Thursday, November 6, 2008

red-baiting in red America?

Forgive me if I've been a little bitchy the last couple days-- I'm trying hard to not be a sore winner. This are heady times, and it is really nice to feel good about partisan politics again. I'm no conservative, but I'm invested in the project of conservatism. As Reihan-- a wise man-- has said, we've got to live with each other.

I actually do feel a little sympathy for the Palinites. I can understand how difficult it can be to realize that the fact that you really, really like someone doesn't mean that they are popular. What's going on now with the Republican base, and its intellectual mainstream at places like RedState or the Corner, is a product of that misconception. It's also something I can and have fallen pray to in the past. One of my fears about this election was that, after Obama threw his hat in the ring, and again when he was nominated, it was easy to let my own enthusiasm for him convince me that he would be popular, and that everybody would like him. (A fear I most certainly did not have with John Kerry, perhaps the least inspiring candidate I can imagine.)

Luckily, my faith in Obama was well founded. He ended up being a massively popular figure. (One idea that I believe will be vindicated is that, secretly, many conservatives have a great affection for Obama.) But if he wasn't, it would have been hard for me to have accepted because I liked him so much. That thinking seems widespread among Republicans today.

The problem is, the GOP has suffered an incredibly dispiriting defeat, and unlike many other Presidential losses in history, they also lack control of congress. So there isn't much time for irrationalism or wishful thinking. And the GOP, and its meda surrogates like National Review or FOX News, need to seriously and dispassionately consider whether Sarah Palin represents someone who is a viable leader for a national party going forward. A great deal of the polling numbers I have seen indicate that she is a deeply divisive figure, and quite unpopular with independents and moderates. That's partially because of her seeming inexperience and lack of credentials and knowledge. I suspect it is more a product, though, of the fact that Americans don't like people who seem bigoted or intolerant. I don't think Sarah Palin is a racist, or a homophobe, or similar. But she was transformed in this campaign into the very symbol of identity politics and culture war. America is a country with a history of discrimination, but also a pride in moving past that history, and I don't think a candidate propped up on "us vs. them" attitudes can long survive on a national stage.

Thats going to be a difficult thing for many Republicans to get past, and like I said, I have sympathy for them. It's exactly the kind of soul-searching their new moment requires. That's why it's dispiriting to see stuff like this. Yes, in my schadenfreude, it's kind of funny to see. And it would be good for purely partisan reasons for this kind of self-destructive behavior to continue. No one, however, can be an effective member of a democratic polity, in a binary partisan system, and root only for collapse and failure in the other party. Democrats need a fuctioning Republican party, short-term and long, and eventually, the GOP will take back power. Explicit and unapologetic calls for purity tests and eliminationism within one party of a two-party system should be greeted by everyone with alarm.


Tom said...

I can understand how difficult it can be to realize that the fact that you really, really like someone doesn't mean that they are popular.

I'm finding myself with less and less, and I say that knowing I have some egg on my face in the matter.

What creeps me out the most about the Palinites is the rapidity and the strength of their affection for her; Palin has done little (if anything) to deserve the level of affection and loyalty she attained during the campaign. It's especially shameful because many of the most devoted Palinites -- e.g., Dennis Prager -- had made the electorate's (relative) unfamiliarity with Sen. Obama a key argument against him.

mrgood1000 said...

Hey Freddie, just want to let you know that last link is broken.

Freddie said...

I suck! Thanks for pointing that out. Fixed.

Matoko said...

Everyone I know in the "youth demographic" reguards Palin with incredulous horrified loathing.
Given that Erick is going to be a major playah in the Ruffini attempt to attract young voters to the conservative movement....well.... getting the youth demographic within 100 miles of Palin seems pretty hopeless.
Not that that seems to deter the Palinbots from delusionaly insisting that we all actually love her and the polls are wrong.

John said...

Freddie, if you think that Redstate and the Corner are the INTELLECTUAL base of the GOP, you need to expand your reading list.