Denialists, Whiners, and Wackjobs

By Begala, Paul | Newsweek, December 3, 2012 | Go to article overview

Denialists, Whiners, and Wackjobs


Begala, Paul, Newsweek


Byline: Paul Begala

There's more than one way to be a Republican.

I used to think Republicans were a monochromatic monolith specializing in Group Think, though without the Think part. The Republicans' reaction to the reelection of Barack Obama, however, has shown a surprising diversity in GOP thought. At least five distinct -approaches have emerged.

The Vince Lombardi Republicans. Political parties exist to win, this group says. If you don't win, you can't enact your agenda, can't protect your values, can't advance your cause. The Lombardi Republicans are pragmatic. They saw President Obama win 72 percent of the Latino vote--the fastest-growing segment of the -electorate--and they had a "Ven a Jesos" moment. Right-wing radio and TV personality Sean Hannity, who used to assail even the modest DREAM Act as "amnesty," now supports a more comprehensive--and dare I say, -liberal--immigration policy. Since the election, Speaker John Boehner has looked with favor on passing immigration reform, and GOP Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina is reportedly working with N.Y. Democratic Sen. Chuck Schumer to fashion an immigration compromise.

Same with taxes. Bill Kristol, the influential conservative intellectual who served in the Bush 41 White House and runs The Weekly Standard, took to the airwaves days after the Obama victory and said, "It won't kill the country if Republicans raise taxes a little bit on millionaires."

This pragmatic strain is in keeping with the finest traditions of Republicanism. As you can see in Steven Spielberg's masterful Lincoln, the Great Emancipator was also a great pragmatist. And none other than Ronald Reagan, the alpha and the omega of modern conservatism, signed both a progressive immigration-reform law and numerous tax increases.

Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal seems to be a Vince Lombardi type. He has bluntly said the GOP must "stop being the stupid party" and went on to decry the current Republicans' fetishistic worship of big money, telling Politico, "We cannot be, we must not be, the party that simply protects the rich so they get to keep their toys."

I happen to think the Vince Lombardi types are right. But, let's face it, they're outnumbered by less admirable Republicans.

The Sour Grapes Republicans. For a movement that aspires to macho stoicism, there sure are a lot of whiny wusses in the GOP these days. I hate whiners. I coach my kids in baseball and basketball, and I have two inviolable rules when they lose: don't blame the other team and don't complain about the officials. Sour Grapes Republicans do both. Donald Trump, the village idiot of a city of 8 million, took to Twitter to call President Obama's reelection "a total sham and a travesty," to propose a "revolution in this country," and to allege (falsely) that Obama had lost the popular vote. Clearly, Trump is living proof that hair spray causes brain damage.

Conservative media critic Brent Bozell is another Sour Grapes Republican, but his focus is on the press. "The media," he writes, "lauded Obama no matter how horrendous his record, and they savaged Obama's Republican contenders as ridiculous pretenders." Umm, Brett, Herman Cain. Michele Bachmann. Rick "Oops" Perry. They actually are ridiculous pretenders.

The Flat-Earthers. When you listen to Flat Earth Republicans, you'd think they actually won. Karl Rove, the legendary Republican bogeyman, led groups that spent $300 million in opposition to the president and congressional Democrats. Ninety-four percent of that money was spent supporting candidates who lost. Rove's analysis after the election: "We did good things this year." Really? It's not like they spent the money trying to do something truly good, like artificially inseminating zoo pandas or inventing untraceable email so Army generals can make love as well as war. …

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