Not posted much here recently, as I was more in fetal-ball-anxiety mode than righteous rage, but I’ve of course kept up with the last few weeks of this election.
Now that it’s basically over except for some details, I want to follow on a bit from Scalzi’s advice to the GOP on where they should go from here.
While his advice is sound, I don’t think there’s any hope that the GOP is going to take it. The GOP in its current incarnation is made up of straight, white men who are seriously upset that they’re losing the privilege to which they believe they’re entitled, and their self-loathing wives and girlfriends who have bought into that idea. While the rest of the country (per the election results) is quickly outnumbering this bloc, they still remain a force with which to be reckoned, and will always be looking for a party that speaks to their prejudices. The GOP is basically it, and thus they’ll be in control of it for some time to come.
Amusingly enough, Romney was right: there’s about 47% of the country who will never be willing to be responsible for themselves on a level playing field. They will always want government concessions that favor their notion that they are entitled to disproportionate economic and political power. In their view, they won the country fair and square by right of conquest 300 years ago. They will always believe that they are the “real” Americans, and everyone else is a usurper, come to drag them from their God-given right to Manifest Destiny.
Changing the GOP, therefore, is going to require changing not just the behavior of the party’s leadership, but the ideaology of its base, and that’s not going to happen.
Moreover, the one thing that has caused otherwise-reasonable people to vote GOP in the past–economic policy–is rapidly becoming the Democrats’ territory as well. More and more evidence is coming out that supply-side economics is a policy of long-range failure; businesses cannot legitimately expand in a demand vacuum. And when you bankrupt your working class, by shoving the burden of tax and health-care costs on them, you bankrupt consumers and thus kill demand. Yes, the deficit and debt are a big concern, but continuing to concentrate wealth at the top is not the way to fix either of those things (and goodness knows that expensive wars aren’t the way to do that, either. The amount of money we’ve wasted on killing people is astonishing.) It’s simply not necessary for us to bankrupt the consumer class to reach a “conservative” goal of balancing the budget. On the contrary: putting more money back into circulation via taxing the rich and cutting unnecessary defense spending is the only way that will happen.
Four more years of relatively sensible Obama economic policy (as much as he can get through with a hostile House, at least) should be all the remaining proof we need that the GOP no longer has a lock on the economy. And if they don’t have that then … what do they have? What can they offer to anyone except reality-challenged religious devotees and the white dudes who want disproportionate power?
So, while I expect the GOP in its current Tea-Party incarnation to continue to exist for some time, it’s going to become less and less relevant as the people it serves get outnumbered, and the rest of the hangers-on realize it’s not going to change. This might prove problematic, in that even the best politicians need reasonable opposition on both sides, but I do think we’ll see some third parties kick in and start playing that part within the next decade. In particular, I expect the fiscal conservatives to leave the GOP and split off into Libertarian and Blue Dog camps, and I also expect to see some genuine progressive voices get louder, too, once it’s safer to do so without risking losing big elections.
So, should the GOP change in order to win national elections again? Yes. But as there’s nowhere else for their ego-saturated-white-dude base to go, that’s just not going to happen. I think we’re looking at at least a decade or so of Democrat dominance until the splintering settles out. And thank goodness for that.