If the Republican Party really wanted to hold on to the White House in 2009, it's pretty clear what it would do. It would grit its teeth, swallow its doubts and nominate a ticket of John McCain for president and Mike Huckabee for vice president -- and president-in-waiting.
So, Republican voters are sacrificing an easy win on some principle or other. Let me be clear, none of the Republican candidates is attractive to me. I happen to think Ron Paul is admirable for standing on principle, even if I think those principles are wrong. The rest of 'em, from Romney and Giuliani to Huckabee and Fred Thompson, are all deeply flawed politically in a variety of ways, McCain among the rest. The point is not whether or not I, or Broder, or anyone outside the Republican Party and its caucus-goers and primary voters think one or another is a wise choice. Right now, the top three candidates in the Republican field at Romney, Giuliani, and Mike Huckabee - because that is who various pluralities support. Period.
In a democracy, this is the way it works. Broder's lede betrays his disdain for democracy - why can't these people accept the wisdom of their betters and select the candidates we support? - as well as a tin ear for political realities. Broder doesn't like messy politics. He doesn't like people who hold strong views, whether they're ultra-liberal or conservative. They are the great unwashed, impassioned demos who don't understand that studied deliberation and emotional detachment is far better than, you know, really caring about stuff that's important.
The specifics that have Broder cooing a love song to the Senator from Arizona and former Arkansas governor are their refusal to beat up on immigrants at this past week's Republican Primary Candidates debate.
[U]nlike the other[ candidates], who seem to take their rhetorical cues from the rabidly anti-immigrant Tancredo, Huckabee and McCain always remember that those who struggle to reach the United States across the deserts or rivers of the Southwest are human beings drawn here by the promise of better lives for their families.
Actually, this was one of the few good moments in the debate. The rest of the gang tried to show how tough they were, pledging and over-pledging all sorts of promises that are meaningless in order to show they would be tough on all those brown folk who are invading our shores, stealing our jobs, and making us listen to Salsa.
Huckabee was asked to defend a bill he sponsored that the questioner said "gave illegal aliens a discount for college in Arkansas by allowing them to pay lower in-state tuition rates."
The former governor corrected him. The bill, he said, "would have allowed those children who had been in our schools their entire school life the opportunity to have the same scholarship that their peers had, who had also gone to high school with them and sat in the same classrooms. . . . It wasn't about out-of-state tuition."
Romney was not appeased. He said Huckabee sounded like a Massachusetts liberal, giving the taxpayers' money to people who are here illegally.
To which Huckabee replied: "In all due respect, we're a better country than to punish children for what their parents did. We're a better country than that." He, too, was applauded.
I think we are that better country. And I hope the Republicans agree.
See, David, the thing is, Republicans don't agree. The primary voters in the Republican Party are terrified of the hordes crossing the Rio Grande. They are distressed by the slow but ever-increasing Latinization of the United States. They don't want to hear Spanish spoken. They don't want to have chili become the state food of Missouri, or goat cheese replace good Wisconsin cheddar. It all comes down to hatred and fear of funny-talking brown folk from a country most of these primary voters couldn't find on a map.
This is where Broder's tin ear comes in. He doesn't recognize this, because he refuses to take such bigotry seriously. Because he has nothing about which he is impassioned, except perhaps keeping passions out of politics, he simply can't credit the rabid anti-immigrant stance of the current Republican front-runners. It is literally outside his ability to comprehend.
I believe we are a better people, and a better country, than the one the Knuckle-draggers want us to be. I do not believe that most Americans hate and fear Mexican immigrants, regardless of legal status. Yet, such views are, at least vocally, representative of a significant portion of the Republican electorate right now. And it's a losing issue - go back and look at the post-mortems on the Virginia state elections if you don't believe me. Brown Bashing is a sure-fire loser, so I think the Democrats should allow the Republicans to be as vocal as possible about how tough they'll be.
That's an aside. On the central point of Broder's column, we are confronted with the conundrum of someone who is presented as both intelligent and insightful being both stupid and purblind.
That's not exactly news, but it should be remarked upon. Again.