Sunday, May 10, 2015

Dear GOP: My Apologies. I Was Wrong.

After writing about the crash of the conservative movement not once, not twice, not even three but four times, I must admit that the right wing hold on the GOP has not really lessened. In fact, if the roster of declared and rumored presidential candidates is any guide, the conservatives have outdone themselves and are going to run even farther to the right than they did in 2008 and 2012.

And Rick Perry and Chris Christie haven't even announced their bids yet.

This has given rise to a mob mentality that is difficult to track, even with a scorecard. Each of the candidates in South Carolina on Saturday bent frontwards and backwards to call President Obama a failed leader and each promised to repeal the ACA, keep taxes low and to reign in the programs that struggling Americans need and want. This does not seem like a winning formula, but there you have it.

Governor Christie didn't do himself any favors by repeating that he was grateful for the help Obama gave to New Jersey in the days after Hurricane Sandy and defended the hug that many mathematics-challenged Republicans say cost Mitt Romney the election. Earth to GOP: Romney was going to lose in 2012 no mater how many times you crunch and unskew the numbers. And it's pretty insulting to voters to imply that one hug would change their votes.

Christie even pushed back the timing of his expected announcement to run for president until late June or early July because he needs the state legislature to pass a budget that asks middle and working class state workers to pay even more for their pensions and health benefits. The Democrats in Trenton want a millionaire's tax. If Christie gives in to that, he's really toast with Republican voters. If he doesn't give in, he won't get the reform he needs to run on. I'm not sure I agree that this will derail his bid, because he wants very badly to be president. It just might mean that he'll have to wait until Hillary the next president is done with her their term.

As for the other candidates, Marco Rubio is getting some favorable press while Jeb Bush and Scott Walker raise money, which is something Rubio might not have to do quite so feverishly. Carly Fiorina can't really run on her business acumen and Ben Carson can only compare so many things to slavery. My guess is that the party honchos will try their best to winnow down the list more quickly than they did in 2012 and cut down on the number of embarrassing debates.

The big problem for the Republicans, though, is that their message is still a mess. Marriage equality will most likely be settled by the end of June and cutting taxes for the wealthy is a losing proposition. Then there's denying the science of climate change, cutting entitlement programs and allowing religion a more prominent role in politics. Many people do agree with these positions, but not enough in a general election to win the 270 needed to take the election.

Will the GOP learn the lesson? So far, they are showing that they have not.

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