I have been waiting for two days to see how the Republicans would respond to the loss of their candidate in the special Congressional election in Mississippi on Tuesday. Even more than George Bush's microscopic approval numbers, the loss of a solid GOP seat in a district that Bush carried by 24 points four years ago was a wake-up call to the Republicans that their old playbook is now out of date.
From 2000 through 2004, Karl Rove orchestrated campaigns with a single theme: "Be afraid--be very, very afraid." Most Americans decided that during these scary times, the only way to be safe is to have tough, seasoned guys in office who understand that we are up against the forces of evil and who will not back down.
Actually there was a secondary message--that Democrats will spend tons of money, grow government, raise your taxes and drive the country into bankruptcy.
In 2006, the "be afraid" message worked less well as voters realized that for all their tough talk, six years of Republican rule had left the country in a position where we were actually less safe than before with no real plan to make things better. For all the talk of sacrifice, Bush had actually made sure that most of us had to sacrifice nothing, never worry about anyone in our families ever having to fight this pointless war and we got a tax cut to boot.
Now, two years later, voters realize that the "Conservative" Republicans have spent tons of money, grown government, lowered our taxes, and driven the country into bankruptcy.
What has become painfully clear this week is that even though their old strategy is now failing, the Republicans just don't have another playbook. In the face of recent failures and rejection by voters, they are sticking to their strategy except they're screaming a little louder and acting a little bit crazier.
When it became clear they were running behind in Mississippi among Republican voters, the Republican National Committee got involved and sent in Dick Cheney to campaign in person for their candidate. In addition, they spent a bucketload of money on ads featuring Reverend Wright and Barack Obama and tying Democrat Travis Childers (who had never met Wright or Obama and didn't mention either of them in his campaign) to these scary Black people who I guess were supposed to now represent the Democratic Party.
The result was a 54-46 percent win for the Democrat.
Then came yesterday when President Bush made his now famous statement before the Israeli Knesset referring to either Obama or all Democrats (it's not clear, nor does it matter) as "appeasers" for wanting to talk with our enemies. I'll write more about that in a different post, but it seemed to be a weird comment in a totally inappropriate setting.
Then, moments ago, former Republican candidate Mike Huckabee made a "joke" before the National Rifle Association that a loud noise in the back of the room was actually the sound of Barack Obama falling off a chair because someone had pointed a gun at him.
Huckabee later apologized for the joke in the weakest way possible. It is NOT an apology if someone makes an inappropriate and offensive remark and then says that he's sorry of someone took offense. An apology is to say "I made a stupid and offensive remark and I'm sorry." The way Huckabee apologized--as did Reverend Hagee yesterday--was to essentially blame anyone who was offended for being too sensitive and basically saying that he was sorry that they were too stupid to be able to take a good natured joke in the way he meant it.
I am being honest when I say that the true disintegration of the Republican Party makes me sad. We need a strong GOP committed to the principles that made it so great in the past--fiscal responsibility and respect for the Constitution. The Democrats have always been horrible at the former and fuzzy on the latter. The current Republican disarray and bizarre behavior may be fun for Democrats to watch but it's not good for the country.