The Republicans on the Edge

Since the American Civil War there have been two parties in American politics which have changed their faces many times. If we take a look at their history, we cannot notice any logically structured continuity but we can observe the processes which have been changing the ideological profiles of these parties and their fundamental roles in American politics. With regard to the other half of the 19th century it can be maintained that these parties swapped places on the political scene: till Teddy Roosevelt’s and before Wilson’s times it were Republicans who represented a more progressive side in many respects.

Fot. Gage Skidmore / / CC BY

That is why the thesis proposed in this text, which claims that the 2012 election marked the beginning of the end of the Republican Party does not mean that this party will disappear from American politics. This thesis rather means that continuously changing conditions will make it resort to far advanced changes and thorough ideological reevaluation similar to breakthroughs from the past. The Republican Party, which we have known till now, is becoming purposeless.

Just a few days before election, opinion polls showed the tendency which could give the victory to the Republicans’ candidate running for presidency and indicated to the very end that the run was fierce. However, Mitt Romney not only just conceded the presidential election to Barack Obama but also suffered total defeat. The word “defeat” is a good one to name loss in 9 out of 10 battleground states and the result which was minimally better than McCain’s result in 2008. Then, McCain was a candidate of the party which was in power for 8 years and whose outgoing president was the worst rated president in the history of the USA at the end of his tenure, and had an economic crisis as a burden – the public opinion ascribed this crises also to the president, a party fellow. His opponent was a man who was a phenomenon, who was commonly admired and perceived as the hope for changes, nearly as the “Messiah” of the politics, whose speeches made even the hardest men cry. There was another factor to McCain’s disadvantage – the history, namely the perspective of election of the first black citizen to the highest post in the country. And Romney’s opponent was, as a matter of fact, the same man, but a disenchanted man, who was lacking the aura of a supernatural politician, a president who did not manage to save America or overcome the crisis, who dashed a lot of hopes which people placed on him, and who ran for the presidency with such economic data (the unemployment rate) that would not allow any other president to gain the reelection. Unlike McCain, Romney could use the crisis as an offensive weapon, he was claimed to be the most competent candidate in the area of economic policy, which was the most important issue. Despite such favorable start conditions, he “stole” Obama only Indiana and North Carolina for the Republican Party. This is the size of the defeat from the appropriate perspective.

Was it a result of candidate’s personal weakness? Partially, yes. Romney was a weaker candidate than McCain. However he was also the best if we look at it realistically. Neither McCain nor any other similar centric Republican would have ever been able to achieve party domination in 2012primary election. In 2008, the Republicans ran for election being aware of inevitable defeat, so they didn’t choose the candidate who was close to their heart but the one who gave them any hope for a lesser defeat. This year, they hoped for the victory. In between, we could observe the phenomenon of Tea Party which moved the Republican Party (which was clearly right-wing already in the age of neoconservative hawks) further to the right. Even pro-Republican political commentators notice the following problem: average views of a Republican activist are today much more distant from views of an average American (that is an independent centrist voter without a fixed party affiliation) than average views of a Democratic activist.

There are more Republicans in the right wing of the party than in the left wing of Democratic Party. It creates a problem on the level of primary election, which is easy to predict. When it comes to the Republicans, the supporters of Tea Party and other radical rightists like born-again Christians have a majority in most of the districts/states. While when it comes to the Democrats pragmatic, social liberal center-leftists whose attitude is closer to the attitude of independent voters, have majority. If it is really so, then it is obvious that the pre-election mechanism will result in creating more elective candidates in the Democratic Party.

In the case of primary presidential election and Mitt Romney, this problem turned out to be of importance. Technocrat Romney, who used to play a centrist role in state policy of “leftist” Massachusetts and who does not have any ideological profile, now prepared well to play the role of right-wing radical because this was the only way he could take part in the run for appointment. Unlike McCain, he could not  “be himself”. Jon Huntsman – the centrist checked what such a situation leads to, as he failed in pre-election after the first face-off with 2% support. Anyway, Romney was not able to gain trust of party’s base, which was dominated by fanatics. His appointment was up in the air for a long time, he was continuously losing in more conservative states, that is the states which should be a strong point of the party’s candidate. Had it not been for the fact that the right wing was split by the alternative candidacy of Rick Santorum and Newt Gingrich, he would have lost the pre-election. More than a few times Romney won fewer votes than Santorum and Gingrich taken together and won votes of state’s delegates. Had Gingrich withdrawn early enough, Santorum would have won these votes.

Currently nothing indicates the situation, when the Republicans would “peel off” from the right wall. Meanwhile, if they do not want to experience another defeat in 2016 they have to do it in the first instance. They announce a total fight against President Obama and his ideas and the blocking of White House initiatives in the United States House of Representatives. They can increase their chances in the next election cycle only by the means of attentive and constructive cooperation towards moderate solutions. But if they fulfill their threats, Hillary Clinton will certainly seize power in January 2017.

It is not only the changes appearing in the party, which lead to its drift on the left to the extreme, that pose a problem. The problem is that the route diverges in two directions. When the Republicans become more conservative and the Democrats stay in present position, the average American voter moves to the left, towards milder conservatism and more liberal views. Its distance towards the Republicans is increasing and the distance towards the Democrats is still decreasing. Changes noted in regular opinion polls concerning social issues are the proof of it. The support of homosexual marriages and legalization of soft drugs is increasing. On the day of this year’s election, for the first time in the history of the USA, the citizens of four states declared themselves in favor of one or the other of these liberal solutions in the popular vote (they even ignored their inconsistency with federal law and UN conventions). For the first time an openly homosexual female politician was chosen for Senate seat. Nearly half of Americans declare the readiness to vote for an atheist candidate for President – until lately it was absolutely out of the question. The liberalization of views takes place also in “red” states, which are still mainly conservative, so it is a nationwide tendency not a process of deepening the culture gap between two sides of a new Mason-Dixon line. As a result, today’s battleground states will become steadily Democratic States and some of currently steady Democratic States will turn into battleground ones. Then, the even run for Presidency will be out of the question. The Permanent Majority of Liberals and Democrats will come into being. Anyway, let’s take a closer look at the data which we already have. Since the Cold War ended, in 1 out of 6 presidential elections the Republican has won more votes from his democratic opponent (in 2004 after terrorist attack from 11 September 2001) and it has been the only Republican victory in presidential election, which does not raise doubts (by no means am I the only person who still thinks that in 2000 it was Al Gore who was chosen). It is an initial level and it will get worse.

But that is not all. The demography of ethnic groups supports the bright future of the Democrats. The Republicans are becoming a party of white people, especially men, elderly people and the ones who are worse educated. The percentage of white people who vote is continuously decreasing. The Hispanics group, in which the Democrats dominate (ca. 2:1) is growing, while in the Afro-American group the support for the Republicans is modest and in Obama’s time it is moving to the zero point. That is what the leaders of GOP should think about, especially when it comes to their immigration policy, Romney’s “self-deportation” rhetoric and draconian laws forced by the Republicans for example in Arizona and Alabama.

The Republican Party should change thoroughly not to become a full-time minority opposition in the USA. Of course, it will win election from time to time – the tiredness with one-party rule sometimes has to make its presence felt – but it is probable that it will win for example only 2-3 times in the next 50 years, it will be marginalized like it was in 1932-1968 when only Dwight David “Ike” Eisenhower managed to overcome malaise and Nixon would supposedly not have won, had it not been for the assassination of Robert Kennedy, or like the Democrats between the American Civil War and the Wilson’s times.

Or maybe a nightmare, black night of Republicans in the times of Tea Party will be the impulse to reform the party and change its ideological framework. How? I think that David Cameron could give the rightists the right answers to these questions.

Translation: Anita Stradomska.