Sunday, November 16, 2008

The GOP is whistlin' Dixie


-- by Dave

Well, now that the Republican governors have snubbed Sarah Palin when selecting their leadership group in Miami, it's semi-official that the bloom has slightly faded from Palin's rose -- and not a moment too soon.

Which means the GOP is going to start looking a little more seriously for leadership in the coming four years to help lift it out of the miasma in which it is now deservedly enveloped.

But look at that list:

South Carolina Gov. Mark Sanford was voted RGA chairman, taking over the top job from Texas Gov. Rick Perry who will now serve as finance chairman. Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour is vice-chairman, while Florida Gov. Charlie Crist will serve as chair for the annual RGA gala, and Georgia Gov. Sonny Perdue will head up the recruitment effort.

Well, as much as the South's political power was diminished in the last election, it's pretty plain that the GOP for the foreseeable future is the Party of the South.

Out of this group, Barbour's name is perhaps the one we've heard most frequently on the tips of right-wing talking-head tongues. But Barbour has quite the checkered history: He's notorious for ardently promoting the Confederate flag and consorting with the white-supremacist Council of Conservative Citizens -- and he does so unapologetically.

So if Barbour does emerge a serious party leader, it will mean the GOP has thoroughly embraced its Cro-Magnon, neo-Confederate wing, and the dog-whistle rabble-rousing we saw from McCain and Palin in 2008 will look positively civil in comparison.

Another name not on this list, but frequently mentioned (and yet another Southern governor) is that of Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal. Ezra Klein has a good piece at TAP about Jindal:

Chief among the prospects is Louisiana's Bobby Jindal, a former Rhodes Scholar and health policy bureaucrat who's taking a step into health care innovation today with a major proposal to reform how Louisian's Medicaid system works.

There's one problem with all this: Jindal's actual record as governor, particularly as he's tried to enact "conservative" reforms in education, health care, and housing, has been nothing short of disastrous, a classic case of the calamitous effects of conservative governance. Isaiah Poole at FDL had the rundown earlier this year, describing how Jindal's "reforms" have done nothing but deepen the misery of Katrina-struck Louisianans, particularly those in New Orleans:

The American Prospect's Mori Dinauer uncovered this note of praise of Jindal from Rush Limbaugh: "Bobby Jindal, the new governor of Louisiana, is the next Ronald Reagan." The title fits, given Reagan's disdain for the poor and for people of color. (Though it's unlikely that Reagan ever included performing exorcisms on his resume.) Add Jindal's unconditional opposition to abortion under any circumstances (15 years old and raped? Tough.), his support for teaching the doctrine of "intelligent design" in public schools and his opposition to civil rights protections for gay and lesbian people, and you have a perfect storm of ideological disaster for the New Orleans and the state.

But, like Reagan, Jindal can be smooth, charming and even disarming. As the shock of Katrina recedes from the collective memory and as the recovery effort continues to boil in a murky stew of inertia, Jindal is well equipped to be the next great facade for conservatism — as long as no one is asking questions about what's behind the front.

Sounds like the Republicans' kind of guy.

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