Thursday, October 23, 2008

Farewell the Reagan Republicans

An interesting feature of the US Presidential election campaign has been the extent to which the 'Reagan coalition' has been falling apart, and how the Republican Party has lurched ever further to the far right. This is despite the fact that John McCain's best hope was to steer the party towards the centre and try and capture the large number of 'Clinton Democrats' who remained wary of Barack Obama until Sarah Palin appeared on the scene. It is also why conservatives are jumping ship en masse, with Colin Powell the most prominent recent example of what is becoming quite a long list.

This analysis from Forbes magazine - a conservative, pro-business media outlet, whose owner, Steve Forbes, twice ran for the Republican Party leadership - points to the longer term problems this is presenting for the Republican Party in the US. In pointing to the growing number of business leaders going the way of Obama and the Democrats, it had me wondering where Rupert Murdoch is politically now, and whether that has implications for the future of FOX News after 2009.

R.I.P. Reagan Revolution
Dan Gerstein 10.22.08, 12:01 AM ET

As a student of politics, I have been watching this campaign with one eye on the historic prospects of Barack Obama and one eye on the tenuous future of his Republican opponents.

I have been particularly fascinated by how the Republicans plan to begin rehabilitating the brand that President Bush and his allies have shredded over the last eight years, reconnect with their sunny Reagan roots and prepare themselves to compete again for the determinative center of the electorate.

Judging from the disturbing developments of the last two months, the verdict seems clear. Forget the self-reckoning and self-repairing--the Republicans seem intent on self-immolation. Indeed, instead of trying to work itself out of the deep electoral hole that Bush and company created, the GOP has apparently opted to apply the drill-baby-drill mantra to its own political fortunes--and, improbably, find ways to narrow the party's appeal to the swing voters they have done so much to alienate during the Bush era.

I'm not talking about what the hateful yahoos who are attending rallies for the Republican ticket are yelling (albeit after being egged on by a flurry of indefensible attacks by the McCain campaign and its surrogates). I'm talking about what Republican leaders and elected officials are actually saying and doing. All of which, taken together, suggests that the GOP of the moment is now far closer to being the party of Joe McCarthy than John McCain, and explains why Colin Powell and many other responsible Republicans are sending increasingly urgent distress signals over the sinking McCain ship.

We have seen the party that gave us Lincoln, Teddy Roosevelt, Eisenhower and Reagan nominate a woman for vice president who could not answer an interviewer's relatively gentle question about what news sources she regularly reads. This is not a matter of class or gender, but rather seriousness and credibility, which Sarah Palin lost with many voters who were willing to give her a fair shake the minute she claimed that seeing Russia from her state was a foreign policy credential.

We have seen Palin go on to falsely accuse her Democratic opponent of "palling around with terrorists." The most outrageous thing about this assertion is not the gross exaggeration of Obama's relationship with Bill Ayers, but the shameful, purposeful use of the plural: "terrorists." These are the kinds of loony accusations we are used to hearing from members of the ultraconservative John Birch Society, not running mates of John McCain.

We have seen one of McCain's campaign co-chairman, former Oklahoma Governor Frank Keating, use the racially loaded term "guy of the street" to try to paint Obama as extreme to white America. This about a black man who grew up in the suburbs of Hawaii, graduated from Columbia University, was the first black president of the Harvard Law Review, taught constitutional law for 12 years and was attacked as an elitist by Republicans for talking about the price of arugula in Iowa? He is about as "street" as the late William F. Buckley, Jr.

Just last Friday, we saw a Republican congresswoman from Minnesota, Michelle Bachmann, explicitly attack Obama and his wife as "anti-American" and call on the media to investigate members of Congress to "find out if they are pro-America or anti-America." Then Palin repeated this patriotism-questioning line at a rally in North Carolina, saying she was glad to be in a part of the country that was "pro-America." One has to wonder what made these women think that this was acceptable in the United States of 2008?

And most recently, as if the overt hints of McCarthyism were not enough, McCain and his allies are now openly calling Obama a socialist because he wants to raise the top tax brackets back to their Clinton-era levels (when the country enjoyed the greatest peacetime expansion in our history) and provide a cut in the payroll tax to middle class workers.

For more see here.

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