Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Who’s In Charge?

USA Today has an article that points to the leadership vacuum in the GOP.

Republicans, out of power and divided over how to get it back, are finding even the most basic questions hard to answer.

Here’s one: Who speaks for the GOP?

The question flummoxes most Americans, a USA TODAY/Gallup Poll finds, which is among the reasons for the party’s sagging state and uncertain direction.

A 52% majority of those surveyed couldn’t come up with a name when asked to specify “the main person” who speaks for Republicans today. Of those who could, the top response was radio talk show host Rush Limbaugh (13%), followed in order by former vice president Dick Cheney, Arizona Sen. John McCain and former House speaker Newt Gingrich. Former president George W. Bush ranked fifth, at 3%.

So the dominant faces of the Republican Party are all men, all white, all conservative and all old enough to join AARP, ranging in age from 58 (Limbaugh) to 72 (McCain). They include some of the country’s most strident voices on issues from Sonia Sotomayor’s nomination to the Supreme Court to President Obama’s policies at home and abroad. Two are retired from politics, and one has never been a candidate.

Only McCain holds elective office, and his age and status as the loser of last year’s presidential election make him an unlikely standard bearer for the party’s future.

It sounds more like the battle over who’s going to be the next president of the country club than it does over a party that less than ten years ago ran the whole show and was confidently predicting a permanent Republican majority.

Granted, this happens to all political parties once they’ve been tossed out on their ass after an election, and it usually takes an election cycle or two before they truly get back on their feet. But there’s also a period of reflection and re-evaluation, of perhaps the leadership looking to see what they might do to fix the problems that caused the voters to turn on them. But not with this crowd. The demonization, pettiness, and sheer vociferousness of the attacks on President Obama and his policies and even his choice of leisure are over the top even for the party that made its reputation as the party of no-holds-barred personal attacks going back to the days of Robert Taft, Joe McCarthy, and Richard Nixon. It makes the attacks on George W. Bush look like the small and childish antics they often were. Liberals can be snarky, but we’re pikers in comparison to Rush Limbaugh, Ann Coulter, Michael Savage, Bill O’Reilly, and some members of the House and Senate, like James Inhofe of Oklahoma.

If the Republicans want to lead again — and they’re entitled to give it a try — they need to come up with some ideas that aren’t purely reactive to be the opposite of what the president wants, and they need to come up with a leader or two who appeals to more than just the guys at the pro shop.