The Party of Crazy

THE PARTY OF CRAZY…. We talked yesterday about the developments with the Republican Party of Florida, where a push from the far-right ousted the state party chairman, undercutting the state’s once-popular governor. Given that this dispute has become the epicenter in the larger effort pitting the largest factions of the GOP coalition against each other — conservative Republicans vs. very conservative Republicans — it’s a fight with national implications.

After Greer’s departure, DNC Chairman Tim Kaine issued a statement that got me thinking. It read, in part:

“Today’s right-wing led coup of Republican Party Chairman Jim Greer is a telling and unsettling sign about the extreme direction of the Republican Party — a direction that is narrowing the Party ideologically, demographically and, ultimately, electorally.

“We’re not even a full week into 2010 and the extreme right wing of the Republican Party has claimed another trophy for its wall — adding Greer to Senator Specter and Dede Scozzafava in its quest to purify the Republican Party, eliminate moderate voices and enact an extreme right-wing agenda. […]

“Anyone who was wondering if Republican leaders possessed the power to curb the extremism of the far right and channel it into a productive force has their answer today in the silence and lack of support from national Republicans as Jim Greer departs in the midst of this GOP civil war. Greer’s departure confirms that the GOP’s biggest liability this year will be its right-wing that sees November’s elections as an opportunity to purify the Party — at any cost.”

As it turns out, there were several other campaign-related stories that generated quite a bit of attention yesterday afternoon, and major national outlets largely ignored the developments in Florida.

But Kaine’s message struck me as interesting because it may point to a more compelling campaign narrative for 2010.

For the last year or so, Dems have been hammering the “Party of No,” which isn’t bad. Most of the American mainstream seems unimpressed by a party that reflexively rejects every idea, regardless of merit, while offering nothing substantive of its own.

But the “Party of No” can only go so far. Indeed, some Republicans seem to like the line of attack as a rhetorical tool. (“We’re the party of no new taxes, the party of no increases in government spending, the party of no health care reform,” etc.)

But what Kaine was alluding to was something else — Republicans aren’t the “Party of No”; they’re the “Party of Crazy.” They want a smaller, more rigid party that deliberately drives moderates away, leaving the GOP even more right-wing than it was.

If the goal is to marginalize Republicans as a scary, outside-the-American-mainstream force, the DNC would certainly have a lot of material to work with if it decided to push this as its central campaign theme.

One of my favorite quotes from recent years came from NBA legend Charles Barkley, who said in 2006, “I was a Republican until they lost their minds.” It’s the kind of sentiment Democratic officials may be tempted to broadcast more.

It’s a straightforward kind of meme: those guys are nuts. The message could be repeated almost every day, and applied to almost every issue.

This week, for example, former Colorado Lt. Gov. Jane Norton (R), who is trying to impress right-wing activists as part of her Senate campaign, told a group of voters that “the rights of terrorists are more important in this administration that the lives of American citizens.”

Now, I have no idea if Norton actually believes this nonsense, but what does it say about a party where this rhetoric is rather common? Well, maybe it means we’re talking about a party that has “lost their minds.”