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The Democratic Strategist

Political Strategy for a Permanent Democratic Majority

From the Conservative Grassroots

Like a lot of progressive observers, I have obtained an impression of where conservatives and the Republican Party stand today from a variety of sources, including Republican politicians, right-wing journalists and bloggers, friends and family members of the conservative persuasion, and what I’ve learned about the conservative zeitgeist over many years.
Conor Friedersdorf is suppyling a new and fascinating source, via a short questionnaire he has distributed to Republican county chairmen around the country. He is posting responses, verbatim, at a new website called The GOP Speaks. Given the vast number of county chairs, no one response necessarily means a lot, but cumulatively (he’s up to 21 of them by now), they are very interesting, and generally reinforce the impression that grassroots GOPers are driving the pols to the right, not following them. Virtually all of them attribute socialist motives to the Obama administration, and most (while often distancing themselves from Bill O’Reilly) approve of the abrasive messages being dished out by right-wing cable types. There are a few calls for a “big tent party,” but only in the context of avoiding disputes between hard-core conservatives of different hues; quite a few denounce RINOs and explicitly call for a move to the Right.
As Dana Goldstein has pointed out, Friedersdorf’s respondents illustrate the striking extent to which conservatives have internalized the idea–which used to be a real fringe preoccupation–that contemporary liberals aren’t just proposing bad policies for the country, but are consciously and effectively destroying constitutional government. She suggests, plausibly, that some of this mindset may reflect the influence of Ron Paul and his followers, and perhaps also indicates an eclipse in the power of social conservatives. I’m not sure about this latter contention; it’s the right-to-lifers, after all, who have in the past most notably argued that the constitution was being shredded by “liberal activists” who were trying to remake America in the image of secular Europe if not Nazi Germany.
In any event, it’s a good idea to check in now and then on Friedersdorf’s unvarnished responses, particularly if you don’t have occasion to spend much time around grassroots conservatives in your daily life.

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