14 March 2009

Limbaugh of the lost

Four months after its implosion in the November election, the Republican party remains deeply troubled. Gallup's most recent state-by-state survey on party affiliation produced this startling new red-state-vs-blue-state map, while a more recent national survey shows the party trailing the Democrats in favorable ratings by 26% to 49%. Americans even view the Republican party less favorably than they view Communist China. In the race to replace Kirsten Gillibrand in a Republican-leaning district of New York, the Republican candidate's lead has shrunk from 25 percentage points to 4 and he is now distancing himself from the party in desperation.

The situation seems unlikely to be improved by some Republican governors' rejection of stimulus money to extend unemployment benefits in their states -- in the middle of a recession which the public already blames on Republicans by 56% to 24%, according to the national survey link above.

The real problem, though, is ideology. Though conservatives are in denial, a party increasingly aligned with "anti-intellectual..... superstitious fag-bashers" and Rush Limbaugh holds little appeal to the educated or the young. As Frank Schaeffer says, you could disagree with people like Goldwater or Buckley, but they weren't crazy. Today, new RNC chairman Michael Steele has to apologize (and may be doomed) for voicing any hint of sanity. While sane conservatives lament their side's descent into lunacy, liberals rejoice in it and exploit it (update: heh).

Anybody got any popcorn?

Seriously, it is perfectly possible for us thoughtful liberals to be concerned about the death spiral the Republican party seems to be in, with hard-liners trashing those conservatives who dare to point out how foolish it is for conservatism to define itself around people like Limbaugh. The country needs a credible opposition party. Right now it barely has one. In the long run a de facto one-party state wouldn't be good for anybody.

But that's the long run. Right now there are more urgent concerns. The hash which eight years of Republican rule have made of the economy and science policy must be fixed. Stem-cell research must be fully funded without any more medieval nonsense. Full equality for gays, in marriage rights and elsewhere, must be won. A Supreme Court majority to keep Roe vs. Wade permanently out of danger must be put in place. And on and on.

So all I can say to conservatives is this: Just keep right on doing what you're doing. Keep on defending what you've become. Keep on shouting down the few among you who talk sense. Because for now, we need you to stay stuck in the tar pits. And we don't have the power to keep you there. Only you yourselves can do that.

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