Papering Over the Republican Divide

Convention speakers try gamely to sell voters on what the GOP isn't offering

In an occasionally raucous afternoon and evening with more unspoken material than a Hemingway novel, the most telling moment might have been the most silent. Rookie U.S. Senate candidate and Tea Party favorite Ted Cruz of Texas tried to weave the GOP's grassroots upstarts–by far the most promising and passionate people inside the Republican National Convention–into the fabric of the party, while the party regulars sat, stone-faced, on their hands.

"Since 2010, something extraordinary has been happening, something that has dumbfounded the chattering class," Cruz said, studiously avoiding giving name to that thing (hint: rhymes with "pee tardy"). "It began here in Florida in 2010. In Utah, Kentucky, Pennsylvania. Was repeated this summer in Indiana. Nebraska. Wisconsin. And this past month, in the Lone Star State, Texas."

Normally at major-party conventions, including elsewhere last night, shout-outs to state delegations are guaranteed applause-generators. But delegates, who hours before had to endure a series of rowdy skirmishes between the dominant GOP establishment and the more vociferous Ron Paul and Tea Party factions, knew that Cruz wasn't pulling state names out of a hat.

Florida in 2010 backed Tea Party insurgent Marco Rubio in the Senate primary (and later into the Senate itself), thus driving opponent and then-governor Charlie Crist out of the Republican Party. Pennsylvania, too, saw a more reliably ideological conservative (Pat Toomey) chase a long-distrusted moderate (Arlen Specter) out of the party and into unplanned retirement. There probably aren't many 2012 RNC delegates who regret these outcomes.

But the Utah uprising replaced a perfectly Republican incumbent senator, Bob Bennett (who received the endorsement of Mitt Romney), with a man, Mike Lee, who wants to do such atypically Republican things like roll back the Patriot Act, privatize the government's mortgage-finance monopoly, and tackle Social Security reform forthrightly. Kentucky is where Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell had his handpicked candidate in his home state humbled by the son of Ron Paul, who in his general-election victory speech never mentioned the Republican Party even once (the Tea Party, in an inverse of Cruz's speech last night, was valorized early and often).

And Indiana is where that revolutionary impulse of 2010 continued producing incumbent-Republican scalps in 2012, with the primarying of longtime U.S. Senator Richard Lugar in May by a candidate, Richard Mourdock, who questions the constitutionality of entitlements and thinks Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wisconsin) doesn't go far enough in restraining government.

These Tea Party candidates Ted Cruz referred to (though not by name) are not George W. Bush Republicans. They're not Mitt Romney Republicans, either, which presents the GOP with a long-foreseeable conundrum: How do you sell a party to independents, let alone deliver the people who voted in the primaries, when there's an important philosophical gap between the limited-government grassroots and a top of the ticket who campaigned on "rebuilding" the military, restoring Medicare cuts, and shoring up Social Security?

The answer last night was: pretend that there's no gap at all. So Ted Cruz, after drawing pin-drop silence at his roll-call of Tea Party-rocked states, asserts unconvincingly that "We are seeing a great awakening. A national movement of We the People. Brought together by what unites us: A shared love of liberty." And keynote speaker Chris Christie, the combative governor of New Jersey who himself embodies the schism between fiscally conservative rhetoric and reality, pretends that the Republican Party is actually in favor of cutting government.

"We believe in telling hard-working families the truth about our country's fiscal realities," Christie said. "Telling them what they already know–the math of federal spending doesn't add up. With $5 trillion in debt added over the last four years, we have no other option but to make the hard choices, cut federal spending and fundamentally reduce the size of government."

In fact, the Ryan budget–the closest thing the GOP has as a blueprint for the future–does not make the hard choice of cutting federal spending, ever. What passes for the party's acceptable fiscal conservatism doesn't even dare scale back a federal government that has doubled in nominal cost since George W. Bush took office.

Christie, who was otherwise entertaining and mostly effective, then gave away the game by changing from his gruff Jersey-guy patter to a World Wrestling Federation-style carnival bark when delivering this howler of a line: "We have a nominee who will tell us the truth and who will lead with conviction!"

On the contrary: Mitt Romney won the nomination by running away from the truth of making hard choices. He vows vaguely to cut spending, yet none of his proposals–especially those tethered to the primary budget engines of military and entitlements–put a dent in the federal government's runaway spending problem.

The growing Tea Party caucus and lingering Ron Paul remnant know all this, which is why they spent months looking in vain for Anyone But Mitt. Yesterday, Romney returned the favor by rewriting the party's rules in an attempt to keep the grassroots at bay. It was the proverbial insult after the injury, reminding everyone who pays attention that the upper hand belongs to those who pretend they want to cut government. As a member of the Oklahoma delegation told Reason.tv, "The party's fractured. This was completely unnecessary. And it's ridiculous."

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  • ||

    Christie looks like he just saw someone take the last piece of cheesecake.

  • Pro Libertate||

    I'm pleased to announce that Christie has accepted an offer to replace the injured Davin Joseph as a guard for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

  • Tim||

    Gravitas!

  • Pro Libertate||

    Carolina DE: "I. . .cannot. . .break. . .free!" [Spins in and vanishes at Christie's event horizon.]

  • John||

    There is this reality show on Animal Planet called tanked. It is about these two guys from New Jersey who moved to Las Vegas and now build these super high end aquarium. The one guy is this classic fat Jersey guy. Every time I watch that show I think "that has got to be what Christie is in person".

  • WTF||

    I met Christie a couple of times before he was governor at these politcal networking things I go to for my job. He's really just a normal guy, and pretty much just says what he thinks.

  • John||

    The guy on the show is that way.

  • WTF||

    That's Christie, then.

  • WTF||

    Alt text: "Get in mah belly!"

  • Pro Libertate||

    They've managed to inflame a significant minority for no good reason. I don't think this will hurt much this election, but I predict major party infighting down the road. And that's with the assumption that Romney wins and the GOP gets control of Congress. It'll be far worse if they manage to screw that up (I think Congress goes GOP no matter what, though control of the Senate may be tenuous).

  • John||

    People hate Obama so much they are willing to forgive anything. But once in office, Romney will have to deal with Congress and Congress will have to answer to their voters in just two years. That is really where this will all come home to roost. Right now, the Republicans don't have to paper over much of anything. Obama has done it for them.

  • Pro Libertate||

    That's right. Right now, they smell the blood in the water and will focus on consuming the Democratic corpse. But that all ends if they take control of the government. They have two years to get results, or the pendulum will swing back. The days of continued party rule are over until the government (and the economy!) gets fixed.

  • Ptah-Hotep||

    The days of continued party rule are over until the government (and the economy!) gets fixed.

    So you are saying the days of party rule are over for quite some time? I like that idea.

  • Pro Libertate||

    Except that there's not much difference between the two parties in practice.

  • Ptah-Hotep||

    Except that there's not much difference between the two parties in practice.

    Unfortunately true. Hopefully both parties will implode. I hope eventually people will realize doing the same thing over and over (electing R o D) expecting change is insane.

  • Pro Libertate||

    It would be nice if one or both parties would fizzle, with something like the LP taking the place of one of them. Not likely, but it would be nice.

    It would also be a lot simpler if our parties were statists vs. anti-statists.

  • Tim||

    Did you read the ANTI-MASON post yesterday? LP would go the same way.

  • Pro Libertate||

    Maybe. Trust no one in power.

  • Coeus||

    Did you read the ANTI-MASON post yesterday? LP would go the same way.

    Yup. Two words. Bob. Barr.

  • section9||

    NO ONE can fuck things up like the Establishment GOP with a Majority. Think the Iraq War and Part D Medicare.

    Well, okay, Obama the Social Fascist comes really close, but if you want to see gold plated hypocrisy, put the Bushtards back in power. I suppose we have to turn the Dorm Room Marxist out to save the country, but it's a pain knowing that all we'll end up doing is letting the Topsider Bushies with wives named Muffy get first call at the public feed trough.

    Reagan weeps, my friend.

  • Tim||

    SHoulda titled it : "The Elephant in the Room". Get it? The GOP symbol is an elephant. Comedy gold here!

  • John||

    The biggest critic of rewriting the rules has been Sarah Palin. That is why she is not at the convention.

  • Tim||

    In fairness, they did let the stripper version of Palin in.

  • section9||

    Lisa Ann as the Mystery Speaker? I could go for that!

  • T o n y||

    "We exploded the federal budget and wrecked the economy... and poor people need to pay for it!"

    --Republican fiscal maturity

  • John||

    Don't feed the sad sock puppet.

  • Mr. FIFY||

    "We exploded the federal budget and wrecked the economy... which is why you should re-elect Obama/Biden in 2012."

    FIFY'd. No charge.

  • John||

    Tony is getting desperate. He has been mailing it in for about three months now. Even Tony can't really defend Obama anymore.

  • Mr. FIFY||

    Extreme manginahurt will do that to a man, John.

  • Tim||

    As long as he doesn't attack stripper Palin, we're good.

  • T o n y||

    On the other hand, those of you who live in the right-wing echo chamber have maintained an impressive level of irrational anger, though it can't be good for the blood pressure.

  • John||

    Sure Tony.

  • Mr. FIFY||

    As opposed to rational anger, like the kind both Teams deserve.

  • section9||

    When's the fucking torchlight parade for the Momjeans Fuhrer, Tony?

    War is good, now? Insolvency is good now as long as the Right People are in power?

    Fuck you.

    Some of us drank the Bushie Kool-Aid back in the early 2000's and are man enough to admit that we were not only had but taken to the cleaners, and don't like seeing the same band of graverobbers come to power again.

    YOU, on the other hand, are an apologist for a Banksters front man, a poodle and errand boy for Wall Street.

    You should be ashamed of yourself.

    Go lecture others.

  • section9||

    Oh, by the way, when is John Corzine getting indicted?

  • Mr. FIFY||

    Corzine will get punished the day Richard Armitage is arrested for outing Valerie Plame.

  • section9||

    Total lulz.

  • ||

    $

  • section9||

    Yes, but did you make it through John Galt's Speech in one sitting.

  • Beowulf||

    everybody dreams of a grand bargain, when the best we can hope for is gridlock, the baseline is cycling back and forth between democrat and republican excess and the worst is a bi-partisan agreement to really screw things up

  • Pro Libertate||

    I think some positive unraveling of government is needed--we're past the point where mere coasting will work.

  • section9||

    Jeff Goldstein at Protein Wisdom has it pegged, I think.

    The whole Rule 12 fiasco is preemptive strike by Romney and the Bushies because Mitt and the Bushtards are not only NOT going to repeal Obamacare but also are going to raise taxes. Period.

    This is to head off a revolt led by Palin and other Tea Party people. It could work, if we were living in the Nineties, but we're not. Establishment control is far more problematic now.

  • Pro Libertate||

    That's insane. If they raise taxes, Congress will likely go right back to the Dems or, at best, to anti-tax Republicans.

  • Stormy Dragon||

    Romney is openly campaigning on raising taxes for most people. For example, he wants to eliminate the mortgage interest deduction in order to pay for cutting the capital gains rate. Which is great if you're a billionaire hedge fund manager, but for most people it means your tax burden is going up.

  • section9||

    This is merely designed to head off a Base Revolt when Romney has to raise taxes instead of cutting spending. Remember, Sununu is a big wheel in his campaign. Sununu made the Devil's Bargain at Andrews AFB back in 1991 that sold Bush I down the river to the Democrats for a bowl of lentil soup.

    The ensuing conservative revolt killed Bush I's reelect chances. This hasn't bene lost on Romney.

  • Stormy Dragon||

    This is to head off a revolt led by Palin and other Tea Party people.

    The idea that a group led by Palin is gonna be pro-liberty is hilarious. They talk about limited government, but then spend all their time on things like abortion, pronography, anti-mulism and anti-immigrant efforts. To they extent they're opposed to big government, it's because they hate the rule of law and want to be able to arbitrarily do whatever the mob is howling for today.

  • Mr. FIFY||

    True, but the idea that Team Blue is pro-liberty is just as hilarious.

  • Stormy Dragon||

    Agreed. This election is mostly a debate over which orrifice we want to get raped in.

  • section9||

    On that we agree. I think it was the Bobcat who said that Presidential Elections are like walking into a sex shop and having to choose the least painful dildo.

  • Mr. FIFY||

    Yeah, it's a shame we can't vote to NOT get raped... eh, Stormy?

  • Stormy Dragon||

    Well, I'm planning to vote for Gary Johnson (assuming the GOP doesn't succeed in knocking him off the ballot in PA), but I realize it's a purely symbolic gesture.

  • Mr. FIFY||

    A tactic the PA GOP no doubt learned from Obama.

  • Stormy Dragon||

    No, getting the LP candidate kicked off the ballot is something they PA GOP has been doing regularly since the 2002 election cycle; it's a reacting to Nader spoilering Gore in 2000

  • ChrisO||

    If you look at records rather than rhetoric, both parties are pretty focusing on the same orifices. They just deliver slightly different pillow talk.

  • section9||

    Actually, they don't.

    Look, I know the impression among liberty people is that Palin and other Movement Cons are the resurrection of the Know Nothing Party, but they're not.

    People can disagree about marriage or immigration and be in favor of the rule of law. This administration certainly doesn't favor the rule of law at all.

  • Stormy Dragon||

    I think it's more that the Tea Party is basically a special interest group for retired conservative boomers. You can figure out their position on pretty much any issue by figuring out which side best allows them to screw young people over. They're in favor of getting the kids off the lawn (crack down on drugs, pronogrpahy, etc), they're scared by mysterious minorities (anti-muslim, anti-immigration), they've paid off their home and are living off investment income (byby morgage deduction, lower the capital gains rate, raise payroll taxes) abd they want to dump tons of money into social security and medicare (e.g. the entitlements they get) while cutting things like education (entitlements they have no use for).

  • ||

    You've got your demographics a little mixed up.

    The first boomers only reached full retirement age and Medicare eligibility last year so there are relatively few "retired boomers" and the number of "retired conservative boomers" would be even smaller.

  • ||

    That said, I agree with the gneral thrust of your arguments.

    Except the morgage deduction, that is. That really needs to go.

  • Stormy Dragon||

    Only if it's used to reduce tax rates so that my tax burden don't increase. I'm already paying a higher income tax rate than Romney, so I'm not really interested in increasing my rate to reduce his.

  • ||

    Because zero sum game, that's why.

    DailyKos is yonder --

  • section9||

    And please, watching Ron Paul and his people sell out to the GOP Establishment so Rand can have his career guaranteed and get on a plum committee is not my idea of consistency.

  • John||

    Go find me one quote from Palin talking about pornography.

    Palin is not a fucking SOCON. Where do you get that she is?

  • NSFW||

    "The cheeseburger I ate last night was THIS BIG!!!"

  • section9||

    So you saw Christie's speech last night...

  • Homple||

    The gap is between those who want another four years of Obama (and the idiots who think there is no difference between the candidates) and those who have figured out that four more Obama years will be very bad for the economy and liberty in general

  • ChrisO||

    There's some difference between the candidates, but not that much--at least based on their records.

  • Stormy Dragon||

    Perhaps the idiots realize that, contrary to the hysteria, a few percentage points change in marginal tax rate is not going to drastically impact the economy one way or the other (35% libertopia. 39% OMG SOVIET UNION!). The also probably think there's a lot more to liberty than just having more money, and the GOP seems openly hostile to every other expression of freedom.

  • ant1sthenes||

    Then again, so are the Democrats. The Republicans are worse on sexual freedom, but the Democrats are worse on public health paternalism (also, guns).

  • Mr. FIFY||

    Stormy, that "few percentage points in marginal tax rate" won't do Jack or Shit to fix our problems. It's just fluffing by Team Blue.

  • Stormy Dragon||

    Agreed. As I said, it won't have any impact one way or the other. But to compare a return to the Clinton era tax rates to Stalinism is ridiculous, and that sort of hysterical hyperbole on that one issue seems to be a way for the GOP to avoid how anti-liberty they are on most other issues.

  • Longtorso||

    "....living in a VAN down by the RIVER...."

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