OPINION by Devona Walker
It use to be said that trying to bring together the diverse caucuses and constituencies of the Democratic party was similar to herding cats. Now, the same is being said about Republicans.
With the rise of the Teaparty and emergence of Libertarian-leaning fiscal conservatives, the sacred pact between establishment Republicans, NeoCons and Evangelicals seems hopelessly splintered. It may have been overlooked in this last election, as they were so unified in their opposition to President Obama. But the fact is the fire-breathing talking heads of conservative media (from Sean Hannity to Ann Coulter to Laura Ingraham to Rush Limbaugh) have alienated and silenced the rational voices in the party. In this last election, Republicans could not agree on a candidate. Then as soon as it was over, they started publicly pointing fingers regarding the direction of the party. The party platform, which seemed like a throwback to the 1950s to many of us, was a huge source of dissension. So the question is, what now? If the only thing holding the party together is the fact they don’t like the President then what is the GOP going to do now? President Obama has another four years, and it appears that the Republican Party is heading towards utter irrelevancy. What’s next?
Come to the light, so sayeth John Boehner
House Speaker John Boehner is charged with getting the Republican-controlled House to compromise. The prevailing wisdom appears to be that he will succeed — for no other reason apparently than they have to compromise. I am not so optimistic. Even though it seems obvious to the rest of us that Republicans have been led by the right wing off a cliff, some still don’t seem to get it. Some continue pointing the finger at a flawed candidate. Mitt Romney was not a great candidate. But he was the only sane person in a field of utter lunatics; Rick Santorum, Michele Bachmann, Newt Gingrich, Rick Perry and Herman Cain.
Some speculate they just need more viable Latino candidates, without realizing it’s their tone and policies regarding immigration and domestic social policies that are the real issue. Marco Rubio might represent a new complexion but as long as Republicans continue to use the word “illegal” as a noun to describe immigrants, I don’t imagine them persuading too many Hispanics to vote with the party.
Some have even doubled down on anger, saying the American electorate, the majority of whom voted for Obama because they want more entitlements, is the problem. Guess the whole “47percent fiasco” was entirely lost on this group.
No one is questioning policy decisions. No one seems to realize the tactic of demonizing large chunks of the electorate to motivate another only works when the folks who are being alienated are in the minority. In short, they don’t realize minorities now represent a majority in the U.S. What’s more important, they seem deaf to the fact that this trend will continue in the immediate future.
There are several things threatening the Republican Party, and here’s a hint: It’s got very little to do with Obama or the Democrats.
The Grover Norquist pledge: The notion of asking the extremely wealthy to contribute more in this country worked well with voters, and it worked for Democrats during this political cycle. Norquist, President of American for Tax Reform, is still considered one of the most powerful men in U.S. politics. Just before the election, he told the Washington Post that regardless of whether Obama was reelected, that taxes would not go up. The vast majority of Congressional Republicans have in fact accepted his “no tax” pledge. The bold-face threat that he, backed by massive corporate dollars, would replace any Republican who defies that pledge still remains.
The anti-immigrant voter. There continues to be a very anti-immigrant and tribal chunk of the voting electorate who are threatened by the growing number of non-white immigrants. Their chosen target is Hispanics. But what they are really reacting to, in my opinion, is diversity. The fact that white folks are no longer a clear majority, the fact that street signs are often written in more than English and the fact that what they perceived as their country’s “black problem” just isn’t that simple anymore. These are the voters who are behind anti-immigrant statutes in places like Arizona, Arkansas, Oklahoma, etc. They are the reason right-wing political candidates have passed “Sharia Law” statutes despite how unnecessary and ridiculous they are. It’s not likely their elected representatives will suddenly start ignoring them.
Jesus Freaks. Religious zealots in this country are notorious for complicating things. They use religion as a basis for bigotry, in passing constitutional amendments banning gay marriage. They use religion as a basis for ignoring science as it relates to climate change. They use religion as a basis for controlling women in the case of anti-abortion activists. The real Republican threat when it comes to these voters is that they will not compromise. Their beliefs are sincere, even though they are absolutely wrong. And to compromise, in their opinion, contradicts the will of God.
The conservative media. On both sides of the political divide, the media has devolved into peddling influence as opposed to informing the electorate. This has been the mantra for Fox News from the beginning. As long as Fox News controls the messaging for the Republican Party, they will not compromise, they will not moderate. They devolve from being a political party of national relevance into being a collective of dissidents.
Devona A. Walker is the politics editor for The Burton Wire.