What a week it has been.
Those of us on this side of the divide have always believed that the caricature we paint of Republicans was closer to the truth than not. But, at least in public statements, up until, say, 2008, Republicans were always able to dissemble their true motives to enough of an extent and to enough of the electorate as to remain politically viable. This was aided, of course, by a media culture which is ingrained to parrot Republican and conservative talking points, both because of media consolidation beneath massive multinational corporations, and because our media gravitates towards those with power.
Something cracked once the black guy with the foreign name won the Presidency, though. We've seen it. The Right descended into a swamp of conspiracy and paranoia not seen in this country since the days of the Know-Nothings of the mid-19th century, with their dark tales of Papists violating pure white Protestant American virgins. Or since the heyday of the KKK in the 1920s, which reacted to a country awash in immigrants and African Americans moving out of the South and into the industrial North. Had Hilary Clinton won in 2008, she would have been subjected to some abuse; but I doubt it would have reached anywhere near the insane intensity which has gripped the Right since Barack Obama put his hand on Abraham Lincoln's bible and took the oath of office.
This is the political map which Republicans face for the future:
A Democratic landscape
The state-by-state polls this fall make it clear: The 2008 presidential election was no anomaly. The Upper South and interior West are now competitive terrain and will be in future White House races. That means Democrats have more margin for error than Republicans when it comes to cobbling together 270 electoral votes.
“The map has changed to give any Democrat the better grip on the electorate,” said van Lohuizen.
As more voters, both transients from other states and immigrants, have poured into states like Nevada, Colorado, Virginia and North Carolina, political demographics in these places have been transformed. It’s the new Democratic coalition there and in traditional swing states that is bolstering Obama.
And what is that ideology? Well, at least among the Tea Party shock troops, it can be distilled to Two Yeses and One No: Yes to God, Yes to Guns, and No to Gays. Of course, the financial backers of the GOP always had different priorities, ones which Mitt Romney felt free to expound upon in that now-infamous fund-raiser in Florida.
I'll allow a Romney surrogate to give the Republican ideology in full:
Conservative commentator Mary Matalin hailed Mitt Romney's "47 percent" line on CNN as good news for Republicans.
"There are makers and takers, there are producers and there are parasites," she said. "Americans can distinguish between those who have produced and paid in through no fault of their own and because of Obama's horrible polcies who cannot get a job or are underemployed. That's what the campaign is about."
The United States has always run along two tracks. One is the myth of rugged individualism, where titans of industry rise to the top by their own merits. That's always been a myth; even during the admittedly more laissez-faire days of the late 19th century robber barons, those with wealth benefited from government action; for many years, the United States had some of the most punitive tariffs in the industrialized world, allowing for native industries—founded by those one-time John Galts—to grow and thrive.
No one is autochthonous, born from the very earth fully formed and complete in and of himself. He or she, to a great extent, relies on that other, less mythical aspect of America: the community. Hilary Clinton was derided in the 1990s when she said famously that it takes a village to raise a child. Certainly in my case that was true; I wouldn't be the person I am today if my only influences had been my mother and father. Siblings, grandparents, aunts and uncles and cousins, family friends, teachers, the full panoply of the community in which I lived molded me to greater and lesser degrees. I am a product of a community, not of my own will to power. And government is an expression of community, of the national commonwealth doing things for the common good. That, to today's libertarian GOP, is anathema. The heart of its world-view is of an individualism which never existed in any real sense, and a penury of spirit, of thought, a pinched, paltry, selfish view of the human condition. Mitt Romney thinks he's a captain of industry; he's the captain solely of his own spiritual and intellectual poverty.
But, it's all they have. The GOP has reached the terminal phase of epistemic closure. It sees nothing outside its own delusions; it does not treat with the world in any realistic way. Why are Romney and his surrogates doubling down on his dismissal of "parasites"? Because it's what they believe. Enough of the Tea Party will think "Oh, they mean those people. I take no government handouts" as they cash their Social Security checks, refinance their homes with a federally backed mortgage, or fill out paperwork for their parents' Medicare.
However, even that segment of the population is shrinking. And from the reaction to Romney's comments, more than a majority of the country is appalled by their heartlessness and disdain.
It will take much work to wrench this country into the 21st century. This election, though important, will not be the end of the struggle. It will take conscientiousness and diligence to undo decades of pernicious Republican philosophy. But the party is at a breaking point. It will either pull back from the abyss—which I don't see happening, as it's too far gone—or shatter into its constituent parts. The next decade will be both the hardest for the country since the Civil War, and perhaps the most exhilarating. Something new is being born. There's no other time in which I'd rather live.