February 03, 2008
"How are we going to manage to lose this time?"
Dick Polman thinks the Republicans have "lucked out" because despite opposition from the conservative wing, they might have managed to pick a candidate who can actually beat the Democrats.
The Republicans have lucked out. They appear poised to nominate a guy who can actually win the presidential election in November - a possibility few Republicans had seemed willing to entertain, given the heavy baggage of George W. Bush.Well, it's human nature for people not to realize how good they have it, and there's an instinctive aversion some people have to having it good. What I mean by that is that there are deeply rooted psychological factors at play which go beyond opinions and positions on political issues. It's as if there's a sort of unconscious death wish among many in the party that it's time to crash and burn. They've been riding high for too long, they've become corrupt, and because pride goeth before the fall, a Democratic administration is needed in order to teach them a lesson so they can buckle down and get back to the business of being Republicans. The GOP has had its 1920s boom, and now it's "time" (for lack of a better word) for the bust of the 1930s. That way, the moralists can gain the upper hand with recriminations, blame, and promises of new hope -- provided, of course, that the errant show remorse and agree to mend their ways. This sort of morality play is primal and childlike, and it has a way of resurfacing in almost everything -- whether politics, economics, the Culture War, or even sports. In many ways, I think this country is locked in an endless repetition of the 1920s versus the 1930s. The cycle is reenacted and reenacted, and I think some of the antipathy towards McCain derives from an unacknowledged unconscious need to crash. It's as if winning again is unnatural and unholy. That McCain might be the guy to lead them to victory only heightens the quasi-sacrilegious, perverse nature of an undeserved victory. I think this might heighten the irrational and obviously desperate comparisons of him to Hillary. For reasons that go beyond politics, a sizable chunk of the party simply doesn't want to win.
As to Reagan's rule that "the person who agrees with you 80 percent of the time is a friend and ally," I see a serious problem with invoking that because it is a logical and mathematical rule, and this is about pure emotion. 80 percent means nothing if the disagreement goes to emotional hot-button issues.
Let's take three: abortion, homosexuality, and the latest hot button, immigration. Pure red meat conservative ideologues tend to have strong positions on all three of these. If you are a Republican and you disagree with the red-meaters on even one, you will be regarded with suspicion, as a possible RINO, or maybe even a heretic. The degree of suspicion, of course, depends on the level of ideological commitment to that issue. People who adhere to single issue litmus tests are of course the worst. I talked to a man who is running in the GOP primary in a state I will not mention who told me that merely for allowing that Republicans should be allowed to disagree on abortion that he was called immoral, and a "supporter" of murder. And he is against abortion, and calls himself pro-life.
Ditto immigration. Take the position once held by Ronald Reagan position and you're a vile RINO who wants to destroy U.S. sovereignty and usher in the North American Union. And of course, there are the "homosexual agenda" people, the anti-pornography people, and innumerable other single issue types.
Even I have to plead guilty to being a red-meater where it comes to the Second Amendment. I had lunch with a Republican businessman not long ago, and when he started talking about the need for reasonable gun control measures, I felt myself getting queasy, and I a chorus of "RINO! RINO! RINO!" went through my head. Yet I admit to being a RINO myself.
Another hot button issue for me is the First Amendment, and as I explained in detail here, I see McCain as beyond the pale on that one. Really, on some things, the actual percentage of overall agreement can become trivial by comparison. If someone says to me "We agree on 99% of every issue, except I don't believe in free speech," or "We agree on 99% of every issue, except I think all Jews should be expelled from America," the disagreement is so appalling that the other 99% is beside the point.
So this is complicated, and while people who agree 80 percent of the time might be friends and allies (and certainly their support is needed in an election), the devil is in the details. The fact is, that twenty percent you disagree on could go to the very core of what many Republicans consider their most important principles.
This will not be easy to overcome. 80 percent agreement on political issues aside, in the minds of many there is a strong emotional need for Romney to win the primary regardless of whether he wins in November. Better to lose with honor than to win dishonorably. And that 20 percent disagreement is seen as highly dishonorable.
The problem is that if Hillary wins, the entire country will be placed in a state of extreme dishonor, and it won't much matter what the Republicans think or say.
In addition to the gratuitous advice for Republicans, Polman has a grim warning by way of a nightmare scenario for Democrats:
...here's the nightmare scenario for Democrats: Hillary and McCain square off. McCain wins the independents, many of whom are sick to death of the Clintons. McCain cancels out Hillary's "experience" argument, because he has more. McCain trumps her "toughness" argument, because he has the more hawkish pedigree and spent five years in a POW cell. McCain trumps her on "authenticity," for reasons already mentioned. McCain even pulls away Hispanic voters in key states, thanks to his early championing of a path to citizenship. And he's buoyed by a united conservative base, because nobody galvanizes the base better than Hillary.That would definitely sound chilling to me were I a Democrat. McCain beats the Clintons by being more appealing, being of better character, and by giving the Clintons a dose of their old triangulation medicine.
The only hope for the Democrats would be if McCain loses, or if enough of them did what the Republicans seem to have been doing, and voting for someone more likely to win. Polman does not say who that might be, but hints slightly that it might be Obama:
Democrats, even with the wind at their backs, have been asking each other, "How are we going to manage to lose this time?" Barring Obama's nomination, the scenario above is how. But it won't happen unless the conservatives park their grievances and unite behind McCain. As the old saying goes, even when Republicans don't fall in love, they win by falling in line.I know that Obama's record is to the left of Hillary, and because he is younger (and black) he is automatically given a certain amount of credit for being further to the left. He is to the left of her on the war, but on economic issues like health care, as well as his opposition to Hillary's twice repeated threat to use the presidency to control monetary policy, Obama has done something very unusual in primaries. He is already appealing to the center, and running to the right of Hillary. If he keeps doing this, might he attract enough independents and GOP cross-voters to not only derail Hillary, but possibly derail McCain?
I don't know, but the possibilities are intriguing.
Even more intriguingly, the question "How are we going to manage to lose this time?" seems to be on the minds of many voters in both parties.
What if the Democrats have an unconscious death wish too?
If only both sides could just take a deep breath...
(And then exhale slowly. Isn't each breath a reminder that we're all losers, doomed to death by Global Warming? Don't we all deserve to die?)
UPDATE: My thanks to Glenn Reynolds for linking this post, and a warm welcome to all.
Your comments and opinions are appreciated!
(This missing link added above.)
MORE: Please bear in mind that I have until April to decide between McCain and Romney.
MORE: Andrew Sullivan thinks the Democrats might be blowing it. Again:
Will Democratic voters realise that [Obama] is now their best bet against McCain or will inertia and fear keep Clinton alive? One thing I've learnt in American politics: never underestimate the capacity of the Democratic party to screw it up.
UPDATE: Gerard van der Leun has a great post (and bumpersticker) on the subject of "Republicans, they thirst for death," and he asks some good questions:
I know I am shoveling seaweed against the tide here, but I would ask those people, for but a brief moment, to consider these two potential line-ups:(Via Glenn Reynolds.)
Neo-Neocon has more and I like her analysis of the backlash folly:
...they are willing to throw over the good of the country and all the gains made in Iraq in order to set up some sort of backlash to a Democratic administration, a corrective reaction that they believe will finally lead to the election of a true conservative. The logic--if you can call it that--is to allow the nation to hit rock bottom, somewhat like an alcoholic, in order to finally see that its true salvation lies in electing a conservative purist.As I explained here, today's Hillary backlash theory reminds me of the left in the late 1960s
posted by Eric on 02.03.08 at 09:37 AM
Search the Site
Classics To Go
See more archives here
Old (Blogspot) archives
A knee sock jihad might be premature at this time
People Are Not Rational
No Biorobots For Japan
The Thorium Solution
Radiation Detector From A Digital Camera
This war of attrition is driving me bananas!
Attacking Christianity is one thing, but must they butcher geometry?
Are there trashy distinctions in freedom of expression?
Please Don't Let Me Be Misunderstood