Obama’s mandate and the fate of the GOP
Back during the silly season of the Republican primaries, I wrote about the increasing irrelevancy of the GOP. With Obama’s decisive victory and the Democrats increasing their majority in the senate, it is becoming more evident that the Republicans have come to a point where they either must reinvent themselves or they will wither and die. And it doesn’t look like they intend to reinvent themselves.
Both majority House leader John Boehner and minority Senate leader Mitch McConnell betrayed their thirst for extinction in their public addresses immediately after the Democrats handed them a humiliating shellacking. The Democrats increased their senate majority and won seats in areas previously assumed to be Republican strongholds, Obama/Biden drubbed Romney/Ryan in all the key swing states, profoundly liberal ballot initiatives – from gay marriage to legal pot – were passed all over the Union, and the House Democrats became predominantly female and minority for the first time. Not a single Democratic incumbent – in the House, Senate, or a governor’s mansion – was defeated and virtually every Republican who had taken a controversial reactionary position on women’s issues was defeated by a woman challenger.
Despite widespread and strenuous voter suppression attempts by the Republicans in Hispanic and African American communities, those demographic groups carried the day, turning out in record numbers and standing in line for hours to cast their votes against the party of the right. The reaction against the mean-spirited budget proposal, regressive tax policies, xenophobic immigration ideas, medieval social views, and Neanderthal understanding of scientific facts surrounding things like conception, climate change, and evolution, was palpable. Women, minorities, veterans, LGB voters,…all turned out to vote in unprecedented numbers; for Obama, certainly, but significantly, against Romney. A clearer rejection of the basic principles of the Republican Party couldn’t be realistically imagined.
Obama campaigned on social issues, on foreign policy, on economic policy, on domestic policy, and on his record in all of those areas. Romney made it clear that economic policy was what was in play and what he would change. It was economic policy that the Republicans were sure would be the vote-grabber of 2012. Oh, they attacked Obama on all the issues, but they saved their most ferocious and focused attacks for economic issues. While Romney flip-flopped on everything from reproductive choice to immigration policy and lied about everything from his position on Afghanistan to Obama’s “apology tour” (never happened), the Republican machine lied most of all on economic issues. Their two biggest lies were about Obama eliminating the work requirement for welfare (he didn’t) and about Jeep outsourcing American jobs to China (they didn’t, weren’t going to, and said so), and although both were thinly veiled appeals to racism, both were fundamentally economic issues. And above all, Romney chose as his running mate, the Ayn Rand disciple and self-described budget wonk Paul Ryan, best known for his fantastically unworkable and callous budget proposal that Romney just loved (or kinda liked, depending on the audience).
Throughout the campaign, in each of the debates, and on dozens of television ads, Obama stated clearly and consistently that his economic plan would include balancing the budget by spending cuts, but also by imposing higher taxes on the top 2% of income earners in the US. There was never any ambiguity on that issue, in fact that was the plank of his platform that Romney chewed away at. Romney and the Republicans seemed convinced that the American voter was so unsophisticated that the mantra of never raising taxes, ever, for any reason, on anyone would not be seen for what it was…a way of further enriching the wealthy and balancing the budget on the backs of the middle and poorer classes. The voters showed them that they wanted something better for the country than a better off elite.
So what do Boehner and McConnell do on the morning after? Do they say that the people have spoken and their voices were heard? That they see that their policies were rejected in favour of the Democrats’ and that they would respect the voters? That they would work tirelessly to improve the country? That they would debate vigorously but respectfully and recognise the mandate the people had given Obama? Of course not. No. Their political machine started to de-legitimise Obama’s presidency before the polls were closed. They refused to accept that their candidates and policies had simply been rejected in favour of Democratic ones. And both of the party leaders stood in front of the American people who had just administered a political spanking and unrepentantly warned them and Obama that the Republicans would negotiate but would not accept any new or increased taxes on the wealthy and that they would not be “pushed around”.
So, in a nutshell, that’s what’s wrong with the Republicans and why they will cease to be a party of any significance in the United States of America unless they undergo a sea change in the next four years. They fundamentally don’t believe in democracy.
There are many things wrong with their principles, insofar as they have any, but their anti-democratic views are their greatest failing. They are willing to sell their policy positions to wealthy buyers, the country’s natural resources to oil companies, they will gerrymander, suppress the vote, lie, cheat, dissemble, and obfuscate…these were all part of their election strategy. They claim to respect the constitution when it comes to gun laws but reject it when it comes to the separation of church and state. They claim to want government out of our lives when it comes to regulating capitalism but want more when it comes to controlling women’s bodies. But their principles and methods were seen by all and the American people are not content to be treated contemptuously; their politics were rejected. The Republicans were told in no uncertain terms that the people of the United States were not as stupid, as selfish, as dogmatic, and as brutally contemptuous of others as the GOP is and assumes everyone else is.
One would think that they would have taken something away from the chastisement they just endured, but they didn’t. In fact a sizable proportion of the Republican die-hards is convinced and is claiming that they lost because they didn’t turn far enough to the right. Despite the fact that this is astonishingly stupid (do they think that their true fanatics voted for Obama because they really wanted Mike Huckabee or Rick Santorum or Newt Gingrich?), there are some who believe it.
Perhaps what will happen is that the tail that has been wagging the elephant, the Tea Party caucus, will actually form their own party when the GOP breathes its last and leave any Republicans with sense to flounder around and find new life. The Tea Party will die without the support of moderate Republicans, and that is a good thing. The Republicans may then come back in another form, or with a different name, but still supporting business, smaller government, and capitalism, and that too, is a good thing. The United States has shown the world that their two-party system is unstable; but a one-party system, even if that party is the Democrats, would be worse. The country needs another party that is capable of governing; that party is not the Republican Party in its current incarnation.
All signs are that US politics is in for some very deep changes; the question is whether a bang or a whimper is to be expected.