By Manifesto Joe
I'm not going to predict the demise of the Republican Party, although a number of other bloggers have been daring enough to venture such predictions. I don't think that's good historical perspective. Such people underestimate the lure of reactionary politics, and the irrationality of humans. They also underestimate the vast talent of prehistoric vermin, like cockroaches, to reinvent themselves and survive.
To wit: If you had told me in 1978, when it seemed like half the damned country was smoking pot, that possession of even small amounts thereof would still be a federal crime and illegal in 48 states 35 years later, I would have, at the time, called you a fool. At the tender age of 22, it was I who was foolish. I did not anticipate a period of socioeconomic reaction that would last for decades in the U.S.
But here's a bit of history: From 1930 until 1994, the Republican Party had control of the U.S. House of Representatives for exactly 4 out of 64 years. We had GOP presidents, some of them "moderates," during that time, but even Reagan had to deal with Tip O'Neill as speaker of the House and was often forced to compromise.
The Republicans staged a dramatic comeback in 1994, but it seems like they've been doing their best to blow it ever since. With this latest "shutdown" of the federal government, plus other miscalculations, I suspect they may have finally sealed their fate. They may have condemned themselves to another three generations of being just a shrill minority party.
History doesn't repeat itself, but it sometimes has an uncanny way of rhyming. The last time the Republicans did this to themselves, it was over a simple but monumental thing known as the Great Depression. That was such a trauma for my parents' generation, it was still defining Americans decades later. Enough people of that age group had to die off for the electorate to finally show permanent change.
This time, we had a Great Recession, with effects not as bad. But they've been bad enough, especially for the young. Those born in the late years of Generation X, and then the "Millennials," have taken it on the chops pretty hard over the past several years. Their unemployment and underemployment rates remain high, and going to college often means taking on debt of such magnitude that it can only end in bankruptcy. From what the polls show among young voters, most of them aren't blaming the Democrats for this.
Add to that the changing demographics of the country. Much of America has become, or is becoming, majority Hispanic. Being a native South Texan, I'm familiar with that culture, and there is a strong streak of social conservatism there. But the Republicans have clearly blown their opportunity to make related inroads. Their basic xenophobia had compelled them to take hard lines against illegal immigration, and even the Hispanics I know who are of strictly legal status take serious personal offense at such attitudes. Their overwhelming majority of votes cast for Obama in 2012 was not so much an endorsement of Obama as a statement of "We know who our friends AREN'T."
Then add to that the increasing involvement of women in politics. I admit to feeling very conflicted on the abortion issue, but I sure as hell am never going to be faced with the possibility of having one. And quite a few women are more than a bit pissed off that some lawmakers suffering from testosterone poisoning are presuming to tell them that can't be a legal option.
Then add to that the anvil-headed attitudes about gays and lesbians that one typically finds among Republicans. Even Chris Christie, New Jersey's obese governor, is under the gun about that, for simply saying that he's not going to fight a court ruling that says gays should be able to legally marry in that state. He was fighting gay marriage at first and vetoed a piece of state legislation. Now the hard-liners in his party are maligning him for simply acquiescing to the courts.
One group I never understood was the "Log Cabin Republicans." Oh, I can understand, if a gay person also happens to be a trust-fund baby, why paying taxes is distasteful. But why would one want to support a political party in which a majority considers you the worst kind of pond scum, the kind of people your parents warned you about?
What the federal "shutdown" revealed is who is really calling the shots in the Republican Party. It certainly isn't the old-line politicians, the "economic royalists," as I once heard them described. It's a radical, reactionary element that the Old Guard made a Faustian bargain with a couple of generations ago. It's the Nixonian "Southern strategy" come to life as the party's worst nightmare. When someone as manifestly foolish as Texas U.S. Rep. Louie ("Congressman Gomer") Gohmert is someone who's actually listened to, you know that political party is in trouble. The Tea Party and its politicians are not marginal -- they are flexing muscle and busy kicking "RINOs" out of the Republican Party as fast as they can.
The political reality of all this will become apparent to some Republicans in years to come. It's been said by several people that nobody ever lost a dime underestimating the intelligence of the American public. But you can't go around pissing off one large group of people upon another, and then expect to consistently win elections.
The Republican Party won't fade and smolder into the ashheap of history -- at least I am loath to predict that. White Southerners rapidly switched parties starting in the 1960s, and are likely to remain as they are even as they see life examples, time after time, that the GOP doesn't represent their genuine best interests. People often don't make rational decisions about politics.
But when you step on enough toes, you make enemies. After their remarkable comeback in 1994, the Republicans have spent the past 19 years doing tap dances all over sensitive feet. It may be too early to tell -- but they may be condemning themselves to another three generations of minority bellowing. Stay tuned.
Manifesto Joe Is An Underground Writer Living In Texas.