their Civil War counterparts, and much better organized. I don’t think it’ll be a problem. Moreover, if the micro-containment strategy is opposed in the way that the Copperheads opposed the “right flank” turn of Grant, which was saved by Sherman’s victory at Atlanta, then like the Democrats of the 19th Century there will be very few Democrats elected to the top office for a generation or so. You’re welcome to think otherwise. It’s a free country.

  22. bq. And why is it – if the GOP is so weak – that McCain is doing so well in the polls?

    If you find it hard to understand why the polling for the Dems isn’t as high against McCain as you believe it should be, maybe it’s time to revisit the assumptions that underlie this prediction.

    For the 50th time, whatever recent polls you might be citing are comparing 2 Democrats who are locked in a heated and nasty primary battle against an uncontested nominee who is, at the moment, campaigning relatively unmolested.

    Because of this, it is actually a sign of relative weakness that McCain can only barely manage parity (if that in some polls) with Obama or Clinton at this moment.

    And I think that he’s doing poorly in fundraising compared to the Democrats for the same reason, although perhaps this again can be regarded as something of a weakness on the Republican side. I predict whichever Dem emerges from the infighting will continue to outraise McCain for the remainder of the campaign, however, because Democrats as a whole are 10x more motivated than Republicans in this cycle. This will be doubly true if Obama is the candidate (which helps to largely explain why everyone is going all-out to destroy his candidacy).

    Really, are these things that hard to understand?

  23. Patrick Ruffini explains the nature of the Republican Party’s fund-raising failure in technical and strategic terms. And please follow that (link) for the whole thing.

    Steve Sailer adds a comment that bears on what this means for the way the campaign will be fought. (link)

    “McCain’s pretty much broke, so he’s running a Reality TV-style campaign where instead of paying for expensive speechwriters and TV ads, he just figures out some wacky situation that will attract more cameras than normal and he just wings it in from there. This week’s McCain campaign jaunt was like that Paris Hilton reality show “The Simple Life” where she and Nicole Richie milked cows.”

    That means vulnerability. John McCain going to be highly open to endorsements from people he shouldn’t mess with and likely doesn’t even really like, and to getting into situations that are bad publicity disasters waiting to happen.

    Every time it happens, as it already has once with the Rev. John Hagee, people are going to say: “come on, can McCain really be that desperate for money, or for free publicity?” And his slips will be hung around his neck as proof of poor judgment or the things he really believes in secret.

    That will be a good, paying tactic for the Democrats.

    But the simple truth will be: yes he is that desperate for money, desperate enough to clutch at the highest risk free goodies.

    It’s going to get worse as it goes on too. He’ll have to keep topping himself, as people grow bored with the jackass political stunts he pulled off before without killing his campaign. Steve Sailer compares John McCain to Paris Hilton. I’d compare him to Evel Knievel. Yes he’s a skilled daredevil, but there will be crashes and there will be broken bones. There’s no way to avoid it.

    Patrick Ruffini:

    “All the background quotes given to reporters suggest an elaborate event-driven fundraising strategy and a great deal of time, thought, and organization poured into an incrementalist and labor-intensive strategy of prying loose that next $2,300 check.”

    “The good news is that all this attention to offline means that McCain is probably outraising Obama through events. But that doesn’t do much good when we’re getting killed 10-to-1 online and Obama doesn’t need to spend any time doing events.”

    “The problem is that no one in the high command seriously believes that the online campaign can be as big and strategically important as Finance, or Political, or Communications. The McCain campaign needs to start by giving the eCampaign the same operational leeway in scheduling the candidate as the other divisions have — even if it’s just two minutes a day for an authentic McCain video blog that breaks news and creates value. They need to be given the authority to rewrite the rules, with real-time fundraising transparency that lays bare the urgency of the situation and gives the grassroots what they need to ride to the rescue. Grassroots empowerment must be made a central ethos of the campaign.”

    “One can win a primary on fumes, but can one win a general election that way?”

    We’re going to find out.

  24. #22 from Demosophist at 3:05 am on Apr 27, 2008

    My objection is not that you can’t make a case. It is that it is an untenable stretch in myriad ways.

    The micro containment only continues this series of stretches. The whole idea of a “micro containment” as being analogous to strategy to contain the Soviet Union, worldwide, after WWII just doesn’t hold water on any level, no matter who it is that is trying to coin the phrase.

    These grandiose pronouncements have no place in sober strategy evaluations. It is bad enough that these sort of pipe dreams are given any credibility at all, but when they are used as the basis of policy, as was the case of the Neo Con vision of using our power as a force for morality in the Middle East and to instill democracy in the area, they become downright destructive delusions.

    But as you said, it is a free country.

  25. bq. For the 50th time, whatever recent polls you might be citing are comparing 2 Democrats who are locked in a heated and nasty primary battle against an uncontested nominee who is, at the moment, campaigning relatively unmolested.

    Except that he’s barely campaigning at all. He’s doing the populist tour thing right now, and every so often he pops up to snipe with the latest ammo Hillary or Obama toss on the table. What do you think will happen to his numbers once the general election kicks off in earnest?

    If he even does get to kick it off. David_Blue is right that McCain has spent the last two decades pissing off a large chunk of the base that contributes the most, so he may not get to mount a huge campaign. As such I disagree with Ruffini here:

    bq. Grassroots empowerment must be made a central ethos of the campaign.

    What with? Since when is the political center a huge source of funds for a candidate? That’s where McCain’s main support is right now, plus the usual suspects who always say “you may not like the candidate but vote for our party anyway”. You need a huge uprising of “organic” support to play the grassroots card effectively, and unless McCain develops a charismatic personality campaign in the next month or so, I don’t see him getting it.

  26. I’m a Republican, and I think I know the answer: libertarian and traditional conservatives are angry at the neo-conservative take-over of the party, and religious conservatives are angry at everyone. I for one am aghast at the party’s policies of corporate welfare, failures to deal with illegal immigration, and expansionist government schemes. I don’t want to be governed in my party by neo-con bozos.

  27. Armed Liberal:

    “Anyone have a fast and useful explanation for me?”

    I’ve tried to be as useful as possible. Now I’m going to try to be more focused.

    Republicans are convinced that John McCain has maintained unusual friendly access to the mainstream / liberal media by being unusually willing to attack fellow Republicans and Republican causes. He raises himself up by treading other conservatives down.

    Here, from Power Line, is an example of that perception (link):

    “John McCain is in the midst of a “Time for Action Tour,” which could perhaps better be named his “Bash Bush and the Republicans Tour.” First came his demand that the North Carolina Republican Party withdraw its ad criticizing Barack Obama’s choice of Jeremiah Wright as a spiritual mentor. …”

    “It’s one thing for McCain to think that he needs to distance himself from the Bush administration, but if he thinks he can win by attacking his own party and out-Bush-bashing the Democrats, he is sadly mistaken.”

    Assume that there is something to this perception.

    Then the same actions by John McCain would simultaneously have these results:

    1. A decrease in Republican popularity, since a (the!) standard-bearer for the party would be validating negative perceptions of it.

    2. An increase in John McCain’s personal popularity, derived from having defined himself as different from and better than other Republicans, plus getting credit for admitting fault (albeit the faults of others), that is, “straight talk”.

    3. A decrease in the willingness of Republicans to fund John McCain, because they are offended and because they think President John McCain might continue to boost his personal standing at their and the party’s expense. (Why would he stop when it will have worked so well?)

    4. But no substantial increase in fund-raising from politically uninterested or only casually interested middle-ground, un-affiliated or weakly affiliated voters who most readily respond to John McCain’s “straight talk” and the media commentary that lauds it and him as credible whenever he’s attacking Republicans.

    While I’m convinced there are other important factors in play, mainly John McCain’s inadequate online fund-raising effort, if all you want is a fast and useful story on what’s happening, the one above covers all the points that puzzle you.

  28. TOC #25:

    The micro containment only continues this series of stretches. The whole idea of a “micro containment” as being analogous to strategy to contain the Soviet Union, worldwide, after WWII just doesn’t hold water on any level, no matter who it is that is trying to coin the phrase.

    This is what’s called an “assertion,” but since the strategy is, in a rather objective sense, “working” the onus is on you to support the assertion. Failing that, it’s a non sequitur.

    As for the analysis about the political impact of veterans, sure I could easily be wrong about that. There are a lot of variables. But if you read Mary Dearing’s account of the GAR you’ll also find an amazing number of parallels. And we’re not talking about foreign policy here. We’re just talking about politics, so such speculation doesn’t have the sober constraints you imply. It may not be bean bag, but it’s not policy either. Believe it or not, we can afford to wait and see.

  29. David #28 etc.:

    Well, yours is a rather convoluted argument… Although it’s not logically flawed, it’s hardly definitive either. Besides, the election won’t rest on funds available to the candidates (and Barack isn’t getting much bang for the buck anyway), it’ll rest on what the 527s do. Right now Mac is managing to piss them off, but they probably understand that he’s just trying to have his cake and eat it. If he keeps that up into the general then yeah, he’ll be in big trouble. Most of the Republican and conservative boosters are tired of expending energy and resources on standard-bearers that aren’t carrying their own weight. And it’s Bush that has exhausted them, not McCain.

    I dunno, maybe that’s what your saying in different words. But again, there are still too many variables to have much certainty. And Obama has a problem or two of his own.

  30. McCain is polling pretty well for a broke loser with no base. If the Dems are going to buy the White House with their mountain of money, they’d better hurry up and do it.

  31. #27 from Jeff at 6:17 am on Apr 27, 2008

    I’m a Republican, and I think I know the answer: libertarian and traditional conservatives are angry at the neo-conservative take-over of the party, and religious conservatives are angry at everyone. I for one am aghast at the party’s policies of corporate welfare, failures to deal with illegal immigration, and expansionist government schemes. I don’t want to be governed in my party by neo-con bozos.

    _I could not agree more. I have no idea what the fascination our party has with Neo conservatives and I am even more amazed to see how they have been allowed to hijack the party._

  32. #30 from Demosophist at 5:40 pm on Apr 27, 2008

    This is what’s called an “assertion,” but since the strategy is, in a rather objective sense, “working” the onus is on you to support the assertion. Failing that, it’s a non sequitur.

    _I thought it was evident on its face that the comparison of the Containment Policy after World War II and the idea of an analogous micro containment policy during a policing action in Iraq. That bring the case, I think the “onus” may lie elsewhere._

  33. bq. I could not agree more. I have no idea what the fascination our party has with Neo conservatives and I am even more amazed to see how they have been allowed to hijack the party.

    It is breathtaking to witness how often Republicans are rushing to disavow Bush et al. and neocons these days in the hopes of salvaging some electoral credibility.

    They have “been allowed to hijack the party” because people like you and others here helped them do it.

    You supported Bush and the Neocons who brought us Iraq. I see precious little if any contrition on this issue.

    I love the framing on this one, really an obtuse way of saying “I simply cannot understand how I could have been so wrong” but in a way that attempts to weasel out of taking any personal responsibility.

    When Republicans (including many here) admit their role in the multiple messes you’ve created, the country will begin to take you seriously again. Instead, we get more of the same old same old: angry insistence that everyone treat their lunatic arguments with equal consideration, coupled to attacks on your political opponents that take the form of Projection.

    Like demanding that Obama disavows Rev. Wright more strongly!

    The mind actually boggles trying to comprehend the Chutzpah inherent in this warped world view where power and politics are the only principles worth fighting over.

  34. #31 from Demosophist:

    “David #28 etc.:”

    “Well, yours is a rather convoluted argument… Although it’s not logically flawed, it’s hardly definitive either.”

    I agree.

  35. TOC #34:

    I thought it was evident on its face that the comparison of the Containment Policy after World War II and the idea of an analogous micro containment policy during a policing action in Iraq. That bring the case, I think the “onus” may lie elsewhere.

    While there’s some sort of “onus” to flesh out the theory (which I’ll remedy pretty soon, btw) the point is that whatever one calls it the onus is on you to support your assertion that it isn’t working. If we called the strategy “Venusian Love” that wouldn’t bear any relevance to the fact that it is routing AQ, and has paralyzed Sadr. (i.e. He daren’t do anything other than maintain a “truce” if he wants to stay alive and kicking).

    Onus, two, three…

  36. For starters, too many of the current crop of Republicans in Washington wanted (too much) to be liked. So you end up with the garden-variety Republicrats who completely squandered a couple of years in which they controlled both houses of Congress, plus the White House.

    Secondly, at the top, we’ve had the most abysmally bad communicator in many decades. George Bush’s policies and approach were generally good, but I’ve long since quit screaming at him to make is case. He simply doesn’t. Hence the momentum of publicity shifted to the other side, owing to a communication vacuum at the top.

    When Bush 43 talks “Texas,” he’s superb. When he tries to talk “Washington,” he’s lost. Combined with a boatload of timorous Republicans afraid of being disliked, you end up with what we have now.

    Republicans were just terrible for years, but got away with it because Democrats were even worse. As those differences disappeared in a race to the bottom, more and more people have gone with “feel good” demagoguery.

    Little surprise most Americans are thoroughly disgusted with our political class, in all parties, at all levels.

  37. …the fact that it is routing AQ, and has paralyzed Sadr.

    Damn if Demosophist doesn’t love him some hyperbole. One who bandies about such terms as “rout” and “paralyze,” both of which connote an end state, is just begging for the onus to be placed on him.

  38. As a useful data point and in support of my own point “#26″:#c26 , I’ll note that the “Nevada GOP convention”:http://www.lasvegassun.com/news/2008/apr/27/ron-paul-campaign-dominates-convention/ shows the reason why McCain doesn’t have a prayer of rallying grassroots support: _someone already has_ , and their champion is diametrically opposite to McCain.

    This might change after the national convention, depending on whether Paul feels like joining up with the GOP establishment and what concessions McCain offers. But given the opposition comes from a libertarian bloc instead of a single-issue bloc, that outcome is highly doubtful.

  39. “Uithoven said Paul supporters were able to gain a strong foothold at the convention because McCain’s lean campaign team had racked up victories by relying on free media rather than paid staff or volunteers. The campaign is adding staff and getting organized, Uithoven said.”

    Without enough warm-blooded, active volunteers, and without enough money, you can organize and think of the future, but in the meantime others will make the running.

    Even if he already had organization and money and enough volunteers, John McCain would need an adequate demographic base to appeal to.

    (With Black voters going nine out of ten for Barack Obama, I hope everybody of good sense can agree that political organization at best achieves what sufficient numbers of people in receptive demographic categories make possible. If the demographics are such that people who will listen to you are insufficiently numerous, you lose.)

    That adequate demographic base does not exist, and the inadequate base that does exist is withering rapidly. Don’t be fooled by the title of this article by Reihan Salam: Go for the Bitter Bloc (link). Looked at soberly, it’s an explanation of why the bitter block isn’t and won’t become a winning bloc.

    Consequently, John McCain’s temporary relative popularity, before the Democrats unite and open fire on him with overwhelming money in a supportive media environment, is a small problem, or no problem at all.

  40. #37 from Demosophist at 4:26 am on Apr 28, 2008

    _TOC #34:

    I thought it was evident on its face that the comparison of the Containment Policy after World War II and the idea of an analogous micro containment policy during a policing action in Iraq. That bring the case, I think the “onus” may lie elsewhere._

    While there’s some sort of “onus” to flesh out the theory (which I’ll remedy pretty soon, btw) the point is that whatever one calls it the onus is on you to support your assertion that it isn’t working. If we called the strategy “Venusian Love” that wouldn’t bear any relevance to the fact that it is routing AQ, and has paralyzed Sadr. (i.e. He daren’t do anything other than maintain a “truce” if he wants to stay alive and kicking).

    _Demo,

    Are you are trying to have an argument with me about whether the Micro-containment is working? Have it with someone else. I am not interested and never was. My point is, and always has been how tenuous, the comparisons are that you have been making. My point is that it basing analysis on such fuzzy foundations doesn’t lead to good policy._

    _Flesh out the theory. I have my doubts that the skeleton will provide much support._

  41. Here’s a perfectly rational reason why the GOP ought to be unpopular while John McCain ought to be popular: GOP Loves Earmarks, by Robert Novak (link).

    “WASHINGTON, D.C. — A recent secret survey of the House Republican minority by the party’s whip organization showed a two-to-one margin opposed to imposing a moratorium on earmarks.”

    “House Republican John Boehner, who personally sponsors no earmarks, has indicated the party’s position should be based on what GOP House members want. That led to the whip check.”

    “Reformers had contemplated calling for a vote on earmarks by a closed-door session of the House Republican Conference, assuming it would be difficult for many members to vote no. But the lopsided outcome of the whip check dissuaded reformers from requesting a vote.”

    I have read many times that John McCain habitually takes the high moral ground at the expense of his party. It seems to me that he is simply right, where the majority of his party is wrong. If voters give him credit for that, it’s just as it should be.

  42. When Bush 43 talks “Texas,” he’s superb.

    No, I think that time ran out on voters’ appreciating his aw-shucks loudmouth ignorance. All that “Bring ‘em on” stuff sounds lame five years into the 100 years occupation of Iraq.

  43. #6 from David_Blue

    “The party is in a “let save [himself] who can” state, also known as a “rout”, though this is in slow motion because it’s gentle politics and not battle. When each man looks around and sees the day is lost, he has to consider his own interests…”

    This is what I meant (link):

    “The double shot of bad news had one veteran Republican House member worrying aloud that the party’s electoral woes — brought into sharp focus by Woody Jenkins’ loss to Don Cazayoux in Louisiana on Saturday — have the House Republican Conference splitting apart in “everybody for himself” mode.”

    ““There is an attitude that, ‘I better watch out for myself, because nobody else is going to do it,’” the member said. “There are all these different factions out there, everyone is sniping at each other, and we have no real plan. We have a lot of people fighting to be the captain of the lifeboat instead of everybody pulling together.””

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