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Tomasky writes: "Conservative pundits and intellectuals have spent the past week or two...talking about, well, how to save the Republican Party."

Tomasky: 'We all know the problem. It’s Rush Limbaugh and his imitators and Roger Ailes and his network.' (photo: The Reid Report)
Tomasky: 'We all know the problem. It’s Rush Limbaugh and his imitators and Roger Ailes and his network.' (photo: The Reid Report)

Deluded Republican Reformers

By Michael Tomasky, The Daily Beast

24 February 13


onservative pundits and intellectuals have spent the past week or two - ever since the publication in Commentary magazine of Peter Wehner and Michael Gerson's "How to Save the Republican Party" - talking about, well, how to save the Republican Party. They have lots of ideas - some good, some not so good, most very sober-minded policy prescriptions. I wrote a short blog post about this on Thursday. But then I reflected: This topic needs a longer treatment. The party they purport to support and care about has been engaged in burning down the house of American politics for three or four years now, and they are saying nothing about it; and until they say something about it, everything else they say is close to meaningless.

As I've written many times, the conventional view of what's wrong with the GOP gets at only a portion of the truth. When The New York Times or Politico does such a story, the story inevitably focuses on policy positions. Immigration. Same-sex marriage. Climate change. Tinker with these positions, several sages are quoted as saying, and the GOP will be back in the game.

God knows, policy positions are a problem. But they are not the problem. The problem is that the party is fanatical - a machine of rage, hate, and resentment. People are free to scoff and pretend it isn't so, but I don't think honest people can deny that we've never seen anything like this in the modern history of our country. There's a symbiosis of malevolence between the extreme parts of the GOP base and Washington lawmakers, and it is destroying the Republican Party. That's fine with me, although I am constantly mystified as to why it's all right with the people I'm talking about. But it's also destroying the country and our democratic institutions and processes, which is not fine with me.

The party can change all the positions it wants, but until people stand up and yell "Stop!" to this fanaticism, it won't mean anything. In fact, the problems feed into each other, because the idea that today's Republican Party can change its stripes on same-sex marriage or immigration is absurd, and it is absurd precisely because of the rage and fanaticism I'm talking about, much of which is directed at brown people and gay people. Such a party cannot change its stripes on these issues until the mindset and world view are changed.

Immigration, you say? I'll believe it when I see it. In fact, I'll make a prediction now: I bet the House is likely to break immigration reform into two pieces, enforcement and path-to-citizenship. Maybe more, but for now let's say two. A big majority of Republicans will support the former. The latter will pass, if it does, with a small number of Republicans joining nearly all Democrats, and therefore only with John Boehner breaking the Hastert Rule once again. And the haters will go on hating.

And the following people will write nothing about it: David Brooks; Ross Douthat; the aforementioned Wehner and Gerson; Reihan Salam; Yuval Levin; Ramesh Ponnuru. Now I know most of these gentlemen, and I like them. But they've been participants to varying degrees in these recent conversations I'm talking about, and frankly, they are wasting their own and their readers' time. They're like a family in deep denial at the Thanksgiving table. Guys, debating the best way to cook brussels sprouts is of marginal utility. Whether Cousin Ruthie wears her hair this way or that way is not worth dwelling on. The overwhelming fact at hand is that Uncle Ralph is drunk again, and he's being a belligerent racist homophobic ass again, and he is preventing any civility and progress from taking place, and it's been this way for four Thanksgivings in a row, and you are intentionally choosing to say nothing about it.

I do not understand how they can watch this and let it happen - to their party! - without saying anything. This past week, we have had four Republican senators - Ted Cruz, Lindsey Graham, Kelly Ayotte, and Rand Paul - in essence demand that a cabinet nominee, Chuck Hagel, disprove rumors against him. It's one thing for Breitbart bloggers to do that. But senators? Using tactics that are straightforward McCarthyism? If one of the above named or some other prominent conservative pundit criticized that quartet, then good for them. But I sure didn't see it, and I think I would have.

Like me, I'm sure many of you were aghast at those people who cheered John McCain when he lectured the parent of the son who was killed in the Colorado shooting. There was blood lust in that cheer, just like the blood lust in the boos back in the presidential primary season of that gay soldier. Are any conservative thinkers writing that this kind of thing makes them sick and ashamed?

We all know the problem. It's Rush Limbaugh and his imitators and Roger Ailes and his network. They drive this hatred daily, and they intentionally misinform and lie; you think it's an accident that polls always find Fox viewers the least connected to empirical reality? Pushing this fury and constructing this alternate reality is great for business. But it's horrible for America. And the "serious" conservative pundits by and large try to pretend it doesn't exist, or it's not that bad, or MSNBC does the same thing in reverse. Well, it does exist, it is that bad, and no, MSNBC does not do the same thing in reverse. MSNBC has an agenda, but it doesn't craft its messages in such a way as to make it viewers hate half the country.

This is the poison in our politics. Nothing changes until it changes. Somebody has to initiate it, and the people I named are the only people who can. Of conservative thinkers - and I apologize to him in advance for naming him, because I'm sure praise from me in this context will make him wince - only David Frum has addressed this problem. His 2011 New York magazine essay "When Did the GOP Lose Touch With Reality?" said it well. He understands that this problem is one of the central facts of our current historical moment.

If that were my party or movement, I promise you I would criticize it (and I did, in a book in 1996, as Brooks and others know). I sure wouldn't be wearing blinders and pretending that my side could solve its problems with the right kind of EITC expansion. I'd be glowering at Uncle Ralph as he poured himself another, getting surlier and surlier, and I'd be scheming to take the bottle away. your social media marketing partner


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+40 # X Dane 2013-02-24 11:20
Mr. Tomasky is right about the republican party. They...too many republicans ....have become haters. Pushed by Limbough's vitriol and by the Fox machine and the T party.

These people are not just destroying the republican party, bad enough, for we need a LOYAL opposition, but they are destroying our country and making the rest of the world doubt our SANITY.

That is TREASON, and way beyond deplorable. With all the ENORMOUS PROBLEMS we are facing....Iran, Syria, cyber attacks from China as the most obvious, our credibility is doubted by both our allies and adversaries.

Limbaugh, Fox,the rabid republicans and the T party are UNPATRIOTIC. They refuse to work with the democrats, but most of all they will not work with THE PRESIDENT.

+11 # kelly 2013-02-24 12:20
Agreed. Better be careful though. They'll begin eviscerating you for having usurped their catch-phrases: treasonous, unpatriotic, haters
+8 # sayenitnow 2013-02-24 12:50
Yes the truth sometimes hurts...but the truth can provide one the courage to do the hard thing but the right thing for the good of the Country...your Country... conservative pundits and intellectuals take up your pens and sream out the truth!!!
+20 # tswhiskers 2013-02-24 12:59
Thanks, Mr. Tomasky for naming names and telling the truth about the Rep. Party. But I think the problem is bigger. The problem also is that Reps. no longer care for the good of the entire electorate, just the smallest, wealthiest segment of it and the rest of the people can become peons to the interests of wealth. Richard Wolff appeared on Moyers this A.M. and he says the problem is that capitalism no longer works. This is true. But it is true because the wealthy in this country decided to use capitalism to produce as much wealth as it could FOR THEMSELVES, and the Reps. have happily gone along with this agenda. We now have an economy and a political party that have gone berserk. Dr. Wolff also said (and I paraphrase) that sooner or later, this "let them eat cake" politics of the rich will backfire on them. The young, those who began the Occupy Movt., have started to realize that in spite of their expensive college educations all they have is a lot of debt and no prospects. The Reps. did not start this but they have lovingly abetted it and now they are destroying themselves with their own destructive politics.
+3 # tabonsell 2013-02-24 18:38
What makes anyone think that our right-wingers ever cared about the good of this nation?

We can start with Revolutionary times where there were about half a million far righties in the colonies. They were loyal only to the British crown. When the War of Independence started (behind the influence of those dreaded Massachusetts liberals) about 10 percent of the Tories left the colonies, some to take up arms against the independence movement. The only far-right American whose fame has endured from that time until today is Gen. Benedict Arnold. The GOP has stopped being the party of Lincoln a long time ago and has become the party of Benedict Arnold.

When the libertarian Articles of Confederation failed, those Northern Virginia progressives led us to a Constitution and then a Bill of Rights. What right-wingers who were still in the new country at the time opposed both, wanting two or maybe three separate nations in order to preserve slavery forever.

Of course the far right tried to destroy the nation in the 19th century to preserve slavery but were again foiled by a liberal who kept the nation whole and eventually ended slavery.

And the story goes on without any change in direction from the right.
+7 # tabonsell 2013-02-24 18:49
Your mention that the GOP didn't start the "let them eat cake" politics needs a clarification.

The GOP did start it; beginning with Gov. Ronald Reagan in California that once had the best public higher-educatio n system in the world that offered tuition free education to California's youth.Reagan ended that and started the starving of education of money. It has gotten out of hand.

Reagan took that mindset to the White House where he inherited a economy with less than $1 trillion debt and blew that out of the water so now the debt has passed $16 trillion. The GOP started it, aided it and added to it without a peep from the party leaders, until a Democrat got into the White House.

The political far right has always hated the democratic movement in the United States and has tried to destroy it the entire history of this nation.

So, it's not just blacks, hispanics, gays and women the right hates; it hates America.
+4 # Sandy G 2013-02-24 13:11
A much more urgently relevant question is not HOW to rescue the Republican Party, but WHU??
+7 # universlman 2013-02-24 15:38
Unlike the public, the GOP lawmakers are not disappointed when the government fails to work. Recall their singular, selfish and overconfident objective four years ago of denying Obama a second term? They point up the evidence of a dysfunctional government even if they are deliberately causing the problem themselves. They are blind to the possibility of good government because like Reagan, they always see government as the problem.

Almost everyone can see the error of their ways, even without measuring the damage to the GOP from the last election. However, this bunch would rather cling to the delusion that they are our gatekeepers protecting us from the evils of larger government. They would sink the entire ship, rather than cut a deal, with people they see as guided by the Devil, who they believe has hoodwinked more than half of the country. Talk about delusional.
+13 # davidr 2013-02-24 17:16
Fanaticism is not an unfortunate aspect of the Republican party, but its very essence.

Its core political belief is that government is bad, meaning in particular the federal gov't, which aims to violate Christian principles, the Constitution, our borders, the free market, property rights, hard money … you name it, the problem is government. Well, if government is the problem, then no policy critique can be persuasive, because policy is just another name for government. Merely to discuss policy is to accept the liberal point of view.

For Republicans, the only valid politics is to thwart government, deprive it of revenue, gut its regulatory role, filibuster, default on our debt, withhold FEMA relief, sue the administration, slow-walk nominations, bottle up legislation. This Republican project, as it is today, the strangling of government, is PER SE fanatical.

There is no point in waiting for Republicans to critique themselves on this point. They are the party that views government as a danger to liberty, that sees policy-making as a form of tyranny. This isn't fanaticism merely as a tactic, but as a premise. They cannot give it up without shattering their party. Yes, it will shatter anyhow, the sooner the better, but the critique that Tomasky is looking for will only come after that, and not before.
+2 # Buddha 2013-02-25 11:15
Was there any doubt that the GOP would come to this? When they embraced the "Southern Strategy" in the 60's after the Dems lost all their Dixiecrats by enforcing the end of segregation and Jim Crow, their politics was always going to be centered around white racial resentment and anger towards minorities (ie, Welfare Queens meme, etc). When the GOP made their unholy (pun intended) alliance with the rural bible-belt evangelist Religious Right, their politics was always going to be centered on discrimination against the LGBT community and fighting to end all abortions (and family planning). Meanwhile the "business" GOP power-structure had to sell the Kool-Aid that the mass impoverishment of much of their own base (and simultaneous enrichment of the Plutocratic class) wasn't due to neo-liberal policies, but instead due to "misguided" Progressive policies like Food Stamps, Welfare, Social Security, Medicare/Medica id and "high taxes" on the "job creators". So now you have rabid uninformed Tea Party rubes screaming for domestic government spending cuts while at the same time blaming Obama for high unemployment, the kind of uninformed silliness we saw with that "keep your government hands of my Medicare" rube...

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