Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Is "scandal hysteria" all the GOP has? (updated)

We've seen recently that the Republicans still have enough clout with the media to generate noise about fake "scandals." But apparently the American public isn't being swayed. Take a look at what has happened to President Obama's approval rating (via Charles Franklin).
It's pretty obvious why the Republicans are playing this losing hand...it's all they've got. Party elders like Bob Dole, Olympia Snowe and David Frum are sounding the alarm bells. But is anyone listening?

The truth is that instead of a presidency in peril, what we're witnessing is a Republican Party that has precious little time to get itself together or face a certain demise. It seems as though it is only those that have retired (Dole and Snowe) or been ejected (Frum) that can speak up these days. Elected leaders like Speaker Boehner have abandoned their leadership posts as their caucus breaks into fighting factions.
The majority is “adrift,” according to a longtime conservative. The top five leaders hail from blue states that voted for President Obama, making them out of step with a conference dominated by red-state Republicans. A junior Republican called it a “fractured” conference when it comes to the biggest issues.
No wonder then, that young voters see folks like this as the current Republican leaders.


I am reminded that David Frum warned Republicans about that three years ago.
I’ve been on a soapbox for months now about the harm that our overheated talk is doing to us. Yes it mobilizes supporters – but by mobilizing them with hysterical accusations and pseudo-information, overheated talk has made it impossible for representatives to represent and elected leaders to lead. The real leaders are on TV and radio, and they have very different imperatives from people in government. Talk radio thrives on confrontation and recrimination. When Rush Limbaugh said that he wanted President Obama to fail, he was intelligently explaining his own interests. What he omitted to say – but what is equally true – is that he also wants Republicans to fail. If Republicans succeed – if they govern successfully in office and negotiate attractive compromises out of office – Rush’s listeners get less angry. And if they are less angry, they listen to the radio less, and hear fewer ads for Sleepnumber beds.
As Steve Benen pointed out yesterday, even their "wonks" have been reduced to spreading nonsense.
As Republicans become a post-policy party, even their wonks -- their sharpest and most knowledgeable minds -- are producing shoddy work that crumbles quickly under mild scrutiny...

I write often about the asymmetry in American politics, and the consequences of a radicalized party in a two-party system. But this wonk gap points to something related but different: it's not just Republicans who've become more extreme and less interested in substance; it's also conservatives who've allowed their intellectual infrastructure to atrophy and collapse.

Credible policy debates are rendered impossible, not because of the chasm between the two sides, but because only one side places a value on facts, evidence, and reason.
Far be it from me to advise Republicans what to do about all that. I say this to once again remind the rest of us that this is the context in which "scandal mania" is occurring. One side in this battle is in VERY DEEP trouble. And it sure isn't President Obama.

UPDATE: From Greg Sargent this morning:
For all the good cheer among Republicans over the ongoing scandals, they still don’t know how to persuade House conservatives to stop acting crazy. They don’t know how to get them to Yes on either the debt limit or on immigration reform. And so later this year the “narrative” could be not about the scandals, but about Republicans.

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