I was all set to write a post speculating about who might be sufficiently crazy enough to win the Republican presidential primary in 2012, when David Brooks tried to throw some sand in my gears:
The talk jocks are now in spittle-flecked furor. Day after day, whole programs are dedicated to hurling abuse at McCain and everybody ever associated with him. The jocks are threatening to unleash their angry millions.
Yet the imaginary armies do not materialize. McCain wins the South Carolina primary and goes on to win the nomination. The talk jocks can’t even deliver the conservative voters who show up at Republican primaries. They can’t even deliver South Carolina!
….[The] media mavens who claim to represent a hidden majority… in fact represent a mere niche — even in the Republican Party.
Is it possible that all the sound and fury of the Becks and Limbaughs and their unhinged minions really signifies nothing? That the bigots and weirdos carrying racist and incoherent signs in DC last month were the sum total of Beck’s loyal minions, and everyone else only watches him for the same reason people watch Jerry Springer and NASCAR? That the real "silent majority" in the Republican Party is made up of sane, decent, practical-minded folks who find their lunatic fringe appalling?
Well, maybe. Brooks’ logic is a little shaky, as he apparently assumes that the support of conservative talkers would be enough to overcome Thompson’s fatal laziness, or the anti-Mormon bigotry that dogged Romney (so to speak). There’s influence, and then there’s miracle-working.
Since we can’t really rely on the presidential primary results (plus the fact that the Republicans have actually become even more insane since then), what else can we look at? Alas, there are no polls which ask respondents "Are you a raving insane person who gets all your information from Fox News and talk radio, Yes, No, or Not Sure?", so we’ll just have to look at how many of them are birthers and deathers instead.
I found polls from July (Kos/Research 2000) and August (Public Policy Polling) on whether or not Obama was born in the U.S. The July poll yields 42% Yes, 28% No, and 30% Not Sure from Republicans, while the August poll breaks down 36/44/20. On the question of death panels, I found a September poll (Kos/Research 2000) which echoes the Republican scare language about "level of productivity in society." That one breaks down 43% No, 26% Yes, and 31% Not Sure.
If we ponder all of those numbers together, it appears that roughly 40-45% of Republicans spend most of their time on this planet, while the rest hover somewhere between Wildly Credulous and Ted Nugent. In other words, a significant majority of Republicans are so far out of touch with reality that the most insane talk radio conspiracy garbage sounds pretty plausible to them. Even if they’re not at Rush and Beck’s beck and call, they’re sure as hell listening. And believing.
I was going to write that the Republican Party is so crazy now – and getting crazier – that Sarah Palin could have a serious shot at the nomination. But now I’m wondering whether she’s crazy enough.