The Grand Old Party’s Over

4 comments April 2nd, 2007at 05:42pm Posted by Eli

Krugman thinks the Republicans have boxed themselves into a corner. I sure hope he’s right.

In 1980, when Ronald Reagan won the White House, conservative ideas appealed to many, even most, Americans. At the time, we were truly a middle-class nation. To white voters, at least, the vast inequalities and social injustices of the past, which were what originally gave liberalism its appeal, seemed like ancient history. It was easy, in that nation, to convince many voters that Big Government was their enemy, that they were being taxed to provide social programs for other people.

Since then, however, we have once again become a deeply unequal society. Median income has risen only 17 percent since 1980, while the income of the richest 0.1 percent of the population has quadrupled. The gap between the rich and the middle class is as wide now as it was in the 1920s, when the political coalition that would eventually become the New Deal was taking shape.

And voters realize that society has changed. They may not pore over income distribution tables, but they do know that today’s rich are building themselves mansions bigger than those of the robber barons. They may not read labor statistics, but they know that wages aren’t going anywhere: according to the Pew Research Center, 59 percent of workers believe that it’s harder to earn a decent living today than it was 20 or 30 years ago.


But today’s Republicans can’t respond in any meaningful way to rising inequality, because their activists won’t let them. You could see the dilemma just this past Friday and Saturday, when almost all the G.O.P. presidential hopefuls traveled to Palm Beach to make obeisance to the Club for Growth, a supply-side pressure group dedicated to tax cuts and privatization.

The Republican Party’s adherence to an outdated ideology leaves it with big problems. It can’t offer domestic policies that respond to the public’s real needs. So how can it win elections?

The answer, for a while, was a combination of distraction and disenfranchisement.

[Insert 9/11 Terra Terra Terra and Republican efforts to suppress minority votes via state and DoJ action here]

The good news is that all the G.O.P.’s abuses of power weren’t enough to win the 2006 elections. And 2008 may be even harder for the Republicans, because the Democrats — who spent most of the Clinton years trying to reassure rich people and corporations that they weren’t really populists — seem to be realizing that times have changed.

A week before the Republican candidates trooped to Palm Beach to declare their allegiance to tax cuts, the Democrats met to declare their commitment to universal health care. And it’s hard to see what the G.O.P. can offer in response.

I think the Republicans are likely to try one (or two) of two things: Either try to water down and co-opt Democratic ideas in a form that will benefit their corporate and religious constituencies (i.e., something like the Medicare Bill on steroids, where the government pays some of the bill, but there’s no attempt to leverage the government’s bargaining power, and any family planning other than abstinence education is excluded)…

Or they simply continue to do what they always do, and turn the volume up to 11. Terrorists will be THE GREATEST EXISTENTIAL THREAT OUR NATION HAS EVER KNOWN OMG, and Democrats will personally escort them into our country and offer them complimentary flying lessons. Gay marriage will be THE GREATEST EXISTENTIAL THREAT THE INSTITUTION OF MARRIAGE HAS EVER KNOWN OMG… and so on.

And, of course, while they’re whipping their own base into a voting frenzy, they’ll be accusing the Democratic candidates of cannibalism, bestiality, and devil worship, and deploying barbed wire in front of minority-district polling places (for protection against terrorist attacks that they have a terribly reliable secret tip about), and doing everything else they can think of to suppress or steal the Democratic vote.

I’m not sure how much of the co-optation strategy the Republicans will employ, but I will be genuinely shocked if they don’t go all-out with the fear, smear, and suppress strategy. It’s difficult to imagine anything worse than 2004, but it will be. The difference will be that the Democrats should see it coming this time, the Republicans will have far less crediblity and public support, and there will be a much more developed blogger and activist network on our side. Better yet, the Republicans won’t have a lapdog Congress willing to look the other way if there’s evidence of election shenanigans.

I think the Republicans’ choice in 2008 really will be whether they want to brand themselves as the party of cheaters and frothing madmen, or risk getting eaten alive by their own frothing madman pundits. Either way, I think they’re going to be in a very deep hole, and their best hope is if the Democrats voluntarily assume partial ownership of the Iraqupation, or any of Dubya’s other misbegotten popular ideas. (Note to Dems: Please do not worry about investigative overreach – the only way you’re going to piss off the majority of voters is if you pull your punches and let the Bushies off with an inconclusive slap on the wrist.)

Entry Filed under: Bush,Constitution,Corruption/Cronyism,Elections,Media,Politics,Republicans,Rove


  • 1. charley  |  April 2nd, 2007 at 7:56 pm

    turn the volume up to 11. Terrorists will be THE GREATEST EXISTENTIAL THREAT OUR NATION HAS EVER KNOWN OMG, and Democrats will personally escort them into our country and offer them complimentary flying lessons.

    interesting, because on point 1 this is just what Romney’s campaign flack was doing tonight, and on point 2 some fuck’n tool from politico was bitch’n how the democrats wanted to close down guantanamo and bring KSM to military brigs right here on the east coast. OMG!

    ok, he wasn’t bitching, just the errand boy sent by the grocery clerk…

  • 2. Eli  |  April 2nd, 2007 at 10:28 pm

    Right, because we’re all terrified that KSM would break free from his stateside confinement and go on a one-man terrorist rampage…

  • 3. Donna  |  April 3rd, 2007 at 12:07 am

    I hope you and Krugman are right and that 2006 wasn’t an anomally. I would really love to see the Democrats actually fight back instead of going “positive” while the Republicans are kicking their asses.

  • 4. Eli  |  April 3rd, 2007 at 9:29 am

    I really do hope the Democrats have the sense to point out that not only did Dubya do everything legally possible (and then some) to flush this country down the toilet, but that the Republicans enabled and covered for him at every turn, making them just as culpable as he is.

    It would not hurt if Democratic congressional candidates pledged to fulfill their oversight responsibilities regardless of political affiliation.

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