One wonders just how long it will be before the Republican party realizes that its scorched-earth, win-whatever-it-takes political tactics are consigning the party to electoral marginalization. It‘s been noted many times by moderate and left-wing pundits that the more the Republican leadership panders to the conservative base, the more moderates they alienate from the Republican party.
At first glance, it would seem that the conservatives would hold a distinct advantage. After all, according to a Gallup poll, nearly twice as many Americans, 40% to 21%, identify themselves as conservative rather than liberal. However, in that same poll, 35% of the respondents identified themselves as moderates or independents, and it is this demographic that the conservatives are abandoning in their drive to solidify the base. In the last election, Obama/Biden got 52.9%; in order for the Democrats to reach that percentage of the popular vote, they would have had to attract ninety-one percent of the moderates!
This is why the Republican party has done so poorly in the past two national election cycles.
The current Republican political model is simply untenable. They are facing one major disadvantage above all others: the instantaneous flow of information. The exchange of information leads to learning, to growing, to change, and change is, by definition, what a conservative should oppose. But what does their resistance to change, their adamant clinging to values of generations past, really do for the party as a whole? Such obstinacy only ensures that, as the world moves on, the Republican party will be left behind.
For instance, thirty years ago, would top-ranked television shows include homosexual partners? Would there have been legal homosexual civil unions and legal rights and protections, much less gay marriage? Would a mixed-race marriage not even raise an eyebrow in most of the country? Would a mixed-race man with a Muslim middle name have even been considered for a career job in the government, much less as president?
Of course not, but now, such are the norm. The world is moving on, and the Republican party is stuck in a death spiral; every time a Republican says or does or encourages something illegal, immoral, or otherwise politically abhorrent, that Republican is only accelerating their descent to political marginalization.
To wit: a short list of conservative political missteps:
- Fox News – the ‘fair and balanced’ official sponsor of Tax Day Tea Parties
- The U.S. Chamber of Commerce blasts Obama’s budget and recovery plans. In this article in the New York Post, the C-of-C’s chief economist called it “the biggest return to the welfare state we’ve seen in decades.” That was a couple weeks before the Dow Jones hit bottom at about 6600 – it’s now about 8500. It’s interesting to note that just today, banks repaid the U.S. government $68B in TARP funds, and JP Morgan Chase is now paid in full. It should also be noted that in every major recession, including the Great Depression, the economy only recovered after massive infusions of taxpayer funds. The veterans of the Japanese economic meltdown of the 90‘s that heralded their economic lost decade had three words of advice to help us recover: “More money, faster.”
- There are the conservative pundits who wanted Ahmadinejad to win the Iranian election, and when the obviously fraudulent vote tally was published, they blamed the results on Obama.
- Of course Fox News couldn’t be left out of it – their commentators and guests said Obama’s speech “gave 9-11 sympathizers a voice on the world stage”, and repeatedly called the President’s overseas trip an “apology tour”.
- According to conservative pundits on Fox News, Iran is “one of the most hideous regimes in the world” (never mind that women there have FAR more rights and protection than they do in our ally, Saudi Arabia) and that our "only hope" is regime change, which term in modern politico-speak refers to assassination, coup, or invasion. Gee, a THIRD war! That’s just what the world needs, right? The same pundits also said that North Korea’s bad behavior and their arrest of two American citizens are “a humiliating repudiation of the Obama policy on North Korea” as if controlling the antics of North Korea’s Dear Leader were as simple as that!
- From South Carolina, after a gorilla escaped from a zoo elsewhere in the state, a GOP county chairman decided that “I’m sure it’s just one of Michelle’s ancestors — probably harmless.”
- Also from South Carolina, a campaign manager for the GOP candidate for governor tweeted, “Just heard Obama is going to impose a 40 percent tax on aspirin because it's white and it works."
- Yet more from South Carolina, where last year a GOP house member was caught with a flyer on his desk which stated that Obama was sure to lose the black vote because he had promised a job to all black Americans, but that those black Americans were too lazy to actually want the jobs.
(Gee, one wonders how successful the South Carolina GOP will be in winning the minority vote in the next several elections?)
- And I‘m sure by now we‘ve all heard of this repugnantly racist e-mail, sent by the legislative staff member of a GOP state senator, who only regretted that she sent it "to the wrong group."
But it’s not just about foreign policy and racism. Now RNC Chairman Michael Steele claimed that the upcoming Constitutionally-required census would be used for political gain: “Certainly the collection of this information is going to be part of an ongoing political campaign by this administration.” Not to be outdone, MN GOP Congresswoman Michelle Bachmann said that she would not be answering any questions in the census beyond how many people are in the household. Perhaps she is unaware that much more than that is required by Federal law.
We liberals can only hope that many, many conservatives fall into line behind the examples set by Steele and Bachmann, because refusal to complete the census would automatically result in lowered funding and governmental assistance and representation (but not taxation) in majority conservative areas, but then, once this happens, they’d just blame us liberals for it anyway.
One must ask, though, why are the Republicans so paranoid about the census now, but we’ve heard nary a peep from them for the past eight years? Could it be that they’ve found another strawman?
But let’s not get too far off track, because the above claims are just from the mainstream conservatives. Let’s look at some of what the far-right extremists have been doing. Remember the the Department of Homeland Security’s draft memorandum back in April? Remember the warning that the current economic and political landscape created dangerously ripe conditions for a resurgence in radicalization and extremist recruitment? Remember RNC Chairman Michael Steele’s outrage?“…talk about arrogance. Talk about insult. I mean to segment out Americans who dissent from this administration, to segment out conservatives in this country who have a different philosophy or view from this administration, and labeling them as terrorists…”
So let’s not look at words, but at deeds:
- There’s the rural Pennsylvania paper that published an ad apparently calling for the assassination of President Obama.
- A former Army enlisted man decided that all liberals should be killed because they were ruining the country, and so he opened fire in a church that espoused liberal values, killing two and wounding six more.
- We all know about the right-wing evangelical Christian activist who recently killed an abortion provider, though the conservatives quickly claimed they had no part in encouraging such an act, never mind that Bill O’Reilly had crusaded against the victim for years, calling him “Tiller the Baby Killer”.
- According to pundits all across the conservative spectrum including Limbaugh and Beck, James von Brunn, the longtime anti-Semite who decided to "go out with his boots on" when he attacked and killed a security guard at the Holocaust Museum, was actually a leftist! The New Republic decided to take a closer look, and found that von Brunn’s words and deeds evince his adherence to a significantly more extreme version of Pat Buchanan’s world view, for von Brunn in no wise seemed to abide by any classical liberal tenets.
- We could mention the former leader of the uber-patriotic Minutemen, those self-appointed guardians of our borders. It seems he and two other comrades – who had been expelled from the mainstream Minutemen for their extremist views, decided to rob and kill a family, including a nine year-old girl. But this isn’t domestic terrorism, it’s "just a heinous crime."
Sure, there are Islamic extremists and even a few left-wing extremists who murder innocents, but despite the Bush administration’s assurance that left-wing extremist groups like the Earth Liberation Front were the most dangerous domestic terrorist threats to America, the number of violent hate groups in America rose more than 50% during the tenure of the Bush administration. In fact, in the ten years ending in 2005, almost sixty right-wing extremist plots were discovered and foiled. Here is a list of some of those plots. I strongly doubt a similar list of left-wing extremist plots can be reproduced by a reliable source. I really don’t think it’s an exaggeration to state that the great majority of violent extremists, those willing, even eager to take innocent lives to achieve their goals, identify much more strongly with the conservative right than with the liberal left, for that is what the available evidence shows. If someone can prove me wrong on this, please do so.
So where are we going with all this? As late as the 1950's, conservatives held sway in both parties, but in the sixties, something happened. The winds of change began to blow. Some of the more powerful Democrats began to embrace the nascent change in the American psyche, or at least they adjusted their sails to run before the wind sown over generations of slavery and Jim Crow, of prejudice and misogyny, that began to make itself heard as whispers and groans of the victims of institutionalized discrimination grew in harmony with the voices of the artists of the most influential decade in musical history and howled in grief and pain with the assassinations of Martin Luther King and Bobby Kennedy. Yes, even the most cynical among the Democrats had to acknowledge the growing power of the minority and alternative-lifestyle electorate and saw that someone, someday would reap the whirlwind…
But the Republicans saw nothing, or chose to see nothing. They denied the cries for help in leveling the playing field from minorities, the gay community and women, and they have begun to pay the political price. It's not without cause that the Republican party has been referred to as the party of old white men, for that's all that's left when one subtracts the women, the minorities, and the youth, the majority of each of which now firmly reside in the Democratic camp. Furthermore, as the years have passed, the Republican party, being less and less influenced by the liberal ideas that often come from minorities, women, and youth, has become more and more tolerant of right-wing extremists who have since gained some measure of political power in the Republican hierarchy. The echo-chamber of right-wing hate talk , for that’s what it is, has led to a dangerous juncture. Republican party politics have become a vicious circle of who can best affix whom with the labels most offensive to the Republican base; it’s a sad thing to see the once-proud party of Reagan and Eisenhower subscribe by default to the vile tactics of the McCarthy era. The Republican party is now reaping the whirlwind that the Democrats took pains to avoid a generation ago; it is doubtful that the GOP will emerge with as positive an image as it has even now, much less that of its glory days under Reagan, when the Republican party did indeed bestride the narrow world like a colossus.
None of us want one-party rule. Bush may well have wanted it, and Rove certainly did and worked deliberately with that goal in mind, but we liberals certainly don’t want one-party rule, such is anathema to us. But we can’t correct the disastrous course of the Republican party for them, they have to do it themselves. Let’s hope they find the moral courage and intestinal fortitude to do so.