Steele is onto something when he says “not this year”

Michael Steele is a different kind of party chairman, or so I sometimes suspect. Rather than deal in the kind of triumphalist bravado usual to the breed, he acknowledges when his party is facing an uphill fight.

At least, he did last night, when (according to Wonkette quoting The Hill, which is how I heard about it — don’t think for a moment I’ve taken to watching the shouting heads) he told that Sean Hannity guy on Fox “not this year” when asked about the GOP winning control of the House. I sort of like the way Wonkette put it:

… Michael Steele, for one, does not think the GOP will win control of the House in the 2010 elections. Steele, whose job it is to ensure that the GOP wins control of the House in the 2010 elections, told Fox News thing Sean Hannity “not this year” in response to this exact question….

Steele’s honest approach is very different from the sort of thing you get, for instance, from a Karl Rove, who blathered in the WSJ last week about how “Ambitious Republicans should resolve to run for office next year.”

Rove thinks in terms of the traditional two-party see-saw model, whereby if things aren’t so rosy for the party in power, the party out of power gains by a magnitude equal to the “in” party’s distress. Add to that the convention of the party that holds the White House losing in the first off-year election, and you have a huge slide to the GOP.

But not this time. At this point in history, I think we’re seeing something new. I think the electorate is sufficiently fed up with both parties that the only thing it can think of as bad as THESE guys being in power is THOSE guys being in power. The public is wising up, and has had enough of the tit-for-tat, binary, if-you-don’t-choose-column-A-you-must-choose-column-B worldview that is thrust upon them by the parties, the Beltway interest groups and the MSM, especially 24/7 TV “news.”

I think people want something else. Yes, maybe I’m projecting here as founder of the UnParty, but I really think that, in spite of the fact that the Orwellian powers that be have denied the country the vocabulary necessary to think outside the either-or spectrum, the people are yearning for something else.

They don’t know what it is. They don’t know where to get it, but they want it. Neither of the parties is offering it, by definition. But when individuals within the parties play to it, they win elections. It’s how both Obama and McCain won their respective nominations. Each of them was the antipartisan option within his party. They each rose to the top by running against the Clinton-Bush model of hyperpartisanship. There are others who have broken the mold with some success — pro-life Democrats like Bob Casey in PA, Republicans willing to stand up for comprehensive immigration reform or against torture, like Lindsey Graham. Joe Lieberman (before he went postal on health care reform). Rahm Emanuel managed to win control of the House back in 2006 precisely because he courted Third Way type candidates, much to the chagrin of the True Believers.

At some point, alternatives will emerge in response to this demand. I mean, when you’re frustrated with the likes of Joe Wilson, there has to be something better to turn to than Rob Miller. (It ain’t me because I’m too busy trying to get a job.) There needs to be something better than Brand X when you’re fed up with Brand Y. It hasn’t fully emerged yet, but it will.

Steele senses this — that the days of “if they’re down, we’re up” are over. He may not be able to fully articulate what he’s sensing — after all, he and other party types lack the vocabulary (in fact, he resorts to the standard B.S. that the GOP’s problem is failing to be conservative enough, as “conservative” is popularly defined) — but he knows something is Out There. Maybe, as a black Republican, he is sensitized to alternatives, to trends that don’t run along the predicted tracks. Whatever the reason, he’s onto something…

34 thoughts on “Steele is onto something when he says “not this year”

  1. Brad Warthen

    If you watch the video clip I provided — which I did AFTER posting this — you will be fascinated by the spectacle of the “journalist” Hannity acting as zampolit hectoring the party leader into orthodoxy.

    Or at least, you will be fascinated if you watch this crap as seldom as I do. If you watch cable TV “news” regularly you are probably numb to it.

    Yes, I realize Hannity is an extreme case, but essentially this is what the MSM, and especially the 24/7 TV people, do: They INSIST that the practitioners of politics stick to the simplistic, either-or paradigm. The “journalists” don’t know of any other way to cover it than by this sports model (one team wins, the other team loses, and you can tell them apart by their colorful uniforms). They lack the intellectual capacity to see or describe anything else, so they simply will not allow anything else to emerge…

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  2. bud

    Brad just keep telling yourself that McCain was a non-partisan in the 2008 election. If you say it enough maybe you can convince yourself it’s true but I doubt you’ll convince anyone who actually has a brain. How, for instance, does laughing along with a woman who just called Hillary Clinton a bitch non-partisan. Or what about the part where he picks Sarah Palin, the most partisan of all partisans, as his running mate non-partisan. Or what about the continuous attacks on Obama for his imaginary friendship with 60s radical William Ayers. And the list goes on. McCain was about as partisan as you can get in 2008. Perhaps in 2000 you could make a claim that he was non-partisaon, but in 2008, no way.

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  3. bud

    Joe Lieberman (before he went postal on health care reform).
    -Brad

    Sorry Brad, Lieberman’s nothing but a media hound. Now that he’s goared your ox you can see the true pompous ass that we pragmatists saw ever since he sold out our nation on the disasterous Iraq war issue.

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  4. Brad Warthen

    bud, I didn’t say “McCain was a nonpartisan in the 2008 election,” just as I did not say Obama was a nonpartisan. Obviously, McCain was a Republican and Obama was a Democrat. They were their parties’ standard-bearers.

    What I said was that, within their respective parties, they were each the least partisan alternative. And I believe the fact that each of them won his respective nomination reflects the very positive trend toward dissatisfaction with the parties and the games that they play.

    There is absolutely no question that, compared to Romney and Rudy and Huck and the rest, McCain was the least orthodox choice. Nor is there any doubt that Obama ran as a chance to get away from the partisan obsessions of the Clinton-Bush years (certainly when compared to Hillary Clinton, in whom the hopes of the Democratic hyperpartisans were invested).

    It’s a very important, and a very positive, phenomenon that the most antipartisan option in each party rose to the top.

    I think I stated that pretty clearly the first time, but since bud didn’t pick up on it, I went ahead and restated it.

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  5. Eddie

    I for one am definitely ready for the unparty. Though I have participated in every election in the past 28 years, it is rare to find a candidate that truly represents me. And on the few occassions when a candidate comes close, once elected their agendas seem to be just as partisan as their parties have become (Obama’s first year agenda and the raft of special favors to left-leaning institutions is only the most recent example). Where is the socially liberal – individually accountable – fiscally conservative party?

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  6. Burl Burlingame

    Brad, even Fox doesn’t call Hannity a journalist. He’s a commentator. Fox News broadcasts like 15 hours of commentary a day, and their newscasts report as “news” the comments made. It’s a self-made cycle, and apparently a successful formula for those viewers who like hearing repetitive partisan blather squirted into their brains.

    Did you catch Fox News chief reporter Brit Hume insisting that Tiger Woods must become a Christian if he truly wants redemption?

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  7. Doug Ross

    Can anyone offer a single example of “change we can believe in” after Obama’s first year in office? I see no difference between Bush and Obama. No change.

    As for Karl Rove, over the Christmas break he did what every “good” Republican seems to do: divorced his wife of 20+ years. We’ll see if he follows McCain’s lead and trades up for a sugar momma or goes the Sanford route and finds a Latina soulmate.

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  8. Doug Ross

    And you know what would be a great New Years resolution? For one month, all the Hannity/Beck/O’Reilly fanatics watch Olberman/Maddow/Matthews instead. Bet it would be harder than kicking cigarettes.

    I can’t stomach any of them.

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  9. Karen McLeod

    But so far those who have offered themselves as 3rd party (eg. Ross Perot)have either been so simplistic or so narrowly focussed that they don’t appeal to the majority of voters. They also lack the party machine that both Dems and Repubs have. I’d be happy if we’d just stop voting for those who depend on negative ads rather than advancing their own opinion, and require group that finances political ads to identify themselves specifically. It would also be nice if the news folk would spend less time ‘tsking’ over egregious ads (thereby ensuring that everyone is exposed to them) and more time checking facts, and pointing out misleading (or downright false) claims.

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  10. Herb B.

    Burl, before you lampoon Brit Hume too badly, you might notice that he is not speaking as a journalist, but as one who stepped down from being a news anchor to basically retire and devote a lot more time to his faith. It had to do with his son’s suicide, and a decision that his wife’s Bible study group offered something that he needed.

    So what is the problem with former news media person speaking out about his faith in reference to Tiger Woods? As Mollie Hemingway points out in Get Religion post criticizing Hume is anyone’s right, but one would expect a little more respect for other’s religious views, especially on Brad’s (a seriously religious man) blog.

    I feel that your ridicule is inappropriate. Redemption, after all, might possibly be what Tiger Woods needs most.

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  11. Herb B.

    That’s not to say that I don’t agree with your analysis of Hannity and Fox News. But it works both ways. The only way to get any responsible news analysis is to listen to the BBC, and to read the Frankfurter Allgemeine.

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  12. Kathryn Fenner

    David Brooks writes today in the NY Times that the teabaggers beat either party. Is that what you want?

    I wish we could do better than a zero sum game. Teddy Kennedy is dead, alas…

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  13. Burl Burlingame

    So, Hume no longer represents Fox News? It’s always difficult to tell the pundits from the reporters over there, but they’re paid by the same people. And they do have an agenda that includes belittling religions other than their own.

    Oh, and I didn’t ridicule Brit Hume. Daily Show did — and their point was a larger one about inappropriately interjecting religion into public commentary.

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  14. Doug Ross

    From today’s The State article on Senator Graham’s censure by a Lexington Republican Group:

    “Graham said that while there are fringe elements in both the Democratic and Republican parties, going into the 2010 mid-term elections, Republicans should be focused on growing the party, registering new voters and stopping an “out-of-control Obama agenda.””

    Sounds like a partisan Republican to me…

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  15. bud

    How about the pragmatist party. Our motto could be: “Do Whatever Works, Period”. We don’t care whether government does something or big business does it instead. Both do wonderful things and both do stuff that fails, miserably. This differs from Brad’s approach because we don’t care if someone is partisan, just so long as than partisanship is backed up by facts. If one of the parties says or does something idiotic say so, don’t just bend over backwards to say the other party also does idiotic stuff then try to balance the scales.

    The Pragmatist Party just wants to do what works. Health care in America does not work so it must be changed, perhaps scrapped all-together. The war on terror has and always will fail so it must be abandoned. Same with the war on drugs. The war on poverty has actually made a difference so it should continue. Ditto social security. Big banking has failed us so it must be reformed if not re-worked from the beginning.

    One thing the Pragmatist Party will never do is ignore evidence. Somehow both the major parties and the self-proclaimed head of the Un-Party do just that. It’s time to put evidence first, faith in one’s predetermined convictions last.

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  16. Brad Warthen

    bud, you and I are so near, yet so far. When you describe the Pragmatist Party, you describe exactly what I want, to a T — right up to the point that you say you disagree with me.

    After all the thousands of words I’ve written about my problem with the parties, I still haven’t managed to get it across to you, which is frustrating because I really think we could be allies on this.

    The number one problem with the parties is the way they undermine intellectual honesty in our system. They cause people to embrace stupid ideas because their “side” has put them forth, and to castigate and utterly reject smart ideas just because they come from the other side. It is impossible for the deliberative process that is essential to representative democracy to work properly in this sort of environment.

    What we need to do is applaud politicos when they break out of that mold, rather than castigate them when they happen to agree with their party. Lindsey Graham is a Republican; he makes no bones about that. Just as Joe Riley is a Democrat. But I admire them for the ways they reach beyond that. It’s a glass-half-full thing. There are so few such profiles in courage that we MUST recognize and support them when we have the opportunity.

    Doug notes that Lindsey was in town to try to kill the health care bill. Well, maybe it should be killed — although not for the reasons Lindsey cites. What Doug ignores is that he was also in town to speak out in favor of his cap-and-trade compromise — the very thing that has him in so much trouble with elements of his party (including the extremists who rammed through the censure of him in the Lexington County GOP meeting Monday night).

    What Graham is advancing is an almost pure expression of the Energy Party platform — and of bud’s Pragmatic Party. Lindsey is proposing to do everything that works, no matter whether it’s considered a “liberal” idea or a “conservative” idea.

    He deserves all the props we can give him for that…

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  17. Doug Ross

    But would Lindsey EVER say “I do not belong to the Republican Party”?

    He will take money from the party. He will take the endorsements from the party. He will work to get members of the party elected and, as far as I know, would not endorse a Democrat. He will spout the party rhetoric whenever it is required and, in fact, was the lead attack dog against Obama during the McCain campaign. You always seem to just brush that version of Lindsey Graham aside as if it doesn’t matter. It does.

    These are not the traits of a pragmatic person. They are the traits of a self-serving, spotlight-seeking schemer.

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  18. bud

    Problem is Lindsey is wrong way more than he’s right. He’s wrong on war, wrong on the economy and wrong on health care. You can’t be a member of the Pragmatist Party if you’re wrong most of the time.

    As for Doug’s empowering the individual I’m totally for that, especially concerning issues involving one’s most precious asset, their own body. The Pragmatist Party places the individual ahead of both government fiat and corporate tyranny. Unlike Doug, however, I do find occassions when individual rights wreek havoc with common sense safety issues. In particular I’ve wrestled with the issue of the drinking age and reluctantly come down on the side of government interference. The stakes are simply too high to ignore the significant benefits of a higher drinking age. 21 seems about right.

    I also think Doug trusts far too much in the ability of the market to regulate corporate greed. In some instances the market works well. But when industries become overly concentrated they tend to work poorly in providing goods and services that reflect the FULL costs. The oil industry is a great example. The price at the pump just does not reflect the full price of the gasoline. Environmental issues are largely ignored as are the huge costs involved in obtaining the stuff from unsavory suppliers.

    As for the whole communitarian issue I reject that out of hand. Individual freedom should never be subordinated to the whims of elected officials simply because they are elected. That is how we end up with crap like Blue Laws.

    The Pragmatist Party recognizes the difficulty in identifying all the relevant facts needed to properly guide policy. Yet facts are what is needed rather than a preconceived philosophy that rigidly seeks out facts to support the philosophy. That is how we end up with folks believing in young earth creationsism. The starting point should always be facts and quality information, not faith.

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  19. Brad Warthen

    But bud, I think you are straining to disagree with me. If you think representative democracy should not be allowed to enact a Blue Law, but acknowledge there should be an age limit on alcohol, you are mainly disagreeing with me over whether to draw the line. Yes, I know there is a qualitative disagreement there, too, but the fact is that deciding kids shouldn’t have access to booze is a very communitarian, “it takes a village” kind of position.

    You may arrive at that conclusion reluctantly but you DO arrive, so you are NOT rejecting communitarianism “out of hand.”

    And Doug — running under a party label is the very essence of pragmatism. The pragmatist recognizes he won’t get elected any other way, so he runs with a party label — and tries to maintain his status within that party, even as some members are trying to throw him out for his positions that rise above partisanship.

    My problem as a potential candidate is that I’m not pragmatic enough to simply adopt a party label to get elected. If I were ever serious about getting elected, I wouldn’t prate about the UnParty (near and dear as it is to me), but would do what Bob Dole did when he first ran for office in Kansas: When the war hero went to file to run, the clerk asked whether he was a Democrat or a Republican. He asked which party had won the last election in that district. When the clerk said “Republican,” he said put him down as one of those… Now THAT’S pragmatism.

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  20. Doug Ross

    Bud,

    The problem with the Pragmatist Party is that it depends on people being honest, fair, compassionate, and intelligent.

    That’s why third party candidates only get 5% of the vote.

    Politicians rely on the general public being apathetic, greedy, and dumb. And it works for them.

    As for Wall Street and the ability for the market to regulate itself, you’re ignoring the fact that the SEC dropped the ball on oversight and the government promoted the programs that created the housing bubble. It also controls the money supply that results in the whipsaw of inflation/recession.
    The other thing to note is that the Obama administration is full of ex-Goldman Sachs people. You think they’re working for the government out of altruistic motivation?

    We don’t have anything close to a true market economy. The government won’t allow it.

    I’d encourage you to read some of the articles by Matt Taibbi of Rolling Stone (hardly a right wing mouthpiece). He truly demonstrates a pragmatic view of the government.

    http://taibbi.rssoundingboard.com/

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  21. Steve Gordy

    Actually, the most interesting development of 2009 from my totally disinterested (snicker) point of view was the emergence of Sarah Palin as a new cultural demagogue. The last one before her was Pat Buchanan, the only before that, George Wallace. Cultural demagogues are always more interesting than economic or purely racial demagogues.

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  22. bud

    Brad, as I understand the communitarian philosophy it makes the good of the community, as determined by the electoral process, the central tenant in the governing process. I reject that philosophy. Rather, I come closer to accepting Doug’s libertarian approach that puts the individual ahead of government decision making. In a very high percentage of issues I come down on the side of the individual. (Abortion, video poker, foreign wars, blue laws, drug laws, etc.). Whenever I do favor government interference it’s because facts indicate a very significant benefit and a small loss of personal freedom. This inevitably takes me away from my comfort zone. Yet for a communitarian this type of decision is very much within his comfort zone and this is dangerous. That’s what I meant by rejecting communitarian thinking.

    Doug, it’s true the government let us down in it’s oversight responsibility of the banks. They let us down often. But the real villians are the banks themselves and specifically the greedy executives of the banks who put short term personal (and in my opinion unearned) gain ahead of the best interst of the customer, the bank shareholders and the nation. Without adequate competions this is what happens in a free market or a poorly regulated one.

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  23. Doug Ross

    Bud,

    Who runs the banks? Who controls the money supply?

    Abolish the federal reserve and re-establish the gold standard. Then lets see what happens.

    Til then, the U.S. economy is the U.S. Government Economy.

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  24. Doug Ross

    Aside from that, Bud, you have my vote for Governor.

    The less government we have intruding on personal decisions, the better… especially when it involves arbitrary (Blue Laws), idiotic (3 ounces of fluid in carry ons), or bizarre (1/2% sales tax credit for over age 85).
    No sane system would implement any of those.

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  25. Kathryn Fenner

    Attention all posters: The word you want is “TENET.” Tenants rent from landlords; tenets are principles.

    Parameters are variables; Perimeters are limits.

    Thank you.
    Ms Language-Person

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  26. Bart Rogers

    Of course, if you use certain parameters within the perimeters of a discussion that meet the tenets of those involved, you are a welcome tenant, depending upon where the perimeters are located. In the case of this blog, most non-revenue tenants are of the liberal tenet.

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  27. Kathryn Fenner

    @Bart–
    That’s only because we are the ones who could withstand the imposition of the civility requirement. Wonder why that is?

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  28. Kathryn Fenner

    @ Bart– You said, “In the case of this blog, most non-revenue tenants are of the liberal tenet.”

    so my “we” refers to the “most non-revenue tenants”–most of us are liberal, not all of us. You do, indeed, stay well within the bounds of civility, and despite your nonliberality, the statement I made, which in full should read, “All nonrevenue tenants (current commenters), most of whom are of the liberal tenet, have withstood the imposition of the civility requirement. Most prior commenters, but not all, who are conservative,failed to meet the standard. I wonder why that is.”

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