It is a strange world indeed. On Friday, January 30, there was this – “The Republican National Committee elected Michael Steele as its first African American chairman today in Washington, a decision that came after an excruciating series of ballots that displayed a level of drama rarely seen in national politics.”
That’s nice. Via Steve Benen here, it seems this was Steele’s second attempt to get the job – in 2006 Karl Rove objected, the rumor was Rove questioned Steele’s competence. As Benen notes, a man who got caught hiring homeless people to lie to voters – and then loses anyway – doesn’t inspire confidence. And Benen points to this editorial – the Washington Post just didn’t see Steele in the Senate, a man of “no achievement, no record, no evidence and certainly no command of the issues.” But he is black – so that will show the damned Democrats.
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell did not mince words on the outlook for the GOP during his address to the Republican National Committee’s annual meeting on Thursday.
The “path forward” for the Republican Party is rocky.
“We’re all concerned about the fact that the very wealthy and the very poor, the most and least educated, and a majority of minority voters, seem to have more or less stopped paying attention to us. And we should be concerned that, as a result of all this, the Republican Party seems to be slipping into a position of being more of a regional party than a national one,” McConnell told the gathering.
“In politics, there’s a name for a regional party: it’s called a minority party. And I didn’t sign up to be a member of a regional party. … As Republicans, we know that common-sense conservative principles aren’t regional. But I think we have to admit what our sales job has been poor. And in my view, that needs to change.”
Maybe it wasn’t the sales job, just the product. The Republican Party believes neither. There was a big campaign on the right to send Mitch some balls – because he has none.
You see, real men know everything is fine, and the Republican Party is on top of the world, or something. The idea is that everyone admires them for trying to scuttle the Obama recovery plan, as stimulating the economy by getting people back to work is foolish, as you have to spend money, and lowering taxes for the corporations and the rich will take care of everything, as making it dirt cheap to produce goods is the thing – that Supply Side stuff. But the dynamic was, really, one of male dominance, or at least of never compromising, no matter what. No real man – the core definition of what a Republican is – would vote with wimpy Democrats on anything. Thus the House passed the Obama stimulus plan, easily, but without one Republican vote – not one. And Mitch had better make sure the same thing happens in the Senate. He needs to be a man, not a Mensch.
Someone understands what’s going on, as can be seen in this video clip, The Colbert Report Word: The Audacity of Nope:
Last night – last night’s party line vote was a great start for the 111th Congress. But these hard times demand an even larger meaningless gesture. That is why I am calling on every Republican who voted against this bill to put no money where your mouth is. Refuse to accept a single penny of the eight hundred billion dollars for your Congressional district.
Think of it – think of it – think of it like a hunger strike. Then – then just sit back and watch in glee as the Democrats face the wrath of their constituents suffering as the eight hundred billion dollars tears through their districts like a force five cash-o-cane.
It won’t be easy but you are fighting for a principle. If we can’t have a perfect bill to stimulate the economy you’d rather have no economy at all. And that’s the Word.
That just about sums it up.
And some say the Republican Party is in disarray. Steele was the compromise candidate, Mitch McConnell considered a wimp, and all they’re left with is Rush Limbaugh:
For all the talk of new politics and a new start with a new administration, the media person who has emerged as the chief voice of opposition during the first week of Barack Obama’s presidency – Rush Limbaugh – has been doing this for 20 years.
The talk-radio titan said, days before Obama was sworn in, that he hoped Obama failed because he didn’t believe in the incoming president’s policies.
It’s kept him in the headlines ever since, to the point where MSNBC on Thursday asked: “Is Rush running the GOP?” The day before, every Republican House member voted against Obama’s economic stimulus plan, a bill Limbaugh has ridiculed as the “porkulus” plan.
“Obama was trying to marginalize me,” Limbaugh said. “His hope was that the House and Senate Republicans would join him in denouncing me. Didn’t work.”
You see, Congressman Phil Gingrey, a Georgia Republican, tried to praise his House leadership saying it’s easy for talk-show hosts to stand back and throw bricks – but he caught so much crap for saying that he visited four conservative talk-show hosts, including Limbaugh, the next day to apologize. His kissed Rush’s ring, as they say. Rush is carried on six hundred radio stations and has fourteen million listeners. You don’t mess with him.
As for those fourteen million, see the statistician Nate Silver:
That’s right: just five states, collectively containing about 2 percent of the American population, have statistically significant pluralities of adults identifying themselves as Republicans. These are the “Mormon Belt” states of Utah, Idaho and Wyoming, plus Nebraska, plus Alaska. By contrast, 35 states are plurality Democratic, and 10 states are too close to call.
You can see what McConnell was getting at, talking about his party becoming somewhat regional.
But in an aside, President Obama did said this to some Republicans – “You can’t just listen to Rush Limbaugh and get things done. There are big things that unify Republicans and Democrats. We shouldn’t let partisan politics derail what are very important things that need to get done.”
Rush loved it. See RushLimbaugh.com – Rush Offers to Meet with President Obama on Stimulus Plan.
That would be cutting out the middlemen – congressmen and senators – and having the only two important people in the country dealing with each other, as Rush sees it.
And of course the other radio guys are jealous:
Another conservative talk-show host, William Bennett, said on CNN that Limbaugh’s statement wasn’t a good idea.
“The locution – ‘I want him to fail’ – is not what you say the first week the man’s been inaugurated,” he said.
But it seems Rush is running things. Via the Washington Post:
Monday, White House press secretary Robert Gibbs offered another sly provocation of Limbaugh; asked to expand on Obama’s comments about the talk show host, Gibbs demurred and then added: “Tell [Rush] I said hi.”
Not surprisingly, Limbaugh took the bait. Of Obama, he said: “He’s obviously more frightened of me than he is Mitch McConnell. He’s more frightened of me than he is of say, John Boehner, which doesn’t say much about our party.”
But he knows he’s not a politician – he was on the television in the other room not long ago saying the new face of the Republican Party is not Steele, no matter what the vote was, it’s Sarah Palin. It gets more interesting all the time.
And everything falls into place. Politico’s Ben Smith explains why Limbaugh is the new Bush:
I’ve been hunting around for polling data to explain why Democrats are so eager to make Rush Limbaugh the face of the Republican Party, and lo, Mark Blumenthal finds some.
The numbers are pretty clear. When this poll was taken last fall, Rush Limbaugh was the second-most toxic figure among likely voters, trailing only George W. Bush in that regard. He was also pretty well-known: Only a quarter of voters have no opinion on him.
Now George W. Bush is out of the picture, and the numbers explain why Limbaugh has emerged as the Democrats favorite bogeyman.
He’ll do. He’s the antithesis to the Obama “bipartisanship brand” – he serves a function. And there was his Wall Street Journal op-ed – his plan for the economy, fixing Obama’s mistakes and bypassing anything from any congressman or senator. It’s the Bush plan – eliminate capital gains taxes, eliminate corporate taxes, eliminate taxes on the wealthy (don’t tax prosperity and success) and step back. That got him a spot on CNBC, the premiere business channel, where they ridiculed him – and oddly, no one invited Rush to the big powwow in Davos to chat with the heads of corporations and governments.
But Rush is happy. Americans United for Change, a liberal group, will begin airing radio ads in three states Obama won – Ohio, Pennsylvania and Nevada – with a simple question aimed at the Republican senators there: Will you side with Obama or Rush Limbaugh? That sets up the face-off between the only two really in charge.
Hell, everyone is happy.
In fact, see Adriel Bettelheim with Will Opposing the Stimulus Makes Voters See Blue?
Rush Limbaugh may beg to differ, but lockstep votes against President Obama’s stimulus package like the one seen in the House this week are steadily adding blue dye to the electoral map, according to a new poll by Democratic pollster Stan Greenberg.
A survey of 1,200 voters in 40 traditionally Republican congressional districts now held by Democrats Greenberg’s firm conducted between Jan. 14 to 19 shows Obama’s post-election honeymoon reaching a rapturous stage, with 44 percent of voters strongly supporting his policies.
A full 64 percent favor his economic plan, compared to 27 percent against. And precisely that same proportion favors the stimulus in 13 states that are expected to have competitive Senate races in 2010: Kentucky, Florida, Missouri, North Carolina, New Hampshire, Pennsylvania, Louisiana, Colorado, Ohio, Kansas, North Dakota, Wisconsin and Illinois.
Greenberg says an incumbent’s support for the economic plan appears to make voters more likely to reelect the lawmaker — particularly good news for the 20 or so Democrats who in November captured districts that former President Bush carried in 2004. He said one-third of Republicans and two-thirds of independents are leaning with Obama’s general goals on the recovery.
“If the Republican Party’s goal is to cheer Rush Limbaugh, they’re welcome to,” Greenberg told a group of reporters, alluding to the radio talk-show host who’s referred to the economic package as a “porkulus” bill.
Greenberg says people will look at their congressman or senator and say, “This guy voted against health care for the unemployed?” That could be a killer.
But Steve Benen suggests everyone calm down:
First, it’s certainly possible that the White House (and Democrats in general) find it useful to make a right-wing loudmouth/drug-addict the public face of the Republican Party in 2009. The GOP is facing a leadership vacuum, and it seems plausible to me that Democrats want to fill it with a far-right clown who’s publicly rooting for the nation’s leadership to fail.
Second … I’m skeptical that Limbaugh’s bellowing blowback is as severe as advertised. He has a large audience of conservative followers, and he can make some House Republicans perform like trained seals, but his electoral power, as a practical matter, is quite limited. As I recall, Limbaugh invested quite a bit of energy criticizing John McCain a year ago, imploring GOP voters not to give him the party’s presidential nomination. How’d that work out?
And third, this notion that Obama “went after” Limbaugh has been wildly exaggerated. The president, speaking to Republican lawmakers behind closed doors, apparently said “You can’t just listen to Rush Limbaugh and get things done.” The point wasn’t to go after Limbaugh specifically, but rather to note that if the White House is going to have a productive, cooperative working relationship with the minority party in Congress, it’s better for everyone if GOP lawmakers don’t rely on right-wing shock-jocks for wisdom and legislative strategies.
That’s not picking a fight; that’s just good advice.
Still, you can imagine what might well happen in 2012 when the economy has imploded, as nothing could save it. Sarah Palin becomes President, Rush Limbaugh Vice President, Ann Coulter Attorney General, Joe the Plumber Secretary of the Treasury, Bill O’Reilly Secretary of State, and Glenn Beck and Sean Hannity get the next open seats on the Supreme Court. Admit it – you have friends and family who long for that day – enough of the smart people with all the degrees who think they know things.
It’s going to be a long four years, and we’ll see if Michael Steele packs it in and hands the Republican Party over to Rush Limbaugh. Life is full of surprises, like Obama himself. You never know.