Kevin Hollinshead, Staff Writer
Ideology: Liberal | Writing from: Fort Collins, CO
When President Obama gave his Afghanistan troop surge speech two weeks ago, some progressives and pretty much all of the Tea Party crazies agreed that Obama has alienated his base, and has set himself up for defeat in 2012.
Between a divisive, costly war escalation, Joe Lieberman’s self-serving hijacking of the healthcare debate for the benefit of insurance companies, and a lack of Obama administration focus thus far on job creation, it has become fashionable in some circles to presume that Republicans will take back both Congress and the White House.
Fortunately for Mr. Obama and the Democrats, their defeat is far from guaranteed – and they have the GOP, the most vocal prognosticators of future Republican gains, to thank for it.
For every person turned off by President Obama’s policies, there is another that views the hard-right shift by the GOP in an equally negative light. Republicans must be feeling unusually generous toward Democrats this holiday season- just look at all the fodder they’ve given Democrats this year.
The Republican Party is experiencing an intra-party fracture, akin to the Civil Rights-era divisions among Democrats. In one corner, there are establishment Republicans (both conservative and moderate) who at least pretend they care about bipartisanship, and who are not slaves to the whims of the religious right.
In the other, there are the Tea Party rally supporters, who apparently think calling Mr. Obama a Nazi and reading random parts of the Constitution (even though most would fail a pop quiz on its contents) is intelligent protest. Based on the wording of their new talking points, Congressional Republicans have apparently sided with the latter, at least for now.
Then, there is the recent meteoric rise of Glenn “the government is using OnStar to spy on you” Beck. His incoherent chalkboard drawings, tearful fits of paranoia, self-contradicting claims about Obama being a racist, and constant plea for viewers to buy gold, both on his show, and in paid advertisements for Goldline International, help solidify his position as the loudest pundit on Fox Noise.
As if that weren’t enough, there is the Republican National Committee’s new “purity test” to run as a Republican: yet another sign that they’re letting the Tea Partiers dictate the future of the party. It contains the new ten commandments of being a good Republican.
The resolution floating around to adopt the test would require you to support eight of the ten. Support gay rights? That’s one strike against you (one must support the Defense of Marriage Act to be a good Republican). Do you mindlessly oppose and obstruct basically anything with Mr. Obama’s name on it? You’re in luck, as seven of the ten ways to be a good Republican are covered under that umbrella. That means you get to be a maverick in picking the one remaining commandment!
On top of that, the RNC chairman, Michael Steele, may quite possibly be the biggest dork to appear on cable news this year. From proving to be spineless under pressure from Rush Limbaugh and the far-right fringe, to awkward comments during interviews that implicitly said “look at me, I’m black and a conservative! Pretty neat, huh?” it’s no wonder that the Becks and Limbaughs of the world are more influential within the party than the chairman himself, and that the public doesn’t take him too seriously.
This is not to mention the “family values” Republicans busted for juicy tales of infidelity and ethical misfires- common occurrences since the birth of the “moral majority.” This year’s list of shame includes South Carolina governor Mark Sanford (though his conduct may be sufficient for its own, more bizarre list), and Senator John Ensign from Nevada.
Then there are the Teabaggers, a movement already fracturing from within. Because the group is defined by significant disconnect from reality (in their world, Medicare and socialized medicine are two completely different things), angry flair, amusing—and occasionally offensive—artwork, countless spelling errors on signs, little substance in content and a lack of a coherent message beyond paranoia-driven fear of the government’s new black/socialist/communist/Nazi/Muslim/Kenyan boogeyman-in-chief, the chances of this group growing beyond students of the Beck school of conservatism is pretty small.
And finally, we have Sarah Palin. Enough said.
What does this all add up to? It’s simple, really: the party is too much of a joke at the moment to seriously challenge Mr. Obama in 2012. Sentiments that Republicans are sure to take over Congress and the White House over the next three years are presently little more than a cocktail of conservative dogma and almost-manic wishful thinking.