Sunday, March 25, 2012

The GOP Is Not Your Father's Buick

You know the car ad. Seeking a younger generation of buyers, the manufacturer of Buicks years ago stressed that the latest models weren't anything like the big old battleships of the prior generation. Oh no, they were hip and cool. (They actually weren't.)

The GOP is seemingly running this ad in reverse this year. (No pun intended.) It is coming across as a Grand Old Party that has lost all solidity and reliability and deteriorated into a Rambling Wreck. The GOP has always prided itself on orderliness and being methodical in philosophy and operation. It was not exciting, just a solid and stolid old Buick, but it usually got where it was going  -  straight into the White House.

What happened?!

My last posting reviewed the nutty antics of the party this election season, skipping the craziness of Rick Perry, et al, and looking at the strange conduct of the party itself. I can't explain WHY the GOP is being so zany, but it sure is unnerving. Is this some strange new dance that is so clever that none of us can follow it?

Where's the "reliability" that the business-oriented GOP always boasted of? This year the GOP can't even conduct its own primaries without massive confusion as to rules and vote tallies and delegate allotment. In the recent Missouri caucuses, the cops had to come and break up a fist-fight between would-be delegates. In Maine, the party had to declare a partial do-over of its caucuses. In Iowa the state party switched its tallies weeks after the primary caucuses and awarded the state to Santorum instead of prior winner Romney. This kind of all-thumbs performance used to be the province of the Democrats. Remember Will Rogers saying, "I belong to no organized political party. I am a Democrat."

So how can the public trust governance to a teetotaler party that appears to be drunk? How can the GOP make a case that a sober (Mormon) businessman can do a better job than a community organizer in running the country when neither Romney nor his party can seemingly get it together just to run a campaign and primaries? When the GOP Speaker of the House can't even get his party in line to support agreements that he has made? Hey, folks, speakers NEVER get left out on the line like that. Something is really, really wrong.

Then comes the HBO movie "Game Changer", which is ostensibly about Sarah Palin, but is really about how the GOP screwed up in selecting her as VP nominee. To underscore how disfunctional  - yea, unAmerican  -  the GOP was in 2008 in picking the bird-brain, Steve Schmidt and Nicolle Wallace, both high level GOP operatives, have been all over the teevee recounting their shame and their shameful part in selecting Palin. Sarah was such a bad choice and so clearly unfit to succeed to the presidency that Nicolle Wallace admits she didn't even vote for the McCain-Palin ticket! That's like saying the Pope isn't Catholic. Schmidt was likewise appalled by Palin's frightening inadequacies but salved his conscience by voting the ticket in California where his vote didn't matter. Palin was THEIR OWN candidate, and THEY couldn't face her being in line for the presidency!

You don't kiss and tell in politics. It's the first rule. (They are all the first rules.) In the Good Old Days of the Grand Old Party, no high level party operator would dare do what Schmidt and Wallace have done. It wasn't honorable, at least not in the world of politics. And it wasn't practical. It meant that the snitch would never work again in a GOP campaign. Nor a Democratic one, for that matter. But these two did the right thing in revealing the rot within the GOP that led to the selection of Palin. It's just that they seemed to know they were safe in betraying their party. The old Buick the GOP has become has a dead battery. It isn't going to run over them and squish them forever.

The public sees all this carrying-on by the GOP, all this mismanagement, all this fumbling. And the party brand keeps going down and down in the polls. Romney has helped reinforce the image of a party that has become disfunctional. His campaign spokesman  -  the Etch A Sketch guy  - couldn't even wait until the campaign was over, as did Schmidt and Wallace, before betraying The Awful Truth about his boss.

There's lots of talk about how "well-organized" Mitt's campaign is. Oh, really? Because he's outdone feeble Santorum? So a turtle is fast because it outpaces a slug?

As Romney staggers along, Will Roger's "disorganized" Democrats have been opening Obama campaign headquarters all across the country. By contrast Romney has CLOSED his New Hampshire hq after the primary there. The bean-counters probably advised him to save money by closing up the shop, a la Bain. But this waste of human capital in a campaign is stupid. It's sending the cast home in the middle of the first act. Let's hope the same money-saving steps are being taken elsewhere in swing states. Close all those hqs, Romney! Save the bucks and waste the momentum and your supporters' commitment!  

Is this bean-counting any way to run a business? Maybe. But it's a dumb way to run a campaign. (More on the high value of a campaign hq another time.)

But what do I know? Maybe the genius of Bain Capital has an angle on all this that is beyond the ken of we poor mortals who have slugged it out in the campaign hustings for decades.

So what's the trick, Mitt?


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