Friday, November 14, 2008

Facing Down GOP's Devils

The GOP is at a crossroads. Will they take the social conservative route to please the religious right and Paliniacs, or a more moderate road with a bigger tent than social policy and anti-intellectualism.

Christine Todd Whitman, who headed Bush's EPA from 2001 to 2003 and is currently co-chair of the Republican Leadership Council, wades into the debate in "Free the GOP - The Party Won't Win Back the Middle as Long As It's Hostage to Social Fundamentalists" (WaPo)

It's not the first time Whitman has been the canary in the coal mine. After the 2004 election Whitman published, "It's My Party Too: The Battle for the Heart of the GOP and the Future of America," which she co-authored with this article's co-author, Robert Bostock.

Whitman says of that 2004 book...."Our central thesis was simple: The Republican Party had been taken hostage by 'social fundamentalists,' the people who base their votes on such social issues as abortion, gay rights and stem cell research. Unless the GOP freed itself from their grip, we argued, it would so alienate itself from the broad center of the American electorate that it would become increasingly marginalized and find itself out of power."

It's 2008, and the GOP is out of power.

The GOP ignored Whitman's fading canary call as John McCain allowed himself to become co-opted by Bush/Rove social fundamentalists and upstaged by their Vacuous Valkyrie, Sarah Palin.

The new sell-out McCain.... as opposed to the mythical 2000 maverick.... didn't attract moderates, and so he lost even though his percentage of "value voters" increased. As Whitman explains, "McCain actually won more votes from self-identified white evangelical/born-again voters than Bush did four years ago -- 1.8 million more. But that was not enough to offset the loss of so many moderates."

As for Palin's value to the ticket, Whitman calls it as she see it, "Palin has many attractive qualities as a candidate. Being prepared to become president at a moment's notice was not obviously among them this year. Her selection cost the ticket support among those moderate voters who saw it as a cynical sop to social fundamentalists, reinforcing the impression that they control the party, with the party's consent."

Whitman accuses the GOP of suffering from a political Stockholm syndrome, "In the wake of the Democrats' landslide victory, and despite all evidence to the contrary, many in the GOP are arguing that John McCain was defeated because the social fundamentalists wouldn't support him.

"They seem to be suffering from a political strain of Stockholm syndrome. They are identifying with the interests of their political captors and ignoring the views of the larger electorate. This has cost the Republican Party the votes of millions of people who don't find a willingness to acquiesce to hostage-takers a positive trait in potential leaders
"Unless the Republican Party ends its self-imposed captivity to social fundamentalists, it will spend a long time in the political wilderness. On Nov. 4, the American people very clearly rejected the politics of demonization and division. It's long past time for the GOP to do the same."

There may be a glimmer of hope for those who identify with Whitman's clarion call for the Republican party to flee their social conservative captors. It comes from GOP governors who are holding a summit in Miami.... though McCain's Trophy Vice must have thought she was still in Alaska.... "Sarah Palin gets cold reception in Sunshine State GOP gathering" (NYDailyNews)

It was clear that the state governors thought it was grown-up time, a time to address substantive issues. As once-considered-for-VP Gov. Tim Pawlenty of Minnesota pointedly said, " 'Drill, baby, drill!' by itself is not an energy policy" referring to the chant that became a staple of Palin's rallies - the target of his tweak was clear."

Social fundamentalists take no prisoners, give no ground. The question remains... can the GOP be deprogrammed? Possibly, with a soul-searching intervention by determined moderate voices in the GOP. But it will be an ugly exorcism.

1 comment:

Paul Hsieh said...

I completely agree with Whitman and Bostock. It won't be a pleasant battle, but the GOP needs to return to promoting individual rights, limited government, and fiscal responsibility, not the agenda of the Religious Right.

My OpEd on this exact issue appeared last week in the Denver Post:

"How the GOP Lost My Vote"

I really hope the Republicans listen to Whitman and Bostock. Otherwise they'd better get used to losing a lot more elections, and deservedly so.