The Decline and Fall of the GOP
That's what a number of commentators are predicting, mostly based on the fact that a bunch of conservative "outsiders" swooped into NY-23 to support Doug Hoffman, thereby forcing pro-choice, pro-gay-marriage, pro-stimulus, liberal Republican Dede Scozzafava to drop out and throw her endorsement to the Democrat. The conservatives have thrown the race to the Democrats, they complain. This, and the Specter primary challenge, will just encourage the few remaining Republicans in the northeast to leave the party entirely.
What's interesting is that most of this wailing comes from Obama voters.
As for the alleged pernicious influence on the party at large, I remember hearing--indeed, I think, saying--such things about the Netroots attempts to drive their party left in the earlier part of the decade. And as I contemplate the wreckage of the Democratic party, barely holding on to 37 seats . . .
Pardon me, I seem to have become trapped in Karl Rove's fantasy world. Not my finest hour as a political prognosticator.
It is true that this turned out badly in the cases of Lieberman and Specter. But they were both popular incumbents, and the senate gives individual legislators quite a bit of power, especially when the numbers hover close to 60. In general, I don't think that you can credibly say that pushing progressive items like health care and climate change to the forefront of their party's policy agenda has turned out badly for the Democrats.
But moving their agenda left has not cost them. And I don't see any empirical reason to believe that it is going to cost the Republicans. Either Hoffman will lose, in which case the strategy of policing the party will lose some of its appeal, or he will win, in which case Blue Dog democrats and Republicans in squishy states will probably tack right--a critical win during the health care debate.
In the long term, the Republican party still has big problems. But as devoutly as I would like to believe that their problem is loudmouthed television and radio hosts who just aren't sophisticated about public policy . . . well, I've yet to see any evidence that the American polity is avid for more sophisticated public policy discussion. Frankly, they seem a lot more interested in plausible enemies and improbable free lunches, which is the level on which both parties are mostly campaigning.
In Megan McArdle's world, being wrong just means that you'll get it right next time. Just see how much you've learned, after all, which makes you much more likely to be right next time. So what has McArdle learned? Nothing. She seems to think that Democrats were elected because they advocate for national health care and against climate change. The--what is the word?--economic situation created by extreme free market advocates that drove away everyone from the Republican party is not mentioned. By ignoring what actually happened McArdle is able to assure everyone that the tea-bagging contingent of the Republican party, which includes P. Suderman, McArdle's fiance, will not affect the Republican party adversely.
It's difficult to tell if McArdle is being disingenuous or if her mind instinctively shied away from thinking about the actual reasons the right lost the presidential election. Practically speaking it doesn't make any difference, and theoretically the only difference is in whether she decided that the far-right fundamentalists (religion and tax) are good for the party because she refused to admit that her pet policies were massive failures, or if she decided to throw a little covert support behind her tea-bagger future husband. It's probably a bit of both, and calibrating McArdle's exact degree of calculation versus unconscious avoidance of damaging self-knowledge might be beyond the ken of mortal minds.