Virtual Republicans

Ezra Klein raises a point I've been meaning to bring up if there's a lull in the screaming monopolizing most my skull.

That is, how much of the Republican Party's appeal is really kept in business by these 'moderation' fests which crop up at conventions and various other opportune moments? Put another way, is the Republican tent bigger than we think? Or is there the Republican party we know, and another virtual Republican party that exists to keep Democrats, the media, and those idiot swing voters guessing?

That virtual Republican party is the party of David Brooks, the party of the (some) in the conservative intellectual establishment, and the party that people with explicit libertarian feelings get excited about. The trouble that liberals have with this virtual party (which, even if we disagree with it, sounds like a worthy, sensible adversary) is that the viability of its artifice is bought with the souls of its proponents.

People like Brooks--"blue state" Republicans, principled libertarians, etc., appear to be hypocrites because the only way they can achieve their policy goals is by forging unholy alliances with people whose real agendas are anathema to the kind of tolerance and reason they preach. But isn't that just politics? You get what you want and your partner sucks it up, next time your partner gets what he wants and you suck it up?

The trouble in this case is that the actual constiutency voicing this line is hard to locate outside of Republicans with op-ed columns and political junkies. The party isn't accountable to these ideas in any real way, but when it's time to go on network TV, they have no problem taking up that banner. It has some important political value in appealing to independents in the moment, and perhaps more importantly, it is a powerful tool of message distortion. Democrats are unable to differentiate themselves, the news media doesn't take the time to check, and Republicans confuse party identities to their advantage.

And what do they do if they happen to really get pressed on it? Make shit up, of course.


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