The Corner

The GOP’s Not That Dysfunctional, and It’s Not Sarah Palin’s Fault

William Daley, Obama’s former chief of staff, writes in the Washington Post today that “the GOP dysfunction began with Sarah Palin.” He cites a front page Post story that declared, “Republicans are on the verge of ceasing to function as a national party.”

You know, for all of this alleged dysfunction – as opposed to the garden-variety ideological divides that occur when you have a large House majority – the GOP doesn’t seem to be doing that badly. They have 54 Senate seats, 247 seats in the House of Representatives, 31 governors, control of both state legislative houses and the governorship in 24 states (Democrats control only 7); 55 percent of all state senate seats, 55 percent of all state house seats. Republicans hold more offices among lieutenant governors, state attorney generals, secretaries of state, state treasurers, state auditors, agriculture commissioners, and public service commissioners.

“The Republican establishment’s 2008 embrace of Palin set an irresponsibly low bar,” writes Daley, whose party welcomed Al Sharpton to the presidential debate stage, nominated the incoherent Alvin Greene for Senate in South Carolina, the God-sneering Amanda Curtis for Senate in Montana, and who until a few days ago treated Lincoln Chafee and his proposal for the metric system as a serious presidential candidate.

Probably the most implausible line in the whole piece is, “This isn’t to heap new scorn on Palin.” Oh, of course it is. Daley blames Palin for 2010 Delaware candidate Christine O’Donnell and 2012 Missouri Senate candidate Todd  Akin – even though Palin endorsed Akin’s rival, Sarah Steelman. (Seriously, was Google search too difficult for Mr. Daley, or his ghostwriter?)

He mentions Michele Bachmann and Herman Cain’s brief time leading the polls and asks, “Does anyone now think Bachmann and Cain had the skills, experience and temperament to be president?” So what? The relatively little-known, charismatic candidates rose in the polls and they quickly tumbled after some bad outings in the stump and debates. Does anyone think either one cost the GOP the 2012 election? (Put your hand down, Governor Pawlenty.)

Daley’s conclusion is that Trump is thriving in the “same cynical value system that puts opportunistic sound-bites above seriousness, preparedness and intellectual heft.” That’s a defensible argument, but Daley chooses to believe that the cynical sound-bite political culture only exists on one side of the aisle. Sure.

Yeah, it’s a shame Donald Trump doesn’t emulate our president’s serious, intellectual behavior, like making funny faces with a selfie stick for a video, taking selfies at Mandela’s memorial service, chewing gum during foreign summits and ceremonies, or do an interview with a woman best known for eating cereal in her bathtub.

The role of national political leader and national pop culture celebrity continue to merge. This may be good or bad — I’d argue bad — but it’s not the fault of Sarah Palin, the Tea Party or Republicans.

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