I have always made one prayer to God, a very short one. Here it is: “My God, make our enemies very ridiculous!” God has granted it to me.
Jonah Goldberg has a typically biting column on Howard Dean’s comments about the “Merlot Democrats”. It’s nice to know in a time where the GOP is barely holding it together that no matter how bad things seem to get for us, the other guys still have absolutely no clue how to relate with Middle America.
The fact is that the Democrats are engaging in the techniques of personal destruction – the very same thing they accused us of doing in the 1990s (and not without some justification). The problem with that line of attack is that it tends to turn American off to politics, which doesn’t help either party. The Democrats might have a chance if they could elucidate a message other than “We hate Bush. I mean, really hate him. We hate him more than Spiceworld and rotten milk combined.” However, when the Democrats actually do present something, it’s almost always something that the American electorate doesn’t like – such as nationalizing healthcare (as if the argument that a government-run system will be any more efficient or less costly than the mess we have now) or raising taxes.
The fundamental problem with the Democrats is that they’re still decidedly out of the cultural mainstream. They’re secular, sometimes to the point of display anti-Christian bigotry. Americans are religious. The single biggest determinate of being a Republican is being married with children – while the Democrats dominate single voters. When it comes to speaking to the fears and concerns of American families on social issues, the Democrats are utterly and completely clueless. They don’t understand that family values aren’t a cover phrase for intolerance and bigotry, but a representation of the desire for parents not to have their children grow up in a society that encourages them to become self-indulgent, vapid, and sexually irresponsible. In the age of both AIDS and the decline of stable relationships, those trends aren’t healthy.
The Republican Party is seeing an increasing amount of tension between social conservatives (who support the President strongly on Miers despite her potential for being a squish on their pet issues) and fiscal conservatives (who rightly don’t see the President as one of their own). However, that’s nothing compared to the multiple fractures in the Democratic Party. Environmental activists and auto workers aren’t a natural constituency. Blacks don’t see eye-to-eye with gay rights activists. “Merlot Democrats” and the last vestiges of the heartland Democrats who haven’t already become Republicans are as different as night and day. The GOP has two main constituencies who agree on a wide spectrum of issues, most notably national defense. The Democratic Party is a mix of groups who are united at the moment by little more than their hatred of George W. Bush. By January 2009 it’s quite possible that these groups will be at each other’s throats now that the radical fringe of the Democratic Party has suddenly found themselves once again in the position to play kingmaker like they did in 1968 – and we all know how that turned out.
If anything, the recent split between the Bush Administration, Congress, and the conservative base is good for the party. Five years of political power tends to produce stagnation in a party, and we need to kick some asses in our own party before we go out and kick some other asses. On issues of spending and immigration, the Bush Administration is outside the conservative mainstream. Conservatives want restrictions on government spending and they want secure borders – and it’s about time we started putting pressure on our elected officials to start moving in the right direction.
Dean’s “Merlot Democrats” are exactly the kind of people who do represent the base of the Democratic Party. They’re the kind of people who believe George Lakoff when he posits that all the Democrats need to do is “frame” their issues with the magic words that will get the electorate to accept them. The Democrats don’t understand that the problem isn’t the presentation – a party with the slavish support of the media doesn’t have much cause to worry – but the content of the ideas. The conservative movement spend most of the last 50 years as a minority in American politics, which forced them to take ideas seriously – while the Democrats could use power rather than a concrete ideology to advance their causes. It has only been since 1980 that conservatives have been able to start translating ideology into political success – and it took the legendary charisma and leadership of Ronald Reagan to do it.
The GOP has a lot to be worried about, partially from the usual spate of Democratic attacks and partially from their own failures of leadership. However, like Voltaire, they’ve been praying for ridiculous enemies, and those prayers have certainly been answered.