The Republican Party has a real problem. Or, more accurately, THREE real problems. The first is the Teabaggers. The second is the Birthers. And the third is the response of some GOP Senators to the wise Latina nominated by President Obama to sit on the Supreme Court. Each of the three is guaranteed to lose the party more of the moderate voters who decide this country’s elections. Taken together, it becomes clear the Republican Party is headed for a twenty-year decline.
Politics can be very complex sometimes. There are local issues, national issues, demographic trends, unforeseen crises, personal scandals, and many other factors to take into account. But in the end, there is one foolproof strategy that will ensure your election 99* times out of 100. That nearly-unbeatable strategy is to get more votes than the other person.
Often, you can get people to vote for you by being seen as honest, effective, competent, and informed. If you are not well known, voters will look to your party affiliation for information about what kind of lawmaker or executive you would be. When these moderate, unaffiliated voters step into the voting booth in November and see a big old “R” next to a candidate’s name, that affiliation is likely to work against that candidate.
The “teabaggers” (has there ever been a more unfortunate name for a political protest group?) are an embarrassingly rabid anti-tax group who don’t seem to understand that taxes pay for things that make life in America as great as it is. Personally, I am glad there are air traffic controllers, food quality and cleanliness inspectors, the United States Armed Forces, the Internet, roads and bridges, and a million-and-one other services our taxes pay for. Interestingly, the states with the highest ratio of federal tax dollars coming in also have the most active Teabagging groups.
These groups—comprised mostly of Republicans—do not put the most intelligent face on the party of Lincoln.
The “Birthers”, by comparison, make the “Teabaggers” look brilliant. They believe that Barack Obama was born somewhere other than the United States and that he is Constitutionally ineligible to be the President. They have begun to show up at events held by Republican politicians and shout out questions about President Obama’s birth certificate. Again, the party comes across as less-than-rational when these vocal crazies grab the microphone.
Personally, I do not like the direction the Republican Party would like to lead America, so I give a cheer each time the Teabaggers and the Birthers spout off and make the news. They serve to put an extreme face on a party that is pretty much leaderless. In the wake of John McCain’s loss to Barack Obama, the Republican Party really has no identity. Its members have nearly knocked themselves out running away from George W. Bush and his legacy. (Sometimes I am reminded of cockroaches scrambling for cover when a light turns on.) But they have not yet reformed under the banner of one obvious leader.
Sarah Palin, Newt Gingrich, Mitt Romney, Michael Steele, and Rush Limbaugh all claim the loyalty of one small faction of the party. And it seems unlikely they will get their collective act together and offer much in the way of a unified, constructive party philosophy in time for the 2010 midterm elections or the 2012 Presidential contest. So, in the meantime, the Republicans have become the Party of No. They don’t yet know what they stand for, so they simply stand against anything President Obama and the Democrats propose. Teabaggers?—against any taxes. Birthers?—against Barack Obama himself.
Rich white male Republican Senators (like Tom Coburn, Jeff Sessions, Jon Kyle, and John Cornyn) made it clear in their questioning of Sonya Sotomayor that they are against the idea that a person’s experiences affect their judgment. They are horrified by the thought of someone other than a white male passing judgment on the Constitution. Do they really think that Samuel Alito, John Roberts, and Antonin Scalia don’t bring their own personal biases and experiences to their decisions on the Court?
These Senators, with their confrontational tone and clear ignorance of human psychology, have hurt Republican efforts to court women and Hispanics. If your base is shrinking and you have no plan, it doesn’t make much sense to antagonize potential voters, especially when the possibility of blocking Judge Sotomayor is nil. Clearly those Republican Senators who scoffed at her impartiality care more about throwing red meat to their own conservative base back home in Texas, Arizona, Alabama, and Oklahoma than they do about expanding the appeal of their party.
Yes, the Republican Party has some problems. And it wouldn’t surprise me at all if they wander the political wilderness for sixteen or twenty more years before they manage to pull their act together and capture both houses of Congress. In the absence of real leadership, the most vocal wing takes the spotlight and the individual members care more about their own political survival than about strengthening the party. The Republican Party is not dead, but it is certainly in for a long, slow convalescence. I, for one, think they should take all the time they need--no need to hurry.
(* see Gore v. Bush, 2000)