The Fringe On Top


Steve Kornacki sees the danger the GOP has put itself in:

Unlike 2000, there's no George W. Bush in the current GOP field, a candidate with strong appeal to both the pragmatic party "establishment" and the right-wing base in Iowa. And (unless he decides to jump in), there isn't even a Huckabee, someone capable of at least putting a friendly face on the Iowa GOP's extremism. But there is Michele Bachmann. And Rick Santorum. And Newt Gingrich. And maybe Sarah Palin, if she were to run. And maybe even Herman Cain (you never know). It's hard to imagine any of them winning the GOP nomination next year, but one of them could very well win Iowa, and emerge as a major player on the national stage throughout '12 -- a non-stop headache for a GOP that desperately wants swing voters to see the party as something more than a collection of hysterically irrational ideological extremists.

I wish this weren't so bloody predictable. A long long time ago, I wrote that it was "going to get worse before it gets better." My parallel was with the Tories after their crushing defeat by Tony Blair in 1997. You'd think a political party would respond to a massive loss by re-tooling completely. But in fact, those who survived the drubbing were in the safest seats and had the least to gain by reform. They marinated in their own obsessions and delusions, intent on distinguishing between those who were "sound" and those who were "unsound" (the equivalent of the RINO debate), and fixated on a mythic figure of the past (Thatcher, like Reagan and the GOP). So their defeat actually reinforced itself. They lost three general elections in a row.

The same is true of the Labour party after losing to Thatcher in the 1980s. They became controlled by their base which further entrenched their opponents. The GOP is, to my mind, in a worse state. The most alienated are minorities, who form the fastest growing slice of the electorate. And the Republicans' ability to leverage their base into winning mid-terms (thanks, Roger!) gives them an outlet in government, without controlling it. So they increasingly don't even have the outsider card. Hence their post-election slide. And the slim pickings for 2012.

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