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May 01, 2009

Comments

Although the point is sometimes missed, Obama's campaign was a model for this. Obama had great messaging -- hope & change & unicorns, hooray! -- but messaging wasn't Obama's foundation. Obama proposed solutions to problems that actual people actually had. Health care. Jobs. Education. The environment. I didn't agree with many of Obama's proposals, but he had them and he talked about them endlessly.

Add to that, he had the nuts and bolts of engaging potential voters with those solutions and making it easy for them to vote. That solution was pretty much every day competence in the every day things that make up governing. And if you don't match that, it's hard to beat.

by assuming that black voters are blinded by the color of their skin and thus can be safely discounted, York not only indulges in a racist fantasy, he gives up on an important component of the electorate who might vote Republican. Ta-Nehisi Coates is right: 20-30% of the black vote is potentially in play if Republicans offer those voters some practical reason to vote for them.

Yeah, dumb, dumb, dumb. The black, Asian and Hispanic vote was there for the taking by the Republican Party in the 90s. In Washington state, the Dems were extremely helpful in that they were pissing off Asian voters with racial slurs and they had a Republican mayor of a major Seattle suburb. Only real idiots could squander those types of opportunities--and like it or not, that shows an unfitness to govern.

This all sounds like excellent news: long may the trend continue. In the UK, the party most equivalent to the Republican Party in policies and outlook can barely win seats at local council elections. Hopefully, the Republican Party will die, and a left-wing party arise to properly oppose the Democratic Party. And the US can finally catch up with the rest of the developed world.

...well, I can dream.

The idea that giving away carbon permits helps consumers is absurd. Check out the CBO's assessment of the distributional impact of that proposal (as well as a cap and rebate and a cap and trade with revenue used to cut corporate taxes). Giveaways only benefit the top quintile. The relevant graph is on page 8.

http://www.cbo.gov/ftpdocs/100xx/doc10018/03-12-ClimateChange_Testimony.pdf

"20-30% of the black vote is potentially in play if Republicans offer those voters some practical reason to vote for them."

I've got my doubts about that, for several reasons.

1. They're not listening. There was polling done this campaign that showed, on issues where the GOP position was more in line with black attitudes than the Democratic position, blacks just attributed the Repubican position to the Democratic party. How do you deal with that?

2. What passes for a "practical reason" amounts, in practice, to support for racial preferences which are absolute poison with the Republican base. And properly so!

Consequently, even if Republican candidates manage to defeat problem #1, they'll lose several of their base for every black vote they gain.

What's really killing the GOP now? I think it's ending up in power after the '94 election. Until then, voters who tended to like Republican positions were free to imagine that Repubican candidates would actually try to implement them if given a chance. '94 proved otherwise: Give Republicans power, and all the campaign promises go out the window.

Right now the Republicans have the worst of both worlds: People who don't like their positions think they're serious about them, people who do like their positions know they're not.

The quest for "extreme" candidates is a consequence of this: The base is trying to get candidates who actually mean what they say, and are treating moderation as a proxy for insincerity, since they've got no really good way to tell who'd deliver the goods if given a chance.

And Republicans should certainly say "no" to Obama's cap-and-trade plan, which is poorly thought out. But the Republican argument can't stop there. John McCain has long been pressing a real cap-and-trade program that accounts for the market and won't have the same short-term consequences, while reaping the same long-term benefits lauded by Krugman. Maybe it's time to offer a counter-proposal with the "no."

Obama's plan IS a real cap-and-trade plan that accounts for the market: believe it or not, "the market" is not synonymous with large, pollution-intensive industries. That's kind of the whole point.

And what aceckhouse said. McCain wants to turn the program into a give away for polluters, but many of the benefits Krugman is talking about come from the fact that the permits are auctioned. (Which generates revenue, which can be used to replace more distortionary revenue sources, and/or offset some of the impact on vulnerable and low-income consumers.)

The distributional consequences actually matter. (Which wouldn't be a half-bad motto for your new Republican party...)

Excellent post von. I agree 100%.

Question though – where do we find someone to step up to the plate and lead the way? Someone who can convince the party to drop gay marriage as an issue (cut ties with the hard religious right if need be), someone who can talk about fiscal responsibility without being a complete hypocrite, hell – someone who can give a decent speech period…

There is no one out there that I can see.

2. What passes for a "practical reason" amounts, in practice, to support for racial preferences which are absolute poison with the Republican base. And properly so!

Sorry, Brett, but...balderdash.

This is a staggering lack of imagination and a refusal to grapple with their problems on race on the part of the Republican.

To quote from Ta-Nehisi Coates' blog, one of the factors of the Democratic "ownership" of the black vote are behaviors like these:

1. The Hayes-Tilden Compromise, where the Dems agreed to accept the razor-thin GOP electoral victory in exchange for the GOP ending Reconstruction policies. 2. The Depression policies of FDR, which included the priceless gift of sending WPA writers to document the oral histories of the last living former slaves in the Black community. 3. Harry Truman desegregating the US military in the mid-1940s. 4. The Civil Rights legislation of the 1960s.

What do these things have in common? Doing something tangible for the black community to better their lives. NONE of that equates to "racial preferences."

It will take time and LOTS of effort (and lots more than it needed to after Republican behavior of the past few decades), but the black community WILL listen if you do things that will concretely help them out. That's what it will take and it's basic common sense.

2. What passes for a "practical reason" amounts, in practice, to support for racial preferences which are absolute poison with the Republican base. And properly so!

Aye, there's the rub. The self-definition of the GOP has come to be Purity of Essence. Too bad General Jack D. Ripper shot himself :-)

Before anybody gets hot bothered: I'm talking about the GOP, not "conservatives". And I'm not talking just about racial preferences; the GOP seems devoted to all sorts of "purity" that reduces, in practice, to celebrating, as well as preserving the prerogatives of, white Christian gentlemen.

--TP

Obama proposed solutions to problems that actual people actually had.

Yep.

the fault is not McCain's, entirely, but also the fault of a party leadership and faithful that rallied behind George Bush and Dick Cheney for eight years of drift and incompetence

Ditto.

Plus, in the case of Obama and most current-day Democrats, you're not talking about a Democratic party that is all that far to the left of center. If they're to the left of center, at all.

Sadly for the Republicans, Obama's a guy that makes sense to regular folks.

The Dems have stolen your best moves and left you with nothing but throwing red meat to resentful, pissed off dittoheads.

1. They're not listening.

Damned straight they're not listening. Why would they?

There was polling done this campaign that showed, on issues where the GOP position was more in line with black attitudes than the Democratic position, blacks just attributed the Repubican position to the Democratic party.

Sucks to be a Republican I guess.

How do you deal with that?

Get the freaking racist berserkers out of your party. It's not that complicated.

"I have your best interest in mind, you stupid lazy shiftless n****r!" just does not have a lot of win in it.

President Obama is proposing a cap-and-trade plan that has some serious problems with it: Pace Hilzoy, it's not a free market system; it works contrary to the market.

I'm not aware of *any* purely market driven motivation to reduce carbon output. Are you? Other than "the externalities may come back and bite us someday", but "may" and "someday" are terms that don't fit in a quarterly balance sheet.

There is no motivation built into corporate governance that rewards "may" and "someday".

So yeah, it's a solution that is counter to the market, because there is no market solution. At least not as we conceive of "the market", which is that the first priority is to maximize return to shareholders, and there is no second priority.

In that context, the fact that it is counter to the market is a feature, not a bug.

What passes for a "practical reason" amounts, in practice, to support for racial preferences which are absolute poison with the Republican base.

This reads an awful lot like an assertion that the Republicans don't, after all, have any answers to the problems of black Americans, and are just interested in blocking the Democrats, who do have answers.

There's nothing from the Republican platform, nothing acceptable to Republican voters, that offers a practical reason for black people to vote Republican?

OK; mightn't that be the problem right there?

Good post, von. Best of luck retaking your party from the crazies.

This reads an awful lot like an assertion that the Republicans don't, after all, have any answers to the problems of black Americans, and are just interested in blocking the Democrats, who do have answers.

Sounds like it to me, too.

On the other hand, perhaps I'm being too partisan--what's been some historical initiatives aimed at the black (or other ethnic) communities? And did they fail for being too much theory and not enough practice?

I'm curious why you would even want to go to the trouble to save the Republican brand rather than just shoveling some dirt over it and walking away.

"To quote from Ta-Nehisi Coates' blog, one of the factors of the Democratic "ownership" of the black vote are behaviors like these:

1. The Hayes-Tilden Compromise, where the Dems agreed to accept the razor-thin GOP electoral victory in exchange for the GOP ending Reconstruction policies.

....

What do these things have in common? Doing something tangible for the black community to better their lives. NONE of that equates to "racial preferences."

Excuse me???? Democrats buying Republican acquiescence to Democrats persecuting blacks, in 18 freaking 77, constituted "Doing something tangible for the black community"??? You lost me there.

I'm not asking Republicans abandon their core principles. What I am asking is for Republicans to stop talking about their principles and start putting those principles into practice -- something that many Republicans are loathe to do because it requires them to make their principles practical. Focus on delivering government services that people want in a way that they want them; y'know, governing.

Their problem is that their basic principles are fundamentally anti-government. They can't both stick to their principles and deliver government services that people want, because their basic principles tell them that the government shouldn't be delivering those services in the first place. If the Republicans want to win elections, they're either going to have to change either public opinion or their principles.


The quest for "extreme" candidates is a consequence of this: The base is trying to get candidates who actually mean what they say, and are treating moderation as a proxy for insincerity, since they've got no really good way to tell who'd deliver the goods if given a chance.

This.

A party that is thoroughly marginalized will always have this problem: how does anyone know what they will do if they get back into power?

The answer is to take advantage of the tiered nature of the political system in the US and rebuild not at the federal level, but up from below at the local and state level first. Even a party in deep disgrace at the national level can still win local and state elections in some parts of the country, and thus show people what you can and will do when trusted with some power.

The national GOP at this point is hopeless - might as well shovel the dirt over them, because having tasted power at the national level the individuals who are leading the national party will never want to go back to the minor leagues and start over in their personal careers - How do you keep them down on the farm once they've seen Paree? (e.g., Gov. Palin can't even seem to be bothered with the business of her own state anymore). Instead they will hang around the margins of the national govt., sniping and obstructing and not doing anybody (either the Dems or the GOP) any good at all until they are pushed out of the way by a younger generation.

Right now folks who want to rebuild the GOP should focus on local and state, not national politics. That will have the additional advantage of focusing minds on the needs and concerns of actual voters, since local pols tend to be in closer contact with their constituents on a daily or weekly basis, than do their national counterparts.

I believe that the event that was the last straw for African-American support for the Republican party was the aftermath of the Mississippi flood of 1927, where Herbert Hoover was in charge of the investigation. his failure to keep promises made to prominent African Americans when he took office had them lead the AA commmunity to support FDR.

Their problem is that their basic principles are fundamentally anti-government. They can't both stick to their principles and deliver government services that people want, because their basic principles tell them that the government shouldn't be delivering those services in the first place.

I agree. The current Republican attitude seems to be that government is inherently incapable of solving problems. As a consequence, there is no reason to even try to govern well; no one with brains and ambition should so waste their time. Michael Brown at FEMA is natural consequence. Not even governing the military in war time is immune - see wasteful no-bid contracts to KBR in Iraq.

There is a place in American politics for a party with a keen sense of the limitations of government. I'd even vote for them from time to time. But until the Republicans figure out what they think government should be doing, they'll stay out in the cold.

Brett, as usual I find your posts on the issue of race or immigration obtuse.

To explain the Hayes-Tilden issue above, you are correct to note that the Democratic party of 1877 was composed essentially of Northern Catholic immigrants and racist scum, and that the racist scum faction brought the Republicans to heel in 1877, almost a century before their heirs finally joined the Republican party. But the point there is that the Republican party forsook racial equality for power in 1877 - and has apparently only rarely looked back. What was in 1866 the Party of Lincoln and of Reconstruction repudiated both of those legacies, an action that counts to their eternal shame. The still greater perfidy of the Southern Democrats of 1877 doesn't lessen that, and the modern Democratic party has repudiated the racism that defined them through the latter half of the twentieth century; finding this legacy and its dubious electoral benefits thus available, Goldwater, Nixon, Atwater, and Bush proudly assumed it.

Don't get me started with your statement about the necessity of capitulating on race-based affirmative action; all I'll say is that one Barack Obama campaigned on class-based affirmative action, and didn't seem to suffer for his apostasy. I greatly doubt that this issue is the sovereign for all that ails the Republican image in the minds of the Black electorate.

More generally, it's just beyond absurd to say that Republicans cannot possibly connect to Black voters and shouldn't try because the only way would be an embrace of race-based affirmative action. You state that the Black community has ceased even to listen to Republicans as if this indicated some inherent defect in Black Americans. I suggest to you that if the Republican party has so little traction in the Black community that it cannot even get its policy positions recognized then not only does that suggest a level of alienation from 13% of the national population unsustainable for a major political party, but the kind of reputation the party must have to achieve such alienation is also certain to cripple the party with other demographic groups, such as most obviously other racial minorities and White folks most sympathetic to minorities.

There's something I just don't get, here.

If the GOP hates government, doesn't believe it should do much of anything, and thinks the term "common good" is an oxymoron... then why does the GOP even want to be a major party, a national party?

Why doesn't the GOP abandon politics altogether, and turn its energies entirely to the private sector? Maybe then we'd see all those free-market solutions to things like rationed healthcare, climate change, and financial meltdowns they keep talking about but for some reason have never appeared.

More generally, it's just beyond absurd to say that Republicans cannot possibly connect to Black voters and shouldn't try because the only way would be an embrace of race-based affirmative action.

Well, that was the point of saying there was a stupendous lack of imagination on the part of the Republicans.

What counts is trying to make things better for your constituents. And I would think there are ways of helping the black community without betraying legitimate conservative or Republican principles. It's just that nobody said it would be easy.

20-30% of the black vote is potentially in play if Republicans offer those voters some practical reason to vote for them

First of all, that offering would alienate a greater number of white voters who currently vote Republican than the number of black voters it would attract. The Southern Strategy worked for a while, but now it is looking like a one way dead end street. Move the southern white racist vote to the Democratic side and see what the electoral totals would have looked like last fall.

Second of all, the party of "You start out in 1954 by saying, ‘Nigger, nigger, nigger’" isn't going to suddenly become attractive to black voters with a short term marketing campaign. Go fight for the rights of minorities for 50 years. Help right the wrongs against blacks that were done by the Republican party. Go fight for the poor instead of loudly protesting tiny tax increases for the obscenely rich. Go fight for the working class. The minimum wage worker, the illegal immigrant construction worker, the union member. Go fight against the people who find singing "Barack The Magic Negro" to be in good taste. Go do that for half a century and then come back and let the black voters know what you have to offer.

Or just try to paper over a half century of Republican hate with a few platitudes and see how that works out.

1. I don't think it would take the republican party a generation of contrition to overcome its history with black voters. Young voters enter the system every day. Memories are short in comparison to present day concerns.

2. That being said, the republican party keeps doing dumb stuff NOW. Black voters aren't going to vote for a party that defines itself through, amongst other things, a freakish jealousy of a perceived privilege possessed by african americans and a believe that "real americans" are white christians who don't live in cities.

3. The idea that african american perception of which political party was responsible for events in the 1800s is somehow relevant evidence of an inability of the modern republican party to connect with black voters is... Argh. There was a blog post a while back about opinions which are so stupid that anyone expressing them must, by definition, be either stupid, ignorant, or dishonest. This is one of them.

If the GOP hates government, doesn't believe it should do much of anything, and thinks the term "common good" is an oxymoron... then why does the GOP even want to be a major party, a national party?

The obvious answer is that staying in charge lets them maintain a government of the size they think is appropriate. If they were to say that government is pointless and refuse to get involved, the people who disagree would move into the vacuum and set up a big, activist government. The surest way of maintaining the kind of government you like is to stay in charge, even- maybe especially- if you like a tiny, toothless one.

Warren Terra wrote: "But the point there is that the Republican party forsook racial equality for power in 1877 - and has apparently only rarely looked back. "

Yeah, but that's not what was written, above, by gwangung.

Gwangung described the 1877 compromise as " Doing something tangible for the black community to better their lives.", which it clearly wasn't. Nor was it a reason for blacks to love the Democrats.

Gwangung's point kinda went astray there. His 'something tangible' point applied only to Coates' examples 2 and 3, because the three cited incidents are not of the same type.

Jon H, you're right about what Gwangung said - but the Hayes/Tilden reference was in the preceding blockquote from a Ta-Nehisi Coates blogpost; I haven't bothered to check but I can be fairly confident that Coates didn't suggest that either side was standing up for the Black man in the Hayes/Tilden compromise.

To be fair to Gwangung, I'd rather expect he was being a bit clumsy, and his "doing something tangible" description was intended to refer only to the last three items listed in the blockquote (FDR, the WPA, and the Oral History project; desegregation of the military under Truman; and the Civil Rights Acts of the 1960s).

Mind you, that presentation of history makes deliberate omissions that are unfair to Eisenhower (Little Rock, and signing the first Civil Rights Bill) - but if the Republicans (or even Eisenhower's Vice President) had embraced Eisenhower's legacy then we wouldn't be discussing the Republicans' alienation from the Black community.

1. They're not listening. There was polling done this campaign that showed, on issues where the GOP position was more in line with black attitudes than the Democratic position, blacks just attributed the Repubican position to the Democratic party. How do you deal with that?

That's brand loyalty for you - and it cuts both ways. Americans 'bought American' for years after Honda and Toyota were consistently offering superior products. But having been burned so consistently, consumers are reluctant to go back to American brands even after the Big Three started making (some) quality cars again. If Republicans truly wanted to capture a significant fraction of the black vote, they'd best be prepared to grovel for a few decades.

Somehow, I don't see that happening. Instead, I expect the usual repackaging of the same tired old ideas in a 'black-friendly' format. And when that doesn't immediately translate into some significant support, the Usual Suspects will decry black intransigence.

Von would be far better advised to work from within to move the Democratic party to the right (I think that is what he would like to do, if it was in his power.)

Why are people seriously arguing with a guy who uses the phrase "black attitudes"?

1. I don't think it would take the republican party a generation of contrition to overcome its history with black voters. Young voters enter the system every day. Memories are short in comparison to present day concerns.

Presumably those young voters have parents and grandparents who talk to them about things, like how Republicans have treated black voters for the last half century.

I don't think it would take the republican party a generation of contrition to overcome its history with black voters. Young voters enter the system every day

They do enter the system every day and once they vote in two elections for the same party, they are very reluctant to change parties. The people who have voted for Democrats in the last two elections aren't going to suddenly wake up in 2010 as Republicans.

It would not take a generation, it would take two. If the Republicans started today. Which they will not do. Because then they would lose the racist white southerner vote. Look at the polls to determine the percentage of people who currently identify as Republican. Then subtract the racist white southerners. Now you're in sub-Ross Perot territory.

I would suggest a re-thinking of what is really meant when hard-core Republicans talk about "purity." It is really a phrase for sugar-coating what amounts to intolerance toward any variation in thought (i.e., authoritarianism, as posited recently by John Dean), and has very little to do with ideology itself (old style hard core leftist thought also had a huge authoritarian streak, so this is not a right-left issue).

When I look at the landscape of political thinking from the point of view of who thinks in manner essentially identical to me, it is not a very big percentage. If I allow myself to accept those with somewhat different but essentially compatible views with whom I can work toward acceptable solutions, that percentage gets an awful lot bigger. That is how a party of 51% is built. Ideological flexibility is not something automatically "liberal" but rather just being practical. Maybe the Republican problems with being flexible and practical have more to do with its authoritarian streak rather than ideology.

It is also ironic to hear Republicans talk about ideological purity, given the ugly reality in our lifetimes of its willing perversion of its own alleged ideology. The party that cheered George Bush is going to have a hard time convincing anyone that is has had any concern about purity in its ideology. It worshiped power and demanded loyalty to that rather than ideological fidelity.

Very relevant to this discussion of Republican "purity" is this excerpt from a post by Marshall at TPM:

My sense is that for the vast majority of Republicans, their current and alleged beef with President Bush is that he espoused some sort of 'big government conservatism'. He was profligate with the nation's finances and left the country settled with huge structural deficits.

How is this different from Reagan's time in office exactly? They're actually surprisingly similar.

Both presidents pushed through big tax cuts, squeezed domestic discretionary spending, though never as much as opponents feared or supporters professed to hope for, and spent lavishly on defense. Having two big wars gave President Bush more to spend on. But the broad pattern is very similar. And both ended up leaving the country with really big deficits, though Reagan did a bit in the latter years of his administration to even the balance. Again, very, very similar. So either Bush is well within the conservative tradition or Reagan is another phony.

Perhaps you could argue that President Bush was too big government on the civil liberties and state power front. But it's the rump GOP which has staked its reputation on a principled embrace of torture, warrantless wiretapping and various other kinds of extra- and unconstitutional actions. So that doesn't strike me as credible. How else did President Bush's Republican party get away from its conservative roots.

"Their problem is that their basic principles are fundamentally anti-government. They can't both stick to their principles and deliver government services that people want, because their basic principles tell them that the government shouldn't be delivering those services in the first place. If the Republicans want to win elections, they're either going to have to change either public opinion or their principles."

What Roger Moore said. You can see the problem most clearly in the patron saint of modern Republicanism, who said that government is not the solution to the problem; government is the problem. When people with that kind of ideology get into power, it's pretty much inevitable that they're going to ruin things. How can you effectively do a job that you don't think should exist in the first place?

The issue Republicans really have to confront is that, however much Americans claim to support a smaller government in the abstract, when it comes to concrete issues like education, environmental protection, or market regulation, people want the government to deliver services coherently and effectively. Campaigning against earmarks that make up about 1% of the federal budget shows a fundamental refusal to come to terms with this problem.

The obvious answer is that staying in charge lets them maintain a government of the size they think is appropriate. If they were to say that government is pointless and refuse to get involved, the people who disagree would move into the vacuum and set up a big, activist government.

But "big, activist government" describes every Republican administration within living memory. So why, again, should we believe them?

The solution for Republicans is actually pretty simple, at least in concept:
1) take office in some counties and towns, which frequently have non-partisan elections for town councils and county Boards of Supervisors (or whatever they are called in your state).
2) do a decent job of governing
3) leverage that into some state offices
4) do a decent job of governing
5) work up to Governors' offices and Congressional seats
6) do a decent job of governing

The good news is that the standard you will be judged against on "a decent job of governing" is not all that high. The bad news is, ideological purity is not, in itself, sufficient to do that job.

As for winning over voters in any particular voting bloc (blacks, Hispanics, evangelicals, atheists, gays, etc.), the big challenge (and it's a sad commentary that it is a challenge at all) is simply to refrain from insulting them and driving them away in the course of trying to hold on to one of the others. And you do that by a focus on governing, rather than on ideological purity. There are people in every one of those groups who are inclined to philosophical positions which could be described as "conservative" -- but they won't listen to you, let alone vote for you, if you turn them off with insults.

In short, if you want to get hired for a job (elected office), be prepared to do the damn job. Learn how to do it, and then demonstrate competence in doing it.

To be fair to Gwangung, I'd rather expect he was being a bit clumsy,

"A bit"? Thank you for being polite...

But people get the overall point. And I should point out that well defined communities like minority communities have long memories when it comes to "who did what for you." Civil rights legislation is BIIIG...but doing positive stuff doesn't need to be BIG all the time. Just concentrate on doing small, positive stuff and the big stuff takes care of itself.

And wj's point also applies (or, rather, it's a general strategy that applies to all your constituencies--and you break down your support into constituencies. Why Republicans have problems extending their notion of constituencies into ethnic minorities, women and gays, I have no idea...)

"Republicans and the Black Vote" by Michael K. Fauntroy might interest some here.

My notes on just one area suggest a flavor:

"Electoral Campaigning: Southern Strategy, Reagan's 1980 General Election kick-off in Philadelphia Mississippi / speaking of state rights when in place where civil rights workers murdered, Bush/"Willie" (he used William) Horton ... Reagan/CA has such a law, white murderer not chosen, David Duke, Jesse Helms v. Harvey Gantt (white hands/worker), Bush at SC/Bob Jones, Confederate Flag, GOP Purge and Voting Security Program"

BTW, Reconstruction was about over even before the "corrupt bargain" of 1877. The Republican effort to support blacks was not, as shown by the so-called "force bill" later on that tried to do something to enforce voting rights. In fact, blacks continued to support Republicans into the 20th Century.

Mike Huckabee got some points for suggesting Christianity included caring for the poor. There is some hope for Republicans, particularly locally, to appeal to blacks, just like some are considered gay friendly. And, even small changes can be significant, many races being relatively close.


I'm genuinely curious as to how certain people's conception of a renewed Republican party would be different from a Democratic party dominated by the DLC types. Aside from the hot-button cultural issues, I don't see why von would prefer one over the other. Given that the culture wars can't be won by pitting Party might against the general public, I'd say that the chances of the one governing are substantially greater than the other . . . so that even if issues like abortion matter to some people, isn't this a case of half a loaf is better than none?

In the interests of openness, I should probably admit that I consider myself more of an Eisenhower Republican than Clinton Democrat. Modulo the cultural update that is; I don't consider other people's same-sex unions to be any of my business, which was, um, probably not the case fifty years ago.

Byron York was just exposing a flaw in the polling methodology: each black supporter of President Obama was only supposed to count as three-fifths.

"The party that cheered George Bush is going to have a hard time convincing anyone that is has had any concern about purity in its ideology. It worshiped power and demanded loyalty to that rather than ideological fidelity." I agree, dmbeaster. One of the thoughts that passed through my mind repeatedly during the Bush years was, "Don't these guys believe in anything?" After the 2004 elections, Republicans had a few major disagreements with Bush. In 2005, conservatives forced Bush to put Samuel Alito on the Supreme Court rather than Harriet Miers. In 2008, House Republicans voted down Bush's TARP plan, forcing a bunch of unrelated provisions to be added to the bill. In 2006, commentators at redstate.com made some pretty scathing comments about Bush's decision to replace Secretary of Defence Donald Rumsfeld with Robert Gates. But before the 2004 election, I don't recall any serious pushback against Bush from Republicans or significant groups on the political right. As long as Bush's re-election was in the balance, he could do no wrong.

Actually, I'd date the pushback from Republicans much later, after the 2006 elections. You here a lot these days from self-styled 'conservatives' that Bush wasn't really one of them. Then they go on to gleefully cite examples which they think of as 'liberal' or 'Democratic'.

After they've performed this ritualistic high step, my standard response is to ask them to produce posts of their own in which they had been critical of Bush - in 2005. So far, despite a lot of huffing and puffing about how they were saying that 'Bush wasn't really a Conservative' five or more years ago, these types have yet to produce a single post saying otherwise.

Instead, research tends to show stuff like the always entertaining Megan McArdle writing as Jane Galt going on and on about Bush's 'conservative cred'.

Right now the Republicans have the worst of both worlds: People who don't like their positions think they're serious about them, people who do like their positions know they're not.

The quest for "extreme" candidates is a consequence of this: The base is trying to get candidates who actually mean what they say, and are treating moderation as a proxy for insincerity, since they've got no really good way to tell who'd deliver the goods if given a chance.

In the flow of acrimony about another part of Brent's post, this seems to have been lost and it's as good a summary of why the GOP is not worth saving as I've seen.

In 1994, I was a Republican just like my grandparents: Educated, newly made entrepreneur, in favor of federal policies that promote microcapitalism as the only proven tactic to moving poor women and their kids onto the economic ladder combined with social-issue stands that acknowledge the fundamentally un-American nature of government controlling who marries who or how many kids they have or don't have.

15 years later, my views about the purpose scope and tactics that are best for government haven't moved. I have 5 years on the job of moving my state and local Dems toward my views, which many sane Americans share.

I'm also gay, married, and an adoptive parent of a child of color. Democrats, say what you will about them, have welcomed me as a breath of fresh air in a room full of the same old ideas. Specifically, local and state Dems have been outgoing in their willingness to question the tactics they are used to and experiment with (shh!) programs promoting small business.

My views haven't changed much. The Republican party forced me to get involved in making it MORE obsolete, by the purity tests designed to overcome the reality that in office the GOP is corrupt and incompetent at spending money we don't have.

The insistence on showing the world that deficit hawks who want a government too effective to fit in our bedrooms aren't welcome is a dramatization.

If the Republicans really want the black vote, they should stop passing laws that decrease turnout of black voters. Which political party is practicing caging of voters? Republican. Which political party sent letters to voters in Virginia saying Republicans voted on Tuesday and Democrats on Wednesday? Republican. Which political party is using photo ID laws to prevent older, poorer citizens from being allowed to vote? Republican. The Republican party is attempting to decrease citizen voting in every state in the union. These guys don't want black voters and the black citizens know it.

The answer is to take advantage of the tiered nature of the political system in the US and rebuild not at the federal level, but up from below at the local and state level first. Even a party in deep disgrace at the national level can still win local and state elections in some parts of the country, and thus show people what you can and will do when trusted with some power.

Or not. Consider Colorado. Five years ago, the Republicans held/controlled both chambers of the state legislature, the governorship, two US Senate seats and five of seven US House seats. Today, they hold/control two US House seats, and none of the rest. Colorado's swing vote has always been the Denver suburbs, and the state Republicans failed to adapt to changing attitudes there.

Over the last decade, the 'burbs became more interested in controlling sprawl, in forms of transit beyond paving more lane-miles, and in effective public services. The State Republicans failed to see any of these trends and kept selling the same product: all development is good, more money for roads is always good, and (one of their more recent creations) diversion of money from neighborhood schools.

Republican support has basically been pushed back into the rural areas and the richest 'burbs. In all honesty, I don't see how they come back from this.

Right now the Republicans have the worst of both worlds: People who don't like their positions think they're serious about them, people who do like their positions know they're not.

This is a brilliant nugget: really hits it right on the nose.

I'm not asking Republicans abandon their core principles.

You don't have to. Except for tax cuts, Bush and Rove already did, and most Republicans were happy to fall in line. You didn't hear many complaints about deficits from the so-called fiscal conservatives back then, when Bush reversed the surplus for -- yes! -- tax cuts.

I fail to see how Obama's cap-and-trade "works contrary to the market" and McCain's doesn't. If anything, auctioning off carbon credits (which seems to be the primary difference in the two plans; Obama is for auctioning, McCain is against) is closer to the "invisible hand of the market" than giving them away for free ("allocating"). I think McCain is the one working "contrary to the market" here.

One key word in your column here is wrong. When you talk about “eight years of drift and incompetence”, you’e wrong. It wasn’t drift. With the exception of “privatizing” Social Security (and thank God they failed!), the Cheney-Bush Administration accomplished what they set out to.

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