It already looks as if as much silly stuff will be said or written in the aftermath of the election as in the run-up. I have listened to the explanations offered by Karl Rove, Fox News commentators, and various Republican officials, for GOP losses in the presidential and senatorial races. So I have learned that Republicans are not likely to abandon their alternative reality. I shall try to avoid the silliness which I have detected in others by sticking with the original, not to say only, reality.
The two states which tried hardest to suppress the vote of cohorts inclined to vote Democratic still failed to steal the election for Romney and down-ticket Republican senatorial candidates. Ohio and Florida became irrelevant to the Electoral College count providing Obama with his victory. Without Ohio’s 18 votes, Obama would have 285; without Colorado (9) and Iowa (6), he would still have the necessary 270 to win. Without Florida’s 29 votes—forget it: they were unneeded because the national race had been decided two days before the state race was decided.
The poetic justice of Ohio’s and Florida’s irrelevancy is that Republican machinations putting party power ahead of democracy and country roused voters to overwhelm their Republican presidential and senatorial candidates. This party-defeating misconduct of Ohio’s corrupt Republican secretary of state and Florida’s criminal Republican governor not only intensifies contempt for them, but also implicates their state parties, other party officials, and their party enablers. Meanwhile, Ohio’s and Florida’s Democratic senatorial candidates beat their challengers.
In these and other states, Republicans made fact-free claims of virtually non-existent voter fraud to justify legislation to suppress the vote of hundreds of thousands citizens inclined to vote Democratic. For an example close to home, New Mexico Governor Susana Martinez, a Republican touted for higher office immediately after her election only because she is Hispanic and female (to Republicans, the political attributes equivalent of good looks), claimed 64,000 suspicious cases of possible voter fraud, loosed the state police across the state, found nothing, and retreated into silence.
Nationwide, Republicans revealed that the only significant election fraud has been theirs. The National Republican Party contracted $3-million-dollars worth of efforts at voter suppression. Republican legislatures passed laws, often at the last minute, requiring hard- or costly-to-obtain forms of identification. Republican administrations shortened voting days and hours, reduced the number of polling locations, and issued confusing and changing instructions for voting. None of these Republican efforts had anything to do with preventing voter impersonation. By contrast, no such efforts occurred in states with Democratic governors. Again, it is clear which party believes in democracy and which misleads that it does.
The reason for this disparity is clear. Democrats are for liberty and justice—economic, social, as well as legal—for all; Republicans are radically inconsistent, divided between small government for economic and racial Darwinism and big government for social Big Brotherism—succinctly, unregulated banks and regulated bedrooms. This division in the Republican Party means that addressing the problems acutely and visibly presented by Obama’s election (and re-election) is unlikely to be healed by patchwork concessions to diverse constituencies.
The current Republican circular firing squad is blaming everyone and everything: Romney was too conservative or not conservative enough; his staff was inept; Chris Christie overpraised Obama; Sandy diverted attention from Romney and showcased Obama—where is Pat Robertson when we need him to declare that the hurricane was God’s punishment of the GOP? The consensus among most Republicans seems to be that they were, of course, right on substance, just rough on style. So the GOP agrees with Rush that Sandra Fluke is a slut and with Romney that Rush should have used sweet talk to say the same thing (women fall for sweet talk every time).
The Republican leadership—elected officials, party officers, and party czars like Rush Limbaugh and Roger Ailes (we can now forget about Carl Rove)—will likely avoid anything like reflection, which conservative ideologues believe is for liberal weenies and Harvard professors. Instead, the GOP will resort to its reflexive approach to all problems: money, misrepresentation, and manipulation. Some have already begun suggesting that it need only offer a few marginal concessions on a few issues which matter to women, Hispanics, blacks, other minorities, seniors, students, and the poor. The GOP expects these people to appreciate the condescension of Republican white males, seasoned by ethnic and gender self-promoters like Marco Rubio, Bobby Jindal, and Susana Martinez.
For example, the GOP approach to disaffected Hispanics will be amnesty leading to permanent residency for illegal immigrants, but, note, no pathway to citizenship. That is, the Republican solution to the presence of illegal immigrants is to create a large group of Hispanics unworthy of citizenship and, therefore, unable to vote (Democratic). No doubt, Republicans will think that the Hispanic community will be, or at least should be, grateful to them for dividing it into two groups, Hispanics first-class and Hispanics second-class.
But trinkets and tinkering will not win the votes of these constituencies. They know the Republican game and will go for real, not cosmetic, change. Yet Republicans are not likely to recognize what they need to do to survive as a party or to do what they cannot conceive or would not accept. For they are blinded or self-deceived by their assumed supremacy, whether racial, religious, cultural, or economic. To abandon their smug sense of superiority and descend to political equality is unthinkable or undoable.
The Republican Party may be unable to address, and adapt to, the implications of a diverse demography of races, religions, gender identities and orientations, and cultural allegiances—for reasons ironic. For its “Southern strategy” exploiting pre-existing racist animosities and specific racist opposition to the Civil Rights legislation of the 1960s has created a largely white, male-dominated party with an intensely intolerant, ideologically rigid “base” now unlikely to amend its attitudes and adopt policies attractive to others in time for near-term elections in 2014 and 2016. It certainly cannot win those elections by allowing the “base” to pick extreme GOP’s candidates in primaries and then appealing for the votes of moderates and independents as well. Since the GOP did not win the presidential and most senatorial races in 2012 by relying on its “base,” it cannot hope to win in the future as trending demographics continue to diminish the proportion of whites.
So the inter-party squabble will be ugly. On one side, cultural, social, and religious conservatives like Paul Ryan, Rick Santorum, and Mike Huckabee; on the other side, economic and political moderates like Chris Christie, Jeb Bush, Jon Huntsman, and—who else? Caught between the two sides, the Tea Party will have an identity crisis as it is pulled in different directions and will likely splinter. Likewise, the Republican Party will split if it persists in trying to accommodate these contending sides by expedient but unprincipled vote-swapping. If the Republican Party splits into its two main constituent parts, the result will be a dominant Democratic Party and two smaller conservative rivals.
Meanwhile, the “base” of the Republican Party—the Billie-Joes and Betty-Lous, and their racial and religious kith and kin in the South, the Plains, and the Rockies—continues to decline in importance and power. So, I write, not an ode in praise, but a dirge on the demise, of the young to middle-aged white males, along with their girlfriends or wives, with little more than their white skin and their high school sheepskin, if that, as measures of their attainment. As they are discovering, their race does not signify superiority or even validate their worth, their poor education in a changing economy limits their opportunities, so they are stuck in low- or no-skill jobs which barely pay the bills.
Meanwhile, these Billie-Joes and Betty-Lous see themselves being bypassed by better-educated and harder working women and minorities. They sense, though they may not speak, their plight: trapped, powerless, even despairing as they—at least some of them—realize that they made clearly wrong and possibly irreversible choices. For, although they knew that they lived in changing times, they made no effort to change with them. Instead, they chose to resist change, to protect their way of life, and thus, as the world passed them by, to feel resentment and to act out of fear and anger.
Thus, their insistence on intensely self-righteous, ideological positions on abortion, contraception, homosexuality, and same-sex marriage, among others, which positions, even if implemented throughout society, can do nothing to improve their lot in life. For example, the Billie-Joe’s, with the support of their Betty-Lou’s, may think that legislating a definition of marriage as only monogamous and heterosexual will protect the sanctity of marriage and ensure the survival of civilization as we imagine it, but it will not stop adultery or lower the divorce rate.
The 2008 and 2012 elections have shown the declining trajectory of the political power of the Republican Party and especially its “base,” and suggested the diminished chances of reasserting their power in future elections. They will gain nothing by political shenanigans or ideological rampages. Instead, the Republican Party must rethink its attitudes toward “others” as the starting point for adopting political policies which serve all people. Similarly, its “base” must also rethink its attitudes toward “others” as the starting point for accepting education as the best means to serve its needs for a better life.