Monday, July 20, 2009

What a tangled wedge we weave

isconsin Political Fix
not just another blog
July 19, 2009

By Bill Kraus

The Rove-ite formula, which the GOP campaign management mercenaries swallowed whole, goes something like this: The way to win elections is to accumulate zealous interest groups, stack them up, and when this disparate collection gets to 51 percent, you win.

The interest groups of choice were not the Republicans’ traditional broad and fuzzy business groups and low-tax libertarians so much as the true believers whose mantras tended to be more social than governmental or economic.

The three favorites, chosen no doubt for their stridency, were: Right to Life, the National Rifle Association, and hard-line evangelicals.

After delivering a few election victories for the GOP, this strategy sprung some leaks.

Over-motivating the social-issue organizations, known as the base, created a couple of large, vociferous counter movements.

This was dramatically evident in Wisconsin in 2006 when the reaction to the anti-gay marriage amendment brought out enough young voters to cost the Republicans control of the state Legislature.

Even more striking was the revolt of the elderly and the moderates, who were appalled by the party’s animus toward science generally and the possibilities of stem cell research specifically.

Add to this the absurdity of the position on protecting the distribution of automatic weapons in our cities and suburbs on the contention that this is necessary to protect hunting and hunters’ rights elsewhere and to defend homesteads everywhere, and more “former Republicans” announced that they were not leaving the party, but that the party had left them.

The new Republican base exacerbated the departure of the swing voters by behaving like true believers have always behaved. They don’t discuss. They excommunicate.

Delegates to Republican conventions who suggest that abortion rights and gay marriage are not partisan issues and that gun control is more a geographical issue than a constitutional one are courting a tar and feathers exit.

The numbers are the nail in the wedgers coffin: They no longer add up to more than 51 percent.

Until and unless the party redefines itself as an organization of realistic problem solvers which, to take a prominent current example, proposes fixes for the health care cost virus that cripples the country’s competitiveness in this flat economic world, it is going to be a permanent minority disdained by the decisive, mildly partisan voters in the middle who want a government that works.

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