Blue Sonia

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Lotsa chatter today about the nomination of Judge Sonia Sotomayor to be a Supreme.  Mostly it’s about the politics.  This or that special interest group gearing up to run commercials for/against her and raise money off the whole deal.  More interesting: how in the world the GOP can come out of the process with anything but a net loss.

This Yglesias post does a good job of capturing the main points, in my opinion.  Basically, if they go after her hammer-and-tongs, they [further] alienate the fastest growing segment of the American electorate — Hispanics — and compound their problems with women voters.  If they don’t try to eviscerate her, their base is going to be unspeakably peeved.

Quoth Yglesias:

Senators who don’t fight and scrape against Sotomayor’s confirmation will take some crap from their base. But Senators who do fight and scrape to derail her nomination are going to become the villains in a story that a lot of kids are going to hear from their parents and teachers [i.e., the story of the first Latina SCOTUS justice’s rise from the barrios of the Bronx].

So which way will they go?  I think hammer-and-tongs, and here’s why: misallocated incentives.

The remaining GOP senators and representatives are all from states/districts where the GOP’s base rules the roost.  Those are the only voters those senators and representatives need to please.  So yes, if they go scorched earth on Sotomayor, they’re going to alienate large slices of the national electorate; but, as non-national candidates, they have no incentive, strictly speaking, to care about the national electorate.  Their incentive is all local, it is base voters, and it demands scorched earth.

The GOP’s next presidential nominee will have hell to pay for it, sure, but that’s his (or Sarah’s) problem.

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4 Responses to “Blue Sonia”

  1. michaellasley Says:

    I think you’re right, that they’ll go after her and worry about consequences later.

    I think if Palin is the GOP’s candidate in the next election, how they handled a SCOTUS nominee will be the least of the GOP’s problems.

  2. urbino Says:

    Yeah, it does look like the party is going to have to totally self-immolate before it changes course. That’s not something I’m happy about, oddly enough, because, the way our political system and traditions have developed, we require 2 functioning parties to keep it healthy.

    I kinda wonder if they’ll even be able to recover from the implosion. I mean, it’s rare, but major American political parties do go extinct from time to time — the GOP arose to fill the gap left when the Whig Party fell completely apart over slavery.

    It’s highly unlikely the GOP will go the way of the Whigs, but it was highly unlikely the Whigs would go that way, too, and right now, I just don’t see anything or anybody in the GOP that can pull them out of their death spiral.

    The most likely candidate, of course, is the Democrats: Harry Reid, a party turns its lonely eyes to you, woo woo woo.

  3. michaellasley Says:

    As always, I know nothing of politics. But. (And this might be better to ask under your 2 directions post but whatever.) Theoretically, this could be a good moment for the Reps, no? They could return to an actual conservative political philosophy rather than relying on the Religious Right and values voting and that sort of thing, no? Or am I missing something? Am I over-estimating the role the RR has played? Or am I underestimating the turmoil their party is in?

  4. urbino Says:

    They could return to an actual conservative political philosophy. I’m saying that, right now, I don’t see any person, group, or force to move them in that direction. All the momentum is going the other way.

    They’re in a vicious cycle: as they become less and less popular nationally, the hardest of their hardcore base becomes more and more powerful internally, their elected officials become more and more dependent on and uniformly representative of that base, which makes the party’s national voice more and more shrill and extreme, therefore more and more unpopular nationally, and back through the cycle again.

    The party and a certain, shrinking segment of the electorate are locked in a political death grip with each other. Neither can let go, but if they don’t, they’ll both crash and burn.

    The thing that could change that would be if somebody came along and built a different Republican base to campaign from. Reagan did that. Obama just did it for the Dems. (Though neither party was in anything close to as dire straits then as the GOP is now; in fact, both parties were already on the rise.)

    But Reagans and Obamas are rare, and I don’t see one anywhere on the horizon for today’s GOP.

    A lot of them are counting on a Democratic screw-up or failure to get people to turn back toward them. Or, a la Dick Cheney, some external event like another terrorist attack. Both of which are guaranteed to happen sooner or later.

    The thing is, even if it worked, it would work only temporarily, then they’d be right back where they are now with exactly the same problems.

    Waiting for the other guy to screw-up can keep you in the game, but it ain’t exactly a blueprint for good governance.

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