The midterms are coming! The midterms are coming! And boy, is the GOP base pissed.
Double-whammy articles today about how the religious right wants its red meat, and it wants it now. Both the New York Times and the Wall Street Journal are running articles on the demands of the radical right (dmsilev has a great diary on the NY Times piece here.)
So what can we take away from these two articles? First, Mullah Dobson goes to Washington:
"There's just very, very little to show for what has happened," Dr. Dobson said, "and I think there's going to be some trouble down the road if they don't get on the ball."
According to people who were at the meetings or were briefed on them, Dr. Dobson has made the same point more politely in a series of private conversations over the last two weeks in meetings with several top Republicans, including Karl Rove, the president's top political adviser; Senator Bill Frist of Tennessee, the Republican leader; Representative J. Dennis Hastert of Illinois, the House speaker; and Representative John A. Boehner of Ohio, the majority leader.
Damn, delivering a few million votes sure buys Dobson access! But the Republican leadership didn't stop by reaching out to Dobson; the meetings included Tony Perkins, president of the Family Research Council. And there were more meetings, meetings galore, at which some of these radical right leaders threw a hissy fit:
Senate leaders, eager to calm the unrest, began moving on two nominations to the federal circuit court: former White House lawyer Brent Kavanaugh and U.S. District Court Judge Terrence Boyle. The administration recently called leaders of social, religious and legal conservative groups to a meeting to discuss judicial nominations. But some of the biggest names boycotted the session, saying they deemed it patronizing. It didn't help that it was to be led by White House Counsel Harriet Miers, whose nomination to the Supreme Court last fall was abandoned by the president after conservatives deemed her unacceptable.
Ouch. Whatever transpired at those meetings, the fact Republicans feel compelled to reach out to the base they've tried to distance themselves from for the last two years speaks volumes about their perception of the toxic political climate.
Second, the point of all these meetings is pander. It's to promise initiatives that the Republicans know will fail, but any failure will be blamed on those evil liberals. So in the coming months, we'll see votes on a federal gay marriage amendment (so much for state's rights), flag burning (so much for freedom of speech), and a limit on stem-cell research (so much for science).
Will the pandering work? Will Dobson and the rest of the radical right accept a half-assed attempt at passing their agenda? Maybe not, which is why we will be seeing Karl Rove out in full force assailing Democrats as the Source of All Things Evil. Because the only campaign tactic that has worked for Republicans is fear. In 2002 and 2004, the GOP coaxed the radical right out of their homes and into the voting booth with sweet promises of gay marriage bans, ideological judges, and a return to 1950s America. While the base was pandered to, the rest of America was intimidated into voting Republican.
Now, the base will feel that intimidation. Rove will demonize the alternative (that alternative being a Democratic Congress) and will try to scare the radical right into voting Republican--or else.
What is clear from watching this love-hate relationship between the Republican leadership and the radical right is that Dobson and the rest of his cabal are finally realizing they were punk'd. They were used, they were manipulated, and now they can either fall for the same prank again or stay home.
If it's the latter, election day will be a day of reckoning for the Republican party.
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