Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Struggle for soul of Republican party degenerates into civil war.

As predicted the Republican party are fracturing and it looks like outright war will ensue next week with everyone blaming everyone else for the loss.

"How did we get into this mess?" Newt Gingrich, former House speaker and a driving force behind the Republican dominance for most of the past 20 years, says of the disarray. "It's not where we should be and it's not where we had to be. This was not bad luck."

For the second time this month, Bill Kristol, a leading voice on the party's conservative wing, used his column in The New York Times yesterday to urge the struggling candidate to throw his advisers to the winds. "He might as well muzzle the campaign," Mr Kristol wrote. Senior McCain staffers were now "spending more time criticising one another than Obama, and more time defending their own reputations than pursuing a McCain-Palin victory."

McCain has decided that the way forward is to simply state that the polls are all wrong and to sail blithely forward.

Did you catch that? He prefers to trust his judgement rather than polls. That's McCain's version of Bush's "truthiness" and tendency to "trust his gut". And I love the self delusion in McCain's demand that "Sarah Palin is not qualified because...?"

At this point her lack of readiness can hardly even be in question. The very few interviews she has given have been train wrecks, showing an ignorance which is quite stunning including even an ignorance of what the role of a VP actually constitutes.

But it would be unfair to lay all the blame at her door. The truth is that the Republican policies which John McCain is proposing are essentially the same policies which brought George Bush his record breaking unpopularity.

The entire Republican philosophy, established under Reagan and continued by every Republican since, was essentially an audacious lie. Reagan seriously promoted the notion that the more one gives to the rich, the better the whole of society will be, as that money will trickle down to everyone else. Reaganomics was farcical, and resulted in one of the greatest periods of disparity between rich and poor in American history.

That and the constant refrain of deregulation, deregulation, deregulation meant that McCain had no way to sidestep the financial disaster which has gripped world markets caused by the very deregulation which the Republicans have spent the last thirty years telling us is the only way to economic success.

Of course, McCain did himself no favours by pronouncing the economy to be "basically sound" in the morning but in a state of "crisis" by the same afternoon. It was hard at that point not to take his claims that economics wasn't his strongest suit extremely seriously.

And the Independent hit on a point which I have been making for weeks now, there has never been a consistent theme which identified McCain or his campaign.
Finally, he has been unable to find a consistent message. One moment, strategists complain, he has presented himself as hero and patriot with experience, unlike his untested "celebrity" opponent. Then he metamorphosed into an agent of radical change, in improbable contrast to "insider" Obama. Next, the man who made a virtue of playing clean politics waded in, low and dirty, against the Illinois senator. Finally, it was a ticket of "two mavericks" to overturn Washington politics. Unfortunately the mavericks – or their teams – are criticising not so much Mr Obama as each other.
The battle now is for which direction the party moves next. There will be many, the Kristols, the Gingrich's and the Malkins who will argue that the party needs a Palin/Bush type of evangelical to stir the base:
Ms Palin is an emblem of the social conservatives, of how that base can be mobilised to win elections, as George Bush did in 2004. "She is playing for her own future," the unnamed McCain aide added, "she sees herself as the next leader of the party."
Personally, I think that way madness lies. The polling numbers for Palin amongst independents is poor, and the Republican base is not enough to deliver electoral victory. For too long the Republican party have been held hostage by this particular lunatic fringe. They would be far better doing what Blair did with lefties like myself, he simply ignored us knowing that on election day we had nowhere else to go. The Republicans need a figure like Colin Powell, someone that everyone agrees that, apart from one ill advised visit to the UN, is basically an honourable man.

The worst thing they could do is unite around a polarising figure like the former beauty queen from Alaska.

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