I have an important message for Michele Bachmann, Glenn Beck, Rush Limbaugh and the rest of the most visible Republicans on the national stage: Keep going! You're doing great! If this was video, you would see me standing an applauding. Maybe holding up a lighter for an encore.
While I believe America only benefits from a robust two-party system, the Republicans aren't really filling their seats at the table. The insufferable centrist Democrats, for better or worse, are covering the power void in an unofficial interim capacity and it wouldn't shock me if there was eventually a replacement party built up around the conservative Democrats and some of the center-right moderate Republicans.
Another theory for another time.
But it's clear that there will either be a clean break in the current party dynamic, or the more moderate, reasonable faction of the Republican Party will begin to seriously assert itself against the wingnuts who are, simply put, cartoonish stereotypes of themselves.
It's this latter group that appears to be scaring away GOP moderates and whatever remains of "intellectual" Republicans like, say, David Frum, David Brooks and Christopher Buckley. Center-right voters are becoming increasingly embarrassed to call themselves Republicans, and party identification has dwindled to 20 percent. And it's not necessarily borne out of an ideological split as much as it has a massive character gap.
Modern "wingnut" Republicans still share many of the core values of classic conservatism, but they've abandoned the all-important character traits of reason, consistency and intellectual honesty. They've entirely navigated their crazy train off the rails, specifically in terms of how they talk about their conservative values.
Call it the Malkinization of the Republican Party. Abandoning these traits frees them up to make the loudest noises possible without worrying about whether the noises actually make sense when assembled in the form of a sentence. The Glenn Beck strategy. If one guy stands on the sidewalk pleasantly handing out political leaflets, and another guy is positioned directly across the street shouting crazy gibberish, who's going to enjoy the most attention? Glenn Beck across the street of course, and it's not necessarily because he's making the most sense. He's just shouting gibberish.
But if polling is any indication, people don't want to be associated with a party that elevates crazy self-satirical wackaloons. Especially when they refuse to be honest about who they are, and, instead, try to keep up a very obvious and transparent masquerade.
For instance, Fox News Channel continues to refuse to admit that they're an extension of the Republican Party. They refuse to admit that the network's news programming has an obvious right-wing slant. Everyone knows it. So why don't they just admit it?
Rush Limbaugh is playing the same game. When he was called out for his race-baiting by the NFL, he refused to acknowledge the fact that he markets in racially-insensitive language in order to play to the darker instincts of his audience. That's his thing and he's a multi-millionaire because of it. But he lacks the class and honesty to man-up to his shtick. The same goes for wingnut stereotype Erick Erickson and MSNBC's resident crank Pat Buchanan -- each of whom described the president's Nobel Peace Prize as the consequence of "affirmative action." But, but, but they're not race-baiting. They're -- well, yes, they're absolutely race-baiting in a way that would make Lee Atwater blush.
This inability to own their rhetoric doesn't help the Republicans and only damages what remains of their authenticity.
And it's this lack of authenticity that gives way to the wide array of contradictions and inconsistencies we're witnessing on the wingnut right. How can President Obama be Nixon, Carter, Mao, Stalin and Hitler at the same time? How can he have a Christian former pastor and also be a Muslim? How can liberals be both communists and Nazis? How can there possibly be Republicans who are attacking the Democrats for fiscal irresponsibility even though the Democrats have suction-cupped themselves to the door of the CBO?
I imagine the whiplash alone is scaring away whole chunks of former Republicans. One minute, they're expected to defend George W. Bush by suggesting that it undermines the troops to attack the commander in chief during a war, and then they're banking around on a dime to suddenly attack the new commander in chief during a war. I'm not sure how anyone can look themselves in the mirror and feel good about being that flagrantly inconsistent.
The same goes for matters of governing. The Republican Party could stand to show a little humility for their recent record. Instead of at least pretending to "grab a mop," as President Obama said this week, they continue to stomp their feet and hold their breath about everything from federal spending to war strategy to -- here's a laugh -- executive power and civil liberties. Suddenly the Republicans care about executive power abuses and the "trampling" of the Constitution, eh? That's rich.
Again, the whiplash must be excruciating.
Meanwhile, rather than debating the policy aspects of health care reform or Afghanistan or the economy, they're attacking the president for asking kids to stay in school, and outing principals and teachers for daring to teach their students about, you know, the President of the United States. Time well spent, Republicans. You'd think these educators were asking kids to worship (in tongues) a cardboard standee of the president.
But while there are several reasonable voices emerging from the twisted wreckage of the Republican Party, the current leaders don't appear to be taking the hint and are, instead, doubling down on the crazy. Make no mistake, I'm happy to see the Democrats flying solo, as aggravating as they might be sometimes. But, as I wrote earlier, I tend to view the Democratic squabbling as the interim two-party system in lieu of any sort of reasonable Republican opposition.
Meanwhile, keep going, Republicans! And buck up, little troopers. There's at least one thing you have going for you. Contrary to nearly every poll, Chris Cillizza from the Washington Post says it's been a good year for the Republicans. And there's always TIME Magazine's Mark Halperin who seems to always believe that positive news for the president is, instead, negative news for the president. As Republicans, you should appreciate and cherish how insanely upside-down that is. Congratulations. Ass-backwards support is better than no support at all.