Lord knows, there’s not a whole lot of reason to take Chris Matthews seriously. But for giggles, let’s look at his claim that the GOP is “Stalin-esque” because of the way Crist and McCain are having a rough time in the primaries.
Now, obviously he’s not talking about the GOP forcibly starving the Ukraine or anything like that. And presumably Matthews isn’t saying that the GOP has launched a series of show trials in which former party members in good standing are tortured or threatened with the murder of their families into giving false confessions (Crist: “In the Spring of 2009 I received secret payments by the running-dog Obama administration . . .”). So I gather he means that the GOP is purging discordant voices within the party or some such (that’s the gist of the second quote from Matthews in the link above).
But even here, as Matthews dilutes the meaning of Stalin-esque to nine parts water and one part 2% milk, Matthews still comes out a buffoon. Because if you take out the murder, butchery, and genocide from Stalin-esque, you’re still left with a purge from above. And that is the opposite of what is happening. Arlen Specter is a careerist hack who switched parties because — as he pretty much explicitly explained — he thinks his career is more important than the will of the Republican party. Crist, too, is afraid not of some metaphorical Commissar with a gun in his desk arbitrarily purging him, but of the voters in his own party, voters he’s counted on, voters he’s raised money from, voters he’s lied to.
It would be Stalin-esque (again in the very watered down sense) if Michael Steele unilaterally booted Crist, et al., from the party over the objections of the rank and file. Instead, the rank and file are turning on the long-anointed establishment candidates. This “purge” is a lot closer to what some romantics call “democracy” than what super-geniuses like Matthews call “Stalin-esque.”
Update: From a reader:
And, of course, Matthews ran against an incumbent Democrat, Josh Eilberg, in a Congressional primary in 1974. His campaign was certainly not one of Stalinesque brutality. More like Bambi taunting Godzilla.