At a time where every poll I see shows Republicans in deep, deep trouble, on nearly every single issue, with their candidates trailing in fund-raising for the first time in ages, and their congressional campaign committees having trouble recruiting viable challengers, these same positions have become absolute litmus tests for conservative bloggers.
I take as recent evidence the situation in Virginia, which I have been studying closely for Voic.Us. There, Republicans hold narrow majorities in the state legislature. They were able to force a transportation compromise on Gov. Tim Kaine. They should be feeling good about themselves.
The conservative blogosphere of Virginia is now on the warpath against so-called "RINOs,"
Republicans In Name Only, both incumbents and candidates who refuse to
kowtow to the conservatives’ litmus tests.
Given the reality of their
political situation, one would think loyal Republicans would want every
friend they could get. Not so. Instead, like Iraqi Sunnis, they
continue to think they’re the whopping majority, they continue forcing
their party further-and-further to the right, and they essentially do
the Democrats’ work for them.
A lot of what’s going on nationally can be seen in the McGovern wing’s reaction to the Virginia Tech tragedy. Hate is
starting to turn off Christians. Gun nuts are getting
nuttier-and-nuttier. Right-wingers march demanding "victory" in Iraq
without a single clue what the word means.
Reality doesn’t phase these people. It emboldens them. They are higher than San Francisco hippies on their own rhetoric.
My point is this is precisely what happened to the Democratic Party
at the end of the FDR era, in the late 1960s and early 1970s. This is
also what happened to the Republican Party in the run-up to FDR’s 1932
election. It is, in fact, entirely normal and entirely human.
When the political assumptions you’ve built your life on stop working, the
tendency is either to hold onto them ever-more tightly or to take them
to their logical extreme. Humphrey ran in 1968 as though the year were
1948. The McGovern convention of 1972 was notorious for its anarchy,
and Nixon had very little to do with that.
The Democrats’ response of either holding onto FDR’s ghost or saying
to hell with the world gave Nixon the political respite he needed to
set America’s course for a generation. Republicans are now acting just
like those Democrats did a generation ago.
If I could give any advice to Democrats, it would be to unite around a general platform, to stay on the offensive in every possible way, and to listen to their own Netroots, who are the ascending force in American politics, just as the New Right was a generation ago.
But I don’t have to say that. They’re already doing it. Except for a
few Liebercratic Dead-Enders, who are going down with the GOP ship, it
seems the 2008 race has already been settled. That’s the way it is with