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Understanding the Wurzelbacher Effect

James Joyner points to an article at Next Right I noticed last night. [1]

Patrick Ruffini [2] decries the “Joe-the-Plumberization of the GOP.”

If you want to get a sense of how unserious and ungrounded most Americans think the Republican Party is, look no further than how conservatives elevate Joe the Plumber as a spokesman. The movement has become so gimmick-driven that Wurzelbacher will be a conservative hero long after people have forgotten what his legitimate policy beef with Obama was.


Conservatives should not need Joe the Plumber to prove their middle class bona fides. We are naturally the party of the middle, and we don’t need gimmicks to prove it. Demographically, Democrats rely on being the party of the upper sixth and the lower third, while Republicans tend to do better with everyone in between. When we start losing the middle class and the suburbs, we lose big like we did in 2008.

Put another way, Republicans thrive as the party of normal Americans — the people in the middle culturally and economically. This is true of our leadership as well — we have a history of nominating figures who came first from outside politics. Our base is the common-sense voter in the middle who bought a house [3] she could afford and didn’t lavishly overspend in good times and who is now subsidizing the person who didn’t.

Of course, they didn’t appoint Wurzelbacher as VP as they did with Sarah Palin.  The two are of a piece:  A faux populism that comes at the cost of alienating the intellectuals and serious leaders of the movement.


I’m becoming increasingly non-plussed with the assertion that Joe represents an ‘unserious’ move on the part of the GOP. It’s that attitude, disaffection and condescension of the Republican rank and file, that led us to the nomination of John McCain, for example, wherein we saw the crowds running much larger for Palin than McCain.

As that mess demonstrated clearly, the bigger danger is in the alienating of the rank and file. I’m amazed that message hasn’t been heard.

James comments:

I’m writing this from the CPAC convention [4] and judging from the speakers [5], there’s not a whole lot of recognition of the need to update the intellectual platform to accomodate a changed era.  It’s as if Jimmy Carter’s still in the White House and Roe vs. Wade was just handed down.

Yeah, well, Look, James… and Patrick, for that matter; I’m less than convinced that what we have before us, ISN’T Jimmah Carter in blackface. Add to that, the issue of the GOP needing to return to it’s roots… the values it’s intellectual leaders spent so long ignoring… and the mood you describe seems to be an exact fit to the situation at hand.

I almost told Pat this last night when he posted his piece… with considerable effort I ignored it, in favor of putting time into the point by point on the SOTU address… but with James jumping on this one, I can’t resist replying.

If Pat really thinks, as he says, that the “Republicans thrive as the party of normal Americans — the people in the middle culturally and economically”, then how is it that the only ‘serious’ candidates are those of the intellectual class? The connection Pat’s never made, in my sight, is that such a middle class party doesn’t feel the need of intellectual leadership… a beholding to an advanced inner circle.

I described this a while ago in my Pajamas Media article on Obama Worship and the Herd Mentality. [6] I dare to suggest that holding the intellectual crowd so high is a herd mentality, one that Republicans simply do not subscribe to. It’s one major reason McCain got clobbered.

I agree, Wurzelbacher’s meme is overblown by his supporters… but why? The very reason that Wurzelbacher gets elevated to the degree that he does is because his end of the party has been ignored for far too long, and they’re latching onto him, because finally, someone’s listening to them. What you’re seeing is the Republican rank and file getting it’s first clean breath in years.

That oughta be a clue as to which way we should go.


Update: (Bit) INSTALANCHE! [7]

Also blogging: Dan Riehl [8]