Seamanship Quotation

“In political activity, then, men sail a boundless and bottomless sea; there is neither harbour for shelter nor floor for anchorage, neither starting-place nor appointed destination.”
— from Michael Oakeshott's
Political Education” (1951)

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

America: a 50/50 democracy or just half crazy?

Liberal and foreign pundits have made up their minds: Today’s Republican Party is either suicidal or crazy. In winning so many fights with Democrats over the last year, they’ve lost their reason. They will blow next year’s presidential election by nominating a dim, offensive, or unsound nominee.
“Republicans want anyone but the pragmatist” writes Jeffrey Simpson in the Globe and Mail. They hate Obama “with a frenzied passion,” and, so, can’t think straight. Maclean’s magazine headlines its analysis of the Republican primary race with “American idiots: Gaffes, mistakes, scandals and humiliation.” The Toronto Star’s, Heather Mallick’s verdict: “The Republican catastrophe has been their faith in ideology over effectiveness. They would rather break than bend.”
The above Canadian observers only report what American pessimists say about themselves.  
The Economist’s Lexington column offers a nuanced, hopeful note. It ends a damning profile of Newt Gingrich by saying, “Unless they are feeling particularly suicidal, the Republicans will reject him, just as they have rejected Mr Perry and the Mr Cain."
The Republican Party had over 30 million members in 2008 and will have more by the end of the presidential primaries in 2012. With a base larger than the adult population of California or Canada—a base lovingly monitored by the press—it is certain that many silly, crazy, and mean things will be reported, worldwide.
However, the Republican Party is not a cult: it doesn’t practice frenzied rituals in secret cells or ignore what others think. Despite its noisy romantics, it’s still conservative because it’s heavily invested in the status quo—it’s mainstream plus.
Republican voters are older, whiter, more affluent, more likely to have completed four years in college and have kids living at home than typical Democrats. They have a winner’s stake in the existing order—a pro-business climate and a public sector financially strong enough to keep them safe and to provide generous support for seniors and for their school-age kids. They pay more taxes than the poor and get far more out of government as well.
The dearest hope of Manhattan and Hollywood Democrats is that the Republican Party will nominate a goofy candidate and, with their powdered wigs, muskets, handguns, and Confederate flags, they’ll agree to pose for a group photo for National Lampoon.
(Again, Obama relies less on hope than they would like. He’s assuming they’ll elect Mitt Romney or, if not Mitt Romney, someone who will try carefully to tailor his message in order to win next fall’s election.)
Of course, Republicans can miscalculate, especially when they’re out of power and facing a still popular opponent. Their ideal presidential candidate probably decided too early to defer to Obama; being a loosely managed human institution, the Republican convention could mistakenly pick a dud.  
Yet, as The Economist noted, so far Republicans have reacted to bad news in a brutally rational fashion. The undeserving high profiles that were granted Sarah Palin, Michele
Bachmann, Rick Perry, and Herman Cain drove up their polling numbers in the Republican Party—and then news of their flaws and shortcomings drove their numbers down just as fast.

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