January 11, 2010
Ordinarily, party leaders are supposed to emphasize the positive aspects of their party, but in the Republican Party of today, that is rather difficult. RNC Chairman Michael Steele is catching a lot of flak for his new book, Right Now: A 12-Step Program for Defeating the Obama Agenda. (I'll withhold judgment about the book itself until I've read it.) He says Republicans in general have "screwed up" since Ronald Reagan was president. (New York Times) That is accurate about the last few years, I think, but seems unduly harsh when you consider all the progress that was made during the (all-too-brief) Republican Revolution led by Newt Gingrich in 1995. As the Washington Post reports, Steele's call for "grass-roots activism" on behalf of the "core conservative values of limited government, fiscal restraint and a strong national defense" could alienate independent voters.
In response to Steele, David Frum calls that book "Steele's 12-Step Plan for Self-Destruction." (Via Andrew Sullivan) Frum says the book "amounts to a formula for narrowing the party into the fundraising arm of the tea party movement." Ouch! He also points out some major omissions by GOP leaders, including failure to prevent or deal with all the congressional scandals related to Jack Abramoff, etc. Frum is one of the solid mainstream (i.e., not populist) conservatives with whom I identify.
In contrast to those who eagerly anticipate punishing Democratic incumbents for passing the "Obamacare" bill, Steele is pessimistic about retaking the House next fall, and for good reason. The "civil war" within the GOP shows little sign of abating any time soon, and leaders such as Steele who try too hard to pander to the populist (Tea Party) wing will end up discredited. I respect the Tea Partiers for raising public consciousness about vital constitutional issues, but I am also wary of some of the kooks in their midst. I think they can serve as a key part of a conservative-Republican alliance, but if the GOP hitches their wagon to that group, goodness knows where it will lead.
In sum, I admire Steele for having the guts to say unpopular things, and I agree with most of his criticisms. I'm not sure that he has exhibited good judgment in trying to convey that message, however. As a persistent, firm critic of the direction the party has taken since the second term of George W. Bush (see November 2005) and as a gentle critic before that, I fully understand the dilemma in which Steele finds himself.
Speaking of dissenting voices within the party, I have not heard much lately from the Republican Leadership Council, the moderate GOP faction of which Steele was formerly a leading member. The pragmatic "big tent" advocates, with whom I sympathize to a certain extent, are probably smart enough to keep a low profile for the time being.
Andrew Sullivan makes some good points about the nasty tone of much of the criticism of President Obama, who he says is "locked in dirty war with the right." See the Times Online (London); hat tip to Andrew Murphy, on whose Facebook page I commented:
I agree with most of Sullivan's analysis, and of course he understands the pathology in today's GOP as well as anyone, but you really have to take his writings with a grain of salt. He reeks of bitterness, and his recent obsession with Palin and Trig was downright creepy.
In keeping with the new year, I have put a new photo montage at the top of my politics blog page. Unlike the previous such montage, which included images from multiple years, all of the photos in the new montage were taken during the previous year (2009). The group photo at the bottom was at the protest against Obamacare in Waynesboro last October.
* NOTE: A technical correction made to this blog post on Feb. 10, 2010, but none of the text was altered.
Originally Posted (or last updated or commented upon): 11 Jan 2010, 2: 10 PM .