WaPo Warns GOP's 'Ideological Fissures Loom,' Sees No Similar Trouble For Dems

November 4th, 2009 4:35 PM

This afternoon, the Washington Post's Web site offers readers two looks at how the Democrats and the GOP will proceed following the 2009 elections, but, surprise, surprise, the paper only forsees internecine squabbles for the GOP.

"Republicans revel in wins but ideological fissures loom," the headline to Washington Post staffer Philip Rucker and Perry Bacon's news piece filed at 2:30 p.m. EST today. On the other side of the coin, the Post offered an "analysis" piece from Dan Balz published shortly after 10 a.m. today that posits that the "Contests serve as warning to Democrats: It's not 2008 anymore."

Even before delving into the content of the articles, it's clear by the  labeling that the Post sees the GOP's pending "ideological fissures" as a matter of objective news reporting, while the Democratic postmortem is a matter of informed "analysis," not hard news.

For their part, Rucker and Bacon aimed, like others in the mainstream media -- click here, here, and here --  to gin up an ominous narrative for the GOP party-wide from the New York 23rd congressional district saga:

[B]ehind the Republican Party's elation after capturing the governorships in New Jersey and Virginia are troubling fissures within party ranks over how best to lead the GOP back to power in 2010.

Conservative grass-roots activists drew national attention to New York's 23rd congressional district by bucking the party establishment and forcing out a Republican nominee, Dede Scozzafava, whom they deemed too moderate. But the conservative third-party candidate they backed, Doug Hoffman, lost by four percentage points to Democrat Bill Owens. The surprising Democratic win could spark new GOP disagreements.


As the party turns toward 2010, however, ideological battles between moderates and conservatives are underway from Florida to Illinois to California, and emboldened conservative activists said they will fan out across the country to challenge establishment candidates in GOP primaries. The divide is not simply between moderates and conservatives, but between the Washington establishment and conservative grass roots.

"Grass-roots conservatives pretty well run to the sound of the guns," said former House Republican leader Dick Armey, whose Freedom Works group organizes tea party protests and backed Hoffman in New York. "There are a lot of races out there where we see possibilities that there will be a grass-roots uprising against the Republican nominee on behalf of some grass-roots or small-government conservatives."

Conservative activists cast the win by Owens as a defeat caused by the Republican establishment, which had backed Scozzafava, a fiscal moderate who supports abortion rights and gay rights. They said the experience was a victory nonetheless for the conservative movement because it signaled the strength they could bring to other races next year.

For his part, Post staffer Dan Balz failed to examine what rifts the Democrats may face heading towards the 2010 election, particularly between more moderate Blue Dog Democrats who are wary of an electoral pummeling in the midterms due to the unpopularity of liberal Democrats, and more "progressive" Democrats who are aiming to ram through ObamaCare at all costs.

Instead Balz told readers it was Republicans who faced a fractious future, dismissing the New Jersey and Virginia elections as referenda on the president and insisting that the Obama coalition was merely troubled by some "cracks" and lessened enthusiasm:

[T]he Republicans' celebration was marred by the surprise loss of a House seat in upstate New York that had been in GOP hands for more than a century. The race that underscored the consequences of the ideological warfare that now grips the party and threatens its ability to rebuild itself as a broad-based coalition.

Neither gubernatorial election amounted to a referendum on the president, but the changing shape of the electorate in both states and the shifts among key constituencies revealed cracks in the Obama 2008 faction and demonstrated that, at this point, Republicans have the more energized constituency heading into next year's midterm elections.

While Balz admitted that independents have been aligning with conservatives and Republican on key items in the Obama domestic agenda, he warned that Republicans could squander their opportunity to win moderates, yet failed to consider whether Democratic primary voters might demand ideological purity on the liberal side of the coin and hence harm Democratic chances in the 2010 races:

For months, polls have shown that independents were increasingly disaffected with some of Obama's domestic policies. They have expressed reservations about the president's health-care efforts and have shown concerns about the growth in government spending and the federal deficit under his leadership.

Tuesday's elections provided the first tangible evidence that Republicans can win their support with the right kind of candidates and the right messages. That is an ominous development for Democrats if it continues unabated into next year. But Republicans could squander that opportunity if they demand candidates who are too conservative to appeal to the middle.