Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Ken Adelman Doesn't Speak for GOP Base

Folks are making a big to-do out of Kenneth Adelman's endorsement of Barack Obama.

If there was ever
a lukewarm endorsement, this one's it.

But besides that, the endorsement's ringing in what it's telling us about the schisms in the GOP. The
Booman Tribune points the way:
It's somewhat unsettling to see swine like Ken Adelman endorsing Barack Obama, but it's telling. Yes, a lot of people are beginning to see what side of the bread the butter is spread on. But there's more to it than that. Adelman didn't express any disappointment with McCain's tactics. His big concerns were with Palin and with McCain's erratic performance during the economic meltdown. But the elites within the Republican Party are definitely seeing the race-hatred that McCain and Palin are stirring up. And they don't want to be associated with it. They've tolerated the whole anti-abortion, war on Christmas, anti-science-gibberish trend of modern Republicanism because indulging those people gave them the votes they needed for lower taxes, less regulation, and bigger defense budgets. But outright calling your opponent an anti-Ameican, socialist, terrorist-coddling, welfare-king? That's too over the top for the likes of Ken Adelman or Colin Powell or Peggy Noonan or Lincoln Chafee, or Chuck Hagel, or Dick Lugar, or the editorial boards of countless right-leaning newspapers, or George Will, or David Brooks, or pretty much anyone with an ounce of self-respect and respect for others.

It's an excellent sign for Obama's presidency that he has such a broad range of elite support. He will have a nice honeymoon. But, what about the rancid, snarling, remnant of the modern conservative movement? Is this it? Railing against imaginary socialism? How long will it take for the GOP to regroup and retool enough that they can begin to attract back the Adelmans and Powells and Brooks and Wills and Chafees and Lugars and Hagels?
Once you get past Booman's teeth-grinding commentary, we can see what's really going on: Leftists like this think the new Republican Party, starting with Newt Gingrich in the 1990s, but likely to be carried forward in the years ahead by the likes of Sarah Palin, is some demonic pseudo-fascist aberration - a subterreanean trend of ideological extremism that will fade away after a term or two of Democratic Party rule.

First, I think Booman's getting ahead of himself. It's not good form to talk of an Obama presidency, essentially, in the present tense. We have two more weeks to go, and Adelman's endorsement is hardly a game-changing October surprise.

More fundamentally, though, is this notion that people like Colin Power, Kenneth Adelman, and Chuck Hagel, etc., speak for the contemporary conservative base of the Republican Party. If these folks are a kind of proxy for the Rockefeller Republicans of days gone past, and this is the true legitimate backbone of the party, then Booman needs to wake up.

Powell's an elder statesman, and he's looking for a few more golden years in Washington after turning-in a troubled tenure at State. Adelman's a largely-forgotten arms control expert whose greatest moments came
during the Reagan administration in the 1980s. Throw-weights and MIRVs aren't on the tips of the tongue for most policy wonks nowadays, although maybe Adelman might be of use to Obama in the event of Tehran's acquisition of intermediate range ballistic missiles. And Hagel's RINO, to put it simply. His criticisms of the Bush administration and the Iraq war might as well been published at Daily Kos or the Huffington Post.

Pundits now are talking about people like Gingrich and Palin leading the GOP field for the presidential nomination in 2012. Beyond that, we might see folks like Bobby Jindal, Mike Huckabee, Mitt Romney, and Tim Pawlenty as the top GOP leaders in the next couple of election cycles.

Among journalists, Robert Kagan and William Kristol are likely to have more influence than David Brooks or Peggy Noonan. It's fun to buck the tide with some iconoclastic commentary, but when push comes to shove, those pumping up the party line will have the inside track on the presidential beat of power during the next Republican era.

And keep in mind, I'm not throwing my hands up on McCain/Palin right now. This race is going down to the wire, no matter what the overconfident netroots hacks have to say about it.