Friday, January 18, 2008

Wisdom of acting stupid -- Updated

Publius at Obsidian Wings is disappointed in Mitt Romney's decision to contort himself into a vaguely plausible caricature of an acceptable candidate to the GOP primary electorate, or at least a plurality there-of. I think Romney is making a smart straetgic decision within the context of an intermediate term losing dynamic for national Republicans.

Romney is a BS artist doesn’t bother me per se. I’m a political junkie – verbal excrement is a passion. With Romney though, it’s not merely that he’s full of crap. It’s the particular nature of his full-of-crapness that bothers me – that really bothers me.

To riff from Ross Douthat, Romney deserves more intense scorn because he’s one giant opportunity cost. He’s clearly the most competent, wonkish, technocratic, and I would even say smartest candidate. The now disillusioned Douthat claimed he could have been the “thinking conservative’s candidate.” Coming from what Bush lovingly calls Taxachusetts, he had the potential to be a compelling “purple” candidate in an election where purple seems to be chic.....

Romney’s actions make it clear that he thinks GOP voters are slobbering idiots. His mindless nationalism and phony idiocy seem more appropriate for Stephen Colbert than for a serious presidential candidate.

The Republican base does not want competent right of center technocrats, they do not want to look at healthcare access and affordability through any lense other than tax cuts/expenditures, and the base thinks Iraq was, is and will remain a good idea and template for future US foreign policy. There is no space in the Republican field for the candidate that Publius wants to see.

Instead this is symptom of the positive feedback loop that I have been keeping an eye on.

the non-Southern, non-movement conservative caucus in the 2009 Congress looks to be miniscule. The internal dynamics will produce leadership elections of hard liners and bomb throwers for a couple of cycles, marginalizing the party nationally and further increasing the institutional power of resource extraction, social and political reactionaries within their own caucus.

I was discussing the House Republican caucus in that post, but the basic dynamic is the same as the Republican circular firing squad forms up and starts blazing away. The internal base dampeners and shock absorbers either have been defeated in primary and general elections, defected to independents or Democrats, or have become marginalized and apathetic. Publius is expecting Romney to run and win the GOP nomination as a friendly to social conservatives Rockefeller Republican. That faction lost their fight in the Republican Party decades ago, and Romney is not an idiot in knowing that.

So pass the popcorn.

shamanic adds:

I saw on the news the other evening that Rush Limbaugh has been going after McCain and Huckabee as fake Republicans or something because they've been attracting independent and Democratic support. More evidence of circular firing squads and incredibly insular thinking. Democrats, meanwhile, are waging a very public battle between a candidate with firm appeal to much of the base and a candidate whose appeal stretches far beyond traditional Dem constituencies. This is an interesting race, and an interesting time for both parties.

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