Sometimes, Steve M. can be very concise, which is a nice skill to have as a writer and an analyst. In this case, what struck me was how efficient he was in explaining the basic problem with the right-wing model of stoking perpetual fear and outrage without even the slightest regard for a factual foundation for their claims.
[Chris] Cillizza admits that Jeb inspired walkouts, that Jeb got heckled, and that Sean Hannity was a surprisingly gentle to Jeb in their CPAC Q&A. (I don’t think the mostly softball nature of the questions is a surprise at all — Hannity may make a living stoking purist right-wing rage, but every four years the guy who signs Hannity’s paychecks decides it’s time to find some Republican who’s electable and try to catapult him into the White House, even though Republicans struggle in presidential elections precisely because they first have to appeal to voters Fox has made into a hysterical mob. Murdoch and his henchman Roger Ailes don’t even want to dial down the mob-goading long enough to fluff a presentable candidate properly, which is why Mitt Romney got a cold shoulder from Fox for much of the last campaign, but the folks at Fox think they want someone electable, so of course Hannity was nice to Jeb.)
Jeb is still for immigration reform. He’s still for Common Core. As Martin and Maggie Haberman remind us in a separate Times article, Jeb supported giving driver’s licenses to undocumented immigrants and allowing them to pay state college tuition at in-state rates, although he’s repudiated those positions.
So he’s not what Republican voters want.
We can go over this again and again and again, but the Republican base hasn’t had the candidate they wanted since Ronald Reagan ran for reelection in 1984. It isn’t necessarily a problem for a candidate seeking the Republican nomination that they are unloved by the base, even though the base theoretically has some influence on who will lead the party.
But, recent history suggests that the base is powerless to stop squishes like Poppy, Dole, McCain, and Romney from beating out their more conservative competitors. What the base is good at is freaking out their nominees and getting them to commit fatal errors. Poppy didn’t really need to promise no new taxes, but it was a broken promise that cost him dearly. McCain overcompensated for his weakness with the base by giving us Sarah Palin. And, in his contorted efforts to speak to a base that had become completely unmoored from terrestrial reality, Romney set the land-speed record for lying by a human being.
I don’t know if Jeb helped or hurt himself by speaking at CPAC. I really don’t.
I do know that when addressing a room full of untethered zoo animals, you’re lucky to emerge with your life. That Jeb felt the need to bus in some tame animals demonstrates that he doesn’t actually understand the nature of the threat.