Republican Kooks Come from Kook Culture

Cleveland    I read Karl Rove, the long time George W. Bush political mastermind and Svengali. He writes a regular column for the Wall Street Journal. He is an interesting voice for the Republican establishment or what’s left of it.

In the wake of the Alabama election he has taken a fascinating position. First, he back pats himself for having been a target – along with Democrats – for Judge Roy Moore’s fundraising campaigns. He’s not a fan, so he’s fine with that. Secondly, he – along with the Journal editorials who are a bizarre group themselves from what I can read – is part of the anti-Bannon wing of the Republican Party. If Bannon wants a revolution in the party so it is more Trumpy, Rove and his tribe want their good ol’ days back somewhere on the lawns of Maine seasides and Texas ranches.

Rove’s main argument is that as long as the Republican Party puts forward what he refers to as “kooks,” they will get beaten by Democrats in races that he believes should be shoo-ins for them. He cites a surprisingly long list of kooks in Arizona and Nevada and other deep red states, and then makes the incontestable argument that Judge Moore was the kookiest of the lot running in the reddest of Republican states where the party had won darned close to 90% of its statewide races in recent years. Rove’s plea is that the Republican Party needs to stop putting forward kooks.

How bizarre. He seems either oblivious or in denial about the fact a “kooky” culture is what produces kooky candidates from dog catcher to President. If the Republican contribution to cultural issues are evangelical extremes and Bible-thumping, which seemed to be the Moore program, along with retro-racism and women-bashing, now tainted with outright sexual abuse and harassment from the top to the bottom, why would kooks not feel at home and entitled to put themselves forward as standard bearers for the party. If the party stands for no health care, cutbacks in support to the elderly and the poor, tax breaks and subsidies for corporations and the rich, but won’t admit it, yet flies ever flag on the cultural front, then the party is going to keep attracting a range of kooks flying their own freak flag for Republicans.

Rove misses the fact that the message about the internal culture of the Republican Party is that this is now the home of the hostile, where wild men and some wild women can now take their rage to election contests rather than the road. He’s the rearguard, and they are vanguard.

It’s not clear that Republicans have learned anything from the Moore defeat about kooks. They allowed him to grow like a monster in their soil for decades, and then reaped the harvest. There is no real sign of any move by the party to pull the weeds they have planted so deeply across the country.

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Mind the Base

New Orleans   Something smells fishy to me. When George W. Bush’s former strategist, Karl Rove, as well an author on “Truthout” are both saying that the Democrats are wasting time and money in Georgia, I get suspicious. Rove’s advice is go Big Sky, spend your time and money in a statewide Congressional race in Montana, because in his words, “they vote for Democrats there.” Meanwhile despite a better than 48% showing in the first primary for the Democratic candidate, Ossoff, in Georgia, pundits are arguing this is just a hole where you pour money and Democrats have no chance to win, no matter how much they spend. What’s the skinny here?

Reading between the lines, sure, Georgia is an uphill fight. Democrats haven’t won in 40 years since the time of Jimmy Carter. The leading Republican candidate is a former Georgia Secretary of State who hardly polled 20% in the first round. Rove and the traditional bettors are believing, with good cause I’m sure, that at the end of the day the losing Republican candidates will coalesce around her despite her record as a poor fundraiser and someone who has lost one race after another recently.

On the other hand, the Democratic base in reaction to the Trump presidency sees every election as a plebiscite on Trump and his poor performance and reportedly is demanding that all races be contested and that the party once again put on its big boy pants and contend nationally rather than just in the blues. If you are going to build a party, how can you ignore the base, win, lose or draw? Isn’t that a lesson that Hillary Clinton just taught us all in a way we should never forget? We have to always privilege the base!

Furthermore, the notion of a money drain being advanced by Rove seems gratuitous and self-serving. Talking to a newly minted party activist several weeks ago, he described a growing coalition that was mobilizing in Georgia which had not been fighting in the lists previously. He described the amalgamation as having 100 million Twitter followers from Hollywood to Silicon Valley and back to the East Coast. His argument was that this was new money. It was money being activated to respond to the challenge of the moment.

The same activist would argue that the race in Montana is also important. He and some of his co-conspirators believed that the lightly populated Western states from Alaska to Wyoming should be front and center on any plan to turn the country around. He stood up straight when he realized I was born in Wyoming and detailed a plan a multi-year plan to repopulate the state. He felt that if 20,000 or so people, young and more progressive, could be convinced to move to Wyoming it would fall into the blue state column like Humpty-Dumpty coming off the wall.

Ok, maybe that seems a bit like taking people to live on Mars or the moon, but when the base has gone active and wants to fight, organizers need to run as fast as they can to catch up and feed the fire. New money and new support comes in and as even Rove argues, no one has a clue in either party yet about what it might take to win in the midterms in 2018. These early skirmishes might just provide the battle plan for those contests, but only if we mind the base.

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