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Posted Dec 17, 2011, 8:34 pm
There is an old adage in sales, “When the spouse is selling your product for you, smile and nod and be quiet.” Well, “be quiet” is actually the phrase that goes by the initials, STFU. But you get the idea—the best person to make your sales pitch is a member of the family. So it goes with today’s Republican Party.
Increasingly, the GOP nominating process is serving Democrats—peeling back the layers of obfuscation and exposing the weaknesses and inadequacies of its likely nominees. That’s different from past contests. To understand why, a little history is useful.
The contemporary Republican majority—since the Reagan era—has been crafted from three distinct groups: captains of industry, evangelical-religious literalists and bitter dumbasses. These last folks are the people Reagan recruited by telling them they were smarter than actually educated people. They are a significant group of voters but have always had little actual influence. Historically, they have been the followers, wrangled by rich guys in the same way evangelicals are herded by preachers. A pander here, a pander there and they were on board.
The rich guys have always had outsized influence in the party. They’re smart, they’re ruthless and they have the ability to buy the efforts of right-wing think tanks like the American Enterprise Institute and the Heritage Foundation. They hire these nonprofit marketing firms to promote economic mythology like Trickle-Down Economics and ideas like turning over the Social Security trust fund to Wall Street. Turns out that uneducated folks are pretty gullible.
Without the alignment of all three groups—the ruthless rich, religious literalists and the gullible—Republicans can’t craft a vote majority. Even when the three groups are in alignment, they don’t amount to more than a bare majority.
But right now, these three elements are at war. Reagan’s pact with the devil—that smart is stupid and stupid is smart—is coming home to roost.
Rich guys picked Mitt Romney and in other years that would have been enough. Until recently he (and they) have assumed he was a lock on the nomination.
But they underestimated the strength of religious bigotry among the party’s evangelical wing. Remember, many of these right-wing evangelicals are literalists. They believe that voice in their head (speaking about U.S. politics) is God. They believe that Election Day is a battle in the war with the devil. And at least some of them, those who hear these voices most loudly, will never vote for a heathen. To them, being a Mormon is the same as being a soldier for Lucifer.
Newt Gingrich is the current candidate of the angry-dumbass wing. Of course, they are a fickle bunch. In the past, they have been bought for a bit of flattery about their innate intelligence. And they’re cycled through Bachmann, Trump, and Cain already. In the end, they’ll support whoever wins the Republican nomination, but along the way, they’ll do their best to wound Romney, whose major flaws seem—to them—to be that he is neither bitter nor stupid. They’re doing a pretty good job of setting the stage for a Democratic evisceration of Romney during the general. And on the off chance that Gingrich wins, he’s a dream opponent—as polls are already showing.
If the simple-thinking wing has a more icky contingent (Is “ickier” a word?) it is the people who Ron Paul attracts. Poor Ron’s biggest impediment has never been his ideas. It has always been his most ardent supporters. Everyone else finds them repulsive. Unless his biggest supporters keep their mouths shut, he doesn’t he have a chance. But in the meantime (if he can keep his fake eyebrows attached) he is pretty good at ripping the skin off of Gingrich.
In the end, most of these Republican voters will come home. But not until after they’ve presented a pretty good case why none of their candidates are presidential. And that’s the time—but not until then—for Democrats to begin efforts to point out the flaws in the eventual Republican nominee. By that point, it’ll just be reminding swing voters what Republicans think of their own guy.
So STFU and let the Republican Party do your work for you. Sure, you should continue to respond to attacks on President Obama, but otherwise, lay back, relax and let the Republicans disembowel their own. They’re doing a great job, and frankly, you can only get in the way. You can only remind them of a common enemy.
If you can’t quite sit on your hands, there is something helpful you can do. Start promoting this meme: Donald Trump is a big, sucking sissy who doesn’t have the cojones to actually run as an independent.
Jimmy Zuma splits his time between Washington, D.C. and Tucson. He writes the online opinion journal, Smart v. Stupid. He spent 5 years in Tucson in the early ‘80s, when life was a little slower, swamp coolers were a little more plentiful, Tucson’s legendary music scene was in full bloom, and the prevailing work ethic was “don’t - unless you have to.”