Republicans, meet reality.

I listened to a telling example of the detachment of Republican conventional wisdom from reality, last weekend while washing dishes. Two conservative bloggers, Ross Douthat and Jonah Goldberg fretted on Blogging Heads about the impending Democratic victory. How could it be that the Republican party betrayed our vision of limited government, and what will happen to that vision when the Democrats take power? They did see that Republicans had *not* lived up to their promise of “small Government”. But they had only the foggiest of pictures of what Republicans had been doing.
They acknowledged some of the Bush administration’s problems with incompetence and corruption. What they didn’t see was that their beloved vision of “small government” had been paid for by corporate interests who wanted the freedom to dump hog manure into vast lakes, or invest vast quantities of other people’s money with minimal collateral. The small government vision hadn’t been betrayed by a few corrupt greedy people. It had been bought by the corporate lobby from day one. Libertarian arguments, and honest libertarians, too, are and always have been the pawns of communally destructive self-interest.
Douthat and Goldberg acknowledged that some of the issues like “busing” and “crime” that helped Republicans gain power decades ago were no longer salient, that recently, Republicans had not been successful at persuading the public about the dangers of immigration, and that Republicans had not delivered on the social conservative agenda. What they didn’t see at all was the pattern behind these single issues — the fact that, from Nixon’s southern strategy to Karl Rove and Sarah Palin, Republicans have sought to win elections by picking some minority to demonize, and that strategy is starting to backfire spectacularly, with Hispanic voters, young voters, voters in the “unAmerican” parts of Virginia, all voting for the candidate who inspired with a vision of American unity in diversity.
They acknowledged that the Iraq war was a well-intentioned mistake, and the neocons had been a bit too optimistic. But they saw the failure as a failure of tactical execution. They didn’t acknowledge that the fearmongering, militaristic style of patriotism that characterized the Republican convention had burned peoples synapses; the word terrorist is a Pavlovian cue for many fewer people, and the promise of the circus isn’t distracting people this year from the uncertainty about where they will get bread.
It is a fine thing that conservatives and Republicans are reflecting on their recent failures. But unless they understand the relationship between the goals of the coalition partners – corporate, fundamentalist, pro-war; and the outcomes of Republican governance, they may not make much headway. Whether and how they can face these things honestly? Not my problem. I do miss sane republicans. How to wrest some sanity out of the corporatist, militarist, nativist, theocratic mess that Bush republicanism became? Really glad that’s not my problem.

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