The ongoing joke is that this last presidential election was not merely a battle between democrats and republicans, but between math and ideology – math being represented by the self-described math-geek Nate Silver, who predicted a victory by Obama based on statistics, and ideology championed somewhat retrospectively by Karl Rove. For those who missed it, Rove refused to believe the polling data and adamantly cautioned FOX News staff from calling the election, even as the minute-by-minute poll updates solidified the inevitable victory for the incumbent president.
However, underlying this lighthearted view is a grain of truth. Statements like the Romney campaign’s telling reply to critics, “We’re not going to let our campaign be dictated by fact-checkers,” conveys more about the ideological foundation than many conservatives realize or are willing to admit.
David Frum, a former speechwriter for President George W. Bush and an active conservative blogger and commentator, said of the current Republican Party that “…the followers, the donors and the activists are so mistaken about the nature of the problems the country faces…” that they couldn’t answer basic true or false questions relating to taxes and welfare. In the same televised interview with Joe Scarborough, Frum repeated twice that “Republicans have been fleeced and exploited and lied to by a conservative entertainment complex,” after saying “I won’t soon forget the lupine [wolf-like] smile that played over the head of one major conservative institution when he told me that ‘our donors think the apocalypse has arrived.’”
Journalist Max Blumenthal has followed the movements of the Republican Party for a long time, and the subtitle of his book, “Republican Gomorrah: Inside the Movement that Shattered the Party,” appears much more prophetic as we witness the worldview of the GOP in its present form collide with a reality that seems to be taking people like Karl Rove by complete surprise.
The problem, as stated by numerous commentators including both Blumenthal and Frum, isn’t that people don’t understand the conservative message – it’s that they do understand it, and they’re rejecting it precisely because of that fact.
According to Blumenthal, the Republican platform has been more or less hijacked by the Christian Right since the years of Reagan, particularly by organizations like the Family Research Council. These groups hold such persuasive power over their conservative supporters that social and religious issues like abortion and gay marriage get thrust into the political arena and conservative leaders are forced to take an ideological stance on such issues – stances that often don’t conform with reality.
“What happened to Mitt Romney,” concluded Frum in his interview, “was he was twisted into pretzels; the people who put the cement shoes on his feet are now blaming him for sinking.”
Is there a future for conservatives in America? Absolutely, but there may not be one for organizations like FOX News. As communication technology and investigative journalism techniques become more sophisticated, transparency will become thorough and our understanding of what the problems we as a nation need to be working to solve will only increase. Conservative politicians practically disowned by the current GOP, like John McCain and Ron Paul, must take over party’s message and ideals from people like Sarah Palin, Rick Santorum and Rick Perry. A political party founded on an ideology that doesn’t conform to reality must either accept this fact and adapt or perish.