Is the elephant irrelevant?
It was not really the fact of, but rather the manner of, President Barack Obama’s re-election that was a mortal blow.
The Republican Party as we have come to know it in the last few decades is in political bankruptcy.
In a Democracy, the currency that governments spend is the will of the people. Last night, as the election results poured in, it appeared clear that the Republican Party is running out of currency. The demographic of the American voter has shifted, just as the parties sensibility of inclusiveness has contracted. Social policies ranging from abortion to immigration did much of the damage. While the Romney campaign tried to make the entire election dialog about the economy, voters clearly had something on their minds.
For example, exit polls in Ohio, which the Republican electoral strategy absolutely required, showed an almost 2 to 1 ratio of voters saying that the economy was the most important issue, and that Romney would probably be better at handling the economy. This was very clear in exit polling. Yet Romney lost.
Now let me be clear. The Republican Party will be fine. Political parties are no more ‘people’ than corporations are. They do not die, as I suggested in the title tongue in cheek. But they do need to occasionally deconstruct themselves so that they can rebuild from the ground up. That is where the Republican party finds itself right now.
I believe that the Republican Party is worth working to resurrect. Their fundamental message of fiscal conservancy is an important thing for our political culture. But it is not going to be easy, and it is not going to be fast.
The massive generation Y voter base, a rising Latino population (10% of the electorate for the first time), rising urban voting percentages, the now significant gender gap in voting… all of these things have coalesced not once, not twice, but three times for the Democratic presidential candidate. There is good evidence that their voting patterns, while not hard coded, are now predictable. This adds up to a demographic, electoral problem that will be the topic of conversation for years to come.
In 2008 when John McCain lost, many described the inward turbulence in the Republican party as ‘a knife fight.’ In 2012, no one is bringing a knife to this fight. This is a very bad thing for America, as we desperately need both of our political parties to have a clear sense of their parties vision, and their top priorities. We need these so that we can find ground to compromise and move forward.
Our nation is almost evenly divided. Sure, Obama won the popular vote by a convincing margin. It was hardly a significant margin. Sure, all the logic above seems to indicate that this gap will increase in 2016 without a drastic change. But the margin will still not allow the Democrats to truly wield the power of the legislature. This is the way our government was designed; it sacrifices decisiveness to enforce a move to the center, to compromise.
Over the last 4 years we have seen our ability to actually execute a vision, any vision, shrink immensely. Without compromise, the Republican parties fate could become the nations as well.