The GOP Is The Creature From Palin Island
In retrospect, the 2010 election may have been the worst thing possible for the right. On the surface, it seemed like a good deal: they got rid of Nancy Pelosi and earned the House’s power of the purse and the power to investigate. But much like their predecessors in the 1994 GOP takeover of the House, they saw a midterm election triumph go up in smoke with the re-election of a Democratic president.
2010 gave the GOP a false sense of security. With the turnout of an older, whiter, more conservative Republican voter base (as is almost always the case in midterms as of late) they assumed that 2008 was an aberration, and that their imagined center-right nation had reasserted itself.
As we now know, that wasn’t the case. While the raw numbers of the 2012 election were closer than 2008, the results were more devastating to the right. They performed very well among white voters and independent voters – but they still lost. They also were unable to regain the Senate and lost 8 seats in the House.
The four months post-election have been even more chaotic. As someone who more or less came of age politically in the era of Bush, I am still astounded at the discord on the right. I’ve rarely seen anything like it in my adult life. The party that marched in lockstep with Bush, Cheney, and Rove for almost a decade is now publicly feuding with all the subtlety of Wrestlemania.
It’s even more shocking when you contrast it to the Democratic years in the wilderness post-Clinton. It was still bad for America that Bush beat Kerry in 2004, but I think it was the best outcome for the Democratic Party. Instead of an election validating the party’s core dysfunctions, a loss to what most on the left considered a morally unworthy opponent led to a lot of real work to go about repairing the core competencies of the organization. You had Howard Dean’s “50 state strategy,” and Democrats finally willing to oppose the Iraq War without peeing the bed about being called a traitor by Rove and company.
That helped lead to the 2006 victories in the House and Senate, followed by a a long, interminable public presidential primary that produced two candidates – Clinton and Obama – more than ready to take on the GOP.
The GOP’s problem today is that when you build a conservative movement designed around never really changing and an electorate who often still thinks of color television as a “new” thing, it makes it harder to change.
The orthodoxy of the right is so calcified, so resistant to change – even if the move is from the hard right to the center right – you’ve got conservatives like Chris Christie and Bob McDonnell being attacked as if they were Nancy Pelosi attending a Gay Pride parade in San Francisco.
A movement that wants to be serious about domestic affairs, national security, and foreign policy does not have a conference with speeches by Donald Trump and Sarah Palin – unserious grifters of the worst sort – rubbing shoulders with your former Presidential and Vice Presidential nominees.
The right hasn’t even settled its position on foreign policy – one faction talks about military waste while the other faction (the larger of the two) still can’t bring itself to admit that the Iraq War was one of the biggest foreign policy mistakes in U.S. history. The right is actually more willing to throw Bush and Cheney under the bus than the misguided immoral war those two leaders helped bring about.
It will be even worse for the GOP long term if they win seats in 2014, once again giving them a false sense of security for the next presidential election. It didn’t work out before and I doubt it will work again.
I don’t believe that we live in an era of electoral dominance, and I’ll believe lasting re-alignment and permanent majorities when I see them actually come into being. But if there is any movement capable and likely to resign itself to utter irrelevancy as a result of its own behavior, the modern right is in a very good position to go the way of the Whigs.
How can I help?