Posted on | December 4, 2012 | 29 Comments
Last week, I was a guest on “The Rebecca Diserio Show,” and Becca Lower has been kind enough to transcribe the first half of the interview here. We were talking about Saxby Chambliss and I compared it to the situation with Charlie Crist in 2009-2010:
Now, I’m all in favor of electing a Republican majority in the Senate. But the idea that the way to do that is to abandon principles, to muddle the difference between Republicans and Democrats on key issues. Well . . . if that worked out so well in the past, you might think of, I don’t know, the administration of President Dole, you know… It just doesn’t work as practical politics. Never mind that it represents a cowardly abandonment of firm principle.
The problem is, if you go back to 1964, the simple title of Phyllis Schafly’s book: A Choice, Not an Echo. You have to offer the voters an alternative to the party in power, or else the opposition has no reason to exist.
The idea that it’s “smart” to be moderate ignores this basic reality of politics. Successful opposition politics is about highlighting the failures of the party in power and offering a principled alternative. It’s not so much about individual politicians as it is about building a movement.
One of the most insightful things I’ve ever heard about politics was from Stephen Gordon, who worked on the 2008 Ron Paul campaign. Gordo said, “The Ron Paul movement wasn’t about Ron Paul, it was about a movement.” When the Tea Party movement was at full strength, it was like that: People didn’t care so much about candidates or personalities as they cared about the movement itself. But after 2010, the presidential campaign got a lot of people distracted by personalities, and the Tea Party energy was dissipated as a result. Something else from the interview:
Rebecca, a basic problem, something that we saw in the aftermath of this election. You remember the meltdown of the ORCA system, correct? . . . Well, what we learned in the wake of this was that the people who had been put in charge of this basic, very important too l– technological tool – to get out the vote and to report get out the vote efforts, they didn’t understand the technology they were using.
Okay, this was just shocking. It was incompetence. And we have a problem, that people in the Republican party whose job it is to talk about the media don’t know anything about the media. You hear people talking about demographics who don’t know anything about demographics. And you have people talking about culture who don’t know anything about culture.
The Republican Party has a shortage of basic competence. There is too much cliqueishness, too much Old Boy-ism, where who you know is more important than what you know, and the catastrophic failure of ORCA was the tip of the iceberg in that regard.
Some people have tried to isolate this to the Romney campaign, to say that Romney and his aides were uniquely unqualified, but the fact is, they were much more competent than any of their rivals for the GOP nomination and, overall, ran a pretty good campaign. The fact that Republican Senate candidates generally fared worse than Romney argues against the “blame Romney” excuse. The GOP’s problems are a lot more pervasive and complex than just one candidate or campaign.
Read the rest of the interview at Becca Lower’s blog, and you can listen to the audio here: