March 26, 2005

Two Republican Strategies

Aha! Josh Marshall finds potential hypocrisy among the GOP:
Grover Norquist, quoted in the Post: "Advocates of using federal power to keep this woman [i.e. who do you think?] alive need to seriously study the polling data that's come out on this. I think that a lot of conservative leaders assumed there was broader support for saying that they wanted to have the federal government save this woman's life."

If this is really about 'sav[ing] this woman's life' why look at the polling data?
Except this isn't true hypocrisy, because it's Grover Norquist, and Grover Norquist just doesn't care. Sex, divorce, pulling plugs on vegetative patients, whatever, Norquist has always been fine with it! The issues concern him only insofar as they encroach on his ability to assemble a GOP majority that can cut lots and lots of taxes. And right now, it seems, he's worried that the Terry Schiavo case is encroaching—which... is interesting.

From what I remember of Gang of Five, Nina Easton's book about the conservative movement, Norquist's view has always been that the vast majority of the country basically agrees with various Republican views, and the key to victory is holding together enough constituencies to get to 51 percent on election day. And so, the reasoning goes, the GOP shouldn't try to do anything, like try to shove a feeding tube down Terry Schiavo's throat, that might upset other constituents in that majority (like small government conservatives). Basically, polling data and coalition-juggling are everything.

Meanwhile, other Republican leaders—Easton used Bill Kristol as an example here, though I think it applies better to others today—believe that conservative views don't have any sort of majority in this country. So they need to convince and persuade a lot of people to come to their side, which is of course a long-term project. And sometimes, it seems, that strategy involves taking a hugely unpopular stand, if only to reinforce the view that the GOP stands up for what it believes in, no matter the cost. Even if most voters don't share that perception now, eventually they'll forget about this whole Schiavo incident, but remember that Republicans stood firm. At least that's the theory. (In other words, I don't think it's merely the case that the GOP leadership got dragged haplessly this fray by a bunch of extra-frothy religious conservatives, as the big Post story today suggests; to some extent they know what they're doing, or think they know.)
-- Brad Plumer 1:34 PM || ||