Friday, November 21, 2008

The GOP: Evolve or die

The party of personal responsibility is having an awfully hard time with that concept after the election.

Listening to Republicans nowadays is like booking time with a colicky baby. I haven't heard so much whining and crying since my daughter was 3 months old.

Oh, and have I mentioned they're angry? Really steamed, like savaging anyone who suggests they chill as godless socialists who want nonstop gay sex and baby killing for the next eight years (I think I hear my e-mail now). I look forward to adding them to my folder of paranoid messages that Barack Obama won't be inaugurated after all because there is *PROOF THAT HIS BIRTH CERTIFICATE WAS FORGED.* And the threats from Republicans that they just might be moving to Canada.

There's little time for self-reflection in a pity party. And right now, the right is rapturously licking its wounds, sounding more than a little like the Dems in 1980.

There's scant acknowledgement that Obama ran a stellar campaign and Democrats have clearly become the party for moderate voters. No one wants to dwell on the fact that Obama won by 7 percent nationally, when George W. Bush topped out at 3 percent in '04 after losing the popular vote in 2000. And please don't bring up that Obama won nine Bush states, some like Nevada and New Mexico by double digits.

Ignore the state-of-the-art get-out-the-vote drive that made W's look like amateur hour. And pay no attention to the 200,000 tearful supporters in Grant Park, the collective world adulation and reports that Obama could draw a record-shattering 4 million to his inauguration.

No, it's not so much that the Dems won this election, but circumstances conspired so the GOP lost. Really, how could Republicans win with the economy tanking, Bush's legacy and the malevolent media?

It's never their fault. The country is still with them, despite irrefutable proof to the contrary with the presidency and two houses of Congress going very blue.

The clinical definition of this, of course, is denial.

Republicans still insist Obama would have lost without Wall Street going into a tailspin. John McCain was leading in many polls until then, which they attribute to their favorite moose-shooting mama, Sarah Palin. That ignores the fact this was a post-convention bounce and the first time the Arizona senator had posted a consistent lead.

While the economy is surely a tricky issue with a Republican in the White House, the fact is that McCain both lost on this issue due to his wild mood swings and stunts, and Obama won it with his cool demeanor that settled voters' frayed nerves. He also connected far better to the middle class.

As for the current president, he surely was an albatross, which was precisely why right-wingers were whining from the get-go how unfair it was to tie Bush to McCain. Why? They knew it was a powerful message and worried it would work.

Of course, it didn't have to. McCain differs from Bush on issues ranging from global warming to campaign finance and has a much more bipartisan disposition. But by veering to the right to shore up the base, he made those Bush-McCain morphs seem plausible and unseemly.

And there is a certain irony in Republicans ranting that the president isn't a true conservative anyway, what with his big-government Medicare Part D and No Child Left Behind. Well, kiddies, most of you voted for them at the time. Talking heads used to screech that anyone who would dare question our commander-in-chief at a time of war should be charged with treason.

Bush's only real problem with the right is that his poll numbers plummeted.

And finally there's the media, or shall I say, the worldwide conspiracy to put Obama in the Oval Office. Look, it's a fact that Obama won a landslide in newspaper endorsements and won over a number of columnists, many of them conservatives like Chris Buckley.

I don't think this election with its nonstop horserace coverage was a high point for investigative journalism into either candidate, although Obama came out slightly ahead in this regard. There were more negative stories about McCain in general, but that's what happens when your campaign is wracked with infighting and you're losing.

But the idea that the media can determine elections is laughable. If that's the case, we wouldn't be hemorrhaging red ink, because everyone would want a piece of the all-powerful press. Our sales pitch would be devastatingly simple: We can make presidents, you know.
Here's the bottom line for Republicans: You lost. Own it. Learn from it. Stop focusing on what you can't control and fix the fundamental problem - you're not connecting with voters like Obama did. Your no-tax, social-issues-on-steroids message has grown stale.

Ronald Reagan hasn't ruled for 20 years and yet you're still looking back. Demographics can become destiny and you're losing badly with key groups like young voters, Asians and Latinos.

Change is hard for conservatives, for obvious definitional reasons. But the truth is, in the kill-or-be-killed world of politics, those who don't evolve - becoming stronger and leaner - die.

So far Republicans are resisting such heresy. Evolution is just a theory, after all.


Yossi said...

Checking your ideology at the door apparently doesn't include Susan. She seems like a pretty diehard dem when reading these few columns. Deep political analysis is not needed to explain what occurred Nov. 4th...inarticulate eight year president + dumb-downed populace + economic crisis affecting middle class caucasian/white folks = President Barack Hussein Obama!

sage said...

I go to spend the night earlier this week in Atlanta thanks to airlines--on the TV that night, there were commericals for the runoff Senate election there--the GOP were still using the "cut taxes" message which didn't go over too well on November 4.

L Kane said...

Apparently the Obama tide didn't turn Georgia. The success was overwhelming except for the fact that Obama spent 5 times as much as McCain for a 7 point popular vote win. Now you can say he won the states he was campaigning in but his "get out the vote" drive didn't result in many more voters voting except in the inner cities where voting was by skin color. If I were a Dem, I'd be really worried that almost a billion dollars in campaign spending, un extremely unpopular president, and a tanking economy couldn't garner more than 7%. That's pretty weak in my book.

Susan J. Demas said...

Yeah, an electoral landslide is something to scoff at. Something the Republicans haven't accomplished since 1988. Keep spinning and keep losing.