2013 Republicans

An article, Are the Republicans Beyond Saving? by Elizabeth Drew in the New York Review of Books, provides a good opportunity to understand the workings of one of the two major political parties in the U.S. as well as its place in the U.S. democratic processes, or in the lack thereof.

The Republicans actually believed they were going to win back the presidency in 2012. They were duped by their faulty polling assumptions.

“Exhilarated going into election night, they were totally unprepared for the thumping loss they sustained. That left them in a state of shock, and sensing that somehow they had been had.”

A series of electoral bargains with the devil has led the party to be boxed in, without flexibility and definitely cost them any shot at a national appeal. The bargains include:

  • The so-called Southern strategy which was designed to appeal to the racist side of southern voters
  • alliance with the Christian right
  • an alliance with ranching, mining and farming interests (the Sagebrush Rebellion)
  • The Club for Growth, a group of anti-tax and anti-spending group with tons of money that they use in primaries to knock off incumbents who don’t vote as they wish
  • Since 2010 the Tea Party has emerged, partly of grass roots origin and partly funded by Washington big money, pushing the poor Republicans farther to the right.

    “Many members of the Tea Party, or figures who ran for office with their backing, introduced a new concept of governing: they were against it”

    Some leaders understand that the party is virtually unelectable at the national level.

    “As in the case of other minorities, more than one issue is at stake. As long as the Republicans worship at the altar of “smaller government”—a euphemism for cutting domestic programs such as education at all levels as well as food stamps, unemployment benefits, and Medicaid—their appeal to groups they’ve been losing will remain limited.”

    Nonetheless:

    “As Nate Silver of The New York Times has pointed out, there are fewer “swing” districts in the House than ever before, creating a great disincentive to compromise. He wrote, “Most members of the House now come from hyperpartisan districts, where they face essentially no threat of losing their seat to the other party. Instead, primary challenges, especially for Republicans, may be the more serious risk.” The great shift toward the right on the Republican side in Congress occurred in 2010, when participation, as usual with off-year elections, was limited to the most zealous. The result was a dramatic increase in Republican control of entire state governments—from which have flowed the laws to break up public employee unions and tighten restrictions on abortions to the point of effectively strangling Roe v. Wade, as well as the efforts to fix federal elections through restricting voting rights of supporters of Democrats, and in some states even tinker with the electoral college. State governments of course do reapportionment, which can determine which party controls the House of Representatives.”

    Drew wonders if the country is no longer governable. She suggests those in despair pay attention to who gets elected at the state and local levels. LSW wonders if the boat will continue sinking until money is removed from politics, but is of course unsure how that might be accomplished.