The Union Label

Kevin Drum thinks the GOP will fight any liberalization of union-organizing regs:

You can certainly make the case that a serious obsession with Roe is a minority position even within the conservative movement. … Union busting, conversely, strikes me as being so deeply embedded in conservative DNA that it’s virtually impossible to imagine an American conservative movement that didn’t have anti-unionism as one of its core planks. In the last 30 years conservatives have made virtually no progress on their pro-life agenda, but they’ve made steady progress on the anti-union front ever since the end of World War II — via legislation, executive orders, new agency rules, NLRB appointments, and judicial nominations at both the state and federal level. This is no coincidence. The prospect of unionization rouses panic among Main Street conservatives more than any other single issue — more than taxes, more than deregulation — and whether James Dobson likes it or not, the GOP is a business party first and a social conservative party second.

The Downside of Populism

One of Andrew Sullivan’s readers puts his finger on the GOP’s dilemma:

It’s why as a 27-year-old voter, the Republican party has been off the table for me since I could vote in the 2000 election. No matter how much I like or identify with any of “conservative” ideas, I refuse to stand in any tent, now matter how big, with people like Sarah Palin, Jim Broun, and Sean Hannity.

And for all of those “non-kook” conservatives out there scratching their heads about why the country polls “center-right” but voted so strongly for Obama, there is your answer, especially in my generation.

Hot rhetoric and doctrinaire ideology has never commanded majority support in American politics, or anything close to it.

Losing the Well-To-Do

Charlie Cook believes the GOP’s hold on middle-class voters is slipping:

Republicans have lost an enormous amount of support among upscale voters, basically just breaking even among those with household incomes above $50,000 a year, a traditional GOP stronghold. Similarly, McCain’s losing to Obama among college graduates and voters who have attended some college underscores how much the GOP franchise is in trouble. My hunch is that the Republican Party’s focus on social, cultural, and religious issues — most notably, fights over embryonic-stem-cell research and Terri Schiavo — cost its candidates dearly among upscale voters.

While everything he says here is undoubtedly true, I suspect it’s also true that voters in the middle don’t base their decisions about who to vote for on the hot-button social issues as a first-order priority. They vote on bigger things like that economy. Dems in general had the advantage on that in this cycle and Obama in particular was offering a more mainstream, less doctrinaire and less radical set of policy prescriptions than McCain or the GOP.

The New Majority

Clinton pollster Stan Greenberg joins those who believe GOP populism appeals to an increasingly narrow base:

In this poll, for example, when asked if homosexuality should be accepted or discouraged by society, moderates and liberals agree that it is a way of life that should be accepted by society by 65- and 33-point margins respectively, compared to conservatives who believe it should be discouraged by 32 points. When asked if our security depends on building strong ties with other nations or on our own military strength, both liberals and moderates agree with multilateralism by double-digit margins, while conservatives disagree. On values and on issues, moderates — with one large exception — swing toward liberals.

The exception is that moderates remain far more skeptical about government — and government spending — than liberals do. 

Snub or Choice?

Steve Benen at Washington Monthly believes it likely that Sarah Palin’s failure to emerge from last week’s Republican Governors Association’s meeting with a leadership post represented a snub by her colleagues. I’m not so sure. Who’s to say she wanted one? Her track to higher office rests on her populist appeal, not on her ability to play the insider.

At Least It’s An Ethos

Dan Riehl:

Some of the alarmists out there might want to take a moment to consider all the ramifications here. It may sound harsh, but the Great Depression produced many things — one of them was called the Greatest Generation.

Which on the heels of the Brooks column calls to mind the best quote from The Big Lebowski: “Nihilists? Fuck me. I mean, say what you like about the tenants of National Socialism, Dude, at least it’s an ethos.”

Brooks: “Nihilists”

An extraordinary columns today from the NYT’s David Brooks, pronouncing that the GOp has moved well beyond intellectual bankruptcy:

This generation of political leaders is confronting a similar situation [to the 1933 economic crisis], and, so far, they have failed utterly and catastrophically to project any sense of authority, to give the world any reason to believe that this country is being governed. … And let us recognize above all the 228 who voted no — the authors of this revolt of the nihilists. They showed the world how much they detest their own leaders and the collected expertise of the Treasury and Fed. They did the momentarily popular thing, and if the country slides into a deep recession, they will have the time and leisure to watch public opinion shift against them.

Read the whole thing.

Bail Out

Ross Douthat, in the wake of Monday’s House vote:

The most likely scenario, as of 3 PM this afternoon: The stock market continues to drop. Some version of the bailout passes in the next week. The American economy staggers into a recession, but passes through the storm without 1930s-style suffering; the Republican Party is not so fortunate. Even though most Americans claim to oppose the bailout [update: not anymore], the House GOP’s obstructionism is widely viewed as having worsened the economic situation; the fact that these are contradictory positions does not faze an electorate that wraps all of the country’s current troubles up, ties them with a bow, and lays them at the feet of the Bush-led GOP. John McCain loses by a landslide in November. The Democratic Party regains years or even decades worth of ground among the white working class, consolidates the Hispanic vote, and locks up a large chunk of highly-educated voters who might otherwise lean conservative. The muchdiscussed liberal realignment happens. And a politician running on a Ron Paul-style economic platform does very, very well in the GOP primaries of 2012.

The Dow dropped 777 points. Thanks, assholes. Main Street is getting antsy:

The United States Chamber of Commerce vowed to exert pressure, warning in a letter to members of Congress that it would keep track of who votes how. “Make no mistake,” the letter said. “When the aftermath of Congressional inaction becomes clear, Americans will not tolerate those who stood by and let the calamity happen.”

Friendly Fire (IV)

Wick Allison:

The Bush tax cuts — a solution for which there was no real problem and which he refused to end even when the nation went to war — led to huge deficit spending and a $3 trillion growth in the federal debt. Facing this, John McCain pumps his “conservative” credentials by proposing even bigger tax cuts. Meanwhile, a movement that once fought for limited government has presided over the greatest growth of government in our history. That is not conservatism; it is profligacy using conservatism as a mask.

Friendly Fire (III)

Peter Suderman:

Podhoretz notes, as I did yesterday, that the candidates are “falling back on their points of comfort. McCain is talking about greed and lack of accountability — all of which are long-standing talking points of his, though they are usually applied to Washington and not to Wall Street.” He argues that this isn’t enough, that McCain needs better economic advice.  Maybe, but I think the fact that he’s recycling tired, pet themes suggests that more detailed economic coaching probably isn’t in the works. McCain may care about the state of the economy, or at least the general public perception of it, but he just doesn’t care much about the details. This isn’t exactly a shocker; as we’ve seen with his health care and global warming plans, when he does try to master economic details, he often fouls things up. The current mess on Wall Street is infinitely more complicated. That McCain is spouting economic bromides rather than talking substantively doesn’t show that he needs to work harder to master the issues so much as it shows that he’s already made the choice not to.