The Tea Party is a grass-roots movement — wild, woolly and chaotic — which sometimes makes it hard to figure out exactly what it stands for. But to the extent that the movement boasts a single animating idea, it’s the conviction that the Republicans as much as the Democrats have been an accessory to the growth of spending and deficits, and that the Republican establishment needs to be punished for straying from fiscal rectitude.
Brendan wrote me over the weekend to get the Disgruntled Hoosier take on Mike "Choirboy" Pence's stunning victory in some Iowa Church Basement Straw Poll last week, which, of course, led our nation's political insiders to start pundicating about his potential for a stunning third-place showing when the official Iowa Church Basement Straw Poll takes place just sixteen months hence.
Spite Across America! sounds like a good theme to me, especially since he's not going to go for Mike Pence: Holy Shit! my first choice.
(Of course, as you and Brendan already know, the Disgruntled Hoosier take is Lying cocksucking motherfucking thieving microcephalics! which is his answer to just about everything. This makes him sound dangerously like a Libertarian, except that the predictive value and real-world correspondence of his Answer For Everything can be expressed as a Natural Number, without recourse to the Integers.)
What Brendan really wanted to know was my take on what a potential Pence candidacy has on the odds that all those interested parties will convince the Reluctant Mitch Daniels to save the country. My short answer is "It's not for nothing that among this generation of Hoosier politicians the breakout stars were Dan Quayle and Evan Bayh, the Mamie Van Doren and Diana Dors of Marilyn clones".
And my long answer is "I spent a decade telling everyone that Americans would never elect Ronald Reagan President, and this was after they'd elected Nixon." I pretty much stopped talking to anybody after that. In fact, this the real reason I hate cellphones; the odds are there's a person on the other end of the conversation, and the two of you share a language, at least nominally.
So here's the thing, and if you can get someone to lay the bet off in Vegas for you, doubling down on the opposite of what I say is always a sure winner: Daniels is just the middling wet dream--the fantasy constructed in the odd bathroom half-hour with just the lingerie section of the Sears catalogue for assistance--of Republican insiders in the darkling of the second Bush administration, back when they--like Douthat, like anyone with a reasonable amount of sense and absolutely no familiarity with the moronic potentiality of the American voter--figured the Republican Jig was Up for at least half a generation and they'd better see what they could do to sound sensible. Options, of course, were few. Even in 2006 you needed a second helping of Kool-Aid to truly buy into Daniels' Indiana Miracle; today, well, you really should see what he's reduced to. The Mighty Atom has been convinced--he's constantly bombarded by advice givers, and oddly so for a man with such an oversized Ego--to use his PAC money to pepper the airwaves with ads urging Hoosiers to elect a Republican majority in the House. It makes the same fictitious claims about the state economy he made in his own Last Campaign, but he's now reduced to quoting the Wall Street Journal, some made-up anti-tax think tank, and Peter Travers of Rolling Stone*. "While other states were raising taxes, we were lowering ours," he says, confirming that for the Big Brains of the Republican Economic Wing, sales taxes don't count as taxes (when you add in the 1% increase used to convince the rubes their property taxes were going down **, Daniels-era Indiana has the highest tax increases of any state east of the Mississippi).
Of course, this is why having Daniels and Pence in a Presidential primary has such a fantasy appeal: Mitch forced to attack God & Guns, while Pence has to spill the bean-counting about Daniels' little accounting tricks. It has, as St. Ambrose once said, the satisfying effect of witnessing our enemy's helpless gurgling after an imaginary debate with ourselves. Not gonna happen, in other words: Daniels is perhaps the first general in history to be fully prepared to not fight the last war, which didn't occur. Palin usurped his place in '08. He needed to come out swinging right then, but, of course, he couldn't. And these guys will for ever more run scared of the GOP primaries. (This is, by the way, part of the distinctly masochistic enjoyment of the current political landscape, this idea that the Grass Roots Teabaggers have shunted the religious nuts to the side. They'll be right back at the table as soon as there's the tiniest success come November. It's going to increase the criticism of the Republican party as insufficiently Teabaggerist for 2012. Daniels real hope is for a massive repudiation this fall. Otherwise he's in Iowa for the next sixteen months trying to out-flag-lapel-pin and Ten-Commandments-on-the-Courthouse-lawn the likes of Palin, Huckabee, and, yes, Pence. And you can take that to Vegas.)
As for Pence, well, I'll never say never again, and to the extent that intellectual incapacity for the job is now seen as a positive attribute he's well positioned. I would just add that these days one should perhaps take extra caution around the professional religious figure who hasn't been caught in a sex scandal. It's just not natural.
* That's a joke, in fairness to Mr. Travers' political beliefs, though not his movie reviews.
** Advance Indiana brings us the shocking news that nearly three-quarters of the ballyhooed Property Tax Relief is going to landlords and businesses; this, coupled with the fact that the real costs of roping yourself into pseudo-reform will become apparently only after Daniels and associated henchmen have skimmed the cream and skedaddled. California, here we come!