A look at the right
Over the last few days I've run across a few interesting links about the right wing, so I thought I'd do a sort of mini-roundup of them.
The Republican party continues to lose support, with only 21% of Americans now self-identifying as Republicans (down from 32% as recently as November) compared with 35% who self-identify as Democrats. In fact, Republican support is at its lowest level since 1983. As the party shrinks, it is becoming more conservative; in a pattern typical of declining movements, it's the moderates who are leaving, so that what remains consists of the more hard-line elements.
It looks like John Cornyn was too optimistic when he said it would be "real hard" to prevent Democrats from reaching 60 Senate seats in 2010. With the defection of Arlen Specter, they're already there. Specter's observation that the Republicans have moved too far to the right echoes Ronald Reagan's famous remark, decades ago, that it wasn't he who had left the Democrats but rather they who had left him. In fact, the example of Reagan (a Republican President I have a lot of respect for) sheds considerable light on how far adrift present-day Republicans have gone. Republicans are in a lather over the current Democratic plan to raise tax rates on the richest -- but that plan would still leave those rates lower than they were under Reagan. And Reagan signed and supported the UN Convention on Torture, which explicitly condemns the kind of Bush-era practices that many on the right now defend. Reagan's ghost has become a sainted figure on the right, but if the actual Reagan were to come back today, one wonders if he would be derided as a RINO.
More evidence is now surfacing, by the way, about the actual reasons for the torture. Basically, the real reason Bush invaded Iraq was that Ahmed Chalabi told him that Saddam Hussein was an ally of al-Qâ'idah (any expert on the Islamic world could have pointed out that this was nonsense -- even I could have pointed that out -- but Bush was the kind of guy who "went with his gut" instead of listening to experts). Then, since it turned out there was no evidence supporting such a link, Bush and Cheney needed to produce some; and since none of the captured terrorists were saying what the administration needed them to say, it became a matter of trying to force them to say it by any means necessary.
Moving along.....Ross Douthat has posed an interesting argument that the Republican party might have been better off if Cheney had been its 2008 Presidential candidate. His essay has unfortunately vanished behind the New York Times's registration firewall, but you can read the gist of it here; a response is here.
Republicans, one tends to assume, are at least more patriotic. Some serious doubt is cast on that view by the fracas over Texas Governor Rick Perry's mutterings about secession. 48% of Texas Republicans think, or claim to think, that Texas would be better off being independent, while 51% approve of Perry's remarks; the respective figures for Texas Democrats were 15% and 16%.
On a lighter note, here's a bizarre exchange between Republican Congressman Joe Barton and Energy Secretary Dr. Steven Chu, an analysis of Republican claims about the national debt, and Fox News being subtly misleading about Obama's position on health-care reform.
It's important not to become complacent. I mentioned above that the last time poll support for the Republican party was this low was 1983. Well, we all remember what happened in 1984 -- Reagan was re-elected in a 49-state landslide. I'm not suggesting that the exact same pattern could repeat itself; the mood of the country, the major issues of the day, and the nature of the two parties are all completely different now than they were then. The point is that things can turn around very fast. It's not so long ago -- right after the 2004 elections, in fact -- that speculation about a permanent decline of the Democrats was rife. The Democrats are riding high now, but one really major foreign-policy disaster could change the whole picture. Or the Republicans could get their act together, cast off the albatross of medieval "social issues", and start focusing on matters which actually resonate with public opinion. Obama seems ready to hand them one such issue on a silver platter -- illegal-alien amnesty. All the Republicans need to do is ditch the pro-amnesty legacy of Bush and close ranks against this, and they'll have the new life they need to rise from the political grave.
Update: Brief notes on the "good riddance to Arlen Specter" meme here and in this comment ("Wyatt Watts"); David Frum, as usual, takes a rational view. Think Progress has a sobering and link-rich assessment of the radical right in its opposition role (found via DemWit). And moderate Republican Senator Olympia Snowe of Maine has something to say about Specter.