One of my favorite friends from college was Scott. He was (and likely remains) outrageously funny, smart, and sarcastic, and we lived in the same dorm for two years running. Our second year, having abandoned his loutish roommate, he moved all of his belongings into our second floor lounge and squatted there until the custodians locked him out of the room, but that’s a totally different story for another day. Scott came to St. Lawrence University from the Deerfield Academy boarding school, a tradition-rich WASP haven in New England whose motto is “Be worthy of your heritage.” We got several weeks into our first semester at SLU when Scott copped to the fact that he couldn’t do laundry, so we tromped downstairs to the basement of Reber Hall (rut roh!) where I meticulously explained the nuances of Tide and bleach. He had a look on his face that basically said: Isn’t this what we pay people to do? but I endeavored on. I was expounding on an astonishingly wide variety of underwear folding techniques when I stumbled upon a pair of his boxers that had the Deerfield motto and crest on the front, and on the tush was written: “Where the hottest party is the Grand Old Party.”
So I stole Scott’s underwear.
Look, I was a Government major from DC, Reagan was in office, and this just killed me. All of my tee shirts and printed clothing read leftie things like: “Experts agree! Meese is a pig!” so finding something that was so gung-ho Republican was both totally different and really funny. I still have the boxers, and take them out when I’m feeling blue and need a laugh. This may be one of those boxer weeks, actually.
Anywho, I was reminded of Scott’s underwear after my star-student Antonio sent me this cartoon about the future of the GOP in regards to the Invisible Primary. The Republican Party may very well remain the hottest at Deerfield but they seem to be losing their way off-campus, in no small part to their steadfast devotion to their own heritage. Since the cartoon references yet another Bush (that would be Jeb), we will begin with him and then get to the other members of the Sonnenkinder (that one’s for you Adam Rapp!).
We’ve heard a whole bunch from Jeb Bush lately, thanks to the release of his book “Immigration Wars” and the ensuing press tour that landed him on the Sunday morning chat shows. Since it seems fairly straight-forward that one I.P. technique is to write a policy book and hawk it to hell, Jeb was asked repeatedly about his 2016 prospects which brought this rejoinder to David Gregory of NBC: “Man, you guys are crack addicts. You really are obsessed with all this politics.” Umm… Jeb? Did you miss the briefing about what the Sunday morning shows are about? Because I have it filed away on my computer in my “patently obvious” file, right next to the documents titled “Congressmen want to be re-elected” and “Chocolate is delicious!” Back to his book, which is on immigration: His TV sales pitch led to a slew of headlines about whether or not his new immigration stand makes him more in-line with the GOP, a flip-flopper, or a back peddler. But this really was subtext for the big question about his 2016 intentions, and he added fuel to the fire by saying he would not rule anything out. Crack addicts indeed.
Moving on to CPAC, since the conservatives arrive in DC this week for their annual bacchanal, the conference program is out and the speaking times have been listed by The Atlantic right here. Sen. Ted Cruz gets to speak for the longest amount of time (33 minutes) and after that, my girl Sarah Palin is allowed 16 minutes. Trump, Jindal, Paul, Perry, Rubio, Walker and Ryan each get just over 10 minutes each. I’m not sure if this means too much, but it does give insight to who the cool kids are on the right wing of the GOP. And only at CPAC does Donald Trump count as “cool.”And... Sarah Palin gets more time than the rest of those folks? Really? Moving on....
Speaking of Sen. Rand Paul, his filibuster last week (the 9th longest in history, apparently) garnered much I.P. attention, not only because he kept the floor for so long but also because he got great press because of it. Even though a few Republican stalwarts (Sens. John McCain and Lindsey Graham most notably) criticized the effort as “ridiculous,” Paul gained a ton of support from the likes of House Majority Whip Kevin McCarthy, former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, and GOP strategist Steve Schmidt among others. We already knew that Paul the Junior has his eye on the 2016 prize and would lean forward into any spotlight, but as my favorite Uncle, Larry the Libertarian, notes: What made this special was the boost that Paul got from social media. According to the WaPo, Twitter was on fire with more than a million Tweets. Nicely noted, Uncle! It was this social media attention that brought what our marvelous Nicholas noted to be even more Senate attention from another I.P. favorite, Marco Rubio. Much jockeying for attention, Invisible Primary candidates! Well played!
And so now we double back to the conundrum facing the Grand Old Party: Being worthy of your heritage is not the same as being accessible to the electorate. That seems to be the biggest problem facing the Republicans as they march towards 2016. As Bill O’Reilly noted on Election Night (in terms far more crass than this) you can no longer win an election with just the WASP establishment behind you. You can bet your Gin & Tonics that the lack of ethnic diversity will be problematic for a party that is struggling to re-define itself, since Rubio and Jindal are the two clear exceptions to the white-guy rule seen in our I.P. front runners. But that said, into this void comes a bit of intellectual diversity where Paul in particular doubles-down on the libertarian strain of conservatism. We see this attention to the far right in the CPAC run-down, which (as noted) very specifically excludes a more moderate Chris Christie. Don’t yell at me – I know the “C” stands for “Conservative,” but still. The right wing of the Republican Party is hoping to add a little heat to the GOP.
Long live the Deerfield boxers.