I had not intended on making Sunday’s post a two-part series, but just as I was posting it the online journal Politico ran a story that makes my point. According to the authors, Mike Allen and Jim VandeHei,
Top Republicans in Washington and in the national GOP establishment say the 2010 campaign highlighted an urgent task that they will begin in earnest as soon as the elections are over: Stop Sarah Palin
…There is rising expectation among GOP elites that Palin will probably run for president in 2012 and could win the Republican nomination, a prospect many of them regard as a disaster in waiting.
…”There is a determined, focused establishment effort … to find a candidate we can coalesce around who can beat Sarah Palin,” said one prominent and longtime Washington Republican. “We believe she could get the nomination, but Barack Obama would crush her.”
Palin immediately went on Fox News, where she is a contributor, and told Greta Van Susteren the story was “crap” and the authors were “jokes” for basing the story on unnamed sources.
Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney and Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty — two men who would likely be rivals of Palin’s if she does seek the 2012 GOP nomination — were quick to join Palin in denouncing the Politico story. They were smart to do that: some of the unnamed sources in the story were identified as “top advisers to the candidates most frequently mentioned as running in 2012”. Their chances of winning the Republican nomination would vanish if the rank-and-file suspected they were behind a stop-Palin movement.
However, I don’t think Allen and VanderHei are making this stuff up, as Palin has alleged. The party elites’ disdain for her is well known. Would they like to keep her from getting the nomination? You betcha! Can they keep her from getting the nomination? Probably not, but if they do, the nomination likely will prove to be worthless. If the rank-and-file suspect that party elites conspired to deny Palin the nomination, they will sit on their hands and Barack Obama will cruise to an easy re-election victory.
I doubt that most party insiders understand this. They seem to believe the Republican base will turn out in droves to vote for whomever they pick. Which is why the GOP is — still — The Stupid Party.
However, one party leader, at long last, is starting to get it. In an appearance on CNN, GOP National Committee Chairman Michael Steele said the Palin-bashers should “shut up”. In an interview with Politico, he said,
I think the Washington establishment needs to settle down a little bit and get ready for what’s about to hit them come January when a significant number of grassroots Congressmen and women show up and are not prepared to play this game the way they’re used to playing it.
I think they need to settle down and just wait and see what happens before they start worrying about what Sarah Palin’s going to do. They need to worry about making sure that they listen to the people and that they get it right when they start voting come January. Because of they don’t, it’s done. These folks walk away, they turn their backs on this party, they turn their backs on this leadership, and they’ll have a heck of a lot more to worry about than Michael Steele or Sarah Palin.
Here’s the complete interview:
The party chairman drove home the point yesterday on ABC News’ Good Morning America when he told George Stephanopoulos that Republicans should be careful how they interpret today’s expected victory. If the GOP fails to live up to voters’ expectations, he warned, they will be shown the door in 2012.
Steele is just starting to grasp what most other party insiders have yet to learn: the so-called Republican “base” can no longer be taken for granted. Party elites can no longer anoint candidates who are a millimeter to the right of their Democrat opponents and then expect the rank-and-file dutifully to vote for them just because they have an “R” next to their names.
When you get right down to it, the “base” is really nothing but ordinary Americans who just want to go about the business of living their lives. They don’t usually think much about politics, and they aren’t loyal Republicans. They only vote for Republicans as the lesser of two evils. In a perceptive two-part essay in the American Spectator, Angelo M. Codevilla reports,
When pollsters ask the American people whether they are likely to vote Republican or Democrat in the next presidential election, Republicans win growing pluralities. But whenever pollsters add the preferences “undecided,” “none of the above,” or “tea party,” these win handily, the Democrats come in second, and the Republicans trail far behind. That is because while most of the voters who call themselves Democrats say that Democratic officials represent them well, only a fourth of the voters who identify themselves as Republicans tell pollsters that Republican officeholders represent them well.
This is because the Republican elites — high officeholders, political strategists, and campaign consultants — have a lot more in common with their Democratic counterparts than they do with the Republican rank-and-file.
The GOP is poised for a huge victory today. In a few hours we’ll know just how huge. But it will be an unearned victory, a result of voters being even more disgusted with the Democrats than they are with the Republicans. If party elites fail to understand this, the Republican Party is headed the way of the Whigs.