Growing up, the world was a different place. Reagan was still giving Americans patriotic rage-boners even years after he left office. Being a republican wasn’t necessarily “cool”, but more a status symbol. It told the world that you were doing well enough that you didn’t have to worry about the poor, even if you weren’t doing quite so well that you were obligated to. The democratic party, on the other hand, was a dumping ground for the effete, the wishy-washy, the uninitiated, and hippies. Bill Clinton came along, and though technically a democrat he was the southern, Rooseveltian kind who hid his moderate liberalism under a cloak of abusing his power to pork a bunch of 4′s and low-5′s, something for which all rich white men can agree to reach across the isle. When I was young, voting democrat wasn’t about being poor or even a minority; it was essentially admitting to the world that you were incapable of helping yourself. If you were in a position to vote republican, it meant you were in a position to bully the other side with your evidenced success, and in some cases for certain people, racism, misogyny, and homophobia.
Fast-forward to 2008. Historically, the nation was willing to turn a blind eye to social woes if the alternative promised economic prosperity, but eight years of a bloody war nobody wanted and a spiraling financial collapse had finally made the republican party as attractive as prison rape. From then on, republicans could no longer defend their reluctance for social progress with prosperity, because there was none. It became awfully hard to defend your party on the basis of policy when factions of it were having more difficulty with the meaning of the word “rape” than Clinton did with the word “is”. Metaphorically speaking, republicans had their one remaining leg swept violently from underneath them by a big, mean, linebacker of a democrat. After kicking your ass, that same physical specimen, fresh off an organic vegan meal and crossfit workout, would probably call you a “fag”. Then he and his friends would laugh at their own irony, because your assailant just came back from his own gay honeymoon.
Democrats are the new bullies, though to be fair it’s been a long time coming. But as lazy and baseless as it used to be to dismiss any democrat as an “effeminate queer looking for a handout”, so too is it lazy and baseless to dismiss any republican as a “misogynistic homophobe trying to bring us back to the 1950′s”. But that’s what happens. While there was once a time when the best a democrat could do when faced with a chest-thumping, money and flag waving republican was to concede that they have divergent viewpoints, the left can now take the offensive. Now, anyone with conflicting views on things like women’s issues or immigration is accused of “hate speech”. Anyone who didn’t vote for Obama this go-round must, obviously, be a racist. No, seriously:
So if you’re a Republican who actually thought this was going to turn out differently, here are a few pointers for your party going forward:
1. Minorities and women can vote. I know you just assumed their masters would keep them at home, but somehow they escaped and voted against you, so maybe not shit all over them next election. They’re very crafty.
2. Math wins every time. Even if you call people who use it a faggot, Dean Chambers, you fucking moron, it still exists in this place called reality where facts live. You should visit sometime.
3. Stop saying things like “failed social experiment,” or at least have the balls to say what you really mean which is, “This is what happens when you let a nigger be president.” Also, for the record, what happens is he wins the popular vote again because Americans like his policies and white men are the minority now.
Let’s put aside for a moment that besides Dean Chambers’ comments on Nate Silver being bigoted and archaic, they were a sad, antiquated attempt to disguise the fact that anyone who’d taken a high school stats class could more or less agree with what Nate Silver was doing at his blog. The quote is from a site that I normally love for its funny celebrity coverage, but they had to throw their political two cents in, and why wouldn’t they? If anyone argues, they can just use the same rhetoric with no adverse consequences. Nevermind that women have had universal suffrage for nearly 100 years and kinda sorta had to have something to do with past republican victories. Nevermind that math didn’t “win” the election so much as predict it, or that predicting victory for a popular sitting president isn’t the toughest call to make. Nevermind that saying “white men are in the minority now” in this context suggests that that minority doesn’t deserve its own political views, which is exactly what republicans are accused of. Calling someone a racist is as pedestrian and acceptable a slur now as calling someone the n-word was 100 years ago. It’s impossible in 2012 to assume that a republican is anything but everything that’s wrong with the world, the same way it was with democrats in the Reagan era.
Speaking of celebrities, while I’ve touched on their uselessness before, the internet really gave them a forum in which to express their unsolicited political views. Some celebrities, if you want to call them that, delighted in clogging everyone’s twitter feed with political mudslinging:
That’s Rob Delaney, a usually funny stand-up comic and Twitter junkie. Other “celebrities” were a little rosier about the whole thing. Take for instance Brenda Song, famous for being on the Disney Channel, co-starring in the Facebook movie, and being a total smokeshow:
I assume she meant “that” we love, but whatever, she kind of just proves my point. Celebrity endorsements for politicians used to be at best a chore and typically inconsequential. It was never a big deal, because while republicans have never been cool, at least it used to be that no politician was cool. No celebrity wanted to hang out with Jimmy Carter or John Kerry, let alone be seen doing it. But Obama is different. Obama is cool. Barack Obama hangs out with Beyonce and Jay Z, the epitome of a cool, talented celebrity couple. Mitt Romney hangs out with Clint Eastwood and an empty chair. I don’t know the extent of the influence celebrity endorsements have on voter opinion, but it’s hard to foresee a time when the average American is going to flat-out ignore the leanings of their celebrity role models in favor of doing their own research.
When Obama ran in 2008, while his record was more substantial than many people on the right claim (he voted “present” less than 3% of the time as a state senator, and never as a US senator), it wasn’t what anyone would call objectively substantial. But it didn’t matter. In 2008, when the economy was circling the drain and everyone’s vote for president was “anyone but Bush”, Obama was the perfect candidate for a restless nation searching to make the intangibles tangible, enthralling us with wordy, vague-yet-hopeful metaphors. This time around, there really wasn’t a scenario where he could lose. If the economy happened to be doing well, the landslide nature of his victory would have been historic. If the economy wasn’t doing so well, as was the case, it was up to the challenger to prove to the public how he’ll turn the ship around. Because that’s not so easy a thing to do and Romney was either unable or unwilling to try, he was dead in the water. And barring some catastrophic mishandling of the economy, that’s the way things are going to go. The democrats will always offer the progressive social views modern Americans want, they’ll downplay the economy when necessary, and if they’re smart, they’ll deliver that packaged as the coolest guy they can possibly find. One key (or at least the most publicized) aspect of Obama’s economic “plan” was “Um….. Charge more money?” If that doesn’t speak to how easy he knew he’d have it, I don’t know what does.
Unless things change, the republicans are never going to win another election, at least not in my lifetime.
That change, of course, will come in the form of a republican candidate who shares America’s social values while maintaining the more defensible aspects of the conservative core. I think we’d have known by now if gays were going to destroy the fabric of the American family, but immigration? That’s a place we can have actual, substantive ideological discussions. It’s fine (probably essential) to be religious, but pretending that a baby born of rape is a “miracle” isn’t going to be a hit with anyone. The candidate would have to be young enough to be considered attractive (or at least passable) in our youth-driven, pop-culture addicted society, and he’d have to be someone whose record and history don’t result in his immediate dismissal by the lower class and minorities. Not even a white, southern, middle-class male really wants to vote for someone he sees as a Wall Street fat cat. In both of the past two elections, after the republican loss pundits and party members alike claimed that the republicans need to “re-evaluate their party”. It’s not even about the party, it’s about their electorate. Namely, who they are, what they want, and what they believe in today, not 40 years ago.
That electorate is also part of the problem. A democratic primary candidate is free to tiptoe as far towards the center as he wants and only be as liberal as he needs. Republicans, on the other hand, have to battle it out in a race to the bottom to see who can ignite the kind of core voter who participates in a republican primary election. They’re forced to avoid the center, and the near-misses by Rick Santorum and Rick Perry are proof that it’s almost impossible to go too far to the right. Once the election comes around, contrary to popular belief, the two-party system actually results in less fanatical polarization. For the republican candidate to have a shot, he has to creep back towards the center, which the opposition will hammer him on, relentlessly. Abortion, gay marriage, and other questions that shouldn’t even be a presidential candidate’s domain create a trail of ideological flip-flops that are hard to dig out of, and all to appease a portion of the electorate that will vote for the candidate wearing the red tie no matter what. A candidate with a sincere, consistently moderate social stance would fare much better, but the core right won’t let them see daylight. Just look at how many presidential nominations Ron Paul’s won, for instance.
The solution? I’m far from a political scientist, but it seems like the democrats have the right ideas: Mobilize young, socially liberal, fiscally unaffected voters. Reach out to minorities. The democratic success doesn’t lie so much in convincing people to vote for them so much as it does in convincing them to vote period. Relying on the same conservative core to carry an election is like trying to get blood from a stone. Instead, when it comes to the primaries, the primary republican objective should be to not only present candidates with views and records more in line with the modern voting public, but to actually make a sincere effort to start a dialogue with that voting public. That’s not to say they can ignore their core completely, because even if we disagree with some of their values, that doesn’t make them invalid as people or voters. I’m just saying that the democrats haven’t paid a whole lot of attention to California, and that seems to be working out ok for them. But campaigning in a swing state to the same crowds with the same stump speeches isn’t working. If the voters the democrats are able to mobilize truly care about the electoral process, they should have just as much interest in the republican primaries as they do in their own, provided we give them candidates that make them think rather than turn them off.
Until that happens, I’ll continue to vote republican unless compelled otherwise. I just don’t think it’ll matter much.