Okay, this is weird. Rasmussen Reports announced yesterday that their most recent poll shows the Tea Party beating the Republican Party by a five-point margin on a three-way generic ballot. A generic ballot pits nameless candidates against one another in a theoretical election; in this case, Rasmussen asked “If congressional elections were held tomorrow, would you vote for the Republican, Democrat, or Tea Party candidate from your district?” Democrats led the pack with 36% of the vote, the Tea Party got 23%, and Republicans finished third with 18%. Astute observers will notice that leaves 22% of those polled undecided, and also that the Tea Party does not, uh, exist. I assume the same poll found that Americans overwhelmingly reject cap-and-trade in favor of having Bigfoot drink carbon out of clouds, and want the government to stay out of health insurance so that costs can be determined by the invisible hand of David Bowie in Labyrinth.
We here in the Combat! offices read Andrew Sullivan a lot, but we don’t get to link to him as often as we’d like to, probably because he doesn’t spend enough time saying things that are completely insane. A Tory transplant from the UK, Sullivan has identified as a conservative for most of his career, despite his sexual preference (dudes) and his tendency to support centrist Democrats in second-term Presidential elections (Bush-to-Clinton, Bush II-to-Kerry.) Basically, Sullivan’s conservative principles guide his political affiliations, not the other way around. Until Tuesday, he’d managed to lean left and right while remaining publicly aligned with the Republican side of the American political spectrum. All that changed with this blog post, in which Sullivan announces that he can no longer support “the movement that goes by the name ‘conservative’ in America.” His public repudiation of the American right—and, by implication, the GOP—is seismic coming from a man who prides himself on being “of no party or clique.” It’s also an indicator of how far the Republican Party has drifted from anything that an informed, reasonable American who is not himself a politician would want to endorse.
Last Thursday, while the rest of us were eating stuffing and probably violating the Constitution, Sarah Palin was participating in a 5k Turkey Trot in Kennewick, Washington. As is often the case with Palin, though, the word “participating” does not mean what you want it to mean. It turns out that the former Alaska governor dropped out of the race midway through, ostensibly to avoid the crowd of onlookers waiting for her at the finish line. See, she just wanted to run in the race and meet some Real Americans, not turn the Red Cross charity event into some sort of Going Rogue publicity spectacle. That’s why she announced her participation only two days before on her Twitter feed, and why her team was called the Rogue Runners. And shame on you for finding some cruel poetry in Palin’s decision to quit a charity race she had time to enter because she quit the governorship of Alaska. You try operating the complex assemblage of touch-screens and levers required to synchronize the Palin II‘s legs for 3.1 miles.
Students of history—particularly my students of history—will remember Ronald Reagan’s genius unification of the Republican Party during the 1980 election. Through sheer strength of charisma and occasionally insane rhetoric, Reagan consolidated three fundamentally disparate groups—old-time political conservatives, the nouveau riche, and church people—into what we now recognize as the contemporary GOP. Those of us who grew up under Reagan tend to take this alliance for granted, but it wasn’t always so. For most of the twentieth century, evangelical Christians were a reliable constituency of the Democratic Party, and the newly wealthy were anybody’s guess. The Great Communicator’s success as a politician, if not as a President, was his ability to describe the Republican agenda in terms these three groups understood. Hence the Evil Empire speech, in which the principle feature of communism is the abolition not of private property but of religion. “I would rather see my little girls die now, still believing in God, than have them grow up under communism,” sounds like an utterly bonkers thing for the President of the United States to say into a microphone, but that microphone was provided by the National Association of Evangelicals. When he spoke to the Club For Growth, it was all tax cuts and welfare queens, and when he spoke to the hawks in Congress, it was the Strategic Defense Initiative. All of it boiled down to one easily digestible GOP platform, and there lied the genius of Ronald Reagan.
When the White House first announced that it would be treating Fox News as an opinion outlet rather than as an objective news organization, it raised a lot of thorny questions. How, exactly, do you define objectivity? High school journalism textbooks are full of charts and bulleted lists, non of which mix serif and sans serif fonts, but any regular reader of the New York Times knows there’s objective and there’s objective, and never the twain shall meet. The problem is that bias is usually a sin of omission; what slants a story is not what you say, but what you don’t. When your annual Christmas card reports that I threw up at your wedding, that’s bias, because it neglects to mention that I also made a very nice toast. It’s exceedingly difficult for me to prove that your Christmas cards display a consistent anti-Brooks bias, though, because one can’t really prove a negative. Sure, you didn’t mention my toast, but you didn’t mention what color jacket your uncle was wearing, either, or what the temperature was, or which year the Inca empire experienced its first flu epidemic. Bias is usually absence, and the scope of absence is, by definition, infinite. Every once in a while, though, somebody straight-up lies. Fox News did it last week, and the public outcry has been far less that it should be. Video after the jump.