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General News    H3'ed 12/13/12

Jeremiah Goulka: Rearranging the Deck Chairs on the Republican Titanic

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It's barely a month since Election 2012 put Barack Obama back in the White House and Mitt Romney in the Republican doghouse (or even perhaps on the roof of the GOP's family car).  Still, TomDispatch is already behind the eight ball in its election coverage.  After all, we're still thinking about the past election while the rest of the media didn't take a breath before launching campaign 2016.  And here's the real question that, it turns out, should rivet us all: Will Hillary run?  Reporters and pundits were already asking even before Election Day.  Immediately after the votes were counted, the first Iowa poll came in.  (She was way ahead of Vice President Biden and New York Governor Cuomo.) Now you can hardly avoid the subject of how invincible she would be -- unless you care to jump off that "fiscal cliff."

Last week, "will she or won't she?" hit the front page of the New York Times in a piece that highlighted all the truly crucial and confounding political conundrums of our moment.  Can Hillary, for instance, make piles of money working for law firms handling clients from the wrong -- i.e., rich -- side of the tracks or can she forge a new monumentally moneymaking life "advising foreign countries on geopolitical risk, or at an investment bank or a private equity firm"?  Yes, without a doubt is the answer in all cases, but not, it seems, if she wants to run for president.  The poor woman might have to rely on peddling (for multi-millions) a tell-nothing tome on her years traveling the world as secretary of state doing... well, whatever.  (Again, if she wants to run for president, it's common wisdom in Washington and in the media that you can't write a book with genuine content -- it might be used against you!)

Yes, folks, get ready for 2016 early and often.  In the supersized, never-ending American election season it's going to be a meaty four years of media speculation.

At the moment, it seems that the only question outrunning Hillary & Co. is: Can we avoid that dreaded fiscal cliff (and all the mixed metaphors that go with it)?  You hear it intoned relentlessly on the nightly news, with accompanying countdowns ("only 20 days to...") and everything but Jaws-style ominous music.  Of course, the tectonic political plates that raised that cliff we may "go over" and the river of money that gouged out the abyss into which we may "fall" were Washington-made and the cliff itself, like any fabulous stage set, is potentially moveable.  Still, let's keep our eye on the ball.  And while we're revving up for the ultimate Washington clash about cliffing it -- to jump, or not to jump: that is the question -- and preparing for the Democratic presidential race to 2016, let's not forget those Republican'ts.  What's the story there?

We considered conducting a TomDispatch se'ance to get in touch with them, since these days they reportedly live in another world that may be located somewhere in the vicinity of planet Earth.  Instead, we decided to turn to Jeremiah Goulka, our resident "former Republican," to fill us in on just what to make of the cliff -- fiscal, physical, or demographic -- that the Republican'ts are threatening to throw themselves off in the wake of Mitt Romney's defeat. Tom

The Botox Solution
Why the Formerly Grand Old Party Needs to Change and Won't
By Jeremiah Goulka

Mitt Romney had hardly conceded before Republicans started fighting over where to head next.  Some Republicans -- and many Democrats -- now claim that the writing is on the wall: demography is destiny, which means the GOP is going the way of the Whigs and the Dodo.  Across the country, they see an aging white majority shrinking as the U.S. heads for the future as a majority-minority country and the Grand Old Party becomes the Gray Old Party.  Others say: not so fast.

In the month since 51% of the electorate chose to keep Barack Obama in the White House, I've spent my time listening to GOP pundits, operators, and voters.  While the Party busily analyzes the results, its leaders and factions are already out front, pushing their own long-held opinions and calling for calm in the face of onrushing problems.

Do any of their proposals exhibit a willingness to make the kind of changes the GOP will need to attract members of the growing groups that the GOP has spent years antagonizing like Hispanics, Asian Americans, unmarried women, secular whites, and others?  In a word: no.

Instead, from my informal survey, it looks to this observer (and former Republican) as if the party is betting all its money on cosmetic change.  Think of it as the Botox Solution.  It wants to tweak its talking points slightly and put more minority and female Republicans on stage as spokespeople.  Many in the GOP seem to believe that this will do the trick in 2014 and beyond. Are they deluded?

You've heard the expression "putting lipstick on a pig," haven't you?

The Blame Game and the Short-Term Outlook

Although most Republicans see hints of future demographic challenges in the exit polls, many prefer to focus on other factors to explain Romney's loss out of a desire not to "blow up the party if there are less radical solutions."  (Hence, the delusional quality of so many of their post-mortems and the lack of interest in meaningful change.)

First, they cite the Romney factor: a weak candidate, too moderate -- or too conservative -- who failed to fight the Obama campaign's early efforts to paint him as an out-of-touch plutocrat.  In other words, his history (Bain Capital and Romneycare) depth-charged him before demographics could even kick in.  He was, unfortunately, the perfect quarter-billionaire candidate for a Democratic narrative that the GOP is only out for the rich and doesn't "care about people like me." (He predictably lost that exit poll question by a margin of 81% to 18%).  Running a "vulture capitalist" (and a Mormon) drove a number of Republican voters to stay home or even -- gasp! -- vote for Obama. It's a mistake that won't be repeated in 2016.

Second, they point to the Obama factor.  In both 2008 and 2012, he attracted unprecedented levels of minority and young voters, a phenomenon that might not be repeated in 2016.  Some Republican operatives are also convinced that his campaign simply had a much better "ground game" and grasp of how to employ technology to turn out voters. (Half of self-identifying Republican voters think, as they did in 2008, that Obama simply stole the election through registration fraud involving African Americans.)

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Tom Engelhardt, who runs the Nation Institute's ("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 (more...)

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