Sunday, November 11, 2012

For Republicans, now what?

This video refers to presidential politics, given our Electoral College, not to congressional races. But the issue is similar in both. Republicans are panicking because of demographic changes in America.

But I have a few rather obvious comments to make about that. First, this isn't new. The right-wing has seen this coming for years, and they've become increasingly hysterical about it. The election of our first black president just brought it to a boil. To racists, Barack Obama is the personification of the browning of America.

As I say, this isn't new. Indeed, years ago, Karl Rove had a plan to establish a permanent Republican majority in America by taking advantage of the growing number of Hispanics - mostly Catholic, conservative on social issues, who could easily be turned against African Americans, or so he thought. (Conservatives have been very successful in the past at turning minorities against each other.)

That didn't work, mostly because the GOP's 'Southern strategy' had completely filled the party with bigots. Rove thought he could continue to use those elderly Dixiecrats to keep cutting taxes for the rich (his main concern, then and now). But now that they're the Republican base, they're harder to manage than he expected.

My second (third?) point is that this isn't all about race. Race and ethnicity might be what's making Republicans hysterical, but they're also losing women and young white people. Those are demographic problems, yes, but it's not that women have become a bigger percentage of our population. They are simply losing women, who are increasingly less willing to be controlled by men and who tend to see the value of a social safety net.

And young people who've grown up with more experience in racially-diverse communities tend to be less fearful and less bigoted. Republicans find it far, far easier to scare elderly white people than their young relatives. And the young are much more comfortable with equal rights for gay people, too.

None of this is new, but last week's election has still been a bombshell. Barack Obama won a resounding victory, despite an economy that's still in the toilet. (Sure, he inherited that, and he's been struggling to overcome Republican foot-dragging ever since, but most Americans don't pay much attention to such things.)

But it's more than that. Democrats advanced even in Congress (though not enough to take the House of Representatives). Gay marriage was approved by voters in three states, and Minnesota defeated a constitutional amendment to define marriage in strictly heterosexual terms. Heck, two states even legalized pot!

And the results hit them particularly hard, because Republicans had deluded themselves into thinking that they were going to win. Well, that's what the right-wing pundits had been saying. And, apparently, Romney's campaign staff thought so, too. Remember how the right-wing kept 'correcting' those polls from the 'lamestream media'? They weren't just trying to fool the voters, they were actually fooling themselves.

Republicans increasingly live in a right-wing Fox 'News' bubble. Reality (which has a well-known liberal bias) stays well outside the bubble. Inside, they just believe what they believe. And apparently, as hard as this is to believe, they actually thought they were going to win this thing! Well, they've told themselves that they're the 'moral majority' for so long it's become dogma.

So now, they're panicking:

"Pathway to citizenship"? Sean Hannity? As TYT says, his fellow Republicans would have burned him in effigy (in effigy if he was lucky) for saying something like that before the election.

Heck, they fought tooth and nail even against the Dream Act, and you just don't get any more beneficial and inoffensive than that! How could you oppose a pathway to citizenship for minors, brought into this country by adults, growing up here, law-abiding, and even attending college or joining our military?

But Republicans did oppose it. As I say, they fought tooth and nail against it. Sure, their political strategists wanted to appeal to Hispanic voters, but the Republican base, as I've noted many times before, has been filled with bigots - deliberately so, as a result of that notorious 'Southern strategy.'

Keep in mind that the Republican Party originated in the North. The northeastern part of our country was their base, and, believe it or not, they were on the Union side in our Civil War. Republicans always favored business interests, but they used to be progressive, at least in part.

It wasn't until the Democrats decided to do the right thing, passing the 1964 Civil Rights Act outlawing state-sponsored racial segregation, that Republican strategists saw their chance for more political power. So they deliberately set out to woo white racists, and they took the South - all those old segregationist Dixiecrats - from the Democratic Party.

Now, the South is solidly Republican - not Democratic, as it had been for more than a century. The Republican Party has absorbed that Deep South culture - from states like Mississippi, Alabama, Georgia - and lost most of the Northeast. Not surprisingly, they've also lost African Americans and other racial and religious minorities.

More importantly, they've pushed racial fear and prejudice for political advantage - not just the fear of African Americans, but of Hispanics (especially in states like mine). There's no way they can switch to being tolerant, let alone welcoming, now, though they might try to pretend. Republicans are pretty good at lying. At least, they seem to have no trouble fooling themselves.

Almost 15 years ago, Josh Marshall summarized their problem:
The Republicans’ bind with Hispanics is not unlike their problem with blacks. Consider the example of Jack Kemp, who has spent much of his career since leaving Congress arguing for a more inclusive Republican Party that could build beyond its base of economic and social conservatives and reach out to traditionally Democratic constituencies. Kemp is, of course, an extreme supply-side conservative on economic issues. But his repeated political failures and his increasing estrangement from powerful segments of the party have been rooted in his seeming inability to appreciate the deep gusts of racial animosity that fill the sails of so many Republican public policy crusades. Most Republicans know that enterprise zones and other nostrums presented as alternatives to “failed” liberal social policy are window dressing. Kemp’s problem is that he takes the window dressing seriously, but none of his GOP colleagues have the heart to tell him.

The Republican Party has not, as Kemp would have it, ignored blacks and other minorities. In the last 30 years the Republican Party has increasingly relied on the support of constituencies that feel embittered and resentful toward minorities and the poor. The party’s mounting strength in the 1970s and 1980s was based on making inroads among conservative southern whites and appealing to the resentments that Democratic northern, working-class ethnic voters felt against school busing and affirmative action. Thus, the GOP’s problem with minorities isn’t incidental; it’s fundamental. Any genuine effort to aid minorities or the poor would instantly alienate a substantial portion of the Republican base. It’s an electoral bind, inexorable and fixed. The Republicans can’t be the party of both black opportunity and anti-black resentment, no matter how big the tent. The Democrats tried it; it didn’t work.

But there's one more part to this:

Racial hatred doesn't fly in America anymore - not if you're blatant about it, at least. But how about this claim that half the country works hard and the other half just wants to get 'stuff' for nothing?

Obviously, no one thinks of himself as one of those parasites. You understand that it's all those other people - mostly black and Hispanic - who are the problem.

That's the genius of this. You might be retired, on Social Security, but you don't think they're referring to you, right? You might be a combat soldier in Afghanistan, so you don't pay federal income taxes, but surely Republicans don't mean you when they complain about that.

Heck, even if you've lost your job and you're temporarily on food stamps, you'll likely understand that it's the other people who are the parasites. It's the other 47% who are the parasites, just like how everyone in America is an above-average driver,... according to them.

It's brilliant, but can they pull it off? Remember, Republicans were also desperate to appeal to women, but they couldn't even stop talking about rape! Note that they didn't have to lie. All they really had to do was keep their mouths shut, but they couldn't even seem to do that. They had to keep saying what they really thought.

So the GOP has a couple of problems here. Can they get their base behind a plan to appeal to Hispanic voters? Sure, mainstream Republicans like Sean Hannity don't care about anything but tax cuts for the rich, but they've deliberately filled their base with bigots - and then incited fear and hatred on Fox 'News' for all they're worth.

And if they try to turn the topic to the 'socialist parasites' in America, can they really keep from volunteering who they think those parasites are? I mean, they couldn't even keep from calling women sluts! Unless they stop saying anything at all, I wonder how successful they'll be at hiding their real feelings.

On the other hand, I think that many Democrats are feeling way too giddy right now:
Until now, Republicans and Fox News have excelled at conjuring alternate realities. But this time, they made the mistake of believing their fake world actually existed. As Fox’s Megyn Kelly said to Karl Rove on election night, when he argued against calling Ohio for Obama: “Is this just math that you do as a Republican to make yourself feel better?”

Romney and Tea Party loonies dismissed half the country as chattel and moochers who did not belong in their “traditional” America. But the more they insulted the president with birther cracks, the more they tried to force chastity belts on women, and the more they made Hispanics, blacks and gays feel like the help, the more these groups burned to prove that, knitted together, they could give the dead-enders of white male domination the boot.

The election about the economy also sounded the death knell for the Republican culture wars.

Remember, Republicans were also crushed by the 2008 election. After that, there was open speculation about whether the GOP could even survive George W. Bush.

Well, they dug in their heels, they kept almost everything from getting through Congress to actually help our economy, and two years later, they were riding high again. So what makes Democrats think this won't happen again?

And this was just our first election after Citizens United. The big money is just getting started in figuring out how to legally buy politicians. The Republican Party's voter suppression efforts are only in their infancy, too - and most of them were simply delayed in this election.

If you think the GOP is going to roll over and play dead, you're living in a fantasy world almost as much as they are. The big question is what their base will do. They've kept going further and further to the right, even in the four years since 2008. And it's really hard to tell if far-right fanatics are going to be willing to play ball, just to win elections for their supposed leaders.

They weren't happy with John McCain, not until he picked Sarah Palin, at least, but they went along him. They weren't happy with Mitt Romney, even when Romney picked Paul Ryan, but they supported him. The GOP base hasn't had a nominee they really liked since George W. Bush, and even Bush would be too 'moderate' for them now.

So what now? That's a good question. It should be interesting to find out. I just hope it's not also disastrous. (Well, it's fine if it's disastrous for them.)


Tony Williams said...

Thanks Bill, an interesting summary.

WCG said...

Thanks, Tony!