Ed Driscoll

Rules For Republicans

In his “Best of the Web” column at the Wall Street Journal, James Taranto writes, “For the moment, the Democrats have a monopoly on power, which makes them vulnerable to Alinskyite tactics“, and they’re being used by some surprising sources:

The Financial Times reports that Dick Armey, a former House Republican leader who now leads Freedom Works, a free-market community-organizing group, “draws consciously on the forms of agitation pioneered by Mr Alinsky”:

Mr Alinsky believed that packing public meetings with highly vocal activists would sway their outcomes and give people a taste of the power they could exercise when they showed up in numbers.

“What’s sauce for the goose is sauce for the gander,” said Mr Armey, who was one of the leaders of the “Contract with America” Republican landslide in 1994.

One lesson of the 1994 experience is that the tactics and attitudes that make an opposition movement effective are not sufficient for governing. Newt Gingrich was a lot better at the former than the latter. The same seems to be true–at least so far–of the Democrats and their leader, Barack Obama. Obama’s supporters are now reduced to portraying him as a victim, as in this column by New York Daily News sportswriter Mike Lupica:

We hear that all of this is democracy in action. It’s not. It’s boom-box democracy, people thinking that if they somehow make enough noise on this subject, they can make Obama into a one-term President.

The most violent opposition isn’t directed at his ideas about health care reform. It is directed at him. It is about him. They couldn’t make enough of a majority to beat the Harvard-educated black guy out of the White House, so they will beat him on an issue where they see him as being most vulnerable.

In the process, they’ll come after him on health care the way Kenneth Starr went after Bill Clinton on oral sex in the Oval Office.

With that kind of zealotry, screaming about government programs as if Medicare isn’t one. It is why so many of them, all these wild-eyed red faces in the crowd, look completely certifiable, screaming about how Obama wants to kill Grandma, as if he’s suddenly turned into Jack Kevorkian.

Not very persuasive, is it? Lupica whines that the most powerful man in the world is being victimized by people with “red faces.” He thereby makes Obama look weak and himself look like a bigot. And this observation underscores Breitbart’s point: It’s a lot easier to ridicule a powerful individual than a variegated group of citizens.

Which brings us to a word of caution for those who don’t want to see Obama re-elected: Inasmuch as the condition of being leaderless gives Republicans significant tactical advantages now, they will not enjoy those advantages in three years. Even if Obama’s performance as president leaves much to be desired, he could win a second term if the Republicans nominate an opponent who makes an easy target for ridicule. Just ask John Kerry.

Whoever is the Republican nominee in 2012, he will be a target for ridicule — that’s simply what the left does. But will he be prepared for it? The indecision shown by the last two losers in the presidential election highlight the importance of assuming the worst and wargaming solutions.

In 2004, John Kerry assumed that his Radical Chic past was hermetically sealed — and it was, but only by the dutiful old media; he was surprised that (a) they were no longer the only game in town and (b) the Internet allowed for asymmetric political warfare. Kerry’s Swift Boat was mercifully sunk in the fall of 2004.

As for the following election, you’d think any GOP candidate would know the media would crucify him. From all accounts, fellow Navy vet John McCain assumed he’d be the exception to this. But McCain was as surprised as Kerry when the Swift Vets emerged, that the happy talk whispered in his ear by the MSM when he was an opponent of Candidate Bush in 2004 and a de facto RINO thorn in President Bush’s side in the years since turned out to be sweet nothings once the MSM found their true love.

If the next GOP candidate is prepared for the perfect storm he’ll receive — and prepared to fight back (possibly with a little Alinskyite jujitsu of his own) — he’s got a shot. If not, he needs to count on a weakened incumbent,  and a lot of luck. Will that be enough to win?

Ask President Dole.

Update: Worst comes to worst, 2016 is increasingly looking viable for the GOP

Update: Lombardi-Landry in 2012! Jimmie of the Sundries Shack writes that GOP presidential training camp has begun.