The Other McCain

"One should either write ruthlessly what one believes to be the truth, or else shut up." — Arthur Koestler

Blame Bush!

Posted on | February 21, 2014 | 32 Comments

Or, maybe, blame Karl Rove for the dumbed-down culture of the Republican Party that leads to stupid and unnecessary defeats. Everybody today is talking about Alex Roarty’s National Journal article, “The GOP’s Talent Gap,” which echoes a lot of the complaints one hears from Republican tech consultants and operatives:

The turnout experts, TV whizzes, and all-around gurus of the Grand Old Party have been outnumbered and outsmarted by their adversaries, who have spent a decade retrofitting their entire political infrastructure. The result is a dizzying talent gap between the two parties’ political classes, one that shows few signs of closing as the 2014 midterms begin. In some ways, the GOP is years behind on solving a problem that has no quick fixes.
The chasm is widest in technology, an area where Democrats have innovated heavily while Republican tactics ossified. But the data and digital divide, while getting most of the attention, is only a symptom of a larger problem that cuts fundamentally to how the Republican Party operates — not just at a tactical level but also a philosophical one. The well-worn pathways of the party’s operatives, in which every low-level staffer commits his or her career to becoming a well-paid TV specialist, must change. . . .
A party that celebrates individual achievement must learn to better share information and work together to form a new way of politicking—a practice Democrats have emphasized for years. For conservatives, that will smack of a collectivist mind-set they detest as a matter of public policy. But a top-to-bottom change in how the GOP’s political leadership thinks is exactly what many of its own strategists argue is necessary to catch up to Democrats.
“If you think [the] reason you lost to Obama is because you didn’t have a database, that’s just a fundamental misunderstanding,” said Patrick Ruffini, one of the party’s foremost digital consultants. “The problem lies not so much in not having those specific things. The problem lies in a culture.”
Tech-savvy consultants use the word “culture” a lot as they try to convince party leaders that closing the gap isn’t about finding the next technological widget. It’s about transforming how the party conducts its campaigns, from operations that rely heavily on TV and conventional wisdom to data-driven efforts that reach across all media. Most important, it requires that staffers on those campaigns, from campaign manager to rank-and-file workers, overhaul not just what they do but how they think.

You can read the whole thing. I’d add a couple of caveats:

  1. Good candidates win, bad candidates lose. Politics is really a lot more simple than the gurus and wizards would have you believe. Despite what anyone tells you about high tech, running a campaign is not rocket science, and a successful campaign requires a good candidate — or, at least, a candidate who is not so bad that he’s doomed to defeat from the outset. Barack Obama is a very bad president, but he was a very good candidate, and his success has a way of making Democrat strategists look a lot smarter than they actually are. A party that nominates a guaranteed loser like John McCain for president cannot blame the campaign staff for the inevitable defeat.
  2. Greed and egomania are killing the GOP — Yes, I’m talking about Karl Rove, who has been cashing in on his dubious reputation as “The Architect” for years, and whose American Crossroads super-PAC is a ginormous black hole where stupid rich Republican donors have thrown away millions of dollars for nothing. Rove has become a sort of role model for up-and-coming operatives who play by the same rules: It doesn’t matter whether you win or lose, as long as you maintain a reputation as a genius so that people keep paying you the big bucks.
  3. Stupid money buys stupid results — Ultimately, the blame for the Republican Party’s systemic problems can be traced to the mega-donors like Sheldon Adelson, who think they understand politics as well as they understand whatever business they made their money in. They don’t, of course, and so the mega-donors are the pawns of whatever “expert” advisers they listen to.
  4. Media bias still matters — It is important, in considering the relative fortunes of the two major parties, to keep in mind that about 90% of America’s journalists vote Democrat. The GOP is always doomed to be sailing into gale-force headwinds of hostile media coverage, and whatever strategy the “experts” have offered to combat that prejudicial disadvantage, it ain’t working.

Ultimately, however, I blame Bush. Fairly or not, Bush’s reputation as a dimwit — his drawling malapropisms, etc. — alienated an entire generation of smart young kids who weren’t really excited about the American Conquest of Mesopotamia. The catastrophic disaster of the Iraq War permanently tainted the GOP among intellectuals, and the Republican Party hasn’t come to grips with that “brand damage” issue, primarily because the people running the GOP are unwilling to admit that the Bush presidency was a failure.



32 Responses to “Blame Bush!”

  1. ariyadesai01
    February 21st, 2014 @ 3:58 pm

    RT @smitty_one_each: TOM Blame Bush! #TCOT

  2. traveling-SAP
    February 21st, 2014 @ 3:16 pm

    You are forgetting that the current meme in the old Blue Dog Democrats (The ones that survived the purge of the Clinton Era because they went GOP), is the party has been hijacked by the resurgent JBS’s who are pushing the racist policies of the new Tea Party and the GOP. The mainstreamn radicals in the Democratic party have now hung thier hat on that ideal. Simply because that since they are radical, but mainstream (see Toure, Matthews, Maddow, Warren); that the GOP must be radicalization to become more mainstream. Which is why we have all sorts of “gotcha” video twits out there trying to prove that radicalism. The truth isn’t that for an honest conservative, but it doesn’t matter to the media types.

  3. exsanguine
    February 21st, 2014 @ 3:28 pm

    “alienated an entire generation of smart young kids who weren’t really excited about the American Conquest of Mesopotamia”

    edit: alienated an entire generation of TheStupids™ who were to ignorant of the rest of the world to get excited about anything but their next xbox game.

    Please don’t make the mistake of calling them ‘smart’

  4. RCCJr
    February 21st, 2014 @ 3:44 pm

    I think you mistake Bush for being at fault when he really was a victim and the best target the progressives have ever had based more on timing than any policy or personal characteristic.

    Remember that Iraq was a pretty popular war before and when it was first begun. Everybody voted for it and it was pretty clear that thumbing your nose at the UN when there was only a cease fire in place was not winning any friends for Saddam and his regime.

    But then the progressives brought out every gun they had and constantly and incessantly fired volley after volley at Bush for 8 steady years. And enough fools started chiming in with the usual jump on the bandwagon fervor. It’s not anything that Bush did that was the cause or even made it easier for our fascist friends on the left. Any other Republican president would have fallen into disrepute with that long of a constant barrage against them.

    Propaganda and brainwashing classic cases

  5. Charles
    February 21st, 2014 @ 3:45 pm

    The GOP needs to stop fighting the last war. Yes, Mitt Romney would have been a better choice in 2008 than John McCain, but he did close half the gap in 2012. Winning over another 2.5 million voters out of a population of 313 million is very attainable in 2016.

    Romney got sandbagged on Benghazi at the debate because his politicos didn’t do their prep work. Candy Crowley may have pulled the lever, but those bags were set by poor preparation.

    The GOP might very well have won the Senate back in 2010 or 2012, and might yet in 2014. But when you go around crying “unconstitutional, unconstitutional” the independents fear that voting for the Republicans candidates they might prefer would bring on another impeachment crisis they would just as soon avoid.

    Does media bias really matter in the down ticket races? How many votes does a slanted NYT article buy you in an Iowa U.S. Senate race? Egomania and stupid money can cost you those races.

  6. Joseph Fein
    February 21st, 2014 @ 4:22 pm


    The problem has always been and will always be the same:

    The Nationals rely on Scions and ignore the activists in the States. If the National Committees hired Republican activists who converted from being D’s you would see stronger attacks against the Left. Because Converts know the other sides arguments.

    If local activists (from around the country) were hired, they would have more experience then most Scions already there (there are a few who do there jobs well).

    There is no talent gap. The national GOP is looking in the wrong places.

  7. Adjoran
    February 21st, 2014 @ 4:42 pm

    Right, because the intellectuals were so much behind the GOP before Bush, eh?

    Take your counsel from the National Journal if you like. I guess because they have always been so helpful to conservatives in the past, right?

    If not for Bush and his awful Medicare D, which he ran on, we would have had President Gore. Blame Bush for Iraq, but Congress authorized it.

    We didn’t lose in 2008 and 2012 because we failed in new tech, although we are clearly behind on that. We lost because white voters and evangelicals failed to turn out in the strength they did in 2004 while minorities and young voters turned out in record numbers.

    It is convenient to blame failures on scapegoats. Stalin did it all the time.

  8. Evi L. Bloggerlady
    February 21st, 2014 @ 4:55 pm
  9. Mm
    February 21st, 2014 @ 5:24 pm
  10. Lightwave
    February 21st, 2014 @ 5:45 pm

    Agreed. Those “smart young kids” are living on the old couch in Mom’s basement, with $200,000 in college loan debt, a masters in art history, and a job selling overpriced coffee makers at the mall.

    The actually intelligent ones realized pretty early that they only have themselves to count on, and aren’t stupid enough to vote for either party right now.

  11. Finrod Felagund
    February 21st, 2014 @ 7:03 pm

    Success has a thousand fathers, failure is an orphan.

    After the GOP takes the Senate in 2014 and the White House in 2016 (both have the odds significantly in the GOP’s favor), they’ll be writing articles like this about the Democrats.

  12. Finrod Felagund
    February 21st, 2014 @ 7:06 pm

    I’d say the GOP’s odds of winning the Senate in 2014 are pretty good. Moe Lane posted something yesterday linking to an analysis that ran the numbers and determined that for the Democrats to hold the Senate, Obama’s approval needs to be at least 50 percent, and at his current approval rating of 44 percent, the GOP is expected to pick up between 9 and 13 seats:

  13. Zohydro
    February 21st, 2014 @ 7:22 pm

    I think our favourite metrofag proglodyte arsebag is just doing what metrofag proglodyte arsebags do…

  14. Cube
    February 21st, 2014 @ 8:06 pm

    Return fire tends to make the enemy scale back on the barrages out of self preservation. Bush refused to do that because he wanted to change the tone in DC. I can respect that desire but it sure didn’t help him or the party politically. By not challenging the lies, they became accepted as truth. That’s nuts.

  15. Cube
    February 21st, 2014 @ 8:24 pm

    The biggest problem the GOP has with people like me is that we’ve figured out the party and it’s candidates don’t really believe what they say they believe. In other words, they lie to us to get elected. If the party really believed in limited government, for example, they’d brush-hog most of the alphabet soup of agencies, commissions, etc. and clear-cut whole swaths of regulations rather than making more and expanding their powers. Instead the GOP acts like those stupid Communist apologists, they believe government fails because the right people haven’t been in charge. And then they can’t figure out why the base stays home on Election Day.

    “We lost because we don’t have a social media strategy and the dinosaurs making the decisions don’t understand that.” True but largely irrelevant. Republican candidates and party leaders, if the base believes you will represent their views, fight the Democrats for what you believe in and actually do what you said you’ll do, there’ll be no shortage of votes for you at the polls. Just give us something to vote FOR!

  16. Evi L. Bloggerlady
    February 21st, 2014 @ 8:32 pm
  17. Cube
    February 21st, 2014 @ 8:32 pm

    Not a chance those articles will ever be written, let alone published. Remember the Fourth Estate is primarily Democrats who cannot conceive of anyone legitimately voting for Republicans. So what you’ll see instead is a replay of the 2000 election aftermath, how it was “stolen” from the rightful (Democrat) officeholders. Plus lots of sturm und drang about the supposed evils of the Tea Party. If there are any articles in the mainstream press about how Obama destroyed the Democrat Party and they’re not immediately repudiated, you can remind me that I was wrong about this. But I don’t think I will be.

  18. DaveO
    February 21st, 2014 @ 8:57 pm

    Rove said that in one of his first interviews after McCain lost. The whole ‘no WMD in Iraq’ lie went unrefuted, despite photographic and eyewitness evidence otherwise.

  19. piniella
    February 21st, 2014 @ 8:58 pm

    Project ORCA == FAIL

  20. Cube
    February 21st, 2014 @ 8:59 pm

    National GOP, hire Dana Loesch and RS McCain. Then listen to what they tell you and do it. Problem solved – if you want to win and govern like winners, that is.

  21. DaveO
    February 21st, 2014 @ 9:01 pm

    When the GOP courts the Social Conservatives, the GOP wins the White House. When the GOP says it doesn’t need the Social Conservatives, they stay home and the GOP loses the White House. Karl Rove, NR, Townhall… none of what they say matters so much as getting the SoCons to the voting booth.

  22. G Joubert
    February 21st, 2014 @ 9:02 pm

    And, Bush’s complete failure to defend himself and his policies, even in the face of withering over-the-top criticism and outrageous attacks was a huge part of the destruction of the Republican brand. Following, they say, Rove’s advice.

  23. Garym
    February 21st, 2014 @ 10:39 pm

    5. THE CONSULTANT CLASS I personally feel that the GOP’s consultants have been overrun by leftists and paycheck hunters. They sure aren’t Conservatives.

  24. Coulter76
    February 21st, 2014 @ 11:03 pm

    SoCon idiocy is usually what causes the GOP to lose, look at Akin, Mourdock, and most recently Cuccinelli.

    They get bogged down in issues that politicians really have no business being in. Things like “rape babies” are going to scare away voters, even if they disagree with issues like ObamaCare.

    Please show me modern examples of SoCon candidates that do well outside the Old South.

    And if that causes voters to “sit out” elections, so be it. We need a new coalition, because if some SoCon is going to sit out over a Republican politician insisting on a rape exception for abortion, good riddance.

    Stop sounding like snake-handling preachers.

  25. Charles
    February 21st, 2014 @ 11:57 pm

    The odds are very good, but … are the candidates?

  26. For Democrats, Jimmy Fallon Is The Gift That Keeps On Giving | The Lonely Conservative
    February 22nd, 2014 @ 12:46 am

    […] we? They’re just part of the whole Hollywood entertainment complex. Everyone gets a trophy, except Republicans, or anyone serious. It’s all just a big joke now, a Hollywood production. Even the charade of […]

  27. K-Bob
    February 22nd, 2014 @ 6:38 am

    Stacy’s point #1 is proven by how well Romney’s actual Campaign operations went. As campaigns go, it was hard to ask for better (I’m not talking about GOTV ops, just the campaign). But Romney left so much on the table that he redefined “passive.”

    I also blame Bush, but not for being a serial malapropist. Bush clearly took a look at the fact that a sitting president is the party leader, and said, “fuck that, let Limbaugh do it.” He only stepped up to visibly lead two or three times.

    They were well done, each time. But by contrast, barack visibly leads, every damn day. If it’s a day ending in ‘Y’, then it’s time to get up in front of some sycophants and stomp on the Constitution. (Then make smartass remarks on twitter about it.)

  28. ArdvarkMaster
    February 22nd, 2014 @ 11:49 am

    I don’t even think it is social conservatives so much as conservatives. There are issues that if the GOP fails to act conservatively on, they will lose significant portions of their base and have no way to replace those votes, let alone gain new votes. Amnesty is just one example that will be a vote killer.

  29. DaveO
    February 22nd, 2014 @ 12:06 pm

    Sure: Reagan, Bush-41, Bush-43: all won by courting SoCons. Bush-41, Dole, McCain and Romney: all lost by dismissing the SoCons. Bubba Clinton and Obama both courted the SoCons of the Democrats to ensure their nominations. Hillary did too, if you’ll recall her cant in the black churches, but by then Bubba had poisoned the well for her. If you’re looking across America, the states and cities have been doing things that are very SoCon, like putting limits on abortions. The gay marriage crap, in which a few judges over rule the millions, makes a great SoCon platform because millions of Dem constituencies voted against gay marriage. Fiscal conservatism is easy to defeat because of such appelations as “Voodoo Economics” and “Trickle Down” and because of so many people are hooked on Government Cash-smack. Fiscal conservatism doesn’t give people a reason to pause and reflect. Running SoCon ads about how more black babies are aborted in NYC than are born is a punch in the face and gets folks to think. Right now the smart candidates are making overtures to Pope Francis and Protestant leaders.

  30. Art Deco
    February 22nd, 2014 @ 3:22 pm

    1. The general public did not sour on George W. Bush until the fall of 2005 and the proximate cause was a natural disaster (Hurricane Katrina) and the media were working assiduously to move the needle on that one.

    2. “Intellectuals” in general have since the Depression never cared for any Republican candidate or office-holder (with the exception of a few characters like John Lindsay and Francis Sargent). There’s a small rivulet of libertarians and palaeoheadcases who had contempt for Bush. These creatures have little popular base and the latter have few if any berths in academe or in policy shops either. Daniel Larison has no influence on anyone other than Rod Dreher.

    3. “Good candidates win, bad candidates lose.” And you know they’re good candidates because…. (I think that’s called a tautology).

    4. “Stupid money buys stupid results” (another tautology of the same sort).

  31. Art Deco
    February 22nd, 2014 @ 3:24 pm

    No, Obama does not ‘lead’. He just makes himself obtrusive.

  32. K-Bob
    February 22nd, 2014 @ 5:18 pm

    Well, yeah. But he leads at doing so. In other words, he gets out there and flaps his gums and makes declaratory statements. All of which he should be arrested for. But still.

    Bush went too far the opposite direction. He never led the Conservative movement at all. And he even bailed on leading the party.