Will the GOP have to lose another presidential election before it finally comes to its senses?
John Cassidy SAYS the answer to the question in the headline above is yes:
If you are anything like me, I suspect that part of you—the dark, cynical part you’d rather not acknowledge—has rather enjoyed the Republican Party’s two-decade-long descent into wacky, quasi-religious, know-nothing nativism. From Pat Robertson and Pat Buchanan to Sarah Palin and Michele Bachmann to Rick Perry and Rick Santorum, let’s be honest—the Party’s recent history has resembled a dark comedy scripted by Aaron Sorkin and designed to insure a Democratic hegemony in the Oval Office. Who knows? If it hadn’t been for the intervention of the Supreme Court in 2000, the G.O.P. could conceivably have lost six Presidential elections in a row, instead of four out of six.
Following the G.O.P.’s latest electoral debacle, many commentators, myself included, called time on this rib-tickling farce. Surely now, we opined, the fiendishly effective political party of Eisenhower, Nixon, and Reagan would reassert itself, cast aside the crazies, and present a more voter-friendly face to a country undergoing a demographic and social transformation. As my colleague Ryan Lizza reminded us the other day, we pundits weren’t alone: many G.O.P. insiders, including the sages at the Republican National Committee, whose job it is to get the party elected, signed onto the rebranding project. They published numbers-laden reports; talked up the prospects of younger, less divisive figures, such as Marco Rubio and Chris Christie; and looked forward to comprehensive immigration reform as the symbolic moment when the G.O.P. would embrace the future rather than the past.
So much for all that. Despite the best efforts of senators like Rubio, John McCain, Lindsey Graham, and even some representatives of the party’s antediluvian branch, such as Bob Corker, to construct an immigration bill that would be palatable to the party’s right, Speaker John Boehner declared the bill a non-starter in the House of Representatives, which is where the soul of the G.O.P. now resides. And late last week, as if just to make their intentions even more clear, the same House conservatives who forced Boehner’s hand on immigration turned around and stripped funding for the food-stamps program, which provides basic nutrition to millions of poor families, from the farm bill.
With even some respectable political analysts now peddling the argument that the most urgent task of the G.O.P. is to appeal to more alienated and absentee white voters, is it time to junk the theory that the party will eventually direct its attentions to the electorate at large? Could the party really remain in thrall to the God, guns, and anti-government brigade until Ronald Reagan returns to save us all from eternal damnation? That’s doubtful. Clearly, though, the adjustment process is going to take more time.
How much more? At this stage, it is looking like at least another four years—time enough for the party to suffer a third straight crushing defeat at the Presidential level. Based on history and common sense, that will probably be enough to give the reformers the upper hand. With today’s G.O.P., though, you never can be sure.