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Predictably, the GOP is Learning the Wrong Lessons – Green Dragon
Nov 082012

“We need Latinos”.

That’s the only consensus conclusion being drawn by Republican talking heads after watching their candidates walloped on Tuesday. Seeing the Latino vote climbing steadily, GOPers today all seem to be nodding soberly and agreeing that, yep, they need them some Latinos.

(Well, okay, except for Viagra Rush and Bill-O the Clown. Those guys are just fulminating about the end of “traditional America”, apparently simply shattered at the prospect of a pluralistic society not ruled by old white guys.)

So: what’s wrong with that? The thing about the Latinos, I mean.

Well, to begin with, Republicans who are soberly talking about the urgency of getting with some brown people today are seemingly operating out of a stereotype of the Latino voter as Juan Valdez: a simple, hardworking and basically conservative Catholic, who is only backing Democrats because of the immigration issue.

They don’t seem to understand that Latino voters are Americans. In fact, millions of them were born and grew up here. They went to American schools, grew up in American society and, remarkably enough, they are not bewildered and amazed by smartphones and indoor plumbing. They have opinions on issues other than immigration. They’re no more stupid or gullible than any other segment of the population.

So that’s the first problem: your cutting-edge assessment that maybe you should be, I dunno, a little less racist, maybe, is rooted in assumptions that are…racist.

Not to mention the strategic problem, of course, that budging on immigration policy will make the Tea Party and Southern white racists’ heads explode. But on that, I just say boo effing hoo: you cultivated them, now you’re stuck with trying to keep them.

As I see it, the real mistake the Republican hand-wringers are making is in completely ignoring the real lessons of having lost two Presidential elections in a row and failed by every standard in this one despite a weak economy and limitless money faucet: their policies are unpopular and don’t work, and they have been deliberately deluding themselves that this isn’t so.

Republicans are in a bubble. They are only talking with or listening to people who think exactly like themselves, surrounded by an infrastructure of fable-tellers—conservative media, right-wing think tanks—which feed them a constant stream of fauxformation that reinforces their delusions about policy alternatives, about Democrats, and about what voters really want. That’s why they are all so danged shocked that the polls turned out to be right, that Nate Silver’s math outperformed Peggy Noonan’s gut feeling in predicting election outcomes.

If the Republican Party wants to remain viably competitive on a national scale, they have to become more like Eisenhower’s Republican Party: preferring a market-based, private-sector-centric approach to economics while recognizing that there is a legitimate role for governmental oversight and public works, and meanwhile standing for the liberty of the individual so long as that liberty doesn’t hurt anyone else. But rather than looking at this most fundamental of political problems and realizing that their dreams of a libertarian paradise or Jesusland or whatever the hell they’re trying to do are never going to happen, they just keep doggedly clinging to their increasingly discredited and unpopular policies, hoping to find some magical marketing strategy that will help them to sell America a s**t sandwich.

You don’t solve that by “getting some Latinos”. You solve it by facing reality. America is an increasingly heterogenous society. Women are a majority of voters. Young people are engaging in politics again. The middle class really has been nuked by Reaganomics. Climate change is real. Acceptance of civil equality for gay people is rising fast, and isn’t going to stop. Most people support abortion rights.

These are facts. Throwing a bone at a demographic while continuing to deny that your entire worldview is based in delusional fictions is not going to win you elections any more. Blithely lying about anything and everything is no longer persuasive: the public has caught on.

Predictably, however, the prescriptions being offered by leaders of the various Republican factions this week boil down to: get some of them Latinos, and move more in the direction of [INSERT FACTION HERE]. To head further into Crazyland.

You are now on the wrong side of both history and reality, Republicans. You can’t resolve that with some pretty packaging targeted at a group of people you have treated with naked hostility and contempt for decades. You solve it by starting to offer a product that seems to voters as though it might be useful in some way, instead of a pointless and irrelevant widget.

If you want to become nationally competitive again, you need to face facts, and tough your way through the inevitable civil war you must endure between your Plutocrats, Theocrats, and Teahaddists to a new agenda not rooted in delusion. Otherwise, the most you can possibly hope to do at the federal level is to serve as a spoiler now and again.

You don’t “need Latinos”. You need to wake the hell up.

On publication, the Dragon was KEEPING IT REAL

  10 Responses to “Predictably, the GOP is Learning the Wrong Lessons”

  1. What worries me- not that I can do anything about it- is the lunatic fringe, who will decide that, in order to combat the evil destruction of everything they hold dear, a violent response is called for. The odd thing is, this is exactly what happened when Nixon was elected, and the fringe right decided to go to guerrilla action. We saw how well that worked out. The difference this time, if it happens, is that many of those responsible for “keeping the peace” will sympathize with the activists. Or, maybe I’m just stereotyping, again.
    In any case, I have the feeling that, far from being the end of the uproar, this is just the quiet before the storm, and we ain’t seen nuthin’ yet. Hope I’m wrong. I don’t mind being wrong on this.

    • I agree, and that’s a major reason why the GOP needs to wake the hell up. They’ll lose more and more if they keep this up, and frustration about that is sure to boil over into violence on the part of their less disciplined supporters. Not to mention that having one of the country’s two parties out to lunch is just a formula for long-term disaster…eventually they’ll roll boxcars, and win.

      Look how much crazier they’ve gotten than the Bush administration just in four short years. Who knows how far out in the deep end they will be when they take the White House again?

  2. O00ps, I meant “fringe left”, of course. Must be a little disoriented, still, from all the excitement.

  3. The sad thing is that we really need a sane opposition party. Some problems require a federal-government solution, while some would do better with a local-government solution or a private-sector solution. It would be great to have a level-headed fact-based conservative party proposing serious local or private solutions and keeping the federal government honest.

    Instead, we’ve got an opposition party that says global warming isn’t happening, and terrorism happens because Muslims hate freedom. Instead of being a force for smart and focused regulations, Republicans never saw a regulation they liked. We could be having an intelligent argument about how to stimulate the economy, but instead they pretend the economy has no demand side at all.

    Yeah, in some sense it’s probably good for Democrats if the Republicans keep their heads in the sand. But it’s not good for the country, and that’s what really matters.

    • I agree, and I’ve had the same conversation in the comment thread on Daily Kos, where this was x-posted. It is a formula for disaster to have one of our two major parties be insane.

  4. So, what is it? Fire the Tea Baggers, drop abortion as an issue, drop homosexuality as an issue welcome Latinos and blacks back under the “big umbrella” or continue on their right wing extremist death spiral? Anybody want to guess?

    I’m guessing more moderation. Not sure how far it can go without their religious base going all Jonestown on us.


    • They have no good choices for the short term: they’re boxed. If they loosen up on abortion and gays, they lose a huge swath of low-information Christians. If they loosen up on immigration, they lose Southern, Midwestern and Mountain State racists. If they loosen up on regulation and Obamacare, they lose Teahaddists.

      Actually, the constituency they can most afford to throw under the bus is the Plutocrats. Those people are practical: most of them will get that accepting a small tax increase may get them back into power, which will enable them to make far more money. But the Plutocrats are 1) used to getting their way; and 2) so scary to Republican legislators that the latter don’t even dare *suggest* this approach, so the idea of scrapping knee-jerk opposition to tax cuts will probably never even be broached.

      The answer to your question strategically is that the Republican Party has to pick its poison. Given a choice, if I were in their position I’d fire the social conservatives: those are the least popular policy positions of the GOP, and those voters are unlikely to vote for Democrats no matter how much the Republicans screw them. The hucksters and televangelists who drive them know that if they split off, their influence plummets. I’d say you jettison the Christian Right, understanding that much of it will stick with you anyway…and the rest of the country will have tremendous respect for your choice.

      But honestly, that’s just a dream. What is left of decision-makers among Republicans is too ideological, too deluded, too rabid to make that choice.

      • Apparently, there are those in the Republican Party who agree with me. (pteh!) ran this piece today: link

      • The problem with throwing the plutocrats under the bus is that the Republican game plan since the 1980s has been to:

        1. Reduce taxes and government regulation on the 1% to get the ultra-rich to fund your elections.

        2. With lots of money, carpet-bomb the media messages that pander to the racism and prejudices of the uneducated masses. This gets various types of bigots (religious bigots, racial bigots, etc.) to vote for you.

        3. Get enough votes to win elections.

        4. Once elections are won, appoint a supreme court that says it’s unconstitutional to limit political contributions from the plutocrats. (Just look at Citizens United and see which presidents appointed every last justice who supported the majority position)

        5. Throw money in to making a “minitru” news network that panders to the prejudices of the conservative base while covertly getting them to support the plutocrats’ positions.

        6. As the plutocrats donate more and more money to the right-wing misinformation campaign, make the message more and more shill and more and more disconnected with reality to better mobilize the base.

        All of this worked really well: Two presidential elections won in the 2000s; overwhelming gains made in the congressional houses in 2010. I think the reason it fell apart in 2012 is because the groups of people the bigots were against finally got enough votes to counteract the votes from the right wing base. The Republican party knew this: Why do you think they went to so much effort trying to suppress the vote?

        Newt Gingrich supposedly said in the 1990s that the Republican party was doomed if serious campaign finance reform was ever passed.

        I really want to see the Republican party become a viable alternative again, but they have been in a pact with the Devil for so long now that it’s going to take some serious self-reflection and change of vision of the party to become one with a shot at the white house. The difference this year was 2.5% in favor of the Democrats–about 5% in favor in the swing states the Republicans need to get the White House again. That’s a gap that is going to increase every year unless the right changes their game plan.

        • I agree that that is the history and with your projection of the future.

          But still, making the Plutocrats back off is the best solution to a lousy situation for the GOP. The only member of the Republican coalition that is remotely practical at this point is the greedheads, and they understand the difference between half a loaf and none. If their only alternative to having populist and progressive Democrats running the show is to eat some higher taxes, they’re smart enough to make that deal. The problem is that privileged right-wing crazies like the Koch Bros. and Sheldon Adelson still think it’s 2004, and they can buy the government they want. They won’t play.

          The strategy you accurately describe is no longer viable except under conditions of very low turnout, which is why I believe the single, #1 priority for Democrats over the next two years–more than any policy advance, in fact–is to keep the organizing structure in place to ensure that 2010 doesn’t happen again. Demographic changes, the Bush demolition of the Republican brand and the increasingly deranged rhetoric, positions and claims of the Republicans and their megaphones have finally made it dawn on Americans who haven’t drunk right-wing Kool-Aid that the GOP is neither trustworthy nor their friend, but that only matters if they turn out.

          Since the crazy Christians and paranoid racist libertarians cannot possibly be made to see reason, the best bet the GOP has is to go populist, make some gestures towards reining in plutocratic excess (starting with allowing a tax increase on the rich), and step well back from absolutist positions on gays and abortion. As I said: back towards Eisenhower.

          Thanks for your comment and for visiting the Green Dragon!

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