Blogger Paul Waldman: You Can’t Send In the Republican Clowns, Since They’re Already Here

Conservatives, contended the American Prospect’s Paul Waldman on Thursday, can be highly entertaining, though usually not because they try to be. They’re more like Sideshow Bob repeatedly whacking himself in the face by stepping on one rake after another.

In a post titled “How Did the GOP Turn Into Such a Bunch of Clowns?” Waldman wrote that Republicans’ central problem is that “they're deluded into thinking that the country shares their particular collection of peeves and biases,” which means that they often take positions they don’t realize are unpopular and then are “shocked to find out that Americans aren't on the same page with them…Again and again, they think the American public is going to see things their way, and when the public doesn't, they never seem to learn anything from it.”

From Waldman’s post (emphasis added):

…As the 2012 election approached, liberals began to understand just how deluded many conservatives were about empirical reality…When [conservatives] they began to rally around a guy claiming to "unskew" the 2012 presidential polls that showed Barack Obama heading for a victory, liberals had a great time ridiculing them. But then it turned out that even within the Romney campaign—including the candidate himself—people who were supposedly hard-nosed political professionals had convinced themselves that it was just impossible they could lose, whatever the polls said…

Once the race was over, there was some soul-searching within the GOP about their loss, but most of it concerned the party's image…There was some discussion about the conservative information bubble and the distorting effects it can have, but nothing changed—lots of conservatives still get their news from Fox and Rush Limbaugh, and assume that everything in the New York Times is a lie.

There seems to be little question that the alternative media universe they built, which was once a strength for the right, has become a liability. But their biggest problem now isn't the things so many conservatives believe about the world that aren't true, or what they think will happen that won't. It's about the strategic decisions they make, and where those decisions come from...

…[I]n the last ten years they've only had one major victory, the 2010 midterm election. But that didn't happen because of some brilliant GOP strategy, it was a confluence of circumstance; the natural tendency for the president's party to lose significant numbers of seats two years after he's elected, and the stagnant economy would have meant a big GOP victory no matter what they did.

Since then they've lurched from one strategic screw-up to the next, the root of which is almost always the same: It happens because they're deluded into thinking that the country shares their particular collection of peeves and biases.

In fairness, this is a challenge for both parties and, indeed, for everyone involved in politics...When you've spent so much time convincing yourself that you're right; the idea that anyone else who's even remotely fair-minded wouldn't agree can seem nothing short of absurd. It can be hard to persuade people when you can't put yourself in their shoes.

But again and again, Republicans seem shocked to find out that Americans aren't on the same page with them. They're flummoxed when the public doesn't rise up in outrage to demand more answers on Benghazi. They're befuddled when shutting down the government turns into a political disaster. They're gobsmacked when the electorate doesn't reject Barack Obama for saying "you didn't build that," and even more amazed when he gets reelected…Again and again, they think the American public is going to see things their way, and when the public doesn't, they never seem to learn anything from it…

This shows no sign of changing. [Republicans are] going to win seats this November, but once again it won't be because they came up with some brilliant strategy…

And look at the people lining up to run for the White House in 2016. Does any one of them seem like the kind of brilliant politician who can navigate the deadly obstacle course of a two-year long presidential campaign and win over a majority of American voters, including millions who aren't already on board with his party's agenda?...

Tom Johnson
Tom Johnson
Tom Johnson is a contributing writer for NewsBusters