SYNDICATED COLUMN: Is the GOP Doomed? Slightly Less than the Dems

In a Two-Party System, the Loser is Us

Stalin called bourgeois parties “the dancing bears of social democracy.” Toothless and undignified distractions, these non-movements personify the function of electoral politics—to channel the energies of the oppressed into bullshit discussions about trivia and inanities.

Uncle Joe’s hilariously inelegant phrase comes to mind these days as the corporate pundit class prattles on and on about the supposed current crise de coeur of the GOP. How, everybody is asking (if, by everybody, you mean a coupla dozen writers), can the Republican Party maintain its relevance?

Like that grammatical atrocity The Sequester (it’s a budget cut), the Republicans-could-go-extinct meme is a crisis so manufactured it hardly exists. The Party of Hoover still controls the House of Representatives. They hold us 27 state legislatures and 30 governors mansions.

You could even argue that they have the Democratic Party. The Dems of yore, after all, were big-spending liberals standing up for the little guy. FDR and LBJ wouldn’t recognize guys like Bill Clinton and Barack Obama, more worried about deficits, sucking up more to bankers and ignoring the plight of the poor and oppressed than so-called conservatives, as members of their party.

All this handwringing over the alleged danger that the GOP could fade into irrelevance—that’s mediaspeak for losing more elections—ignores the fact that Barack Obama only defeated Mitt Romney, a bizarre human being and an awful candidate—by a few percentage points. Republicans lost a few seats in the House and a pair in the Senate, but things basically remained unchanged. Not bad for a party that failed to present any new ideas beyond the usual gays suck, government should be small when the other party is in charge, and one of these days, just you wait and see, the rich really will spend some of those tax cuts here in the States.

The argument that Republicans need to reinvent themselves boils down to two factors, the first shoulder-shruggingly silly: given what a terrible job Obama did with the economy during his first term, the Republicans should have done better. No one was closer to summing this up than The New York Times the morning after Electorapocalypse 2012: “After four years in which the jobless rate never dipped below 7.8 percent, with millions of Americans still unemployed or underemployed and median household income falling, Republicans still failed to unseat President Obama and, for the second election in a row, fell short in their efforts to win control of a Senate that seemed within reach.”

A lack of crushing victory does not a defeat make.

The Paper of Record, Wednesday-morning quarterbacking elections a decade or two earlier, was evidently astonished by voters’ refusal to maintain its previous practice of punishing the incumbent party for a bad economy by rewarding an opposition that offers nothing better.

The worry that Republicans really should focus on is demographics: an influx of immigration, especially by Latinos alienated by decades GOP race-baiting on illegal immigration, coupled with a seemingly long term trend among young adults toward increased liberalism on social issues like gay marriage—young adults who will of course become the older adults of the future.

“The question now facing Republicans,” Brian Montopoli of CBS News wrote in November, “is whether they shift toward the middle or instead try to appeal to growing demographic groups while staying planted firmly on the right side of the political spectrum.”

George Skelton of The Los Angeles Times quotes a “veteran political consultant” who explains why California’s GOP is pretty much doomed: “Too white, too right and too uptight,” says the consultant, a Democrat. “That’s why the Republican Party can’t come back in California.”

A cogent and witty summary. And many conservatives seem to agree. The problem for them, as it was with Romney’s failure to make the case that he couldn’t fix the economy, is that all the proposed solutions are so lame that they’re hardly worth trying.

Karl Rove, “Bush’s architect” whose crazy right-wing politics now seem positively liberal compared to the even crazier, further-right Tea Party-dominated GOP, addressed delegates to the California state Republican convention last week, making the case for tokenism: “We need to be asking for votes in the most powerful way possible, which is to have people asking for the vote who are comfortable and look like and sound like the people that we’re asking for the vote from.” In other words, Marco Rubio. Which is Spanglish for Condoleezza Rice/Colin Powell. Sorry, but minorities have become too sophisticated for that. They want candidates who stand up for them, not just those whose skin tone matches theirs on the RGB chart.

In his pamphlet “Go For the Heart: How Republicans Can Win,” David Horowitz, whose politics blend classic 1930s fascism with Reagan at his welfare-queen filthiest, argues that the Republican victories of the future rely on a combination of hope and fear, making voters feel that Republicans care about them and that liberals want to enslave them in some imaginary nanny state. The trouble is that neither argument stands a chance of getting off the ground given decades of GOP propaganda. If Republican leaders have been successful at anything, it’s that convincing Americans that, not only do they not care about them, Americans don’t deserve to be cared about, and indeed anyone who does care is evil. As the tacit support for Obama’s flawed healthcare reform plan demonstrates, however, people really do want the government to care about them, at least to some extent. If anything, they’d like a little more nannying (in the form of a public option).

Many conservatives suggest downplaying the GOP’s stands on social issues because they aren’t popular. Some say they should be changed entirely. Others imagine a mishmash of social liberalism or at least libertarianism and fiscal conservatism.

The real reason that all of this is interesting is that it reveals the muddleheaded mess that characterizes political thought at this, a crucial juncture in the late final crisis of late stage capitalism in America. A successful political party, whether a genuine movement or a dancing bear of bourgeois electoral democracy, requires a consistent and coherent ideology. It isn’t enough to cobble together a laundry list of poll-tested positions on issues past and present. You have to put forth a way of thinking about the world that allows anyone to predict with a high degree of accuracy how your party would respond to the problems, challenges and controversies of the future, to events that are completely impossible to imagine today.

The Republicans aren’t anywhere close to achieving a coherent—much less popularly appealing—ideology.

On the other hand, neither are the Democrats.

(Ted Rall’s website is tedrall.com. His book “After We Kill You, We Will Welcome You Back As Honored Guests: Unembedded in Afghanistan” will be released in November by Farrar, Straus & Giroux.)

COPYRIGHT 2013 TED RALL

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12 thoughts on “SYNDICATED COLUMN: Is the GOP Doomed? Slightly Less than the Dems

  1. I remember where I was when I read “Terror Widows”. I almost choked on my coffee, because I had been thinking the same thing — but no one in the media was writing about it. Then — boom! There it was, in that brilliant cartoon, which pulled no punches.

    I understand you have to mix it up. You’re at your best though when you write about things that no one else will write about. It’s often the case that something needs to be said, but most writers don’t really have the balls to say it. That’s where you shine.

  2. The Idiot Whimsical, right on time. You’re my puppet, nothing more. I control you at will.

    @Ted: It’s not because you’re sick and grouchy, it’s because my “zzzzzzzz” comment is the truth, and you know it. This is the best you can do now? Analysis of the two-party system? I don’t read Ted Rall for shit I can read in WaPo by anal-retentives like George Will. I read Ted Rall to read about end times, or barring that — about terror widows.

    Step it up or you won’t have to ban me. I’ll go — along with my regular donations. Then you’ll be left with this gang of deadbeat losers who don’t appreciate you like I do.

    • I mix it up, Ex. Some terror widows. Some mainstream analysis. The mix keeps me sorta working. I’d love to focus on wild and crazy revolution shit, but someone needs to pay me to do that! Academia, maybe.

  3. The excruciating process that defined the first decade of the 2000s was a prolongation of the prosperity myth of through easy credit. That myth is weakened, and the entire narrative has undergone permanent change. PR firms fueled by the timely arrival of limitless corporate money will have to engineer the narrative within slightly stricter bounds, now. They are still defining the task before them, but I’m sure some dominant themes are starting to emerge. What political entrepreneurs need to do is make sure they are positioned to take advantage of this. Whichever party happens to have more individuals who are successful at this will start winning.

    from the article:
    “A successful political party, whether a genuine movement or a dancing bear of bourgeois electoral democracy, requires a consistent and coherent ideology. ”

    This is a crucial point. We need to remember that the two party winner take all model we have here isn’t even functioning up to the base, dysfunctional level it is capable of functioning at. We are witnessing a thoroughly debunked democratic instrument going through a process of repeated self negation in full view of all who care to take notice. But not even the media experts view any of this as problematic. We still hear the hand-wringing about “polarization” and all sorts of variations of a lamentation for the loss of the reasonable center. It’s like you can’t get a job as a media political analyst unless you never went to school. What Ted points out here is a cliche in political science academia. Parties are not functioning as parties. “Throw out the bums”, the most base yet idiot-proof version of joe sixpack democracy we have, can’t seem to even succeed at failing. This system is not meant to function with weak parties.

    Still, I can’t help but concede to a favorite libertarian ger that our problem has cultural roots. One needs look no further than to see the problem. Many people posting here suffer from a pathological inability to engage in dialogue. They deliver an internal or cut-n-past monologue, and then repeat with shallow variation. They seem to feel very connected to everything they say, completely unwilling to test ideas for error with those around them, and completely unexcited about the possibility of having their mind changed. There is absolutely no effort to try to co-define terms for conversation with other people. I’m afraid this is not limited to this board, but is a culture-wide problem. And, tragically, we all get the government the idiots deserve.

    @Whimsy and Exk:
    You both get an F. Please step it up or at least have the sense to stop littering the limited content area.

  4. Silly, silly plant, incoherent and incorrect as always. Tell me, do you confuse everyone who is smarter than you with your right wing masters, or is it just me?

    P.S. I see you still haven’t found the courage or brain cells to answer Alex, yet. Squirm away, plant; squirm away.

  5. You say: “The Republicans aren’t anywhere close to achieving a coherent—much less popularly appealing—ideology.” Ideology you previously defined as “a way of thinking about the world that allows anyone to predict with a high degree of accuracy how your party would respond to the problems, challenges and controversies of the future, to events … impossible to imagine today.”

    But you had already characterized that very GOP ideology, re Americans: “not only do they not care about them, Americans don’t deserve to be cared about, and indeed anyone who does care is evil.”

    I grant you it is not appealing enough to cement in place frank fascism but it is, inexplicably, appealing enough to control the House, 27 state legislatures and 30 governorship. AND it is indisputably coherent. It could not be more predictive of how the GOP would respond to any problem in the future: put on baseball shoes and jump up and down on the collective face of America.

    The Dems ideology? “What dey said”?

  6. @Susan: Well too bad I’m not on your board where you can be a tyrant that despises free expression. As it is, I’m here on Ted’s board where you’re powerless. As to the piece: It’s boring. What happened to revolution? What happened to Ted’s proclamations about the 2012 elections possibly not even happening because the country was about to explode. Occupy!

    Blah, blah, blah. Now it’s “wait until next time”, and in the interim we get op-eds on the state of the two parties. Talk about an about face. It’s like a music journalist who was writing about The Clash and The Sex Pistols, and now he’s writing about Mozart and Donny Osmond. Sad.

    The Idiot Whimsical surprises us today! Who knew he was actually Karl Rove! Nice to see you Karl! LOL! Pathetic.

  7. Doesn’t wordpress allow the owner of a blog to edit the blog? Lots of typos, which is extremely unusual for Mr Rall.

    “They hold us 27 state legislatures” Who us?

    “Romney’s failure to make the case that he couldn’t fix the economy” I think Romney made the case very well that he (Romney) couldn’t fix the economy.

    ” If Republican leaders have been successful at anything, it’s that convincing Americans that, not only do they not care about them,” that convincing Americans is the problem?

  8. @Ex,

    You can’t be that bored, because if you were, you wouldn’t come back here on a regular basis. Good thing Ted is so tolerant, because anybody who “zzzzzzzz” on my board would be kicked of without hesitation.

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