Columnists » Grinding The Edge

Is the GOP Headed for Oblivion?

by Steve Weinstein
Monday Sep 17, 2012

Barring an unforeseen catastrophe on the level of a mob in some Middle Eastern nation taking U.S. Embassy personnel hostages, which was the final blow to Jimmy Carter's presidency, it is becoming increasingly apparent that Mitt Romney is going to go down to defeat against President Barak Obama.

At this point, the big question is by how many electoral votes Obama will best his GOP opponent. Lest you think that I'm being overly optimistic, I've been monitoring GOP-leaning and right-wing websites. Without exception, they're now engaging in a circular firing squad.

The Wall Street Journal's opinion pages, considered the most popular and important source for the Right's thinking, is publishing more and more pieces of critical of Romney's campaign. Even Fox News, the main national cheerleader for the Right, has joined in the finger pointing.

The Democratic Party, meanwhile, remains unified behind Obama. To be sure, there are those are disaffected by the lack of substantial progress on the economy or the housing market. But blue state voters' lack of enthusiasm palls in comparison to the red state voters' antipathy to Romney.

Some of this may be a result of the deep suspicion among the party's Evangelical base with the Mormon religion, which they see as an apostasy against basic Christian beliefs. But many of these people have a pretty clear view of what has happened: By far the second-most liberal GOP presidential candidate had to veer far to the right in order to defeat fire-breathing conservatives like Herman Cain, Michele Bachmann and Newt Gingrich.

The irony is that the most liberal (and not a liberal at all in any general sense), John Huntsman, may well have swamped Obama in the general election. But the GOP base that comes out in force in the primaries saw him as a traitor because he dared serve their nation as an ambassador to China under Obama.

This points to the great weakness in the Republican Party. Voters in the primaries are the meat-eating right-wingers. The moderates increasingly see themselves as an endangered species. Ridiculed as "RINOs," they have ceded primary after primary to unelectable candidates.

Thus a nitwit like Sharron Angle, who ran against the very vulnerable Harry Reid for the Senate in Nevada, managed to lose. So did Christine O'Donnell in Delaware, who was so crazy that her GOP opponent endorsed her Democratic rival. And then there's Missouri's Todd Aken, whose comments about rape were so out-there that the entire party establishment has abandoned him to defeat against the (formerly) most vulnerable Democratic senator up for re-election this cycle.

Meanwhile, Mass. Sen. Scott Brown is patiently trying to demonstrate a middle path to lead the party out of the wilderness in which it has found itself: moderate on social issues like abortion while to the right on fiscal policy and national defense. On gay rights, Brown has tread very carefully. He injected himself into the fight to repeal the military's "Don't Ask Don't Tell" rule (and isn't shy to point up his services). As for same-sex marriage, he simply dismisses it as a non-issue in his home state.

Instead of looking at politicians like Brown as a way to cipher votes from urban professionals, Roman Catholics and Hispanics, party members either berate him as a turncoat or dismiss him with "Oh, well, that's the only way to get elected in Massachusetts."

What they don't realize -- or don't want to acknowledge -- is that, in the post-post-Stonewall Era, there are very few Americans who don't know a gay man or lesbian or have at least one in their extended family. So issues like same-sex marriage go from the abstract ("It undermines the institution of marriage") to the personal ("My brother-in-law's partner can't have the same rights my husband and I have").

If anyone doubts what I'm saying, only look at Dick and Lynne Cheney. The "Darth Vader" of the George W. Bush Administration, the former vice-president was considered the right wing's standard-bearer. His wife was extolled as one of the intellectuals responsible for current right-wing thinking.

When the Cheneys came out for marriage equality, right-wingers dismissed it because of his daughter Mary, happily married and co-mother to two children. But isn't that the point?

Compare the two parties' much-discussed platforms, which perfectly embodied the divide. The Democrats forthrightly came out for marriage equality; the GOP just as adamantly insisted on continuing a rearguard action to fight it.

So where do these stances and these party activists leave the GOP? Increasingly as the party of rural white voters, more often male and poor. The Democrats already have a virtual lock on every mega-state with the exception of Texas, and many observers believe that the continued influx of urban professionals and Hispanics will eventually turn that solid red state blue.

The Democrats now look to be locking up most of the second-tier states (in terms of electoral votes), such as Maryland, Colorado and even Virginia. That party now controls the entire Northeast, the entire Pacific Rim (with the exception of vote-paltry Alaska) and the Upper Midwest.

The GOP is left with a few second-tier states like Indiana, North Carolina (which went with Obama in 2008) and Arizona, while it has to fight for once-reliably red states like Nevada, Iowa and, in this cycle, Wisconsin (home to the party's vice-presidential candidate). The party's base? The Confederacy (excepting Virginia and Florida); the Great Plains; and a bare majority of the Rocky Mountains.

The reddest presidential states, such as Oklahoma, Kentucky and West Virginia, are also the poorest, the most rural, the whitest and the least educated. This does not bode well for the party's future.

As long as party leaders stay in thrall to demagogic Evangelicals like Focus on the Family's Tony Perkins, the party will remain anathema to Americans who see issues like same-sex marriage and openly serving in the military as boiling down to basic fairness. (Unlike many others, I discount the influence of billionaires like Sheldon Adelman and the Koch Brothers for the simple reason that the Democrats are equally in thrall to their millionaires. Influence belongs to the richest people, always has.)

Believe it or not, I think it's sad to see the Grand Old Party imploding like this.

America needs a two-party system. It's part of our belief in politics as balance. If the GOP recedes into rural No Nothings (the rural anti-Catholics of the 19th century), well maybe another party will arise to take its place, just as the Republican Party rose out of the ashes of the Whigs.

Then again, there's every possibility that the Democrats will revert to the kind of in fighting that put it in the political wilderness after the 1968 Chicago Convention and George McGovern's candidacy. It's worth remembering the famous quip from popular 1930s cowboy comic Will Rogers: "I am not a member of any organized party -- I am a Democrat."

Steve Weinstein has been a regular correspondent for the International Herald Tribune, the Advocate, the Village Voice and Out. He has been covering the AIDS crisis since the early '80s, when he began his career. He is the author of "The Q Guide to Fire Island" (Alyson, 2007).


  • , 2012-10-07 18:04:42

    As a former Republican (and current Libertarian), I’d say you’re absolutely right. In fact, the extreme far-right Evangelical base is what set me over the edge in leaving and I was very active, too). I’m very fiscally conservative, but I’m also very socially tolerant and the GOP just wasn’t doing it for me anymore. I hope they get their act together, but I just don’t see it happening.

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