Sunday, 29 March 2009

The Eggshell Theory (Just In Time For Easter!)

Growing up, Easter was always a weird holiday for me. I've been Type I diabetic since I was just over two years old, so the candy factor wasn't really there for me. I was raised a pretty devout Catholic, and so the religious aspect of the holiday was appealing, but also entailed a long, boring Mass that had pretty much the same message and same sermon with the same liturgy every year (I've never been a fan of re-runs).

One thing I always liked about Easter was dyeing eggs. Not because of the pretty outcomes, mind you, but because I found the process of hollowing out an egg fascinating, and the fragile shell left behind was always slightly amazing to me.

That beautiful, ornately decorated and fragile shell, devoid of any content it once might have had, is a pretty damn good metaphor for the Republican Party as of 2009. Perhaps the best embodiments of the state of the GOP right now are its most recent spokespersons. Let's start with the most market-friendly: Meghan McCain.

In an excellent post at Salon, Nancy Goldstein writes:

McCain’s carefully orchestrated appearances are clearly the latest in a series designed to rebuild the constituencies whose alienation cost the GOP the 2008 election: women, young people, independents and people of color. (Parties to this project include Michael Steele, Joe the Plumber, Bobby Jindal, and now someone even better than Sarah Palin, who turned out to be kind of a pain in the ass for the McCain camp.)...

It’s hard to say how much of the Kool-aid McCain has drunk, or what, exactly, she’s trying to serve her readers. Despite gushing to Rachel Maddow that she “loves to be open” and “loves telling people about my experiences,” her transparency doesn’t go beyond telling her readers that she loves the Republican Party in the same breath that she admits to loving American Apparel tube socks and the song "Phenomena" by the Yeah Yeah Yeahs. The whole experience of reading McCain’s blog or her Twitter page is eerily reminiscent of the segment on advertising that many of us had in our first year of college, in which we learned why the real product is rarely pictured: Because what advertising sells us is the image of the rugged cowboys we’ll be if we smoke the stuff. Similarly, there’s no talk in McCain’s world about the economy, or judicial nominees, or what should be done with John Yoo and other Bush-era figures that may have committed war crimes. Just the implied promise that you can be a young Republican and still have "Live Free or Die" emblazoned on your Twitter page with red, white and blue skulls. And say "badass" just a few lines down from where you say, “God, I love this country!"
Well put. The phenomenon of the #tcot channel on Twitter has been similarly illuminating. As Goldstein said, many young conservatives (and "many" is something of a misstatement here, as the Republican Party's numbers are looking worse and worse each day) seem to be shallow in their intellectual interface with the cause at best. Many people have noted the fact that the intellectual heavyweights of the conservative movement have been abandoning the Party, if not conservativism, in increasing numbers: the defections have included Chris Buckley, Peggy Noonan, et. al. - and the fact that a crypto-libertarian like Ron Paul shaved off a sizable portion of the internet base of the GOP, and with great enthusiasm, is interesting as well.

This brings us to the current Republican insurrection against Obama's administration. Eager to score cheap political points, the GOP jerked its collective knee against the "socialist" stimulus and bailout packages that our new Democratic president implemented. A note here before I go on: I'm note entirely, or even necessarily mostly convinced that many of these plans are anything less than a long, grotesque tongue-kiss to the same Wall Street jerks who got us into this mess. An excellent piece by my favorite modern political writer, Matt Taibbi, suggesting exactly this can be found here. The general atmosphere at Alternet.org can be seen as another indication that many progressives are not exactly dancing in the streets about Obama's plans so far (and, as Glenn Greenwald points out, that's not exactly a bad thing).

That said, the "socialism" talking point is particularly irritating. Most of the people who are hurling this word around don't have the faintest damned idea what they are talking about. In the face of a very real economic crisis and a moment of great need in America, the Republicans give us Sarah Palin and Joe the Plumber. When Drudge/Republican mouthpiece Politico hilariously promises us a Republican alternative to Obama's plans, we get the most offensively vague and idiotic PowerPoint presentation in modern history.

If I responded to my company's request for a plan to deal with an urgent crisis with something like this:
























I would be fired in a heartbeat - and rightly so.

So here we have the Republican party, circa 2009. Dying and in need of salvation, it has turned to petty squabbles, a continuing dumbing-down of its base, and marketing in place of real ideas. It has become an eggshell - pretty to look at at first, but empty, sterile, and fragile.

UPDATE:

Andrew Breitbart's column today in the Washington Times seems to support my theory.

UPDATE 2:

An excellent piece by David Neiwert at Crooks and Liars makes a similar point.

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