After convincingly losing the Congress in 2006, getting crushed in the Presidential campaign of 2008 and now losing not just the Senate, but losing so many seats that they cannot launch a filibuster, the Republicans have become largely irrelevant.
The Republicans are a feeble party that has lost not only their power, but even the ability to merely influence the tone of political discussions outside their collapsing base. While it’s not nice to bury the living, should we be planning a funeral for the late, great Republican Party?
The one last edge the Republicans have left is the Supreme Court, but even there, they only have one justice majority and that advantage is unlikely to last for long.
To understand the future of the beaten-down Republicans, we must first examine why their party imploded.
As late as 2001, the Republicans were on top of the world, having secured all three branches of power with the election of President Bush who proceeded to consolidate power in the ashes of 9/11.
The Republicans got a textbook case of megalomania, however, and launched a trio of terrible policies, forcing No Child Left Behind, the Iraq War and a stunning budget deficit upon the startled populace.
If these policies were the extent of the Republican’s sins, they would still be in decent shape. However, the Republicans fundamentally damaged their brand during the Bush era.
Beneath the surface, Republicans were alienating a large group of voters who may never come back. The party maintained long, shrill campaigns about issues such as gay marriage and illegal immigration that sent a whole generation of both minorities and moderates into the welcoming arms of Democrats.
The Republicans also damaged, perhaps irreparably, their strongest asset –/their reputation as fiscal hawks. For the past century, the stereotype was that the Democrats would lavishly spend on all sorts of programs and that the nation had to elect Republicans to sober up after these spending binges.
But along came President Clinton and suddenly the Democrats could balance a budget, too. Then Bush followed and turned the Clinton surplus into the largest deficit in the nation’s history, shattering the illusion that the Republicans could be counted on to protect the nation’s treasury.
Now the Republicans are saying they need to be re-elected to stop Obama’s profligate spending but no one is listening.
Not only are people not listening to the Republicans bread-and-butter fiscal message, our nation has tuned out the party’s messages altogether.
And why shouldn’t we? The Republicans sent out a feeble presidential candidate in John McCain, and to this day, continues to lack aProxy-Connection: keep-alive
eader. The list of early 2012 frontrunners is similarly bland: Mitt Romney, Sarah Palin, Newt Gingrich. There’s nothing new or interesting there.
One name notably missing is that of Mark Sanford, the governor of South Carolina, whose brand of social conservatism was catching with the Christian right. Sanford’s presidential ambitions were derailed by his bizarre affair with a South American mistress.
What little enthusiasm that still lingers in the conservative base of the Republicans dies a little more with each passing scandal.
However, American politics are like a pendulum, and while the Republican Party’s condition is critical, it could still find new life.
Looking back at history, the Republican Party went dormant for 15 years after the stock market crash of 1929, but even after FDR appeared to create a permanent Democratic majority, the Republicans still found new meaning.
Though the Republicans have no leadership now, they could unite around a shared dislike of Obama’s policies. Now that the Democrats are in control, they’ve started trying to pass unpopular legislation like cap and trade that could eventually backfire.
More importantly, though the economic crisis started on the Republican watch, Obama has taken ownership of it and could become the fall guy if things keep getting worse.
One thing is certain though: if the Republicans want to have influence outside the sleepy backwaters of the South, they must stop basing their identity on the things they are against and start finding new leaders and vision that can unite the nation.
Editorials Editor Ian Bezek is a senior economics major. Letters and feedback can be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org.