This story in Tiger Beat by Tim Alberta (chief political correspondent for Politico Magazine) is everything:
Earlier this month, while speaking via Zoom to a promising group of politically inclined high school students, I was met with an abrupt line of inquiry. “I’m sorry, but I still don’t understand,” said one young man, his pitch a blend of curiosity and exasperation. “What do Republicans believe? What does it mean to be a Republican?”
You could forgive a 17-year-old, who has come of age during Donald Trump’s reign, for failing to recognize a cohesive doctrine that guides the president’s party. The supposed canons of GOP orthodoxy—limited government, free enterprise, institutional conservation, moral rectitude, fiscal restraint, global leadership—have in recent years gone from elastic to expendable. Identifying this intellectual vacuum is easy enough. Far more difficult is answering the question of what, quite specifically, has filled it.
Well, one should point the kid to the late, great Molly Ivins, who advised us to never listen to a politicians words, but instead to check the record. But do continue.
Bumbling through a homily about the “culture wars,” a horribly overused cliché, I felt exposed.
I would not recommend lying to the Yutes of Today, they have a BS meter unlike any previous generations have ever had.
I decided to call Frank Luntz. Perhaps no person alive has spent more time polling Republican voters and counseling Republican politicians than Luntz, the 58-year-old focus group guru. His research on policy and messaging has informed a generation of GOP lawmakers. His ability to translate between D.C. and the provinces—connecting the concerns of everyday people to their representatives in power—has been unsurpassed. If anyone had an answer, it would be Luntz.
Frank Luntz? He of the ersatz Oval Office in his basement, complete with the actual Clinton cigar box? That one? Sweet Jeebus!
And we’re off!
“You know I don’t have a history of dodging questions. But I don’t know how to answer that. There is no consistent philosophy,” Luntz responded. “You can’t say it’s about making America great again at a time of Covid and economic distress and social unrest. It’s just not credible.”
Luntz thought for a moment. “I think it’s about promoting—” he stopped suddenly. “But I can’t, I don’t—” he took a pause. “That’s the best I can do.”
Look, when Old Scratch Junior, the debbil hisself who worked with Noot to come up with unified messaging and the infamous Power Words back in the Clinton Era cannot come up with a pithy soundbite, something’s way off.
When I pressed, Luntz sounded as exasperated as the student whose question I was relaying. “Look, I’m the one guy who’s going to give you a straight answer. I don’t give a shit—I had a stroke in January, so there’s nothing anyone can do to me to make my life suck,” he said. “I’ve tried to give you an answer and I can’t do it. You can ask it any different way. But I don’t know the answer. For the first time in my life, I don’t know the answer.”
And that’s because the GOP, at least in my lifetime, has never stood for anything other than smash-and-grab. Remember Ivins’ Axiom: look at their record and not their words, and in my lifetime that would be looting the treasury, killing people of color, and hating/oppressing anyone who is not white, male, Xristian. They are the party of the Ends Justifies the Means, and both the ends and the means are pretty crappy.