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Jeremiah Goulka: Rearranging the Deck Chairs on the Republican Titanic

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Here's an idea: how about some "extraordinary financial gifts" like the ones Mitt Romney denounced just days after his loss! 

To really go after the groups it needs, the GOP would have to do the inconceivable: drop the "entitlement reform" racket, open the wallet, and reach below a restrictive definition of the middle class.  It might, for instance, mean adding more money to Food Stamps, rather than poking fun at the "food stamp president," because a full quarter of Hispanics and 35% of Hispanic children are poor.

According to the Census, the median income for Hispanics in 2009 was $38,039 versus $51,861 for whites.  The difference is far starker when you compare median net worth: Thanks to the economic crisis, Hispanic households lost 66% of their median net worth, falling to $6,325 in 2009, compared to $113,149 for white households (a 16% loss).

It would undoubtedly mean supporting equal pay for equal work, which the GOP has consistently opposed.  It would mean working to make healthcare more affordable for everyone. That's how you prove you care in politics -- and it would also be good for the nation.

Similarly, if the Republicans want to be taken seriously as "defenders" of the middle class, they would need to do something to defend it from its predators.  No, not the lower class but the upper class, the predatory lenders and speculators, the fraudsters, the manipulators of the financial system, the folks who got bailed out while everyone else shouldered the risk.

It hardly needs to be said that this isn't likely to happen in any of our lifetimes.

So far the only Republican suggestion I've heard that seems more than (barely) cosmetic is for the Party to drop its aversion to gay marriage.  That would, at least, be a beneficial, if cynically motivated, move to look less hateful. 

Hesitation in the Face of Change

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It is, of course, theoretically possible that Senator Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) could attract enough Hispanic and other voters in 2016 to win the presidency.  Provided that the primaries don't turn into another bizarro battle.  Provided that the tone set by Rick Santorum, Michele Bachmann, or fringe candidates of their ilk doesn't sink the A-listers.  Provided that not too many "stupid" things are said -- on abortion, immigration, evolution, or global warming.  (Rubio has already gotten to work on that one by punting on a question about the Earth's age to keep the creationists happy.)

But come 2020, 2024, or 2028, whatever's left of the GOP is going to be kicking itself for not having built a foundation of anything other than words that no one outside its rank-and-file actually believed.  Texas, after all, could go purple by 2020 or 2024.

Of all the signals emanating from the GOP since Election Day, perhaps the most significant came last week when the socially and fiscally conservative Tea Party kingmaker Jim DeMint voted with his feet.  The man who would rather have "30 Republicans in the Senate who believe in principles of freedom than 60 who don't believe in anything" is leaving that body for the Heritage Foundation -- a hint about the future of what is arguably the most important GOP organization in the country.

It looks like the GOP is at the wheel of the Titanic, sailing toward that iceberg, while the band plays "Nearer My God to Thee" for all it's worth.

Jeremiah Goulka, a TomDispatch regular, writes about American politics and culture, focusing on the Republican Party, race, and security.  He was formerly an analyst at the RAND Corporation, a Hurricane Katrina recovery worker, and an attorney at the U.S. Department of Justice. You can follow him on Twitter @jeremiahgoulka or contact him through his website jeremiahgoulka.com.

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Copyright 2012 Jeremiah Goulka

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Tom Engelhardt, who runs the Nation Institute's Tomdispatch.com ("a regular antidote to the mainstream media"), is the co-founder of the American Empire Project and, most recently, the author of Mission Unaccomplished: Tomdispatch Interviews (more...)
 

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