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.
New Orleans Polls are showing a consolidated lead for Hillary Clinton with three weeks to go and many states already beginning early voting. Republican strategists are warning that it may be too late for a Trump turnaround. The cascade of issues from racism to tax dodging to misogyny and sexual harassment and abuse seem to be baking all of the negatives into Trump’s prospects. Republicans from Speaker Paul Ryan on down the ballot and outsiders, including influential and deep-pocketed donors, have either deserted Trump or are actively arguing that he must be abandoned in order not to inflect permanent damage on the party.
Trump’s response has been to question the very validity of the election and raise the specter of refusing to accept the results of the voters in a direct threat to long and deeply held democratic traditions. Governor Pence, the VP on Trump’s ticket, has said in essence, of course we will accept the results, but Trump has pulled his Twitter-finger and seemingly backed off that pledge, so who knows.
None of this is new. In fact, this has been the Republican tradition in all of the recent elections they have lost and part of their concerted effort over the last eight years to deny President Obama the legitimacy of his two victories. The Atlantic magazine quoted a study in a recent issue saying,
“Backing a losing candidate can also damage voters’ trust in the political system. An analysis of surveys from 1964 to 2004 found that over time, voters who supported losers were less likely than others to see the electoral process as fair. They also tended to be less satisfied with democracy generally.”
It seems that what we are witnessing now is something on the order of “pre-emptive sore losing.” Preparing for a humiliating defeat for a candidate enamored of calling everyone but himself a “loser,” it was predictable that he would whine that he couldn’t win because the election was “rigged” against him and everyone ganged up against “poor little me.”
But, this has been a recurring Republican theme from the very base of the party for years. How else could we explain the fact that the majority of Republicans surveyed without a shred of evidence continued to believe for close to seven years that ACORN had stolen both Obama elections? Or the fact that almost a majority of Texas Republican voters already believe that ACORN is stealing the election for Clinton this time around.
The commitment to democracy of many Republican leaders and much of their hardcore base seems extremely weak. The finger pointing about rigged elections at large cities with minority populations like Philadelphia and others seems totally racist. Inventing excuses for losing elections so that no one has to face the consequences of politics and program seems to argue that party leaders do not want to either learn from their errors or listen to the voters.
It will be interesting once this campaign is over to see how we rebuild a semblance of democratic practice from the thin soup we’re being served in this election. Perhaps I should say “if” we can rebuild a semblance of democratic practice after this election.