Monday, August 27, 2012

Week of 08/27/2012

The GOP’s Crazy Uncle Problem
– by David Matthews 2

Did you ever have a family member that you weren’t really proud of?

You know the one.

That family member that is so obnoxious and so outspoken that you really wish didn’t show up for the family outings. Usually it’s the “Crazy Uncle”; the guy that wears loud clothes, smokes cheap cigars, has on that cheap cologne, and will be happy to discuss with you every single crazy theory he comes across. He’ll tell anyone who will listen to him about how the world is controlled by five ultra-rich Jewish families living in Barbados and that fluorine in the water is a Communist conspiracy. If there’s a crackpot rumor, then he not only knows it but he is responsible for emailing half of them around the Internet. He’ll always have that one embarrassing moment in your life and wait until the right moment to remind everyone of it.

Think of the movie “Uncle Buck” with the title character played by the late John Candy. Then multiply his character by twenty, and delete the last half of the movie where he wins over the family.

Yeah, that uncle. The one whose jaw you really wish you could wire shut.

This week the GOP has their National Convention going on. This is essentially their biggest political commercial for the 2012 Presidential Election in November, and they need to get their message right if they want their champion, former Governor Mitt Romney, to defeat President Barack Obama.

In order to defeat Obama, the GOP’s message needs to be about the economy, and nothing but. They need to channel the ghost of Ronald Reagan and ask what he asked in 1984: is America better off than it was four years ago. And they need to make sure that the answer is a resounding “No!”

This is where the crazy uncle comes in.

The GOP’s crazy uncle thinks that the party’s message needs to be about abortion. Their crazy uncle thinks the message needs to be about banning birth control. Their crazy uncle thinks that it should be about shutting down Planned Parenthood and banning same-sex marriages. Their crazy uncle thinks that it should be about restoring “Don’t Ask Don’t Tell”. Their crazy uncle thinks the message needs to be about religion; specifically the crazy uncle’s religion.

Basically the GOP’s crazy uncle thinks that the message should be about the crazy uncle.

Crazy, isn’t it?

Of course, the GOP’s “crazy uncle” isn’t a person. It is a faction of their party. It’s the quasi-stable, irrational, dangerously narcissistic faction that complains about being characterized as clinging to “their bibles and their guns” while at the same time boasting about it.

So you have Congressman Todd Akin as part of that GOP Crazy Uncle contingent recently claiming that what he deemed to be “legitimate rape victims” have some sort of super-human biological power to prevent getting pregnant. And this tale, he said, was told to him by doctors.

Now if this was some freshman Congressman that came in from the last mid-term election, then that would be one thing. Then at least his pompous ignorance would be understandable. Condemned, but still understandable. But Akin has been in the Congress for over ten years now. Not only that, but he sits on the House Committee on Science, Space, and Technology. In other words, he sits in judgment of people with intelligence far greater than his. It’s like putting a member of the Flat Earth Society in charge of NASA.

While editorials will characterize him as being foolish or “an idiot” (and some with even more colorful terms), Akin is actually the smarter one when compared to his constituents, who will mindlessly go along with what he says simply because he’s their Congressman, and because he’s their non-expert expert through the very committee he sits on.

Bear in mind that Akin isn’t alone. He isn’t the sole “Crazy Uncle” of the GOP. He’s just the latest to make his crazy known. He’s just part of that whole contingent of GOP members that are beholden more to C-Street than to K-Street or Wall Street.

And, yes, Akin’s “crazy uncle” moment puts a snag in the GOP’s strategy for November. They need to have the discussion be about the economy, because that is Obama’s weakness. They know that they will lose if the message morphs into being about social issues.

So you would think that the GOP would put a little more pressure on their “crazy uncle” faction to tow the line, right? You know; remind them of the “prize” and how they need to be less “crazy”.

Unfortunately, the party bosses really can’t do that, because the dirty little secret of the GOP is that they need their “crazy uncle” contingent in order to survive more than the “crazy uncle” needs to GOP.

Let’s get brutally honest here… the very reason why the “crazy uncle” is invited back to those family functions time and time again is because he can be counted on showing up every single time! That’s why the “crazy uncle” doesn’t change. That’s why the “crazy uncle” is not pressured to change. The crazy uncle knows that the family needs him, and as long as he keeps getting invited and keeps showing up at those functions, there’s no real reason for him to do anything different than what he has been doing. He continues to be as crazy as ever because he knows that no matter what, they will invite him to the next function. They continue to invite him because they know that they can count on him to be there.

And the same certainly holds true to the GOP’s “crazy uncle” contingent. They’ve known for a long time that the GOP needs them more than the other way around, so why should they change? The GOP needs them for that power they all crave.

The sad part for the GOP is that they have another “family faction” that would be perfectly-suited to champion Romney’s economic message. A faction that supports the very things that people like Romney and the other GOP members claim to champion like “less government” and “more businesses”. They’re not screaming about “secret Muslim conspiracies” or clinging to their “God and guns” or staging jingoistic crusades to benefit Chick-fil-A. They’re actually sane and rational and willing to work with the GOP; and yet, they are herded to the sidelines time and time again because of the GOP’s “crazy uncle” contingent.

In fact, they’re going to be at the GOP convention this week in Tampa, looking for some modicum of respect in exchange for the delegates that they have. History has shown, though, that they will get short-changed and screwed over.

I’ve met some of that “sane uncle” contingent. Once upon a time, I used to actually be part of that contingent in the GOP. I left because the GOP would rather cater to the “crazy uncles” than to the “sane” ones, and the party obviously has not changed a thing since.

This is one of the key reasons why the GOP has an uphill battle this coming November. As long as they pander to their “crazy uncle” faction, especially to the detriment of their more “saner” factions, then that is all that they will eventually have.

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