james debate
james debate

Sunday 8 March 2009

4 short years ago, the Republican party had near complete control of the country, the White House, and both chambers of congress. Now, they have suffered one of the biggest defeats in modern political history, in an election with easily the highest turnout of any election. Now even high priority members of the party are sounding the alarms, warning that the GOP is on the verge of becoming a regional party. Today we ask, how did things go so wrong, and how bad are they really?

sarah palin disaster

It was obvious for most of the election season these past two years that the GOP has been in major trouble. Their image and popularity is at an all time low as they become increasingly associated with ignorance, intolerance and deceit. Bush and his cronies used fear and intolerance to mobilize the masses, and last year the Republican party figured they could just pull the same tricks over again, and failed.

What happened next is a perfect example of the disdain and condescension with which the Republican party views the American people. The GOP then nominated Sarah Palin as John McCain's running mate, a move that even McCain was against. The logic behind picking a political nobody who was not even highly regarded in her own state or party was that American women who were bitter at Hillary not being nominated would be dumb and shallow enough to vote for Palin, just because she was a woman, even though she was ideologically the opposite of Hillary. They weren't even shy about admitting this, as you can see from this example of many adverts aimed explicitly at Hillary supporters.

Needless to say, this was highly offensive to most women and backfired spectacularly on the party. At this point most Republicans were hoping that this would be a wake up call to higher ups in the party that these tired, childish tactics wouldn't work anymore on an increasingly informed and educated populace, freely accessing facts and information on the internet (the ultimate disaster for any Republican). Then they went and did the exact same thing again. In the wake of Obama's crushing victory, the GOP figured all it needed to get back on top was a few high profile minorities of its own; cue much hyping over up and comer Bobby Jindal and the election of Mike Steele to RNC chairman.

Not surprisingly these moves have proven to be disasters as well, with Bobby Jindal's hilarious attempt at charisma roundly panned and mocked by pundits and politicians the world over, and with Mike Steele's racist and token attempt to court minorities with speeches about giving the party an "urban-suburban hip hop makeover" and running an "off the hook campaign" to appeal to the kids. You know those really really bad comedy movies where old rich white guys start acting like young black guys and the viewer dies a little inside? Yeah that's essentially what's happening at the GOP right now. It's embarrassing and cringeworthy that the GOP really thinks it will appeal to minorities and kids by spouting off random buzzwords. Clearly the GOP is still completely clueless as to what it is about Obama that people like.

At this point, the state of the GOP was simply embarrassing at best, and mind numbingly stupid at worst, but that wasn't even the end of it. Amidst the chaos rises Rush Limbaugh to serve as a unifying voice for a party in disarray. Rush is basically your stereotypical fat, white, ignorant Republican who is more concerned with partisan victory than in what is actually best for the country, as exemplified in his completely humorless assertion that he wants the government to fail. So much for the GOP's "Country First" slogan eh?

On the surface it would seem easy to just ignore this guy, as simply another of many radio shock-jock idiots, but what really makes this guy scary is the power he holds within the Republican party. Not only did Rush give the keynote speech at the recent CPAC conference, but after initially strong bipartisan support for the Obama presidency, it was Rush on his radio show who threatened Republican members of congress that anyone who voted for Obama's stimulus would be campaigned against and lose their positions in the next election. Then surprise surprise they all complied, suddenly scared by the sway Rush holds over Republicans.

Particularly shocking is seeing even the highest ranking GOP politicians sucking up to Rush. South Carolina Governor Mark Sanford said that anyone who shares Rush's desire to see Obama fail is an idiot, before quickly and desperately apologizing making every effort not to offend Rush. Then congressman Phil Gingrey lambasted Rush for putting partisan politics ahead of his country, before publicly and explicitly imploring Rush for his forgiveness. Worst of all is when token RNC minority Mike Steele referred to Rush as just an 'entertainer' in an (actually pretty wise) attempt to distance the party from Limbaugh... sadly less than 24 hours later he took it back making absolutely clear that he did not intend to undermine the great "leadership" of Limbaugh. This clearly undermines his point, and seems to specifically refer to Rush as a 'leader' of the party.

So what does it say about a political party that is under the thumb of a sensationalist radio host like Rush? This may be one embarrassment too many for the party, as Republicans have effectively become split down the middle between those who hang on Rush's every word and really will boycott any politician who disrespects him, and those more respectable Republicans who wish Rush would shut up, and are mortified by the wishy washy weakness that GOP leadership is showing in dealing with him. It is especially devastating in the wake of everything else that has happened in the past year. It has become clear the the GOP is simply clueless, and doesn't seem to learn from its mistakes.

The result is a party consumed by infighting and division, which still treats its voters like uninformed dopes and somehow believes that the way to win back popularity is to act like stubborn babies and antagonize Obama's efforts. It is of course having the opposite effect as more and more people give up on the Republican party, which is crashing and burning far more quickly than anyone could have imagined. Recent surveys show a record low 27% of Americans see themselves as Republicans, fewer than the number of people who now see themselves as independents.

The message here is obvious, the Republican party is on the way out. It is torn between the extreme rightists of Rush, and Bush, and Palin and the more sensible Republicans who want to become a legitimate and respected political party again, a position which right now is irreconcilable. As long as the extremists maintain such a strong hold over the party, it will never recover. All signs point towards the imminent demise of the GOP.

So surely I should be thrilled and ecstatic about this? No, not even a little bit. Politics really is NOT a team sport despite what most Republicans seem to think. In order to work, this political system needs a counterbalance, the Democrats need opposition, and right now the GOP simply isn't providing that. The GOP NEEDS to fix itself or everything will fall apart, mark my words.

But as I said before, this will never happen with the GOP being run by Rush and his ilk... so what can be done? Most analysts are anticipating a party split, with the more central and pragmatic Republicans jumping ship to a third party of a similar ideological persuasion. The likely contenders? Smart money is pointing towards the rise of a New Libertarian Party, basically taking all the Republican ideals of economy and small government, whilst abandoning the absurdly backward social and religious aspects. These two parties have always been close ideologically, Ron Paul who ran for the GOP in 2008 was really a Libertarian, and most people agree that that seems the logical next step in American politics.

Frankly I am excited by this prospect. I strongly and vehemently oppose a political party based on lies, ignorance and rabid anti-intellectualism, but I am not opposed to opposition, so long as it is at least a sensible opposition. An America with two legitimate and respectable political parties at the core is a recipe for revitalization and renewal, and at this rate it could happen sooner rather than later. Another massive defeat in 2010 (which right now looks inevitable) and the GOP could well find itself falling behind third parties in 2012.

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