In the 2012 Presidential primaries, the Republican Clown Car had a crackup. The GOP candidates fell all over each other to kowtow to the narrow, extreme Republican primary base (comprised, for example, in Iowa, of 60 percent Evangelical Christians). Michele Bachmann said that the HPV vaccine causes “mental retardation,” and Herman Cain mocked the very idea of having foreign policy knowledge. Then came Willard Mitt Romney‘s disastrous “Etch-A-Sketch” moment, in which Romney’s Communications Director dumbly asserted that, after lurching to the right in the primaries, Romney could simply “hit a reset button” for the general election, “like an Etch-A-Sketch,” as if no one would hold Romney accountable for the positions he was taking and as if the giant Memory Machine known as the Internet didn’t exist. Romney’s Etch-A-Sketch moment perfectly summed up the Republican Party’s 2012 problem. Romney’s Republican rivals such as Newt Gingrich and Rick Santorum pounced on the Etch-A-Sketch statement as proof that Romney could not be trusted by the GOPs conservative base. Romney ended up being trusted by no part of the electorate. Fast forward to the present day, and it appears that the GOP is poised to repeat these same mistakes of 2012.
This year, Republicans are once again falling all over each other to be the most right wing candidate or would-be candidate for that right wing GOP primary activist crowd. Rafael “Ted” Cruz joined the lunatic fringe talk that, during normal U.S. military exercises in Texas, the state government of Texas needs to watch out for a President Obama-led U.S. military takeover of Texas. John Ellis “Jeb” Bush called for privatization of the U.S. Department of Veterans’ Affairs. Scott Walker cast doubt on legal immgration. Marco Rubio is a climate denier, as are most or all of his fellow GOP candidates. Ben Carson says that being gay is a choice, the proof being that “a lot of people who go into prison go into prison straight and when they come out they’re gay.” As Republican presidential candidates keep lurching to the far right for the upcoming primaries, the positions they take can be described by the cave man-like phrase “Good for Primaries, Bad for General Election.”
If these Republicans truly are that extreme, they’re sorely out of touch with the American electorate (see, for example, polls on climate change and marriage equality). If the eventual GOP nominee is not really that extreme and tries to lurch back to the center for the general election (we’re looking at you, Jeb Bush), he’ll get whacked by both sides for being a phony.
It would be nice if Republicans trash each other, and their eventual 2016 party nominee, to demonstrate that they are the most extreme right wing candidate, the way they did in 2012. That may well happen again. But in the meantime, Democrats need to be vigilant about reporting on each instance where the Republican Clown Car cracks up.
Photo by Jamelle Bouie, used under Creative Commons license. http://is.gd/L0Tnnm