Is the GOP Already Dead?
It seems congressional Republicans may have, once again, been talked off the ledge, and convinced to crawl back in the window on immigration reform. For now, at least, they are off suicide watch. But it seems every year or two the American people need to intervene, grab them by the ear, and drag them kicking and screaming away from the window again. It may be, however, that they're not suicidal after all. Rather, consciously or not, the GOP leadership may have come to realize they're already dead.
The most popular explanation for Republicans' recent support for amnesty has been pressure from big donors in the business community, including the Chamber of Commerce, who are salivating over the prospect of a flood of cheap legal labor. While this explanation is true in large part, a dreadful outlook for the party may also be to blame.
The chances of meaningful Republican control at the federal level for the foreseeable future are dismal, at least as the term "Republican" has been traditionally understood. This is not new; Republican irrelevancy has been growing for a long time. ObamaCare's epic failure to launch may offer the Republicans a boost in 2014, but over the long term the dependency created by the healthcare program will only worsen Republican prospects.
Aside from the two terms of President George W. Bush, the White House has been Democrat-controlled real estate for over 20 years. And those two Bush terms very nearly didn't happen.
Statistical analysis of Florida ballots after the 2000 election shows Bush most likely did win that pivotal state by less than 500 votes. With over six million votes cast, that is a margin of victory of less than 0.0083%. According to official tallies, Bush lost the popular vote nationwide. With Gore winning more overall votes, can it really be said that Republican or conservative ideas were victorious?
The power of incumbency and success in the war on terror after September 11th gave Bush re-election in 2004, but if he hadn't eaked out victory in Florida in 2000, or if the popular vote had held in the electoral college, Al Gore would have had the benefit of incumbency that year. A decent argument could be made the Democrats would have held on to the White House in 2004.
The two biggest Republican electoral successes over the last two decades were the gains made in 1994 and 2010, two off-year, mid-term election cycles. The off-year electorate is older, and much more politically aware. Many less involved voters (a majority of whom would vote Democrat) simply stay home on election day. Just as Democrats tend to do better in polls of registered voters, and Republicans do better among likely voters, Republicans tend to be more apt to turn out in off-year elections.
The opposition party also typically has the momentum in mid-term elections. So, the 1994 and 2010 Republican victories would have been much less likely if they weren't in off-years, or if they weren't the opposing party.
Further, both 1994 and 2010 had unusual circumstances that bolstered the Republican side. 1994 had the "Contract With America," which raised national awareness of state and local elections. 2010 saw the emergence of the tea party, which has seemingly subsided in enthusiasm, particularly after the 2012 Republican defeat by President Obama.
American society as a whole has moved Leftward over the last few decades. Millennials now hold a more favorable view of socialism than capitalism. The amount of government spending directed toward entitlement programs more than doubled since the beginning of the Clinton era. Food stamp and disability rolls are at all-time highs. The percentage of Americans receiving government assistance has reached, or likely surpassed, a tipping point.
One doesn't have to look at the numbers to know that social attitudes over the past 20 years demonstrate an undeniable swing to the Left. However, the numbers do tell the tale. According to Gallup, those with no religious preference, and those to whom religion is not very important, have more than doubled since 1992. During the same period, support for same-sex marriage also doubled. Out-of-wedlock births rose from 30% to nearly 41% of all births. The surge in pornography, decline in religiosity, move towards drug legalization, decline of marriage, and myriad other trends, all show the Leftward movement.
After the tea party led to gains in 2010, and the continuing failure of Obama's economic policies, hope on the Republican side was high that the tide could finally be turned back in 2012. It was, in the minds of many on the right, the last chance to repeal ObamaCare, and end the Leftist advance. The re-election of President Obama was a knee to the midsection of many conservatives, and they have yet to regain their breath.
After 2012, faced with unfavorable cultural change, there would seem two Republican paths: resign yourself to your impending political death, or resolve to fight on with renewed vigor and better strategies. Ted Cruz and a few others seem to have opted for the latter choice. Boehner and his followers seem to have resigned themselves to their own demise. Their passing an immigration reform bill tantamount to amnesty, and thereby providing Democrats with millions of additional voters, would only serve to mark the time of death.
Being aware of hostile social trends, or simply exhausted over time by a media that consistently pounds them as extremist and out of touch, it is no doubt difficult for Republicans to avoid feeling the prognosis is bleak. When you come to the realization your ship is sinking, it is time to think about saving yourself. You grab a spot on the first available life raft. Here, the Chamber of Commerce seems to not only be offering the most seats, but very comfortable ones.
The problem is there aren't enough lifeboats to go around, and while the GOP leadership tries to sneak away without being noticed, their base has a pretty good idea who will be left to go down with the ship, and they're not eager to let it happen. But sooner or later, unless the holes in the hull are plugged, the congressional Republicans are going to make another dash for the exits.
As gloomy as the forecast may appear, the ship can yet be made seaworthy. The truth is on the side of conservatism. The truth, properly wielded, can be an immensely powerful weapon. But the truth will not help you if you cannot expound it, or are too timid and embarrassed to espouse it. If the Republican Party can learn to unashamedly embrace and articulate that truth, things could be turned around. It is a public relations battle, a battle for the hearts and minds of the American people, and while the Republicans have been losing that battle for years, but the truth always has a chance.
Alas, it seems the truth is a gun too big for the hands of present GOP leadership. When they do attempt to brandish it, they only seem to accomplish misfire after misfire. Eevery time, they are bombarded and maligned by mistruths from the other side. Lately, it seems they are deathly afraid to fire at all.
Unless the GOP becomes the party that stands for and embraces the truth, and finds its courage and willingness to fight, the American people had better start taking swimming lessons.