Friday, August 9, 2013

Don't Bring The CrazyStupid: How To Run For the GOP Presidential Nomination

Baseball Crank has a list of 73 things you need to do if you are going to run for the Republican presidential nomination. I particularly liked these two:
24-Being a consistent conservative will help you more than pandering to nuts on the Right. If you can't tell the difference between the two, don't run. 
25-Winning campaigns attract crazy and stupid people as supporters; you can't get a majority without them. This does not mean you should have crazy or stupid people as your advisers or spokespeople.
People forget this now, but the conservative movement during the Reagan ascendancy was absolutely be-set with loons, many of whom managed to get on the news and embarrass themselves and the movement. (that's why the media has always tried to play up the alleged "crazies" in the Tea Party. They remember the halcyon days when a Bircher droning about the fluoridation of the water supply was considered good TV, so long as it made the Right look bad). Probably the ultimate right-wing crazy person was Reagan's first Secretary of the Interior, James Watt. Among other things he:
1. got into a beef with the Beach Boys (which he lost) 
2. once said, "I do not know how many future generations we can count on before the Lord returns, whatever it is we have to manage with a skill to leave the resources needed for future generations. 
3. once said, "If you want an example of the failure of socialism, don't go to Russia, come to America and go to the Indian reservations." 
4. and, most famously, he described the make-up of a coal-leasing panel as comprising: "A black, a woman, two Jews and a cripple. And we have talent." This last bon mot cost him his job.
On the other hand, he did not say "After the last tree is felled, Christ will come back." That's apocryphal. (phew!) But, it gives you an idea of what people thought Watt was capable of saying at any second. To say that James Watt lacked message discipline is putting it nicely. 

On the other hand, Watt was everything you would want from an evil right-wing Secretary of the Interior. He delighted in leasing federal lands for mining, drilling, timber cutting, what have you. Let wiki-pedia tell the rest of the tale:
Watt resisted accepting donations of private land to be used for conservation purposes. He suggested that all 80 million acres (320,000 km²) of undeveloped land in the United States be opened for drilling and mining in the year 2000. The area leased to coal mining companies quintupled during his term as Secretary of the Interior. Watt boasted that he leased "a billion acres" (4 million km²) of U.S. coastal waters, even though only a small portion of that area would ever be drilled. Watt once stated, "We will mine more, drill more, cut more timber."
Great stuff, but because Watt acted like he had a mouthful of buckshot every time he spoke in public, no one remembers any of it.

Look, Reagan was a movement conservative. So was Watt. So were a lot of people inside and outside the administration. They were constantly getting p*ssed with the 40th president, holding his feet to the fire, etc. Ronaldus had to prove and re-prove his conservative bona-fides to an extent that would have left RINO's like Mitt Romney and John McCain covered in flop sweat. 

More important, and unlike the "disciplined" campaigns of the early 21st century GOP, Reagan was not above firing the idiots and reckless word-meisters who were drawn to his message, campaigned for him passionately, and then threatened to destroy the last best hope on earth with ill-chosen words about minorities,  the Civil Rights Act, etc. Of course, the king of the gaffe was Ron himself, but he was the indispensable man and any way his mistakes had a certain charm that the likes of James Watt utterly lacked. 

It's an iron law of Anglo-American political systems that the conservative party is the Stupid Party. We can live with that. But, even stupid people know and understand what is or is not acceptable public discourse. If you are running for president and you find yourself talking about Gardasil causing mental retardation; or you have a close adviser who thinks, in all sincerity that Abraham Lincoln was a tyrant (then why are you a member of the party of Lincoln); or you can't stop talking about "sodomy" (get a room), you are probably not meant to make a serious run for the GOP nomination. Just sayin'.

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