Saturday, June 27, 2009

Listening to the drumbeats

Maybe drumbeats isn't the correct term - this is Iowa, full of rhythm-less white folk, and Republicans to boot. But I want to mention Kay Henderson's blog on the Sac County Republican prayer breakfast which gave the 2010 GOP gubernatorial hopefuls a chance to preview their stump.

It doesn't get anymore Iowa Republican than this - we're running to the right for the deep pockets of campaign donors and early name recognition. Those of you familiar with the GOP Iowa Straw Poll or any pre-pre-primary event know the game and what every candidate is looking to do.

What it also does is allow us to see what Iowa GOP thinks are it's strong arguments and candidates. The IGOP is in the same miserable position that the national party is - out of power in both legislative houses and the executive, and short on potential good candidates. This is our first glimpse of a party whom knows it needs to improve it's message and is taking the first steps on the road to recovery.

At least in theory. Because it seems to clear that the four candidates either running or considering are spweing the same bullshit to the same safe crowds that Republicans believe will deliver the same success prior to 2006. Because the 4 men (all white of course), still represent the same Republican party that got us into our common mess.

Bob VanderPlaats is the current social conservative favorite, but Bob has been running for the same office with the same core of religious support for going on 8 years now. Prayer Breakfasting in Western Sac County - the seat of Steve King's 5th District support - for him is akin to eating Capt'n Crunch in front of the mirror every morning. Bob seems to have caught that the GOP must offer real alternatives to the Democrat's ideas, but he and this crowd must think that the same ones that got them to 2006 are still the best ones.

Chris Rants has been big player in the state GOP since becoming Asst. House Majority leader in 1994, only two years after being elected for the first time to office. Both Rants and VanderPlaats are from uber-conservative Sioux City -- needing a way to define himself, Rants worked the economic and fiscal half of the GOP bible. He wants to Sell Iowa (which if you think about it, it does correctly conceptualize the GOP goals on the free market and privatization) every minute of every hour, every day to enterprises that will garner us jobs and revenue. And lower taxes. And ban gay marriage - which got him his second applause line.

Rants did say something interesting: "Rants repeated Barbour's assertion that party building is "about addition and multiplication. It's not about subtraction and division," suggesting the party has to be home for both social and fiscal conservatives. "We have to be about embracing both of those concepts," he said. This got applause, the first time Rants was interrupted by applause. "We need a nominee who can bridge both gaps." While not an outright attack on his biggest opponent, VanderPlaats, it was certainly aimed at him.

The other two candidates, sensing that the GOP's weakness is their opportunity to run in the big show, are legislator Rod Roberts of Carroll, another Western Iowa town which is defined by its Catholicism in a sea of Calvinistic Protestant Dutch Reformed, and State Senator Jerry Behn of Boone, near where I live in central Iowa. Roberts believes that a 'wind of change' will lead the GOP back into state governmental power while only pledging that the state can be more efficient and streamlined. (Paging Grover Norquist . . ) Roberts then hit homosexual right, stating that "We could do better" in responding to the Iowa Supreme Court verdict that granted marriage equality, compared to the Democrats in power. I think everyone responded better to the verdict than the Democrats - it was obvious that they were caught flat-footed & spineless. It's just that Roberts and the GOP probably would have tried fortifying all 99 county recorder offices from the fabulous hordes sure to descend from Minneapolis & San Francisco.

Behn hit most of the same buttons - specifically stating that he voted for Iowa's version of DOMA, and that a state constitutional amendment on same-sex marriage should be placed on the ballot, and that the Supreme Court justices whom endorsed the ruling be targeted for retention votes. (Iowa is one of the handful of states that where appointed justices must win periodic retention votes from the electorate. Very few have ever been thrown out of office.)

If this is representative of the national party, Republicans are in deep trouble. There's nothing new here, because while they have a few party members recognizing that the voting coalition has divided and moderates have left, no one seems to be able to articulate a reason for them to return while speaking to the faithful. It's the faithful, whom have been pushing the moderates out, whom need to show they welcome more than just moderate's votes back to the tent.

Reading between the lines, it becomes obvious what the GOP thinks will be it's winning strategy: gay marriage reactionaries in another culture war ballot. Of course that ballot may be lost, but these voters will also vote GOP, and if they can peel off enough moderates voting fiscally GOP while socially liberal or moderate, they can win the magic number of 51.

It's almost as if 2006 and 2008 never happened to these people.

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