Evening before last was a kind of sad gathering for Utah's future former Senator, Republican Bob Bennett. He was defeated for re-election in May, denied his party's endorsement. It seems he is too liberal for Utah.
When the Bush/Cheney Administration proposed draconian wiretapping laws that would violate even elemental rights of ordinary citizens, Bob Bennett was enthusiastic in his support. Six months ago, the Senate Committee on Homeland Security voted to allow gay and lesbian federal employees to name their partners as beneficiaries. It was a matter of such simple fairness that nobody on the committee, Republican or Democrat, liberal or conservative, opposed it. Except Bob Bennett. Three months ago, he tried to hold up health care until the District of Columbia suspended the issuance of marriage licenses to any couple of the same sex. He was defeated on that one. He was more successful in keeping Medicare from negotiating to make drug companies lower prices for seniors. He tried to keep kids from getting medical care. The list goes on and on. He's been a Neanderthal.
The Republican Party in Utah tossed him out of office. Too liberal.
Tuesday evening was a time of reflection, as Bennett spoke to a group in Washington. He predicted a good year for the GOP. They could win control of the Senate. But they will lose big time after that unless they move away from slogans toward solutions. "I find plenty of slogans on the Republican side," he said, "but not very many ideas ... ideology and a demand for absolute party purity endangers our ability to govern once we get into office." He compared partisanship to fans rooting for football teams. "The fight is over who will win the game ... It’s like rooting for the 49ers or the Patriots in the Super Bowl but it really means nothing for the future of the country.”
That same day, Chris Christie, the new Republican Governor of New Jersey, spoke independently of Senator Bennett, but struck a few of the same themes. He suggested Republicans need to move beyond demagoguery on issues ranging from immigration to fiscal responsibility and learn to talk to voters on an adult level. "Republicans have to rebrand themselves credibly with the candidates they run, and what they espouse."
Both Republicans were frank and honest. Both suggested that a change in approach is needed for the GOP to succeed in coming years. Both shared a common flaw in their analyses. The current Republican strategy of stirring up the base is not a strategy. It is a sociological phenomenon: driving out the impure, becoming extremist, driving more out, thereby becoming more extremist. Like a group of demented TV highlanders, the GOP has become perpetually self-consuming. In the end there can be only none.
Utah GOP chairman Dave Hansen was sympathetic to the ousted Senator Bennett. He disagreed about whether the GOP has good workable ideas. "They’re out there," he said. Sounds Freudian. The party is getting to be more out there every day.
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I feel sorry for the few honest, sane men left in that tent. There's a place for principled conservatism, but it is not apparently within today's GOP.
Long-term, winning the Senate is the worst thing that could happen to them. Owning the Senate would force them to govern, and you can't govern with slogans. Besides, divided government almost always makes the President look saner by comparison, and a continuing recovery is going to make him look pretty good anyway.
Both elections are a long way off. But from what I can see in my cracked and cloudy crystal ball, the Republicans will win a few seats in 2010, and fall under a steamroller for 2012. It will take them a full generation to recover.
Let us think of the daily news, weekly news, etc. as a city, and the Neanderthal as one of its citizens, and I as another. When Bob Bennett, as I call him facetiously, tried to create a ban on children consulting doctors, as is often the case, I was out of town. It sounds very intriguing, though. Tell me more!
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