Josh Marshall is reporting over at www.talkingpointsmemo.com that Mr. Giulliani and Mr. Romney are both attempting to weasel out of the upcoming GOP YouTube debate. While commentators over at the sight have put forth a variety of theories on why the candidates may be unwilling to participate, one in particular resonated with me: the current insularity of the Republican party.
While campaigning in 2004, Mr. Bush had tightly controlled and scripted events. Dissenting voices, which represented very nearly half of the country when the votes were counted, were shut-out of the events, with some even suffering arrest. Questions from members of the audience were pre-screened and approved by Mr. Bush’s political staff. In other words, Mr. Bush was never really exposed to the public, and his “public” appearances really took place in a bubble. The GOPs leading candidates for the 2008 nomination appear to have the same inclination for insularity.
What is the GOP scared of? Mr. Romney complained about the question on global warming from a talking snowman during the Democratic YouTube debate, basically saying he believes it belittled the office of the president. While there is some credence to Mr. Romney’s point, one has to wonder what the GOP equivalent would be. A talking assault rifle asking what to do about sealing off the border from the scary Mexicans? Or perhaps a flaming cross asking about how each candidate will suppress the rights of gays? Maybe a coat-hanger asking about criminalizing abortions?
The point is, and others have made it before me, that the views and stock issues of the GOP base, especially those voting in the primary, do not play well amongst the majority of Americans. The GOP has trotted out inflammatory and divisive issues for each election in an effort to stimulate the base while orchestrating smear campaigns to detract from the message of its opponents. The GOP’s success is in large part built on obfuscation and the suspension of disbelief – hard core christianists believe they will get their constitutional amendment banning abortion and gay marriage, the gun toting xenophobes and racists believe they will get their fences and assault rifles, and Wall Street believes that neither the christianists nor xenophobes will get what they want because it wants cheap labor and lower taxes and doesn’t give a damn about moral issues. So far the GOP has been able to tie these opposing forces together, but the bonds are not strong enough to hold for long.
The GOP can run from public debate and hide the views of its base only so long. If the candidates are too cowardly and intellectually dishonest to confront real questions and real issues (or as real as they can be when screened by CNN), then they should be ashamed to hold themselves out as perspective leaders of our country.
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