Thursday, October 19

:: Good (News) Friday

Its Good (News) Friday at the Washington Post. Dan Balz and Jim VandeHei report that Republican leaders are feeling “glum” about their prospects in the upcoming elections, which have taken on the characteristics of a Parliamentary (party-based) rather than candidate-specific contest. Glum and cranky, apparently, as the New York Times reports in "Republican Woes Lead to Feuding by Conservatives."

The best quote from the Post article comes from Dick Armey: The fact of the matter is, right now people are embarrassed by Republicans.”

In the Times, Armey calls the James Dobson crowd "thuggish."

But forget the discussion about economic conservatives’ horror at rampant government spending and the evangelical base’s disgust with the Foley encounters. Both factions have been happy together under the GOP big tent up until very recently, and both have gotten most, if not all, of what they wanted from this administration. Social services were slashed, privatization continued apace and enormous for-profit enterprises were treated with reverence. The White House advanced the anti women’s and gay rights agenda at home and around the world, bent foreign policy to fit a Christian fundamentalist agenda, and helped secure jobs for ideological hardliners in government agencies, the judicial system, and even the private sector.

Yes, there have been gaffes, scandals, shocking disregard for the Constitution and the flouting of our basic social contract – but these things have occurred since Day One of this administration.

So what makes things different now? One thing: the perception of weakness.

The war in Iraq, which at first served as an omnipresent symbol of Republican machismo, has now become a daily reminder of White House impotence. Bush’s chest-thumping challenge of Iran and North Korea (the axis of evil) rings (thumps?) hollow in the face of their open defiance. The inability to control the aftermath – or at least the press coverage – of Hurricane Katrina didn’t help either.

Republican voters loved America the Bully. It made them feel strong and secure. Suffering setbacks in Iraq, putting up with the taunts of Iran, North Korea and Venezuela and, worst of all, not being able to shut down criticism by so-called traitors and nerds is humiliating. Republican voters hate America the Chastened.

And lets face it – for many people, the problem with the Iraq war isn’t its illegality, it’s the fact that we aren’t “succeeding.” Likewise, the problem with the Foley scandal isn’t the cavalier attitude of lawmakers entrusted with the safety of Congressional Pages – its that Republicans were forced to respond to a "trumped up" October Surprise orchestrated by Democrats with the help of the Liberal Media.

Mr. Armey is right. Republican voters are embarrassed, but it is not because they have changed their minds about policy positions. They are embarrassed because they perceive the Republican party as weak, and being seen as weak makes them angry and resentful. For Bush supporters in particular, winning is everything and losing is pure hell.

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