By Ben Cohen: Listening to the Right wing fallout after President Obama was re-elected has been absolutely fascinating to say the least. From Karl Rove’s extraordinary meltdown live on election night to Sean Hannity’s one-eighty on immigration, it’s fair to say that the GOP is a party with an extreme identity problem. Most people in the party are aware that they have a huge, huge problem going forward – the population is changing in both color and culture, and they are fast becoming demographically irrelevant. If the Republicans want to have electoral success going forward, they are going to have to find a way to attract women, Latinos and African Americans – groups they lost in overwhelming fashion last week.
The problem is that the party is split into so many extreme factions that it will be close to impossible to unify the party under a new, more inclusive platform. The party is comprised of moderates, Libertarians and Tea Party activists, traditional conservatives, neo cons and evangelical Christians. And while there is considerable overlap, each group have their own objectives that are often at odds with each other. Hardcore conservatives don’t want more immigrants while libertarians and moderates understand the need for reform. Evangelicals will never accept gay marriage while moderates and libertarians would, neo cons want more wars, while traditional conservatives do not, and Libertarians vehemently oppose any tax hikes, while moderates understand it to be an occasional necessity.
Most worrying for the Republicans is the prominence of loudmouth media characters like Sean Hannity, Mark Levin and Rush Limbaugh – virulent conservatives who influence millions of voters with their fear mongering rhetoric. Without their stamp of approval, Republican candidates lose a vital marketing tool that can seriously affect voter turn out. Had Limbaugh, Hannity and Levin not gone out to bat for Mitt Romney, it’s likely his loss would have been even worse.
In the wake of defeat, the Right wing noise machine is still out in full force because it is not in the business of self reflection. It is in the business of fear and hate – two tried and tested ratings winners that may destroy the Republican Party, but keep the multimillionaire mega mouths on air for eternity.
Rush Limbaugh went on an epic rant after last Tuesday, sarcastically suggesting that Republicans should advocate pot legalization and start their own ‘abortion industry’. He said on his show:
The youth vote! I tell you what we should do, let’s announce, starting around Christmastime, so that we can get close to being Santa Claus ourselves, let’s announce that we are for the legalization of marijuana, and that as a party we’re in favor of forgiving all student loans . . . Is that how we do it?
All these examples . . . Latinos! We’re not going to get the Latino vote by opening the borders and saying, you know what? Let anybody in who wants to come in.
Women. Let’s start our own abortion industry. Let’s go out and get the women’s vote. I just want you to think, would that work?
Not exactly encouraging. And if you thought that was bad, Mark Levin, one of the most nauseating fear merchants had the following to say about the lessons the Right should take from electoral loss:
We conservatives, we do not accept bipartisanship in the pursuit of tyranny. Period. We will not negotiate the terms of our economic and political servitude. Period. We will not abandon our child to a dark and bleak future. We will not accept a fate that is alien to the legacy we inherited from every single future generation in this country. We will not accept social engineering by politicians and bureaucrats who treat us like lab rats, rather than self-sufficient human beings. There are those in this country who choose tyranny over liberty. They do not speak for us, 57 million of us who voted against this yesterday, and they do not get to dictate to us under our Constitution.
We are the alternative. We will resist. We’re not going to surrender to this. We will not be passive, we will not be compliant in our demise. We’re not good losers, you better believe we’re sore losers! A good loser is a loser forever. Now I hear we’re called ‘purists.’ Conservatives are called purists. The very people who keep nominating moderates, now call us purists the way the left calls us purists. Yeah, things like liberty, and property rights, individual sovereignty, and the Constitution, and capitalism. We’re purists now. And we have to hear this crap from conservatives, or pseudo-conservatives, Republicans.
This ‘purism’ is a recipe for complete disaster, and the sooner the GOP exiles braggarts like Limbaugh and Levin, the sooner it can reform itself into an electorally viable political party. The problem is, letting go of the extremists means taking considerable short term losses. Republicans draw huge support from fearful white Americans who believe they are in imminent danger from marauding Mexicans, gay couples and black Muslims. They are a reliable voting bloc, and losing their enthusiasm would be very detrimental. Their economic platform has to change too – it can no longer be the party of tax cuts and deregulation at all costs – they are no longer trusted to run the economy and their inability to evolve on the issue is becoming a serious electoral burden. Again, the problem is that changing their economic principles would mean massive short term losses. The party is essentially a mouthpiece for big business, and big businesses want tax cuts. Without big business, there is no money to win elections, making it a hit the party cannot afford.
Is there a way out of this conundrum?
Frankly, it’s hard to envision one. The reforms needed will be incredibly painful and will entail some very serious action from prominent Republicans who will have to confront the militants in the party. Tokenism won’t do going forward – the changes will have to be wide reaching and meaningful – and much of the party will hate them. The Republicans will have to redefine conservatism and market it to the new America. We’ve yet to see any evidence that there is serious intention from party members to do so, making their prospects for 2016 all the dimmer.
In short, they’re screwed, and there’s not much they can do about it.
Ben Cohen is the editor and founder of The Daily Banter. He lives in Washington DC where he does podcasts, teaches Martial Arts, and tries to be a good father. He would be extremely disturbed if you took him too seriously.