In praise of distant and brief flickers at the end of long, dark tunnels

Over the past four years, Erick Erickson has won ad revenue, books deals, and a lucrative CNN contract by posing such insightful rhetorical questions as, “Is Obama shagging hookers behind the media’s back?”

The answer to that particular question, admits Erickson, is probably “no,” but who knows?  After all, our “composite-Kenyan” president is an anti-Christian who worked tirelessly to “pervert the word of God.”  Plus, Obama is a racist.  Though in fairness, Erickson might well argue, perhaps the president just appears that way because he’s so stressed out from his home life – after all, his wife is a “Marxist harpy.”

In addition, Erickson has referred to the Democratic Convention as the Vagina Monologues. He compared Linda Douglas, the White House communications director for healthcare reform, to Nazi propagandist Joseph Goebbels – an accusation that is relatively milquetoast.  After all, he accused Supreme Court Justice David Souter as being a “goat-f**king child molester.”  He argued that not filibustering the nomination of Justice Kagan was a “high act of treason.”

In other words, since the election of Barack Hussein Obama the redundantly named “info-tainer” has very much chosen to be part of the problem I’ve been discussing this past year.  Which makes his latest RedState post, The Loyal Opposition, all that more surprising – and welcome:

“I believe the President’s policies are destructive… Because of his expansion of the social safety net funded through class warfare, Mr. Obama’s policies will cause too many Americans’ fortunes to rise and fall with those of the government, unable to chart a course for themselves apart from government.

But I do not think the President means to do this maliciously. I do not think he is treasonous. I do not hate him. I am not outraged by it.

What I am finding is that among conservatives there is too much outrage, piss, and vinegar. It makes our ideas less effective. We have become humorless, angry opponents of the President instead of happy warriors selling better ideas. We are not even selling ideas.

Conservatives, frankly, have become purveyors of outrage… [screaming] “Benghazi” and “Fast & Furious.” …  We’ve become professional victims dialed up to 10 on the outrage meter. … Mitt Romney ran a campaign on just how bad things are, but he was rejected by a majority of Americans who felt like he really did not care about them and really had no plans to improve their lives.  Bitching about Benghazi doesn’t do that either.

Be mad at me if you need to. …  But then shut up and focus on convincing people not that the President of the United States duly elected by a majority of the American people is a traitor willfully trying to destroy the country, but that our policies will allow people to make the most of their lives and not be dependent on the rising and falling fortunes of Washington, D.C.

And if you must be angry, don’t be angry at a President doing what he set out to do, be angry at a Republican Establishment not doing . . . well . . . much of anything.”[1]  –  [emphasis mine -tk]

Now, there are many who will point out (correctly) that Erickson is just one voice in a sea of snake oil salesmen.  Others will note (correctly) that this particular huckster is one of the few that gets regular cable-news paychecks that do not have Roger Ailes’ signature in the lower right hand corner.  And still others will glance at RedState’s own readers – the very group called and cultivated by Erickson – and see that they are accusing him of going to the “dark side,” as they rack up comparisons to Peron, Stalin, Lenin, Chavez and (of course) Hitler.  So, yeah, we’re definitely talking first baby steps here.

But first baby steps are still first steps; someone still has to take them.

There have been a few other glimmers of hope these past few months.  Glenn Beck has been releasing trial balloons to see if conservatives might embrace gay rights by reframing it as a purely Constitutional issue.  Days after Romney’s inglorious defeat, Sean Hannity – who a week before had been railing against the “illegals” destroying our democracy – declared that he suddenly favored a path toward citizenship.  “I’ve evolved” on the moral issue, Hannity proclaimed – though to all observers it cynically appeared to be not moral evolution so much as moral creationism.  This month at a GOP bigwig retreat, organizers had a noted GOP pollster speak and urge Republicans to stop talking about rape.  They’ve even begun to hold minority sensitivity and outreach classes for their elected officials.  (Though this last effort still needs to have some bugs worked out.)

Mind you, all of this is but a drop in the Fox-Talk Radio tsunami.  Still, it’s a drop worth savoring – especially for those of us feeling parched for a coherent, stable and grown-up opposition party.

 


[1] Seriously, when I was done reading the post I had to get back and reread the byline to make sure this was really penned by Erickson and not me.

 
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120 thoughts on “In praise of distant and brief flickers at the end of long, dark tunnels

  1. I’ll take this more seriously if he has permanently changed is rhetoric. Also apologizing for being a sleazebag in the past would be helpful but is not expected.

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    • Exactly. I suspect he senses some kind of sea change and so is altering his tactics and toning down the rage to keep up his profits. His CNN contract might be in jeopardy if he has to wipe to much foam from his mouth after pontificating.

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    • I know the issue of an apology is discussed more fully below, but I’ll say this here.

      Whether he apologizes or is sincerely repentant is not the whole issue. Even if Erickson is a disingenuous, uncontrite, lying fish, the fact that he is evidently moved to tell this particular disingenuous, uncontrite lie might be a sign that things might be improving.

      (((maybe)))

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          • Even when these sorts of gear-shifting occur, they don’thappen iimmediately. Erickson being out there gives other commentators cover to make similar points. Out on his own, Jim Garahty can’t do anything, but with some of the slide balls change becomes more modestly possible. The thing mistlikely rto changeit is aa nominee. But these guys can do more good than an army ofDavid Frums .

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            • You are aware that if he STICKS with this, he’s just gonna be the next David Frum, right?

              Erik isn’t gonna sway hearts and minds, even if he feels his CNN gig requires a sudden moderation. He’s just gonna get labelled a RINO and ignored.

              Just like, you know, David Frum was. And Hagel. And every other Republican who strayed from the orthodoxy.

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              • Frum and Bartlett went out of their way to distance themselves from the party, not just in terms of tone but policy. They make their career out of being “respectable Republicans” of the sort that, once you scratch away all of the criticisms, you really wonder why they are there to begin with*. If Erickson does that – and does that alone – then yeah, he will be dismissed as a RINO. But at this juncture he hasn’t been alone.

                Which itself may be significant. It may, if it continues, result in the next GOP primary being something other than “Which person takes the nastiest stance towards the enemy?”

                The question remains, how far will it reach? Assumptions that the GOP cannot backtrack on this present darkness overlook what happened in the latter years of the Clinton administration. It has happened, it can happen. For it to happen, you have to see the sort of thing that we’re seeing glimpses of now.

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                • It can happen, but I don’t think the bulk of the party is ready yet. Just look at what they did in Virginia– pushing through a redistricting plan that heavily favors Republicans while one Democrat was out of town at the inauguration. They’re still fixated on power at any cost because they think they should win.

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                  • They’re also now going for a “award electoral college votes by congressional distrct won” with a bonus 2 for whomever wins the most districts.

                    The GOP has apparently given up winning national elections and is now trying to change the rules, which is both a bad sign for the party and — if left unchanged — a bad sign for the country.

                    People who can’t win elections are supposed to change until they do, not rig the elections.

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          • I’d also add that the extent to which there is institutional pressure on Erickson to take this stance can only be viewed as a positive as so much of the institutional pressure in righty media is geared towards not talking this way. Of course, he is CNN and not Fox News but we have seen it the National Review and at Fox with regard to immigration. I said in the GOP Leaguecast that one of the problems is that right wing media’s interests are not aligned with the party’s. This could (I repeat *could*) indicate that I was wrong or that it was changing.

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        • Let us suppose there is a nice forest. In that forest is a man named Erik, who has spent the last several days running around the forest setting forest fires, pouring gasoline on fires already existing, occasionally trying to sabotage the fire fighters, etc.

          Let us even stipulate that he didn’t set the first fire, nor is he the only pyro roaming the woods.

          However, if he were to finally toss aside his matches and wander up to the firefighters and say “Dude, can you believe those crazies running around pouring gasoline on this stuff? It’s just gotten REALLY out of hand” and then proceeds to hang around, criticizing the fire-fighting tactics and occasionally opining that the remaining pyros are just, you know, so brash and uncivilized….

          Well, I do not feel the firefighters are going to find his change of heart refreshing. At all.

          If he grabbed a hose, maybe wrestled some gasoline away from one of his — supposedly still — friends, and maybe did some work on the whole “Woods on fire” thing…

          Well, maybe the we can talk.

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          • You’re talking about the redemption of Erickson. On which, I agree (see below). That’s a different question from what effect it will have on the Republican Party as a whole. Nixon was still a cynical a-hole when he went to China, but it still mattered that he did.

            (Granted, there is little or nothing that the GOP can do to please you to the point that “maybe we can talk”… but pleasing you isn’t the point. Pleasing disaffected folks like myself may not be the point. Pleasing enough people to get back to 50%+1 is the point. Will that happen? No idea. I mean, eventually it will. But will it in the near or medium term? That’s the question.)

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  2. There has to be room for people like Erickson to back out of the destructive corners they’ve painted themselves into. He has correctly identified a significant problem with conservatives’ present positioning in politics. Let’s give him the benefit of the doubt and let’s see what he does next — and if he can convince others to follow the path he describes.

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    • Step one would be saying: “This is sort of my fault. I was really pushing this crap”.

      The Balloon Juice guy used to be a major conservative. His sea change involved quite a bit of self-reflection and, well, “I was wrong. I was an idiot. I shouldn’t have…”

      Which is a lot different than, say, being a peddler of rhetorical excess for years and then suddenly saying “Woah, the conversation has really gotten out of hand!” like he’s just been listening in the whole time, instead of one of the drivers of it.

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      • That’s my problem with the “Don’t Talk About Rape!” solution that many Republicans are bandying about. It’s not about changing the fundamental position on rape; it’s about not saying it out loud. Those aren’t the same thing.

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        • Their position on rape isn’t really the issue. They’re against it . The issueion which rape comes up is abortion and whether a raped woman should be forced to carry the baby to term. Republicans that believe this do, on my view, need to think long and hard about it and not just change their rhetoric, but of course the moment theydo they willl be accused of wanting to punish women for willingly having sex. So they’re misogynistic Bastards either way.

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          • Their (stated) position on abortion rather logically leads to “No abortions, even in cases of rape”.

            Which is how it appears many of them feel, although some try to square the circle and thus you get stupid stuff like “Rapes can’t cause pregnancy” because they don’t want any abortions but they also don’t want rape victims having to bear their rapists baby, so they….delude themselves a bit.

            The problem is simply that “No abortions, even in cases of rape or incest or life of the mother” might be logical consistant, it might be what a given politician believes is the right thing — but it polls awfully and they’d like to win elections more than they want to argue about rape and abortions.

            So they keep quiet, until it comes up, then they shove their foot in their mouth because they’d more or less forgotten that it’s not a popular position.

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            • That sounds about right. From a policy standpoint, of course, it’sirrelevant because abortion for the first trimester is legal regardless of the cause of conceptionn. Which makes it a lot like my dog safely behind a fence. She can bark as loud as she wants. Then, suddenly, they are confused as to why everyone is so mad at them.

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        • When I was in college, one of my dorm-mates, a guy in my circle of friends that I was semi-acquainted with, was “straight-edge”.

          For those unfamiliar with the term, this was a sect of punk rock fans who (all of them) abstained from drugs and alcohol and (some of them) even from cigarettes, caffeine, sex and such.

          And sometimes some of them could be pretty puritanical and self-righteous about this stuff, very preachy about how others were polluting their bodies and minds. (Not all of them were like this, in fact I had another good friend who wasn’t like this at all).

          Anyway, this particular guy fell off the wagon – hard, and all at once. Just started doing everything he could get his hands on, all the time. Last I heard he was hooked on heroin; that was many years ago, I have no idea how he’s doing now.

          But even back then, we made the observation that extremists are extremists are extremists; they may switch “vices”, but they will usually take that vice way farther than is really sane.

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    • Absolutely, give Erickson the benefit of the doubt.

      But his power to persuade is profoundly weak judging only from this post and the sampling of the post’s comments I had the fortitude to wade through. He knows they don’t want to hear it, so he covers himself right away – “Be mad at me if you need to…” and still the anti- to pro- comment ratio is running 4 to 1. If he can’t even make some headway among his regular readers, it’s unlikely he’s going move the needle even a tick outside of that bubble.

      Now, when Rush Limbaugh tries contrition even an iota, then we can start talking about lights and ends of tunnels.

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      • As a major contributor to the dialogue of hate, and one who’s made lots of money from fleecing his angry right wing minions, there’s no way I’m giving Red Erick the benefit of the doubt. Until he apologizes and makes amends by maintaining a voice of sanity for a couple of years, I’ll be viewing him with deep suspicion. The leopard rarely changes its spots.

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    • You’re being very generous. There has to be room for him to stand down his rhetoric; but earning respect still takes standing up for responsible speech on a somewhat consistant basis.

      My husband, who hails from the midwest, says out there in the heartland, you give people a second chance after they screw up. I’m still waiting to hear Erikson give Obama a first chance; and perhaps Erikson can earn his by doing that very thing. Role model and all that.

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      • I’m not sure what you’re looking for when you indicate you want “to hear Erickson give Obama a first chance.” Erickson is not announcing that he’s become a Democrat or a liberal or a progressive. He’s still a Republican, he’s still a conservative, and he still would prefer that a different constellation of policies be put in place than actually are.

        But I do not think the President means to do this [realize bad policy results] maliciously. I do not think he is treasonous. I do not hate him. I am not outraged by it.

        That sounds like responsible speech to me. It’s conceding the President’s good faith, which is a big step forward from “Obama is a traitor hell-bent on destroying America.” Frankly, it’s a big part of what I want from conservatives. I don’t demand that they stop being conservative. I want them to stop being assholes.* And by “asshole,” I mean the tendency to immediately ascribe the risibly worst possible characterization of a particular action or statement to President Obama or those who support him, e.g., “You know, the PPACA really isn’t that bad when you look at it; after all, you get to keep your private insurance.” “YOU WANT TO SURRENDER AMERICA TO ZOMBIE STALIN ARGH!”

        Would including an apology for having stoked the fires of the assholery have been better that what he actually wrote? Yes, of course. But I’m not going to let the perfect be the enemy of the good. If Erickson follows through on this and is able to appreciably dilute the Asshole Saturation Quotient on the conservative side of the aisle, he’ll earn my praise and thanks. AFAIC, he doesn’t have to stop being conservative to do it.

        * FTR, not all conservatives have been conducting themselves like assholes in the matter illustrated in recent years. Many are quite pleasant individuals whom I count as friends or would likely be happy to count as friends. Those aren’t the subpopulations of conservatives that Erickson falls all over himself to apologize to in his post.

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        • Kid has thrown entire contents of toy closet around his room.

          Burt: You need to finish your homework and then go pick up your toys. I’ll make dinner. Mom will be home from work soon.

          Kid: You’re not my father, you just want to spoil our family. Mom’s going to get a divorce from you.

          Kid goes and proceed to throw more toys around the living room.

          Burt: We really need to work together to get things accomplished. You’re mom’s been working hard all day long, she needs a clean, quiet house to come home to at the end of such a long day.

          Kid starts busting up the furniture. Burt, meantime tries to tidy up toys in bedroom.

          Kid: You’re not my father. I hate you. I’m gonna tell mom to divorce you like we did Pappy.

          Kid begins pulling everything out of the closets. mom comes home, sees/hears tamper tantrums being thrown by Kid. Kisses Burt on the cheek.

          Mom: How was your day, Burt?

          Burt: A bit frustrating.

          Mom turns to kid, who’s now just stamping in a pile of feathers ripped from a pillow

          Mom: And how was your day, Erik?

          Kid: I guess it was okay; but Dad tried to make me clean my room and do my homework, and I didn’t want to.

          Kid continues breaking furniture and pulling things out of closet. Nobody even mentions picking up toys or doing homework any more.

          Kid: I don’t really want Mom to divorce you, Dad.

          Burt: We’re making progress, Kid.

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  3. I think Erik there is gonna face the same problem as the GOP is facing in general.

    Having made bank off stoking the fears of racists, paranoiads, the deluded, and the ignorant — his attempt to pivot to respectability as that starts to backfire is turning out to be a bit harder than he hoped.

    People remember. Specifically the people that got him there, that supported him, that made him famous enough to go on CNN and “work three jobs” (hilarious, that) and get his website on Right Wing Welfare — they believe.

    You spend a few years — or decades — saying “X is stupid, suicidal, treasonous, ammoral, the reason America is dying”, well — the guys buying that from you aren’t gonna start believing X is actually not so bad just because your real peers frown on that sort of thing.

    They’re just gonna view you as a traitor to the cause.

    It’s gonna be tough sailing for Erik. He got his mainstream gig off of the people who listened to him. Luckily, he’s working in the field of punditry so while it’s NICE if you have lots of fans, there’s always room for some guy no one agrees with.

    They’re always so…non-partisan.

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  4. I agree with Morat20’s analysis but sorry I am not buying any of this. This is goes along with the general American use of the word “maverick”. Just because a politician disagrees with their party on a handful of issues does not make them an independent or a maverick.

    Someone who spent years making a fortune saying the worst things about his enemies does not get to write something like the above without people remembering the past.

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  5. EE’s radio show is on during my evening commute home. I’ll have to give him a listen this week to see if/how he’s playing this.
    When I’ve listened to him in the past, he’s been as eager to sail to irrelevance as anyone, it will be interesting to hear if the destination has been revised at all since.

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      • So, I caught about 30 minutes of EE on the way home tonight. The entire segment was given over to raving about how homosexuals and liberals in Georgia were teaming together to ensure poor inner city black kids from having the freedom to go to religious schools because it prevents them from forcing them to be exposed to the homosexual agenda and that is way more important than allowing said poor inner city black children to attend decent schools.

        I want to make it clear that this is as close to verbatim as I can manage from the segment, there was something about how the homosexual’s claimed they only wanted marriage but this is proof of their agenda goes way beyond that.

        He did, to his credit, qualify his frothy rage about this conspiracy by saying that because gay kids get beat up in schools a lot, if the gays want to start their own school for just gay kids, that was cool with him. They can even get state vouchers and he thinks that’s A-OK.

        So, baby steps.

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  6. (Full disclosure: I have been banned from Redstate)

    I used to butt heads a lot over at Redstate (primarily over both the idea of limited government jurisdiction as well as Fiscal Conservativism) and there was a great deal of pushback on the whole “cut spending, quit increasing spending, jeez louise, you guys need to stop spending like Democrats” thing and the pushback that I quite regularly got was some variant of (I’m sure you know the tune) “as bad as this might appear to unreasonable people, it’s still better than the Democrats.”

    It’s like the attitude, cultivated by the editors, was that “if we’re only going to keep two legs from the Conservative Stool, we’re going to keep the Hawks and we’re going to keep the Social Conservatives.”

    Well, the Conservative Coalition is weaker today than it was around 2005.

    I see this as a sign that folks are realizing that “Doubling Down is not resulting in us recouping our losses”. More power to them. I hope that they associate whatever gains they will make in 2014 with this new and improved attitude.

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  7. “Is Obama shagging hookers behind the media’s back?”

    Though what that piece [1] actually asks is “Is he shagging hookers with the full knowledge of a complaisant liberal media that make front-page news of Republicans’s smallest peccadilloes but would cover up Democrats’ eating babies?”

    1. I don’t need to say piece of what, do I?

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  8. It’s a very interesting analysis. I’d also be interested in your take on his fellow conservative rhetoric-monger Bill Bennett who posts a call for the GOP to “go on the offense” on CNN today too.

    I can’t think of few people who are more out of touch than Bennett, but he’s following the current talk-radio line of giving the conservative/libertarian/GOP/ or what ever else they are currently calling themselves the greenlight to engage in the precise sort of nastiness that has marginalized them.

    My conclusion remains that the problem with the GOP isn’t a lack of “going on offense.” It’s that their views are simply offensive to most of America. Their views on anyone without white skin, their views on anyone who isn’t straight-and-married, their views on anyone who has ever taken a dime of government assistance (the numbers of who, quite ironically, swelled quite significantly due to Bush’s tax cuts and the Bush Drug Benefit added to Medicare). Their views on rape, their views on nonchristians.

    Their views on science, and the fact that they keep electing people like this to state governments who then show up on the national stage and become chairmen of the “House Science Committee” while having an open hostility to science and rational thought.

    You’ve found what I think is an anomaly. I’m not sure what got Erickson to try his “calm it down” speech – maybe he just needed plausible deniability to maintain his presence? – but if as you posit, he’s out of step with most of the right wing’s echo chamber, then we must also observe that the right wing echo chamber’s getting worse and not better.

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  9. Does anyone believe Erickson is doing anything but trying to un-ring the bell?

    The Spanish have a proverb: Cría fama y échate a dormir. Criar is to feed an animal, feed fame and you may lie down to sleep. If ever there was a well-fed feral hog risen to fame on the ferocity of his squealing, surely Erickson is that hog.

    It’s rather hard to read Loyal Opposition without laughing. Consider the banner ad: an animated Hammer ‘n Sickle and a big yellow rectangle, reading “The government is about to unleash a 2-step plan to PLUNDER your life savings in 2013… watch now”

    I’m watching, all right. But I’m not taking any of this seriously. Kubler-Ross talks about the Stages of Grief: Denial, Anger, Bargaining, Depression and Acceptance. Erickson has only reached the Bargaining stage: the Anger hasn’t worked and it’s seriously damaging his CNN booking fees. My advice for Erickson: take a break, work through the Depression stage and move on to Acceptance in jig time. He’s not there, yet.

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  10. Question from a foreigner here: why does it matter what EE or Hannity or Beck or any of the other sock puppets say about policy? They’re not policy wonks or politcal staffers or politicians. They get paid to talk – and if what they’re saying is particularly hateful or stupid on any particular day, well, at least it fills up the hour. (Which is Rush Limbaugh’s career in one sentence, really.)

    These guys are not paid to help Republicans get elected. If anything they do better when Democrats get elected because there’s more to gripe about. They are the echo chamber of popular resentments and partisan frenzies. The one lesson I would have thought the Republican brain trust would have taken away from the 2012 election was that the GOP cannot remain within the cozy confines of the echo chamber. Republicans thought the right-wing media was there to take the message to the masses but found instead that it was there to feed back to them their own talking points. Not a window to the outside world but a distorting mirror.

    The proper Republican response to this epiphany should be “Erick who? Oh yeah, the moocher who came to all the Christmas parties and ate half the buffet and drank most of the bar. Who cares?”

    Tod, you’re being way too generous to this loser by taking him seriously.

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    • The talk radio/ conservo speakers are a strong voice of the conservative community. While they might not be getting paid directly to push for R’s they are certainly part of the R media, get paid by R’s to speak at events and have a big influence on R and conservative attitudes, excitement and direction. Many of these guys parrot R talking points during our never ending election seasons and openly campaign for their candidate.

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      • Oh, I get that. But I think it can be argued that increasingly the benefit goes to the speakers, not to the GOP. And whether the GOP should be happy with that or should be trying to rethink the whole thing is the question.

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        • There is always a chicken/egg problem when it comes to this.

          Is any given hot button a convenient club with which to beat the opposition and speakers are rewarded for best beating the opposition? Is the hot button something the audience honestly cares about and the speaker is chosen because he best articulates the arguments for/against the topic?

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        • This was a big part of the point Tod’s excellent series of articles.

          The other point is that there is a policy impact: the byproduct of this kind of hyperpolarized political info-tainment is that actual voters take their cues from it, and instruct their politicians to conform to the policies thus espoused, policies that if defended as “mere entertainment” ought at face value not to be taken seriously, but nevertheless are. That’s a danger to the polity as a whole.

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          • Well, I’d qualify that as “some actual voters” and suggest that increasing numbers of other actual voters ascribe the more outrageous statements to the Republicans regardless of whether someone who was elected said it or not. And those other actual voters will be turned off – either because of the actual stand, or the rhetoric or just the feeling that the GOP is not focussing on serious matters.

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            • I believe your analysis is consistent with the phrasing “hyper-partisan”, yes.

              That being said, it’s hard to take on face value the claim that “other actual voters ascribe the more outrageous statements to the Republicans regardless of whether someone who was elected said it or not” when it is so trivially easy to find examples of elected Republicans (governors, state legislative members, Mitch McConnell, Akin, Steve King, Mourdock) who say them. There isn’t a “whether they said it or not” there – they said it and quite often, the talk radio hosts and right wing talking heads proceeded to defend them for doing so.

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        • it’s kinda like a charity that pays way too much out in ‘adminstrative’ and fundraising expenses. It’s not efficient, and the fundraisers make out bigtime but you can probably point to a few concrete positive things that are produced.

          If the finacial ecosystem is large enough, a lot of inefficiency can be supported.

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    • This is a really good question and one that I have a hard time answering because you are right. In a logical and sane world, the proper response would be Erick Who?

      But American politics is far from sane. We are the home of 24 hour news stations (which repeat too many stories) and the Right Wing Media/Republican Party are intertwined in hard to explain ways. Ta-Neishi Coastes probably said it best when he said that the left as a press and the right has a press office. Eric Erickson is part of that press office.

      They represent the unrestrained ID of the right-wing base of the Republican Party. I don’t think you can get elected as a Republican or win a primary without their backing. Hence, you need to appeal to the Rush, Trumps, and other right-winger media people of the year. Taking a high-minded stance would probably simply turn a prospective candidate into a nothing and sure loss.

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      • Listening to the RWM gives elected Republicans a distorted view of the electorate. Let’s take abortion. As an elected congressperson, you might think that when people identify as pro-life, they’re like the people interviewed or talking on Fox newscasts: a pro-lifer is someone who’s willing to crawl for 20 miles naked over broken glass through a -70F snowstorm to get to the ballot box to vote against your baby-murdering opponent. But many of your pro-lifers might feel that abortion is just one of many important issues and not the most crucial one right now. You’ll hear from the absolutists at town hall meetings and through emails. The more pragmatic pro-lifers never appear on your radar because…how can they?

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        • Maybe.

          From what I understand, there are more single-issue voters in the Republican Party than the Democratic Party. Abortion and Gun Rights are the largest issues for these from what I observe.

          The people you mention are more likely to be pro-life but otherwise liberal/Democratic who vote for their Democratic candidate despite his or her pro-choice stance.

          I think gerrymandering gives a lot of Americans a distorted view of the electorate. Most Americans live in congressional districts that are safe for one party or the other to varying degrees. We also tend to largely hang out with like-minded people politically. This allows everyone to be distorted to a certain extent.

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    • I think another thing you’re missing in this analysis, DRS, is the impact that these guys (EE, Limbaugh, the radio talking heads especially the radio talking heads in local markets) have on the primary system.

      Remember how few congressional districts are actually competitive and how few state legislative seats are competitive. The Republicans from the Virginia Senate just rammed through a mid-decade redistricting plan while the 20th no-vote (Henry Marsh, not only a current state senator but one of the original civil rights attorneys!) was at the Presidential inauguration and unavailable to vote. We’re not just talking any old redistricting here; this is designed to disenfranchise the state’s entire minority vote, packing them into vote-ghettos that will result in changing the Virginia Senate from a 20-20 split to a 27-13 white Republican supermajority.

      When it comes election time, most Republicans from state legislatures or the House of Representatives are sitting pretty. When it’s primary time, they’re vulnerable only to further-right challengers from their own party, and in the talk radio and talking-head echo chambers, the further-right guys get the kudos and the endorsements and a hell of a lot of money steered their way.

      And then it feeds back into the dialogue. Starting in 2007 they started holding “hold their feet to the fire” rallies about immigration, saying some really, really disgusting things about their fellow human beings (with groups like Tea Party coalitions, FAIR, and widespread “live coverage” from the right wing radio sphere claiming credibility by shipping their local radio hosts to broadcast from the events as well as being side-show speakers). The goal that they achieved was to kill immigration reform under both Bush and Obama; it was done under the threat that if any Republican broke ranks from committee filibusters or other blocking procedural tricks, they’d face an almost certain primary challenge and likely defeat.

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        • It’s not really that complex.

          The primary system is the system in which the parties select their candidates for nomination. They hold a separate election months before the nomination filing deadline; registered members of each party (or in a few states, anyone at all) show up at the party elections and vote on the possible candidates for nomination.

          Ideally, both parties would nominate someone who was relatively moderate (at least by party standards).

          Except that in over 90% of US House of Representatives districts, there is not a reasonable chance of a contested election due to gerrymandering. Thus the party primary becomes the de facto election for the seat; whoever is put forth by the Republicans or Democrats, whichever party “controls” that district, will win the main election pretty much unopposed.

          Meanwhile, the party loyalists – the wonks, those who can take the time off work, and in the case of the GOP the people who are really riled up about the idea of two men kissing or the occasional brown-skinned immigrant actually settling down and having kids in the US, tend to be the ones who show up at party elections. Centrists don’t really give a damn about the party elections, and the “out of power” party in a given district is likely to put their hands up in disgust and not show for any primary election anyways (despite the rumblings and claims from GOP partisans in open-primary states that Democrats were supposedly screwing up the election by voting in the more insane GOP possibilities).

          Thus winning a primary election isn’t about being sane, or capable, or showing you can get things done; it’s satisfying the worst of the worst of the partisans, the insane-base of the party who will actually show up to the primary election.

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  11. Well, whether Erick of the Ericksons actually means this or has read the comments since the election and decided to find an exit plan from his own site to “respectable” conservatism is an open question, I only ask people to also look at the comments to that piece and also, his follow-up post today (http://www.redstate.com/2013/01/22/from-the-mailbag-2/).

    Also, again, I don’t think RedState is the response to DailyKos. Look at the comments to most diaries there and it’s kind of pathetic, even compared to this to be blunt, second-tier political site. The true response to DailyKos is hotair.com, which does get somewhat close to DailyKos-level number of responses to their posts.

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  12. I would stop on the hope in your second to last paragraph. The GOP seems to want to win their way to power by increasing the power of rural districts and decreasing the power of urban and inner-ring suburban districts:

    http://www.theatlantic.com/politics/archive/2013/01/how-to-win-states-and-disenfranchise-people-the-gops-electoral-vote-plan/272456/

    http://www.theatlantic.com/politics/archive/2013/01/the-party-of-john-calhoun/272464/

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    • I was just reading those pieces ND. Changing the rules in response to a loss doesn’t seem like they feel they deserve to lose. Its more like a stupid mistake the people made and they will just adjust the dials to get the “proper” result.

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        • Apples vs Oranges Kol….The V Repubs picked the day when one rep was out of town attending the inauguration to get their plan passed. The redestricing itself is odd since it is being done mid-decade….hmmm i wonder why that is. Not only that but the plan itself is aimed at minimizing black voters by lumping them in one big district while giving more districts that R’s can win.

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          • We need look no further than the last time the Republicans pulled this stunt in Texas in the last decade.

            It’s as racist now as it was then. Bare naked goal, to stick racial minorities into fully ghetto-ized districts and block them from having influence on the state policy level.

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            • Bare naked goal, to stick racial minorities into fully ghetto-ized districts and block them from having influence on the state policy level.

              How does that work? I assume you’re talking about legislative districts, because you’re clearly not talking about congressional districts. I don’t really know much about how they did the legislative districting here in Texas, but the congressional districting worked on pretty much the precise opposite principle that you describe. Instead of creating “ghetto-ized districts” in which urban areas would have complete control, which would inevitably mean vote democrat (even in Texas, urban areas vote Democrat by a wide margin), they created amorphous districts that connected urban areas with large swaths of suburban and rural areas (if you lie in East Austin, for example, your district extends into the western suburbs of Houston).

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              • It’s a reference to the fact that they stack certain urban districts together with very high concentrations of minority voters, thereby keeping them out of neighboring districts which can then be tilted Republican.

                More likely than MA’s “racism!” explanation, however, is that they simply wished to press their legislative advantage. One of the bi-products of this methodology is that almost all of the victims were white Democrats and one beneficiary was a black one. The sitting congresspeople that were displaced by the Texas redistricting were all white but one (Hispanic) and one of the white guys was ousted by a black guy.

                I would also add that there was a rationale for the mid-decade redistricting that (as far as I know) does not apply to Virginia. Namely, that the state legislature did not write the districts in 2000. They were drawn by judges, who used the 1990 district lines as guidelines. The 1990’s district lines were gerrymandered to favor Democrats . Those boundaries (including the revised ones) were producing a Democratic delegation despite most congressional votes going to Republican candidates. Of course, the new boundaries, of course, erred in the other direction with Republicans getting outsized representation at the expense of (mostly white) Democrats. [Comment edited to remove an intemperate remark.]

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              • I would add that I am less than clear on MA’s discussion of the mid-decade redistricting being used to reduce minority influence at the state level. As far as I know, that particular gerrymandering was specifically for the US House and did not touch state legislature districts. I don’t think they had either the time or energy to tackle three sets of boundaries at once during a special session, especially when they already had the majorities they needed.

                Now, the district boundaries for this decade were controversial at the state legislative level and have received a lot of judicial scrutiny. But that wasn’t mid-decade redistricting.

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          • “Not only that but the plan itself is aimed at minimizing black voters by lumping them in one big district while giving more districts that R’s can win”

            That’s been the practical result of majority minority districts for over 20 years now – the rise of them in the 80’s, nominally supported by Dems and civil rights leaders at the time is a good part of the reason why Gingrich was able to overturn a multi-decade lock on the House by Democrats.

            “The redestricing itself is odd since it is being done mid-decade”

            Va legislative elections are in the odd years, the last one was in 2011 where every Senator was up (and the next on is in 2015). It would have been theoretically possible, but difficult with the timeline that required distro of census data (deadline Apr 1, 2011) (then the political fight, then the required court review), all before the August primaries.

            That they are ramming this through out of the blue is a fair cop, as is the fact that McDonnell is once again getting screwed, or really screwing himself because he can’t maintain control of his own party and keep them on message.

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        • Gerrymandering every ten years is part of the game. Redoing a map in the middle (and in this case, the start) of the decade is not close to the usual shenanigans that happen every ten years on both sides.

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        • Wasn’t the rap on Wynn that he was a corrupt shmuck?
          It was only Lieberman who’s ever been put over the barrel for being milquetoast.
          Kos regularly tried to ship money to the blue dogs and the Redneck Caucus in the Senate.

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