Whither the GOP?

Happy Thanksgiving to you all! It’s been a couple of weeks since I published my late night post Schneider victory celebration blog and, with the kind permission of Lauren Beth Gash and the 10th Dems, I will continue to blog on the political events of the day. I do want to make it clear that while I am a Progressive, I will call it as I see it and no one but me is responsible for these blogs. The past two weeks saw me in Virginia Beach for 5 days with my fencers and then hosting 11 teams at Northwestern last weekend, so it has been hard to get on the computer, but I finally get a couple of days off and wanted to share some thoughts with you.

I am sure you are all sick to death of post election analysis, yet I’d like to make some observations. Although many in the GOP don’t seem to yet get it, they are way off message when it comes to the American people. They will not be able to win another presidential election, and will probably lose the House in the next election, unless someone over there realizes this. The problem is two fold.

First, the Republican Party has been run by the extremely wealthy since the Gilded Age of the 1880s. Once the Party abandoned the humanitarian part of their platform in 1876, which had been founded on Abolitionism and the program of the progressive reform of the ills of society promoted by the “Great Awakening”, the basic motivating factor for them has been to use the government to facilitate trade and promote the conditions that allow the rich to become richer. The Great Awakening was the religious movement of the late 18th and 19th centuries in America and Great Britain which was based on the impulse that Christian principles included a moral duty to improve the lot of, not only the common man in Great Britain and America, but also bring Western Christian civilization to the World. The tangible result of the movement was the abolition of slavery and the slave trade, child labor laws, the 8 hour work day, prohibition, regulation of the safety of consumer products and of the workplace, and, in Great Britain, the extension of the franchise to all males, and, in both countries, women’s rights and suffrage. Some of this also became tied up in Missionary endeavors to places in Africa and Asia, and, ultimately, the issues of Western Imperialism and colonialism.That is a whole ‘nother discussion.

Up until the Gilded Age, opportunity in America had been wide open. The frontier gave many the right to go and make something of themselves. But, with the burst of industrial growth by 1880, those who had made it began to try and preserve and expand the wealth they had made at the expense of those who hadn’t. So the Carnegie’s, Vanderbilt’s, Adams’, Field’s and other magnates moved the GOP to being the party of business and, quite frankly, exploitation. They fought the Unions with hired cops and fought every piece of legislation designed to make the lot of the working man better. They also supported Imperial expansion to Hawaii, Cuba, and the Philippines to enlarge their trade opportunities, even if it meant war to suppress the aspirations of other peoples to govern themselves – an irony noted by Anti-Imperialists of the day.

The crash of 1929 finally allowed a coalition of labor, farmers, populists, etc. to challenge big capital and the result was the election of FDR and the New Deal. But big capital has never given up the fight to regain the right to do what it wants and it hates the New Deal. But it also realized that to win elections, it had to find allies and convince some sector of the American people that it wasn’t just a question of what the wealthy wanted, but some other issue that was paramount. In 1968, Richard Nixon played the race card in the South during the height of the Civil Rights movement and brought the ‘solid Democratic south’ into the Republican fold. Ronald Reagan opened the door to right wing Christian fundamentalists and so Nixon’s southern strategy plus the addition of evangelicals resulted in 24 years of Reagan and Bush.

But, this strategy is bankrupt. Rove and his PACs spent billions to try and win by convincing people that the President was a socialist and to ignore the GOP’s assault on Wall Street regulations, labor, and the environment. And they failed. Lost the race for President and seats in both the Senate and the House. Ryan’s plan to cut social programs doesn’t resonate with the American people because they don’t want to lose them. Simple as that. Until the GOP realizes that they can’t blatantly favor the rich over the rest of us, they won’t win.

The second part of the problem for the GOP is their choice of allies. Both parties have suffered election losses when they have been taken over by the more extreme parts of their parties. People predicted the end for Republicans with Alf Landon and Barry Goldwater, and for the Democrats when they threw over Humphrey for McGovern. Neither happened, for both parties moved back to the center left, where mainstream America is – where the New Deal reforms have put it. Now, the GOP is fronted by the Tea Party and the Evangelicals, backed by Big Capital, but Americans were repelled by the Mourdocks and Akins and they lost. Until the GOP abandons this lot, the demographics will continue to work against them and they will shrink as a party.

The last time a major party disappeared was in 1856 when the Whigs dissolved. I find it hard to believe that the Republicans will follow. It might take a licking in the 2014 mid-terms, but the moderates in that party will push back against the extremists and move it back to the center. Moreover, the Koch brothers and their allies aren’t stupid. They actually convinced themselves that Romney was going to win, but they were given a rude shock two weeks ago and they will adjust. Those of the very wealthy who think that making money is the only thing in life will never quit and they will be always with us. Don’t be surprised to see them suddenly stop denying climate change to make money off wind and solar power. To keep them in check, the Democrats need to take advantage of the moment and present quality and realistic solutions to our fiscal and other problems. More on this next time.

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