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October 13, 2008
Republican Rivets are
What you heard over the weekend weren’t boos at a John
McCain rally, but the sound of metal plates bulging and rivets starting
Let’s back up a bit, to
the bit about boos at a McCain rally. The problem was that McCain
decided to treat the crowd to a little bit of old-fashioned straight
talk. It wasn’t about policy, however, it was in response to the
increasingly ugly tone taken by his supporters at rallies of late.
That started with Sarah
Palin, who last week started raising questions about Barack Obama’s
associations. Well, that’s not quite hitting the nail on the head,
either. She wondered aloud to a Florida crowd why someone who’d was
“palling around” with terrorists was a good choice for the presidency.
Later in the week, she hinted that maybe Obama doesn’t like the United
McCain’s straight talk
was meant to tone down the way the audiences at the rallies have
increasingly engaged that kind of heated rhetoric. Perhaps he noted that
such negativity might help enflame the base, but turns everyone else
off, including the very people McCain needs if he wants any hope of
pulling off what would now be an electoral upset. He told the audience
that Obama was a decent, patriotic man with whom he only shared
fundamental differences on policy.
For his effort, he was
greeted with boos.
The idea that McCain
hopes to convince the American people that he can control delicate
international crises when he can’t even keep his own supporters in line
is less interesting than what that fact tells us about the possible
future of the Republican Party.
Both parties can win any
election only thanks to a messy marriage between activists and the party
hub-bubs. On the Democratic side, the brief rupturing of that marriage
led to hopes in the Green Party that it might accrue enough support in
2000 to qualify for federal funding.
On the Republican side,
however, things are even messier. The ability of the Republican Party
has long relied on a coalition of social conservatives and corporatists
who realize that their best interests are met by keeping the social
conservatives in a constant state of rage over liberals or anyone else.
Once the anger over wedge issues like same-sex marriage and abortion
subsides, the social conservatives might figure out they’ve been duped
That has already nearly
happened twice this year, the first taking place after McCain won the
nomination. There’s no secret that conservatives hate John McCain.
McCain has a reputation for working across the aisle, which to the
right-wing base is tantamount to treason. He’s also endorsed in cases
government solutions to problems that are routinely dismissed on the
right as “socialism” (even when they aren’t), and said that we need to
address global warming. It was good material to help build street cred
as a party-bucking maverick, but not to keep the party base happy.
In response, he tossed
them Sarah Palin, a governor no one knew anything about. She did
possess, however, conservative credentials, and the presidential ticket
became an attempt to cover up the growing cracks in the coalition like
The second time was just
two weeks ago, when Congress voted to bail out Wall Street.
Conservatives hated the bailout, which they regarded as – ta-da –
socialism, and helped kill it the first time through the House of
Representatives. It was an embarrassing defeat for the GOP leadership,
who nonetheless blamed Democrats for it.
That defeat is nothing
like what could be shaping up for Election Night, where the Democratic
Party is expected to make gains in both the House and Senate, and now
has to be seen as the favorite to win the presidency. If Republicans
lose big, it could pop off that last rivet and prompt a serious round of
infighting within the coalition that has given the GOP such success over
the last 20 years.
North Star Writers Group. May not be republished without permission.
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