In 2008, watching the viciousness surrounding the presidential campaign (the campaign itself was surprisingly civil, actually, it was mainly the tea-partiers and right-wing talking heads that brought in the nastiness), I opined to my husband that the Republican Party was going through their death pangs.
As I watch the circus that is the 2012 primaries unfold, I still feel this way. I think when history looks back and judges us, this decade will be the time frame historians cite when they discuss the fall of the GOP.
That’s if they discuss it; if you ever look back on the history of our two-party system, you’ll see that we don’t often discuss in depth why the Democratic-Republican party became the first party and not John Adam’s flavor of Federalism. History books don’t often discuss the differing mindsets between the Whig and Democrat parties, or why the Whigs were only elected I think once? None of the party politics of yore are discussed in most of our current histories, so we tend to assume the Republican/ Democrat binary has been this way since the Constitution was signed.
But I digress. The thing is, I still believe that in a historical sense, we are witnessing the fall of the GOP. I’m not saying it will be immediate or quick (god, I wish it would be), but I think social trends are against them. For one, religious belief and church attendance, which have been steadily declining for decades, have sharply dropped in the last decade. Since the GOP is, for unfathomable reasons, choosing to cater to the extremist “base” of their party and the views they espouse — many of which are religiously-based and far more conservative than the average American — they’re simultaneously shooting themselves in the foot.
Over at Alternet, writer Sarah Posner posits that the Republicans don’t care about winning elections or how they appear on social issues; they’re more interested in changing the law. I think she’s onto something, but I also think it’s less dangerous than she allows for. Ultimately, the right-wing conservative social views are very radical, disturbing views that I think most moderate Republicans are uncomfortable with when faced with the reality of discrimination. There’s a great moment in the play compiled from the transcripts of the Prop 8 trial when Judge Walker is trying to clarify the stance/ defense of Charles Cooper, the lead attorney for Prop 8 proponents. I’m paraphrasing, but the conversation went a bit like this:
Judge Walker: Do individuals get married to benefit society? When people choose to get married, do they do so thinking, ‘I’m going to benefit society?’Charles Cooper: Well, it may be that individuals don’t get married to benefit society specifically, but that is the ultimate outcome. The question really has to be, why does the government regulate this relationship?Judge Walker: That’s a good question.Charles Cooper: It’s because this relationship is crucial to the public interest because of procreation, which benefits society as a whole. We need to protect the family that naturally procreates on its own without having to do weird unnatural things to get pregnant, and that’s what this is really about.Judge Walker: But the state doesn’t withhold the right to marriage to people who are unable to produce children of their own. Are you suggesting the state should?Charles Cooper: No. No, that would be crazy. How would you even manage that? You’d have to do invasive tests, and require couples to vow to have children before marriage — it would be Orwellian.Judge Walker: Yes, it would be Orwellian. It’s also the logical conclusion when you place natural procreation as the sole reason for state-sanctioned marriage.
It’s really sad and hilarious at the same time to watch those defending Prop 8 consistently debunk their own claims as they wriggle around trying to defend them. The lawyers challenging Prop 8 said, in their closing argument, that they had put fear and bigotry on trial, and fear and bigotry lost. And this is, ultimately, why I think the GOP is dying. Because they are re-positing themselves as the party of fear and bigotry, and I believe the American people are better than that.
I’m not saying it will all be easy or immediate or anything. I suspect we have a long hard road ahead of us, with a few more vitriolic elections and many, many more court cases as Republicans pervert Democracy and overturn the rule of law in state after state (anyone else following Republican’s efforts to restrict the black vote?)
But the fact is, the Republican party is affiliating itself so strongly with views that are unpalatable to most Americans. As much as I hate to say it, homophobia and anti-choice platforms were fairly safe to campaign on. It makes me sad, but they were. But restricting women’s access to health care? Implementing illegal restrictions on minority voters? In today’s world, sexism and racism just don’t fly with rational Americans, and by aligning themselves as a party with sexist and racist policies, they’re just highlighting how ridiculously sick and short-sighted all their views are.
This is becoming ever more evident and more and more people publicly wonder why the Republicans are apparently choosing to discredit themselves, in venues ranging from the Rachel Maddow show to personal and political blogs to news articles to forums like Reddit. The question, over and over, boils down to: What are these guys thinking?!? Are they serious?
Like many Americans, I’ve been wondering that, too. The policies they’re choosing to promote, as I’ve said, are so radical and distasteful to most Americans that it’s honestly pretty damn baffling that they continue to chase this dragon. These are the conclusions I’ve personally come to:
- It’s all a vast conspiracy
Just because it sounds crazy doesn’t mean it’s not true . . . right? Right?
- Pretend to be a crazy right-wing conservative Christian and run for president.
- Stir up lots of controversy over social issues and piss everyone off.
- . . . .
- Occam’s Razor
The simplest explanation is the most likely.
I think the candidates and party officials, the guys in charge, live in a bit of an echo chamber. I honestly don’t think they realize how completely whack-doodle out of touch their opinions are. There are several parts to this:
- Part of it is probably just that they’re old and out of touch.
- Part of it is likely that they’re buying into the whole FOX News drama martyr queen act of pretending the entire rest of the world is “liberal media” out to get them.
- Related to the above point, I suspect they’re telling themselves that while there are a couple outspoken voices in the liberal media decrying their policies, the majority of Americans are completely on board with them (the liberal media is misreporting the polls, see?)
- And part of it is that the party has, in large part, been taken over by extreme right-wing Evangelical Christians. Religious people (no offense my religious peeps) can kind of sort of tend to exist in their own special echo chambers, which helps with reaffirming faith, but doesn’t help so much with keeping in touch with societal trends.
And I think all these parts come together to cultivate a sort of endemic, institutionalized ignorance regarding their party and where it’s ultimately headed.
Obviously, my first conclusion is facetious. But my second conclusion is, I think, actually pretty valid. I think we have a tendency to believe there must be some grand master plan that will stun us all, but in this case, I don’t think there is. I honestly believe the Republicans as a party are dying for exactly the reasons it looks like: They catered to an extremist viewpoint that most Americans don’t share. They aligned themselves with the societal morals and values of the 1950’s, and are now trying to push us (socially) back to that point in regards to race relations, treatment of women, and keeping homosexuals pushed into the closet. It just won’t work.