Comments: Week of March 12, 2012

1. The Republican primary “has been the most volatile, unpredictable, and just plain wackadoodle Republican-­nomination contest ever,” John Heilemann wrote in a story on the self-­destructive-seeming campaign, the first half of our two-part cover package on the “GOPocalypse” (The Lost Party,” March 5). “As a Republican, I can only shake my head in amazement at how the party has presumably allowed a golden opportunity to fall through the cracks,” wrote one commenter at “Half the party realizes that doubling down on ideology is not a winning strategy, and the other half hangs on to ideology like a dog does with a bone,” wrote another. At Democrats for Progress, Jeff Rosenzweig allowed himself to gloat: “Even die-hard Republicans have twigged to what we’ve known all along. Whether they’re choosing from among ten candidates or four, the GOP’s options run an impressive gamut all the way from noxious to obnoxious.” But could it have been different? “I doubt any of the GOP elite ever thought they had a chance to beat Obama,” proposed a reader at “Otherwise, they would have found a way to present us with a decent candidate.” And another thought Heile­mann was being way too generous in attributing the unresolved primary to any kind of perceived party crisis: “Let’s get serious. Republicans don’t know what a rhetorical trope or an existential predicament is.”

2. In the second part of the cover package, Jonathan Chait argued that they certainly do—and that the GOP’s apocalyptic mood shows Republicans are genuinely panicked about demographic trends moving the country leftward (2012 or Never,” March 5). “I have a hard time buying this,” wrote Kevin Drum of Mother Jones.I can’t peer into the souls of Republicans, but I don’t get any sense that they believe themselves to be doomed [and] I just don’t think there’s a huge mystery to be solved here. When Democrats lost to Reagan, they nominated first Walter Mondale and then Michael Dukakis before finally tacking to the center and putting Bill Clinton in the White House. That was a twelve-year stretch … Republicans have only been in the wilderness for either four or six years, depending on how you count … They’ll come around eventually.” At The Atlantic, Clive Crook chimed in: “The GOP’s problem is pathological complacency, not fear.” And over at the American Prospect, Jamelle Bouie suggested that a little fear wouldn’t be the worst thing for Democrats, either. “The key thing to remember about the Democratic ‘majority-minority’ future is that it’s not inevitable.”

3. Liberals shouldn’t be so quick to congratulate themselves for progress on gay civil rights, Frank Rich wrote in an essay detailing the many (and recent) hypocrisies of some of gay marriage’s most notable supporters (Whitewashing Gay History,” March 5). “In these times of increasing momentum toward marriage equality, we just can’t forget the checkered history with both Republicans and Democrats,” wrote David Mixner, the LGBT-rights advocate and Clinton-administration insider who spoke out against “don’t ask, don’t tell.” “Rich’s most provocative commentary is his searing indictment of Clinton’s leading role in legislating anti-gay policies,” praised one commenter at, adding that Clinton’s support for the Defense of Marriage Act, which defined marriage as a union between one man and one woman, “was dehumanizing. The former president cynically used gay people as pawns on the chessboard of his political triangulation, a far cry from all his 1992 campaign affirmations to gay men and women that ‘I feel your pain.’ ” Added another: “In the fight against discrimination—racism, sexism, homophobia—false friends can be just as troublesome—if not dangerous—as enemies.” But one reader objected: “All this article does is sow divisions, a slap in the face of people who have the most altruistic reasons for fighting for gay rights.”

4. “What happens when the idea of ideas worth spreading gets spread thin?” wondered Benjamin Wallace in a close study of the TED Ideas conference and the globe-­trotting talking-heads culture of which it is the shiniest avatar (Those Fabulous Confabs,” March 5). The Twitter response was rapid. “A TED-talk takedown, at last!” buzzed @bfcarlson. “Here’s someone brave enough to call TED a ‘babble bubble,’ ” wrote @shelleygare. “A very acute, funny piece about the ultimate insidersville.” @tchayes called the criticism “harsh & not undeserved,” and @johnmwoo added, “When I attempt to listen to a TED talk I think of ‘A Prairie Home Companion.’ This is not a compliment.” At least one reader, though, did speak up for TED. “I really think TED-bashing often sounds like whining,” tweeted @larryferlazzo.

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Comments: Week of March 12, 2012