( This is part 1 of 2 of this article. To read the second part “Prescriptions for an Ailing Elephant” go here)
There is an elephant in the room. Look in the mirror, Republicans: It’s you. There is no one to blame but yourselves, and it’s time to get your act together. This past election made it clear: President Obama and the Democrats did not defeat you, you have been defeating yourselves for the past twenty years. This past election was a culmination of a ruinous policy, and trajectory, that is of your own making. The primary purpose of a political party, or any organization, is to achieve their policy, and in order to do so you must win. The goals of the Tea Party and the religious super-right are sacrificing electoral success for ideological purity. That is the surest formula for self-defeat and the GOP has mastered that formula. Dogma does not win elections, and as long as you choose to be a political party rather than an ideological movement, your goal is to win elections. Having a candidate who shares most but not all of your ideals is better than not having a candidate win at all. Somehow, somewhere, the party has forgotten this fundamental principle.
Lets highlight the losses that Republicans have inflicted upon themselves, both in the 2010 mid-term election, and in this year’s election. In 2010, Republicans gained a majority of the House of Representatives, but they also had the opportunity to gain three additional Senate seats. The first contest, against Senate Majority leader Harry Reid of Nevada, was lost due to the ignorance and lack of appeal of Sharon Angle. The second was due to the nomination of Christine O’Donnell in Delaware, who had to publicly claim that she was ‘not a witch’. Neither I nor a comedy writer could make that up if we tried. Finally, the nomination of WWE millionairess Linda McMahon in Connecticut sealed the GOP’s fate in losing the third sure senate seat. One would think that a party would learn from these three examples of how to lose senate seats.
Yet, as in 2010, the GOP doubled down on this losing formula in another three instances. First, the nomination of Linda McMahon– yes, again– to run doomed the GOP’s chances to regain another seat. Todd Akin, running against a vulnerable Claire McCaskill, doomed his fate when he made his infamous ‘legitimate rape’ comment and refused to step down from it. Finally, and most shockingly, GOP voters in Indiana unseated long-time and well respected Senator Richard Lugar in the primary, replacing him with the more fringe Richard Mourdock; the same Richard Mourdock who claimed God intended for rape babies to be born. That is six senate seats the GOP simply threw away. They lost them because they did not legitimately contest them, they chose to lose. They chose to stubbornly succumb to a fringe base, rather than win with whom they could succeed. Plain and simple, that is illogical and irrational at best. The definition of insanity is repeating the same action and expecting different results. I am not saying the GOP is insane, but logic would make that argument for me. An ever-changing electorate, which is demographically evolving away from your principles, will not come around a second time. They will run away further, and they have.
Regarding Mitt Romney: In any other election, Romney could, and should, have won. President Obama was facing the highest percentage of unemployment for an incumbent president since statistics have been kept on such figures. Republicans have been quick to jump on Romney, stating such allegations as ‘he was not a stellar candidate’, ‘he was not a politician’, ‘he was too connected to Wall Street’, ‘he was out of touch’, ‘he was too moderate’, ‘he was too conservative’, ‘he was too Mitt Romney’. I’m sorry, the reason Mitt Romney lost was NOT because of Mitt Romney, a pragmatic moderate and technocrat who was qualified to fix the issues currently facing the nation. In any other election he would not have been ideal; in this election the GOP should have been content. However, that must be stated in context of the lack of other qualified leaders to run in this election, such Republicans as Jeb Bush (probably due to his unfortunate ‘name recognition’), Chris Christie, Jon Thune, Rob Portman, Mitch Daniels, among others.
What the GOP did get was a circus. We tend to have short memories, so let me offer a refresher. Mitt Romney ran against the following cadre of ‘leaders’ who claimed to be qualified to be President of the United States. Normally, such people would be drowned out within a few weeks. However, at one point or another Donald Trump, Herman Cain, Michelle Bachman, Newt Gingrich, Rick Perry, and Rick Santorum led Romney in polls. Remember that? Remember 9-9-9? Remember a total lack of any leadership or ideas, but instead a constant string of embarrassments and pandering that made the GOP primary debates a sitcom rather than a selection process for a future candidate for president. The only candidates who had ideas, real ideas, were Ron Paul and Jon Huntsman. Both of whom were castigated or ignored while the other characters got media attention and praise.
Somehow Mitt Romney had to out-extreme all of these people to the right. He had to claim he was a ‘severe conservative’ , which still makes me wonder what he was talking about. He had to denounce 47% of the electorate in a speech to donors. In interviews he fumbled around for the right words to not offend his base, while at the same time not the right words that would appeal to the common voter. No candidate should have to sell out to such an extent and engage in a contest for the most extreme, most ignorant, most shockingly absurd stances to gain the approval of an extremist wing of the party. In doing so, a candidate becomes unappealing to a vast majority of the country. However, it wasn’t a big shock.
Before the election a chorus of prominent Republicans were voicing their opinions against this trajectory of demise. However, for some reason unbeknownst to common sense, reason, or logic, Republicans doubled down on ignorance– prescribed by the talking heads of conservatism–which have drowned out any semblance of sanity and reality within the party. The litany of columnists, former lawmakers, and leaders such as Massachusetts Senator Scott Brown, former congressman and host of Morning Joe, Joe Scarborough, former George W. Bush speech writer and Washington Post Columnist Michael Gerson, former George W. Bush aide Mark McKinnon, The National Review’s William Kristol, and former Reagan speech writer and Wall street Journal columnist Peggy Noonan said the Romney campaign “needed an intervention” and was a “rolling calamity.” Should I keep going or do we get the point?
What is evident is that this litany of critics and the results of the election make it clear: The Republicans have lost their way. Conservative pundit and radio host Laura Ingram stated on one of her radio shows before the election that this was a ‘gimme’ election for the GOP and
If you can’t beat Barack Obama with this record, then shut down the party. Shut it down. Start new, with new people.
I agree. Adding to Ingram, Joe Scarborough, channeling a statement from former McCain campaign aide Nicole Wallace, stated
he’s less interested in the question of whether or not the Republican Party should be a moderate or a conservative party: “I’m just tired of the Republican Party being the ‘Stupid Party!’” he said. “Stupid people saying stupid things and scaring off independent voters and swing voters!”
The writing has been on the wall for quite some time. When a party chooses to ignore the basic tenets of governance– reason, logic and practicality– there is no other fate for them but defeat. Otto Von Bismark infamously stated
Politics is the art of the possible.
However today’s Republican party is not interested in what is possible. They are not interested in science, in facts and figures, or arithmetic. Instead they are being led by fringe elements based in theories of less government and less taxes, with no need to govern, no need to lead, and no need to provide solutions. Couple that with the social super-conservatives, and the GOP is becoming more of a superstitious sect than a political party. What is more troubling is that they have grown accustomed to this dogma, which espouses an ideology without proof of its validity. Richard Nixon, Gerald Ford, Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush all raised taxes when it was necessary, because Republicans did what was necessary to govern. Since the administration of George W. Bush all we have heard is ‘cut taxes,’ ‘reduce the government,’ and all will work. Actually, no, it won’t.
More troubling is that the GOP’s own ‘intellectual’ leaders have sold members of the GOP a hoax. The talk show hosts, pundits, and columnists have hijacked the party with a sensationalized xenophobic and fear-based ideology. This ideology, instead of providing solutions to our problems, creates narratives to detract. Such assertions that ‘our president is a communist, ‘ he is a Muslim,’ and ‘he was not born in the United States,’ seek to do nothing except undermine our basic tenets of government and authority. Such tenets, which are espoused by Republicans, (reverence and respect for authority) have been thrown out. Such a twisted narrative has led the GOP to live in their own naiveté. According to former George W. Bush speechwriter, David Frum, the Republican party has been lied to by a “conservative entertainment complex.” Such outlets as cable news, radio shows and conservative blogs made it seem that the GOP would win the election, that they were on the right track, and that they were right. This election, and reality, clearly proved them wrong. Karl Rove, who orchestrated two victories for George W. Bush was overwhelmingly proven wrong, while statistician Nate Silver and his predictions won the day. One person relied on rhetoric and false information, while the other on facts and reality. Sadly, the fact that Mitt Romney was ‘shell shocked’ that he lost is the most shocking indicator of a party, an ideology, and an organization that has strayed away from all aspects of the political process, facts, and common sense.
(For part two of this article, click here)