Friday, February 27, 2009

Nate Silver on Republicans

Nate Silver, the boy with the big brain at, has a thoughtful piece titled Why Does a Person Become a Republican?

The genesis of the article was an experience Nate had on the Metro train as he was enroute to the CPAC convention, home to bipartisan presentations like "Al Franken and ACORN: How Liberals are Destroying the American Election System" and buffoons like Joe the Plumber positing that if he was in Congress, he would be slapping people that weren't in the process of being shot for their lack of support for our troops.

I won't bore you with the details of Nate's experience - you can go read it yourself - but suffice it to say it's an example of mindless bureaucracy, the kind we experience on a daily basis, which is the main point of Silver's lament:

Still, I walked away today, having just been in a sea of conservatives who left me speechless, and thought: this is one tiny example of a major reason people become Republicans. Disgust, anger, annoyance with government interaction (ever wait in line at the DMV?) is distorted within an emotional prism, and suddenly someone is receptive to an anti-government message. What just happened becomes explainable by a larger narrative, and now you have somewhere to channel that disgust. People don't like to have loose disgust. It has to be funneled into a rational and ready explanation, a larger story. It helps a person feel they're regaining control over their environment.

When CPAC attendees gather to glory in their hatred of government, the thing Grover Norquist wants to drown in a bathtub, they are insisting that government is the problem. That it cannot be efficient, and that the side effect is to steal from you (who are good and have earned it) to redistribute to others (who haven't).

Nate's proposition makes a lot of sense, and certainly explains some of the rabid, vitriolic dialogue coming out of the CPAC gathering, which is eerily similar to collections of footage from John McCain's failed 2008 presidential campaign.

What remains to be seen is whether more sane elements of the conservative moment, if there are any left, can retake the messaging machine, or if Republicans will continue their very public contraction into being a regional party based in the deep south.

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