Beat us, we need it, say Republicans

Activists turn against Bush
LET’S quit while we’re behind. It’s time for a time out. We’ll win by losing.

These are some of the astonishing comments by leading conservatives who hope the Democrats will win November’s congressional elections.

In a snub to President George W Bush, a growing number of Republicans believe the country will benefit from the checks and balances of a divided government.

The idea that there is a silver lining to losing the House of Representatives, if not the Senate, is gaining ground at the very time when Republicans’ hopes of holding on to their majority in Congress have been rising.

The party revolt began as a wheeze in Washington Monthly, a left-wing magazine, which teasingly invited half a dozen staunch rightwingers to explain why the Republicans deserved to lose. “‘Count me in’, was my chipper response,” said Joe Scarborough, a former congressman turned broadcaster. He had been appalled by the profligacy of the Bush government, which has permitted spending to rise by an average of 10.4% a year.

Christopher Buckley, a satirical novelist and son of conservative guru William Buckley, not only laid into Bush’s “incontinent conservatism” but also the unleashing of “sectarian carnage” in Iraq. In a pastiche of one of America’s founding fathers, he said: “Hand over the tiller of government, that others may f*** things up for a change.”

The writers expected their remarks to be greeted with outrage. Instead the Republican rot went mainstream with an article in The New York Times last week by Ramesh Ponnuru, a leading conservative ideologue who argued that “a straight loss . . . would make the Republicans hungrier and sharpen their wits.”

By Friday the debate reached National Review, the bible of conservatism, where Jonah Goldberg, a former Bush cheerleader, conceded: “I can’t quite hope the Democrats win. But I can’t bring myself to say I’d like more of the same.” Republicans had been enjoying a lift in the polls before the McCain rebellion and outbreak of internal dissent.

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