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Saturday, September 20, 2008

Branding Cattle

Sometimes you encounter a conservatard writer whose renderings of the official hymnal are so overwrought, you wonder about them. Is it a put-on, do they roll their eyes and snicker as they type each laboriously-crafted tautology? Are they counting the zeroes on their paychecks as they lovingly polish every rhetorical turd? Or worse, are they serious, so mindlessly wedded to their ridiculous tropes, lacking in self-awareness in a way normally attributed to one of the blow-up dolls from The Hills?

As is his wont, Fred Barnes invites us to speculate as to worst-case scenarios.

It took Conservatives in Great Britain a decade to restore their party's good name. It is taking Republicans a far shorter time--perhaps only two years--to begin a significant comeback. Who's responsible? For sure, John McCain and Sarah Palin have played major roles. But so has a Republican who was one of the causes of the party's decline--President Bush.

Republicans suffered from the same ailment as the Tories. In the minds of millions of voters who once supported them, Republicans had become the political equivalent of socially unacceptable people. They were disliked, personally as well as politically. Republicans had no one but themselves to blame.

The Tories lost three elections before changing the face of their party with new leaders who stressed fresh issues (while muting but not abandoning their core conservative principles). In 2006, Republicans lost Congress and numerous statehouses. Now McCain and Palin have supplanted President Bush and Vice President Cheney as the party's leaders. They're stressing a pair of new issues: political reform and fixing a "broken" Washington. Actually, those may be a single issue.


Whatever post-convention bounce McPalin enjoyed appears to be gone, supplanted by a sense that their American Idol dog-and-pony show is worth fuck-all in the face of a potentially catastrophic economic situation. These people are clowns and liars -- showboating buffoons with no ideas, no knowledge, and no curiosity as to how to handle problems. Over the past month or so, McCain has insisted that he knows how to find bin Laden, win wars, and fix the economy. One asks politely why the hell he has yet to do any of those things then, or to even proffer any viable solutions to his colleagues in the Senate or the current occupants of the office he seeks.

(And really, the next time McCain asserts that he "knows how to win wars", it would be helpful if the person he's speaking to responds with a request for him to produce an example. That should be entertaining, though not quite as entertaining as Barnes trying to convince his hordes of saps that empty jabber and listing approval ratings are good things.)

Other factors have also been crucial in the Republican rise. Recall what caused the party to tank in 2006: corruption and scandal in Congress, excessive spending, a losing war in Iraq, unpopular leaders. The party had a bad odor.

Those problems either don't exist any more [sic] or aren't as significant in 2008. Congressional Republicans who were caught up in scandal or outright crimes are gone or soon to leave. The one exception is Senator Ted Stevens of Alaska, who is under indictment and awaiting trial as he runs for reelection. Yet he's running even with his Democratic opponent.


Which proves only that Alaska Republicans are as obstinate and irrational as their continental counterparts. And it's nice that Barnes thinks that the problems he listed "either don't exist anymore or aren't as significant in 2008". It's not as if the perpetual election campaign hasn't sucked all the oxygen out of all those other stories, which are indeed still relevant and significant.

Barnes goes on to talk about the British Tories' rejuvenation against a stagnant Labour Party, as if Tony Blair's association with (and steadfast refusal to repudiate) Fredo hadn't tainted that brand sufficiently. It is, Fred may have noticed, the same reason Bush has only appeared in public to stroke everyone over the impending economic collapse, and hasn't been seen in public with McCain in months. Cheney is also nowhere to be found. These are not the actions of the incumbent leaders of a resurgent brand.

Barnes is bold in putting the date of September 29 on his column. McCain has already been uncomfortably exposed as an increasingly empty candidate in genuine danger of being overshadowed by his neophyte running mate, who in turn has been overexposed as a typical backwater cronyist who knows nothing about the world beyond her state broders, and who is clearly in waaaayyy over her head, no matter how much or how desperately they try to prep her. Most people with an IQ above room temperature are already at the point of asking "what next" when they hear Palin's name, just three weeks into her "getting to know you" phase. They know her now, and while she might be a perfectly good neighbor or mayor, she is not qualified to occupy the newly-empowered office of vice-president. Barnes can thank Cheney for that one.

By the time Barnes' pro-forma date rolls around, the first debate between Obama and McCain will have been held. And while Obama's supposedly professorial demeanor may still be off-putting the emotionally unstable who project their anxieties and ignorance upon their political representatives, the fact is that he is a much better extemporaneous thinker and speaker than McCain. And now that people are losing their homes and jobs and pensions in droves, more of these chuckleheads are starting to pay attention past the peripheral nonsense they've been indulging in.

We'll see -- the older I get, the more I believe that Mencken was an optimist -- but if I were Barnes, I wouldn't be counting my Palins before they're even incubated, much less ready to hatch. People are starting to figure this broad out, and the numbers show it.

3 comments:

Joe Blow said...

Shorter Heywood,

Hey Frank! Blow Me!

freq flag said...

Fred who, now?

Is he that guy who's on the TV show? You know, the one with the cops and I think it's in New York or someplace like that. Or is that some other Fred? These guys shouldn't be having all the same names and stuff.

(Yeah, stuff sucks.)

Thomas Daulton said...

Barnes: The party had a bad odor. Those problems either don't exist any more...

Barnes glosses over exactly what steps, if any, have been taken about the offensive odor of the party. Have you smelled John McCain lately? Whatever steps were taken, were insufficient.