There Can Be Only One! (in which I use Highlander to finally figure out the GOP)


Tod Kelly

Tod is a writer from the Pacific Northwest. He is also serves as Executive Producer and host of both the 7 Deadly Sins Show at Portland's historic Mission Theatre and 7DS: Pants On Fire! at the White Eagle Hotel & Saloon. He is  a regular inactive for Marie Claire International and the Daily Beast, and is currently writing a book on the sudden rise of exorcisms in the United States. Follow him on Twitter.

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35 Responses

  1. Avatar Tom Van Dyke says:

    But FOX booted Glenn Beck.  There’s a hole in the slime here.Report

  2. Avatar Scott says:

    Glenn who?  Does anyone really listen to him anymore?Report

  3. Avatar Kolohe says:

    The thing is, the Gingrich boom has been the first thing to really split apart the overt comity of the Republican nominating process (except for Paul throwing a few media haymakers at Perry during his boomlet).

    Until now, everyone’s been nice, and everyone’s been polite, and Romney’s been able to ride that wave until now.  (with the Not-Romney being the sizable undertow).  Gingrich, though, due to personal history, has a lot of people now overtly choosing sides – but not Talk Radio, and not Fox News.Report

  4. Avatar James K says:

    A few years back Eliezer Yudkowsky postulated an “evaporative cooling” model of group dynamics, where some setback causes the most sceptical group members to leave, increasing the average fanaticism of the remaining members.  This reaction can be self-sustaining, leading to a large group imploding into a tiny core of the most fanatical members.Report

    • Avatar Tod Kelly says:


      See, this is what rocks about this site.  I make an observation and play it for a quick laugh, and someone still finds a way to come and contribute something both substantive and cool.Report

    • Avatar James Hanley says:

      the GOP base continues to come to the ever-repeating conclusion: “If only there were far less of us, we could totally win every election!”

      That’s the dynamic, but not their thought process.  Following on JamesK’s point, these fanatics believe there is truly a majority of people like them, but who are cowed and overwhelmed by a fanatical minority (yes, the irony runs deep).  Some who claim to be part of the fanatics’ group are either overt liars trying to subvert them or weaklings who have have been corrupted.  Their prominence further discourages the “true” majority from being actively engaged.  But if you can weed those corrupted leaders out, and nominate someone with true commitment to the cause, that silent majority will finally coalesce and roll to victory–all it takes is a true movement-faithful leader to stir them from their slumber.

      It’s tempting to say conservatives are most likely to do this, but I’m not positive that’s true.  I’ve known plenty of left-leaners who were/are persuaded that if the Dems would just nominate a “true” liberal (like Nader), then they’d be unstoppable, but as long as the Dems keep nominating moderates like Gore and Kerry, the mass left has no reason to come out and vote.

      It seems fantastic that people could believe this, but keep in mind that most people surround themselves with like-minded folk.  I’ve met Texas righties who were left speechless when I disagreed with their near-deification of W and Oregon lefties who couldn’t fathom that I didn’t think Nader would be a good president.  My own dear mom once said that she couldn’t believe Clinton was re-elected because she didn’t know anyone who had voted for him.  And I remember a guy from Minneapolis who was sure that W. couldn’t win re-election because everybody he knew hated him.

      Yes, they’re deceiving themselves about the wider world, but in the world they know, they actually are an overwhelming majority.Report

      • Avatar Stillwater says:

        It’s tempting to say conservatives are most likely to do this, but I’m not positive that’s true.

        Well, if you comb the camps finely enough, you’ll find all sorts of evidence that doesn’t fit neatly into any non-trivial general theory. So I agree and disagree with what you said above. On the disagreeing side, I tend to think the difference here is that conservatives have made the conspiracy-based paranoid-style a central part of their identity whereas only some marginal liberals do this.  (And in fact, using some of the useful argument styles you mentioned in your comment, I’d say something stronger: since I’ve never met a liberal like that, they simply don’t exist!). Of course, even this claim is subject to conspiracy-based paranoid-style rebuttal: that my belief that conservatives employ these tools more than liberals – or at all! – is evidence of liberal conspiracies!


        • Avatar James Hanley says:

          I incline toward agreement, but still hesitate.  Certainly the Republican party is more distinguished by this at present than the Democratic party.  But keeping in mind that we’re all subject to confirmation bias, it’s possible that you and I see this as more indicative of conservatives (as distinct from the Rep. party) than liberals (as distinct from the Dem. party), because we’re looking for evidence of the one and looking for non-evidence of the other.

          I suspect you’d be hard-pressed to find conservatives who are doing this who actually think this is what they’re doing.  And I’m pretty darn sure you’ll find plenty of conservatives who aren’t themselves doing this who disagree that it’s even happening.  (Although you’ll find plenty of moderate Republican/former Republicans who are sure it’s happening.)Report

          • Avatar Will Truman says:

            I would add to this… conspiracy theories and paranoia cultivate most strongly when out of power… when the other side is pulling the strings, that is.

            And, to add to your “confirmation bias,” the difference between a theory and a paranoid conspiracy theory is at least partly a matter of perspective. There is a gray zone wherein when our own side says something that doesn’t pass the smell test, we think “That’s wrong, but I do understand where they are coming from” and when the other side does the same, “That’s absolutely ridiculous.”

            I am on the record as saying the GOP is in a particularly bad way at the moment. But it’s a difference in degree as much as in kind of where the Democrats were with regard to Bush in 2004. Drawing the line between the two and saying “Here, it’s central” and “There, it was an aspect” strikes me as a judgment call impossible to separate from our own perspective and subjective experience of us and them.Report

            • Avatar Tom Van Dyke says:

              WillT, I think the anti-Clinton derangement of the ’90s fits what you’re saying here better.  As an “insider” on GOP thinking, I think this round is far more policy and performance-based.

              As for which party is worse, let’s see if & when Gingrich is the GOP nominee.  Because Gingrich is a lightning rod for the same sort of feelings and always has been.Report

      • Avatar Tom Van Dyke says:

        James Hanley nails it.  Others: We are the 99%, Pauline Kael* in the bubble of the lefty chattering class.

        LoOG posts claiming to know the Republican mind via media accounts of Glenn Beck.  I happened to tune in to Beck’s radio show this morning, and he admitted he’s catching hell.  But he did have Michele Bachmann on, and they agreed he’s right.

        [Which he partially is, that Romney and Gingrich are more moderate than the Bachmann wing, which stands below 10% in the polls.  Gingrich-as-moderate setting the teeth of the Pauline Kael types on edge:  Gingrich is only demonizable as a Beck-Bachmann type kill-grandma conservative, hence the narrative is at odds with itself.]

        * “I live in a rather special world. I only know one person who voted for Nixon. Where they are I don’t know. They’re outside my ken. But sometimes when I’m in a theater I can feel them.”Report

        • Avatar Tod Kelly says:

          A couple of points:

          1. I can’t speak for the rest of the League, but I for one certainly do NOT claim to know the mind of the GOP circa 2011.  I strongly suspect that they are in the middle of a period of re-self-discovery, but what the heck do I know?  Every time I think I have them figured out and am confident they are serious about governing again they schedule a Presidential debate that serves as a Donald Trump vanity project.  And then when I am sure they are beyond hope for the foreseeable future the candidates I think of being the least  serious and most in need of the spotlight pull out of said debate because they think it’s undignified.  Other than being very certain that they despise Obama with a white-hot fury, I freely admit I can’t figure them out.
          2. I get that you are irritated that I mentioned Glenn Beck.  But you focus on my one brief mention of him, and ignore the actual point of the post – which is that the GOP seems to be continually bickering about who should be allowed to stay and who should be forced out at the exact moment in time they desperately want a super-majority.  (Interesting side note: When writing this I googled “Ann Coulter Criticizes RINO” – and do you know what you get when you google that these day?  Pages and pages of conservatives calling Ann Coulter (!) a RINO or liberal shill for stating that Romney has the best chance of beating Obama.)  As an outside observer I find this all very odd, and detrimental to their long-term strategy.  And the part I find the most odd is that so few people in the GOP seem to get that this behavior is not it their best interests.
          3. For the record, I do not actually believe the GOP is preparing for the Gathering.  This was a joke.


          • Avatar Tom Van Dyke says:

            Yah, Tod, I got it was a joke, but if you’re going to do Jon Stewart’s act, it’s gotta be funny.  Mostly, it was just a sneer.  [Altho that’s a big part of his act, too, but be that as it may…]

            As for Ann Coulter, again, she’s been pushed out of The Club too.  The thing is, I could do Ann Coulter here at the LoOG but delighting a third of the readership by insulting another third doesn’t seem the proper way to go for a blog that considers itself open to all comers.

            Of course there is a segment of the right who moan about RINOs.  If we’ve been paying attention [and of course we have], we have those on the left who see Obama as a sellout, and call him some sort of centrist.

            Now there’s a joke.  Bill Clinton is a centrist, which is why you see him chiding Obama on the class warfare stuff.  And I don’t mind a good joke, and the funnier it is, the less its courtesy matters.  But the best jokes come when they ring of truth, not one-sided caricature and this one was rather ham-fisted.Report

      • Avatar Kolohe says:

        There’s also the more straightforward dynamic of “we are right, if we get our way things will be better and people will like us and keep us in power” that arguably sincere partisans of both sides ascribe to.Report

      • Avatar 62across says:

        It’s tempting to say conservatives are most likely to do this, but I’m not positive that’s true.  I’ve known plenty of left-leaners who were/are persuaded that if the Dems would just nominate a “true” liberal (like Nader), then they’d be unstoppable, but as long as the Dems keep nominating moderates like Gore and Kerry, the mass left has no reason to come out and vote.

        Nader perhaps not, but lefties certainly followed this thought process with Howard Dean. He’s the one who started the whole “take our country back” rhetoric (against both Republicans and Republican-lites as the netroots called them at the time) and until The Scream, he was poised to go somewhere in 2004.  But, Dean was one anti-establishment guy running against everyone else (Gephardt, Kerry, Edwards), while with the GOP this year, you’ve got the opposite, one establishment guy running against everyone else.

        As for the GOP, it will be interesting to see how this thought process plays out with Speaker Gingrich.  He is the strongest yet to play the role of “someone with true commitment to the cause.” Granted he talks the talk more than he walks the walk, but if you are convinced that all that is needed to win the day is a vociferous defense of your beliefs, then Newt’s your man.  Gingrich brings the added bonus, that if he is soundly rejected in the end, it won’t because the ideology he is peddling isn’t what the true majority of the country wants, it will be because of his personal failings.Report

  5. Avatar Pat Cahalan says:

    “It always comes down to a Good Highlander or an Evil Highlander.”

    Nitpick.  Connor MacCleod was a Scots highlander.  He’s the one the movie is named after.  The Kurgan was the bad immortal, but he wasn’t a Scot.  He was a Kurgan 🙂  The other immortals were international.Report

  6. Avatar LK says:

    I added a couple of other dystopian 80s films that might help explain the Republican primary here.

  7. Avatar Rufus F. says:

    I’ve never seen the Highlander films, although I’ve been told I need to see Highlander a number of times. My guess with Gingrich is that nobody really thinks he’s a socialist because it seems like too much of a stretch. I think it’s more like there are the voters and the higher ups, and the voters really like Gingrich, while the higher ups are thinking that Romney has a better chance against Obama. So we say that Gingrich is a socialist and that maybe takes his edge off.

    Honestly, though, I imagine that all of these debates will be about as relevant in six months as the PUMAs are today, so I’m going to start paying attention around that time.Report

  8. Avatar Stillwater says:

    So that’s my new pet theory about why the GOP acts like the GOP: There can be only one.

    Or this: if conservativism isn’t a theory so much as a collection of sentiments, then instantiating those sentiments in The One will require those sentiments to map onto policy in perfect harmony. But if policy, being empirical and messy and icky and all, can never accurately represent the underlying sentiment justifying it, then no Policy Creator can represent True Conservatism. Only the one true Sentiment Expresser can do this.That means a politician who doesn’t advocate for policies.

    So the search for Neo continues.


  9. Avatar Jaybird says:

    The possibility exists, however unlikely, that Ron Paul will come in First or Second in Iowa.

    (Insert rant about the Iowa Caucuses here.)

    Ron Paul will make Clancy Brown look like Mario van Peebles.Report

  10. Avatar JG New says:

    This post has given me such insight – and it explains why Sarah Palin didn’t run this time around.  She’s staying on holy ground (Wasilla, AK) where she cannot be killed and is waiting out the current round of beheadings/quickenings until she can emerge in the future and take the head of the last GOP immortal standing. Then SHE will be the OneReport

  11. Avatar JG New says:

    Actually, however, I think a better analogy for today’s GOP involving mass beheading and a spiral into ever-growing radicalism is the French Revolution.  The moderates, intellectuals, and other RINOS et al. are the Girondins and have been sent off to the waiting tumbrils.  The Tea Party candidates and others pandering to the radical GOP base (the Paris mob) are the Marais, with Gingrich as Robespierre and Romney as St. Just.  Rick Santorum is Marat. Fox News is Le Pere Duchesne and Roger Ailes is Jaques Hebert.  Sarah Palin is Mme Lafarge (OK, she’s a fictional character, but so, I suspect, is Palin), joined in her knitting in the Place de la Concorde by Michelle Bachman and Anne Coulter.

    Where’s Charlotte Corday when we really need her?Report

  12. Avatar wardsmith says:

    I’ve said before that I always liked Huntsman as a candidate because I had the great good pleasure of a one on one conversation with him including speaking some Mandarin together. Here we have a Lincoln-Douglas style debate with Huntsman and Gingrich and you’ll see why I admire the man. Also this format beats the bejeezuz out of the tripe they are feeding us on the MSM and their gameshow “debate” format.

    After this brief commercial in favor of sanity, I now send you back to your redoubtable GOP bashing.Report