Rest in peace, Grand Old Party: long live, Grumpy Old Party!
When you look at today’s Republican Party, it’s almost hard to resist feeling a pang of sympathy (although I’ve always resisted). This isn’t to say they have no chance of retaining the White House this year: unfortunately, they have a fairly good one. Win or lose in November, however, the decline of the Republican Party as currently configured has passed the tipping point: it’s dying. And aside from a few dead enders (and media types), it’s hard to think many people will mourn its passing.
This is the house that Rove & Co. built — a powerful looking edifice that in its time rose menacingly up toward the heavens. It turns out, however, that its foundations were rotted from the start. The fatal defect being the three-part composite used in its construction: one part hate, one part greed and one part fear — a potent combination, to be sure, but not one, we now discover, that’s built to last.
The first of these components was made up of those who preach hatred born of the love of God. We shouldn’t make the mistake, however, of assuming this is about religion, or even more specifically about evangelical religion. A very wide range of political perspectives exist within evangelical communities, with younger evangelicals tending to be less political overall, and certainly less focused on traditional right wing social issues like abortion and opposition to gay rights.
No, this isn’t ultimately about religion: it’s about people who, for a variety of reasons, feel the need to hate: religion is just the excuse. If it weren’t available they’d find something else.
The second component of the house that Rove & Co. built was greed. Greed among the well-off has always been a mainstay of Republican politics, of course, the glue (and the gravy) that holds it together. This historic symbiosis, under which big business writes Republicans campaign checks, and, in return, Republicans write statutes and regulations to the liking of big business, has worked like a charm for decades.
The thing about greed, however, is that sometimes you can get a little to carried away with it.
The final component to the GOP composite is made up of its newest and most dangerous constituency, neoconservatives. 9-11, 9-11, 9-11! Endless wars, for endless peace! Call this the scare the piss out of the bastards school of politics, and it can be devastatingly effective — for awhile.
But the thing about being scared all the time is that people will only cower in fear for so long before saying, screw it, and getting on with their lives.
Ultimately, the problem with the composite that made up the house that Rove & Co. built was that while hate, greed and fear may at times make for good politics, they also make for awful governance. Virtually everything the GOP has touched in recent years has turned into a disaster. And whatever one may think of the intelligence of the electorate, eventually people were bound to notice. Well, now they have. And as a result, many are rejecting the Republican Party in a deeply felt way that looks likely to stick.
The long talked about coming transformational period in American politics, when the right wing would lose its grip on our politics, is finally happening right before our eyes: the age of right wing dominance is over and there’s nothing the GOP can do to bring it back. They may win this presidential election, and that would be tragic for the country for many reasons, but over the long haul the genie isn’t going back into the bottle. Their time has passed.
Something else: it turns out that these three components actually hate each others guts — and they’re starting to act like it. Meanwhile, the GOP finds itself out of ideas, even bad ones. All they have left is to mindlessly regurgitate the same old tripe. Facing a country that longs for an uplifting message and a new beginning, they offer the same old scare tactics and hate.
They’re like a grumpy old man who, having long since lost interest in life, is left with nothing better to do then hang around the town square berating everyone who passes by. He has nothing to offer aside from his own ill will.
The Grand Old Party is dead! Long live the Grumpy Old Party. May it sneer and grumble for 100 years!