Old thoughts (26 October 2008):
A McCain defeat is likely to be paired with significant defeats downstream from the Presidential race. This would portend a period of bloodletting within the Republican Party and among conservatives more generally. Since Republican Party partisans have been prone to high levels of symbolic violence directed at Democrats (and supporters of Democrats), this propensity to demonize the Other will likely be turned inward. This seems to have begun already (see the leaks coming from the McCain and Palin camps). On a more general level, it seems that an open war is breaking out between evangelicals and nativists, who have been the shock troops of Republican success since 1980, and the conservative “intelligentsia” (op-ed writers and professional political strategists) over both the content and tenor of Republican/Conservative politics. Not only may evangelicals be closed out of power in the Congress and Executive branch, but they have not yet reaped any concrete benefits of 28 years of loyalty to the Republican brand: Roe v. Wade hasn’t been overturned, no “right to life” amendment has been ratified, and the latest threat to humankind, “gay marriage,” has become more acceptable to the public. Nativists are also unhappy as the issue of “illegals” has not been a campaign theme for McCain (who once upon a time championed a form of immigration reform that boiled the blood of the vigilantes patrolling America’s southern border). The conservative intelligentsia is weary of the narrow-mindedness and anti-intelletualism of the Republican Party base: it realizes that Republicans will become a permanent minority party if they continue to cater to the exclusionary preferences of this base. This split could materialize in struggles over the soul of the party waged by Huckabee and Palin (on the one side), and Romney, Jindal, and Ridge (on the other side). Forward thinking Republicans will be more welcoming to people like Bloomberg and Weld as candidates and policy-makers; backward looking Republicans will continue to take marching orders from Limbaugh, Hannity, and the God Squad (Dobson and Perkins).
Enter the Tea Party in 2009.
New thoughts on the controversy over the label “progressive” and the Clinton and Sanders campaigns:
An analogous situation arose in 2008. Republicans questioned Mr Obama’s “character” by raising his “association” with Bill Ayers (“paling around with terrorists”) and his membership in the church of the firebrand Reverend Wright. In the end, the strategy of character assassination failed. In the present circumstances, Mr Sanders would do better to stick to substance (differences in policy).
The search for ideological purity is why the Republicans are a risible circus today. Mr Sanders should be wary of taking the Democratic Party (of which he’s never been a member) down this road to political perdition. It will only end in tears.