On Entering the Dark Side

It’s fair to say that I’m something of a political junkie.

Lately I’ve been following conservative blogs. Like Red State, which is essentially the Republican equivalent of DailyKos.

Why? you ask.

I know what I think about the Republican presidential candidates — Romney’s liberal past will come back to bite him in the ass, Huckabee’s candidacy will be torpedoed by the Republican establishment because the theocon base frighten them, Guiliani’s a wind-up “9/11 toy” who has nothing else to say, Thompson is the living dead, McCain is the media darling and he’ll get the nod.

But what do Republican activists think?

Here’s my take. Let’s look at the Republican field.

I’ve said for a long time that this is the election cycle where the Republican coalition fractures. The fiscal conservatives and the defense hawks have used and abused the social conservatives and the theocons for two decades — using them to get out the vote, abusing them by enacting policies that aren’t in line with their beliefs. That bargain was the crux of Karl Rove’s “permanent Republican majority,” but that Republican majority lost the popular vote in 2000 and ekked by with a narrow popular vote win in 2004. And reading Red State? It’s pretty obvious — the plaster isn’t just cracking. The plaster is shattering.

Huckabee is an economic populist and a theocon. Both of these frighten the fiscal conservatives.

Romney is running as a fiscal conservative and a social conservative, except that his track record as a governor is the opposite of what he’s running on now. And the social conservatives — of which the theocons are a part — don’t trust him.

Thompson. Does anyone know what Fred Thompson’s platform is? Because I don’t. And I watched the debate last night. And I’ve been reading Red State. And I don’t have a clue. He’s the Manchurian Candidate. Or something.

Guiliani is socially liberal. Wait. Did I just use the L-word? Liberal? There’s no one in the Republican coalition that will rally to Guiliani’s banner. He can’t even fake fiscal conservatism.

Finally, McCain. For a long time McCain has been thought of as a Dead Man Walking. His campaign imploded in the summer, but he’s hung in there. McCain is a fiscal conservative. He’s a defense hawk. And he’s a social conservative, though not to the extent that theocons would like. And that’s actually McCain’s problem — he has the perception of not being conservative on anything, because he has the “maverick” moniker attached to him. Except that if you actually look at McCain’s record, he’s not a maverick. He really is a conservative. And the media likes him, which mitigates his faltering campaign organization to some extent — the media is essentially doing his work for him.

Ron Paul. He frightens the Republican power brokers more than Huckabee. His extreme libertarianism and populism is aposty. He’s also staunchly anti-war, which makes him unacceptible to the defense hawks. So even though Paul can raise more money than god (and has — he’s had the biggest fundraising days of any candidate ever), he’s going nowhere.

Guiliani and Romney would be hard sells to the theocons. Indeed, it’s possible that the theocons might run a third-party candidate or simply stay home in November. Huckabee and Paul would be hard sells to the fiscal conservatives. And a fair number of Red Staters say that if they wanted to vote for Huckabee or Paul they might as well vote for a Democrat. McCain isn’t entirely acceptible to anyone in the Republican coalition, but he wouldn’t keep Republicans away from the polls. And is Fred Thompson even running?

On DailyKos the past few days since Iowa, the knives have come out as supporters of each candidate have posted diaries in support of their candidate and questioning the fitness of the others. However, there’s one common thread — they all seem to say, “My candidate is the bestest, but yours isn’t bad, and I can vote for yours in the general.”

Red State? Any commity there? Hell no. The common thread there is, “My candidate is bestest. If you don’t vote for my candidate, you’re a fucking idiot. Worse, we’ll have President Hillary Clinton for life. You fucking idiot.”

Democrats argue, but it’s not a destructive in-fighting. Republicans are killing their babies.

It’s actually kind fun to watch. In a train-wreck sort of way.

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