Americans can always be counted on to do the right thing...after they have exhausted all other possibilities.
Yes, way too many of our fellow citizens are still addled by hatred and bigotry. Obama should be ahead by 10-15 points, not 4-8. But let's put that into perspective: Before the conventions, the polling averages had him ahead by at most 2 points. The debacle of Tampa and the triumph of Charlotte, without the media filter, basically reintroduced the country to both parties. The GOP was seen as a heartless collection of ideologues whose only interest was in achieving power to service its rich backers. There was no positive vision of the future, but a wallowing in the contention that America was "in decline". Charlotte highlighted a party and a President who believed in the nation, believed in the ability of its citizens to make an adult decision when presented with facts. The country saw a party united in its determination to make life better for all citizens, not just the fortunate few. It was the antithesis of the malaise bruited about by the GOP.
That contrast has been reflected in polling since the two conventions. Let me be clear about something: when someone has a 6, 7, or 8 point lead over his opponent, that is not a "close" race. That starts to translate into a landslide. Add to this Obama's advantage in the Electoral College, and the new Reuters/Ipsos poll showing the Democrats ahead of the GOP by 6 points for control of Congress, and we're looking at a major correction from the drubbing of 2010.
And it's not just a temporary correction, for one or two cycles. As George Will opined on "This Week":
This means that if the work force participation rate today were what it was in June 2009, when the recovery began, we would have an unemployment rate 11.2 percent. If you add in the involuntarily unemployed, you're approaching 19 percent, which is why I should think from here on in, on the basis of these numbers, the Romney campaign slogan should be the title of Paul Krugman's book which is, End This Depression Now, because these are depression level numbers. And if the Republican Party cannot win in this environment, it has to get out of politics and find another business.The cognitive dissonance of Mitt Romney running on a Paul Krugman slogan is hilarious enough. But Will's opinion does bring up a valid point: While Romney probably still shouldn't be able to beat Pres. Obama, he should be making a closer run of it. If the GOP can't make a close race of it in a difficult economic environment, that is clearly an indication that this manifestation of the GOP has run out of steam. It's a party relegated to a steadily shrinking map; the South and farm belt will remain Republican for a time, but the rest of the country will coalesce around the Democratic Party, as it's the only party offering real solutions for real problems.
As I've said before in other essays, the GOP has reached its ideological end. It began its journey to extremism in the Sixties, with the Civil Rights Act handing the South to it for a generation, as President Johnson predicted it would. The central pillar of the post-Sixties GOP has been white resentment, one borne of the idea that "their" country was being taken over by savages who didn't know what it meant to be "American". It's been a 40 year explosion of Know-Nothingism among the Republican base. It's been an energy tapped into by the GOP hierarchy, but, if one looks at the history, one not acted upon with any real vigor. Abortion is still legal. Neither Reagan nor Bush pere and fils militarized the US-Mexico border with orders to shoot to kill anyone crossing it. New Deal and Great Society programs are still extant—tattered, yes, but standing, not facing any real threat up until now. The new GOP base has been bamboozled, and it's finally realizing that.
So the crazies have taken over the asylum. The base no longer listens to the country club leadership. Todd Akin refused to pull out of the Missouri Senate race after his comments on rape. Romney selected Tea Party darling Paul Ryan as his running mate, in his 1,383rd attempt to shore up the GOP base—something he should have done way before the convention. And at this week's Values Voters summit, right wing star Bryan Fischer had this to say:
“If Barack Obama wins this election the Republican Party as we know it is finished, it is dead, it is toast — you can stick a fork in it,” he told TPM Friday at the Values Voter Summit in Washington. “And conservatives, grassroots conservatives, are either going to start a third party or they are going to launch a hostile takeover of the Republican Party.”
The 2010 elections were what Christian theology calls a "fortunate fall", an event of evil from which good arises. The electorate was too used to parties promising them an easy way forward from the country's troubles. Pres. Obama inherited an economy on the brink of Depression, and an opposition which was inimical to any sort of cooperation for the good of the nation. The economy didn't improve quickly enough, so the voters—at least those who bothered to go to the polls—punished the party in power in the midterms. Although the result has been a lost two years, we can take comfort from the fact that it may have been the harsh medicine the country needed. From state houses to Congress, the country has been given a master class in obstruction and Randian governance. Republicans across the country have been given free rein to implement their most extreme policies—yes, the crazies did take over in 2010—and the results speak for themselves. Voters can be in no doubt as to what the results of a total Republican takeover of government would entail.
When Mitt Romney loses—and, hopefully, when Democrats secure majorities in both Houses of Congress—I expect to see the end of the Republican Party. As the Bryan Fischer quote indicates, the rabid conservatives will blame the debacle on the GOP not being conservative enough. We might see an emergence of a radically right wing party, on the order of the National Front in France: nativist, fundamentally religious, and so far to the right as to be unable to appeal to voters outside of their circle. Whatever "moderates" are left in the party might form a rump GOP; but without the shocktroops of the Right, it too would have little electoral strength. We might very well be on the cusp of witnessing the demise of the conservative movement for a generation—enough time to put the country on a solid footing, so that when conservatives finally re-emerge as a political force, too much has changed to be undone. It's really the only hope the country has to survive as a decent place worth calling home.