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To the GOP: Welcome to the 21st Century

Writing from South Carolina last January about the race for the Republican presidential nomination, New York Times columnist David Brooks observed:"Republican audiences this year want a restoration. America once had strong values, they believe, but we have gone astray. Weve got to go back and rediscover what we had. Heads nod enthusiastically every time a candidate touches this theme."I agree with the sentiment, but it makes for an incredibly backward-looking campaign. I sometimes wonder if the Republican Party has become the receding roar of white America as it pines for a way of life that will never return."That observation seemed all the more apt after Tuesday's election. Demography was destiny. Mitt Romney, drawing support most notably from the shrinking white portion of the electorate, came up short. Barack Obama, drawing support from a rainbow coalition of blacks, whites, Hispanics, Asians, gays, women and others, won another four years in the White House.There will be no restoration, no taking "our country back," no return to the 1950s. Not this year. Not any year.With its undisguised hostility to non-traditional Americans, the Republican Party has painted itself into a corner. It has to find a way out or resign itself to increasing irrelevancy.That would be bad for the party--and for the nation. America needs two vibrant, viable parties offering different approaches to our problems and challenges. Someone needs to take the GOP by the scruff of its neck and drag it into the 21st Century.



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All losers appear to be incompetent idiots. There is no getting around the fact that it's not the smartest political strategy to tick off or drive away everybody except the fastest declining demographic group. But the last great Democratic coalition, which brought together southern racists and northern labor union members, fell apart with its constituent parts more or less hating each other. It is not inconceivable -- in fact, it is very conceivable -- that something similar will happen to the rainbow coalition that looks like pure genius in victory.In any event, gathering together a coalition of people rejected by Republicans and looking for a place at the table that demographics inevitably will give some of them does not answer a different question: What do the Democrats want to do with them? In a world of terrorism, multinational corporations, failed states, rogue industrialists and offended nature, getting blacks, whites, Hispanics, Asians, gays, women and "others" to sing in the same choir is not the same thing as solving the problems that world is depositing on our doorstep. If Obama can't find something good to do about those problems, the genius of his victory will crumble away very quickly.

I wouldn't crow too loudly. Remember, just two years ago at the mid-terms many had Obama and the Dems for dead. A lot can happen in a short time. The prez has still got to deal with healthcare, two wars, entitlement reform, high unemployment and more, and we could see from his first four years that he is no LBJ in knowing how to work the system and get things done. Remember, don't overreach.

Little Stone, I don't think we'll ever see LBJ's like again, and not because he was an uncommonly gifted arm-twister. It's because he had a weapon that modern presidents don't: blackmail. Not that blackmail was the entire key to his success; he knew how to dispense favors in exchange for votes. But he also extorted votes from Congressmen who had something to hide, perhaps a mistress or a drug addiction. He knew their secrets because he'd learned them from none other than J. Edgar Hoover. Except for Truman, who scorned him, Hoover shared gossip with every president he (nominally) served, and for him it was a win-win. He earned the president's gratitude and shored up his own job security by reminding the president that the FBI had dirt on him too. Since Hoover's death no FBI director has been able to wield such power. Also, in the Internet age, it's very difficult for a politician to keep secrets. Anyone with a cell phone and a Twitter account can expose a pol or end his career (cf. "macaca").

Tom and Little Stone,How you can miss the point is startling. The Republicans unwillingness to acknowledge that Nate Silver was right is the point. This was not conjecture. Furthermore, it showed that the Republicans are not only vicious but incompetent. Obama's birth, global warning, immigrants, Lybia, weapons of mass destruction, untaxing the rich, laissez faire market. Even many Republicans are saying that the GOP is in trouble.

The Republican party drew half the votes, Don. Hardly marginal. They're onto something that's not likely to go away, no matter much you'd like it to. You can look down on large classes of people, as many people are accustomed to doing, but if you do find yourself doing that, it's probably a good sign that you've taken leave of your common sense. Earth to Don: You're not alone here.

Angela (9:10), LBJ did an awful lot of damage in his few short years at the top. You really, really do not want to see his like again.

David Smith, The evil men do lives after them. The good is oft interred in their bones.

@David Smith (11/8, 1:49 am) Prof. Wycliff can take care of himself---particularly when the tool at hand is the written word with which he crafted a brilliant career in journalism for many decades. But I'd suggest that in this case it may be you who's "taken leave of your common sense"...or perhaps your common decency. Anyone who's lived a life like Don Wycliff's is fully and painfully aware that he's not alone here. To suggest otherwise is, in my view, insulting and reveals more about your own blind spots than it does anything else.The "something that's not likely to go away" that the Republican party is "onto" is racial resentment. Had yesterday's election been held with the electorate of the 1980s or the 1950s, then Mitt Romney would be president-elect.But, as Mr. Wycliff correctly and gently pointed out, we don't live in that country anymore. We live in a country in which the vast majority of African-Americans are no longer legally barred from voting, in which Latinos and Asian-Americans make up a steadily growing percentage of the population and electorate, and in which they---like human beings throughout history---tend not to willingly take the side of those who insult and disrespect them.The Republican party drew *almost* half the votes. The failure to secure an electoral majority running against an incumbent with 8% unemployment only makes Wycliff's point more relevant. If Republicans can't win a presidential election this year (and have won a popular vote victory in only 1 of the past 6 presidential elections), then either they need to change their approach or accept that they're likely to continue losing for the indefinite future.

The most cheering story I heard on the 6 AM NPR news this morning was that GOP conservatives are tearing their hair and gnashing their teeth because the millions (billions?) they poured into the campaign didn't seem to make any difference at all.I would like to think that God moves in mysterious ways, and that this is His way of bringing about a redistribution of income in an increasingly unequal country, but I'm afraid it's likely that all that arch-conservative money was simply distributed from the filthy rich into the pockets of the somewhat less filthy rich.

@ David SmithWas it bad that Johnson signed Medicare and the Civil Rights Act into law? Or that we might have achieved universal health care during his term instead of 50 years later? Unfortunately, Johnson fell victim to the phobia of his generation of politicians, the fear of being called "soft on communism." Expanding the Vietnam war was the death blow to his presidency.

Even among whites, it's important for people to recognize that there is a huge lurking variable in the data, and that is variable is region. Allowing for the malleability of what state is in what region, the last pre-election poll to look at the issue found the following voting patterns among white voters by region (O/R):Northeast:51/41 Midwest:41/52West:45/48South:27/68So this information points out what is so potentially difficult for the GOP: We elect presidents in a way that prevents one region from overwhelming others. Yes, it's true that the popular vote was close but the electoral vote was not. To put it in context, the last time Republicans won an equivalent electoral vote was 24 years ago. While whites might share some common traits nationally, there are also many traits that bring whites in one region closer to non-white groups regionally (age, gender, education) that make those particular whites more likely to vote based on that other trait. To state it differently, doubling down on those things that motivate southern whites to vote doesn't just alienate minorities, it increasingly risks alienating whites in other regions of the country.

Just a coda. Here is some post-election analysis of white voting patterns:Mitt Romney won white voters by 20 points nationwide (assume something like 60/40), but in the swing states he dramatically underperformed. He won only 46 percent of whites in New Hampshire, 51 percent in Wisconsin, 47 percent in Iowa, and 54 percent in Colorado.Do you get that? He did not win even a majority of white voters in swing states like Iowa and New Hampshire. You are creating a false narrative if you think the story of this election is the polarization of white and non-white voters.

The Obama campaign invested big bucks early in the campaign to publicize Mitt Romney's career at Bain IN THE SWING STATES. In light of the figures that Barbara mentioned, it looks like that early investment IN THE SWING STATES paid off among white voters in those states.

If I somehow gave the impression that I think I'm "alone here" (where?), that certainly was not my intention. Nor am I unaware that "white" voting patterns vary greatly from region to region, state to state. Nor do I suppose that the Obama coalition was the result of any particular political genius.My point was really quite simple: For 40 years or so--just as Lyndon Johnson is said to have predicted after signing the Voting Rights Act of 1965--the Republican Party has made hay by playing on the racially based resentments of many Southern and other whites.During the presidential campaign just past, this manifested itself in an assortment of ways:Rick Santorum's statement, later disavowed, that blacks want to live on other people's money; Newt Gingrich's labeling of Obama as the "food stamp president:; Mitt Romney's lie that Obama had done away with the work requirement of the welfare system.The goal of such statements is obvious: to stoke white resentment of blacks as layabouts and freeloaders. Mitt Romney's unguarded statement about the 47 percent who won't take responsibility for their own lives and who would vote for Obama no matter what--that made clear that he had broadened the calumny well beyond just blacks.If there was any genius to the Obama strategy, it began with a very simple premise: Don't push people away by being nasty and contemptuous.As Sen. Lindsey Graham has warned his party, there no longer are enough "angry white guys" to make that old Southern strategy a winning proposition.

America needs two vibrant, viable parties offering different approaches to our problems and challenges. Someone needs to take the GOP by the scruff of its neck and drag it into the 21st Century. Why only two?Why should the Republican Party not disappear, if its time has passed? Abraham Lincoln was a Whig, but adjusted to the new Republican Party when the old one split into factions.The Know-Nothings faded away.Imho, it's time for a new party, one led by Hispanic Americans. Or one led by Asian Americans. The Grand Old Party has become the Tired Old Party. Anti-science, anti-women, anti-immigrant, etc., led by men like Akin, Romney, Rush, O'Reilly, etc.

While we're at it: Memo to Catholic bishops, cardinals and pope:"There will be no restoration, no taking our (church) back, no return to the 1950s. Not this year. Not any year."

"Newt Gingrichs labeling of Obama as the food stamp president"; Mitt Romneys lie that Obama had done away with the work requirement of the welfare system."I expect that in point of fact, most recipients of food stamps and welfare are white. I'd be surprised if either candidate said what he did from racial motives, either explicit or ulterior or subconscious. On the other hand, I don't suppose anyone would deny that fanning the flames of class resentment was one of the Obama campaign's most important, and potent, political strategies. Surely it worked in Ohio. And certainly, examples of it were rife at dotCom during the run-up to the election. Is racism a special case when it comes to fanning the flames of resentment between groups of Americans? Or should fanning the flames of class resentment also come in for condemnation? Is class resentment wholly separate from racial resentment? Is it ok if it's exploited by the Obama campaign, but not if by Republicans?Of course, if statements like Santorum's and Romney's are perceived as racist by those who have historically been victims of racism, then, in a political sense, they are racist whether they are meant that way or not.My hope is that accusations of racism, which in general are made too often and without basis at dotCom, don't cow conservatives from publicly critiquing government programs and policies that are in need of examination and criticism and, quite possibly, reform.

I appreciate your post, Jim P.

Jim Pauwels: If you feel like expressing racist views at dotCommonweal, go ahead and express such views.But don't tell me not to express what you patronizingly refer to as "class resentment." That's the way Republicans speak, so you sound like a Republican. But I am not a Republican.

@Jim Pauwels (11/8, 4:04 pm) Thanks for a thought-provoking comment. Here, in no particular order, are some quick reactions before supper:1 - If you go back and re-read both Prof. Wycliff's original post and the comment he added (from which you quoted), you'll notice that he makes no accusations of racism, and calls nobody a racist.Furthermore, there's a big and important difference between calling someone a racist and calling out racist behavior. The first presumes some degree of knowledge about the person's intent. The second focuses on a person's behavior. That's what Prof. Wycliff did. (For more on this distinction, see the inimitable Jay Smooth: )2 - "Is racism a special case...?" Opinions may legitimately differ, but I would argue that the answer to that question is, basically, yes. The reason I make that argument is because U.S. history is inextricably bound up with race and racism---dating back at least to August of 1619 when capitalism, democracy and slavery first collided here in Jamestown, VA. (Apologies for linking to my own blog as a source.)Racism is in our constitution (the 3/5 clause). It was the central and primary cause of our only civil war. Until the mid-20th century it was embedded by law and custom in virtually every major American institution. Racism is, to make a Catholic theological analogy, "America's original sin".3 - I think you're onto something with your observation that "if statements...are perceived as racist by those who have historically been victims of racism, then, in a political sense, they are racist...." Another way to think of this if one has *not* historically been a victim of racism is to have a "preferential option" for the interpretation of those who *have* been victims of racism. So, to take our present case, if someone like Prof. Wycliff cites statements by Santorum, Gingrich and Romney as examples of racist behavior (my characterization, not his), then---in the absence of some powerful evidence to the contrary---they probably *are* examples of racist behavior. (Which is not to say those gentlemen are racists.)

Barbara --Check out Nate's figures this evening. I was surprised to see that the Confederate states are no longer among the most conservative ones with the exception of Alabama. True, the large number of black people in the Confederate states ups the liberal count in them. But it seems that now it is the plains states, which have relatively few black voters, which are the most conservative, or at least as conservative as the old deep south. Hmm.

About a week before the election, I attmetped to download some iamges that poked fun attheh cqandidatee,s that woudl be enjoyed by both supproters and oppsoient sof each cadidate. I was shocked, shaken and disgusted by the search results.There are are number of pretty funny cartoons, comments and photos of Romney that both Romney supporters and opponents would chuckle at. "Dogs against Romney" was my favorite. A lot poked fun at his wealth, the 47% quote and, of course, there were binders and binders fo women. Sadly, but not surprisingly a lot of the images were scatalogical, insuted Mormonism or were otherwise in bad taste. Still, there was a fair percentage that was bipartisanly funny or within the boudns of political insults.The same search term for Obama produced drmatically different results. There were practically no bipartisanly humorous jokes or images. About 40% of the images were "Stormfront-level" racist. The sources were not from Stormfront, however. They appeared to be Tea Party sources and Republican sources. The viciousness and implied violence of the racism was shocking and disturbing to me. I can only assume that the Secret Service monitors this stuff.The breadth of the racism leads me to the conclusion that that Republican strategists were aware of this factor and saw that it worked in favor of their candidate. They could not overtly appeal to this wellspring of racism but they also need not quash it or discourage it. Instead, they appealed subtely to those racists in their midst by the language referred to above while retaining the plausible deniabilty that Jim Pauwels asserts on their behalf. When Romney refers to "self-deporting" for example, here's his audience: don't accuse the stratgists of being racists. I accuse them of opportunistically cooperating with evil.Chllenging the efficency of government programs is a different matter. Goverment programs are, to borrow a phrase, "semper reformanda." But that'a particualrly bad example.President Clinton revamped welfare institutign work requirements in 1996. Nobody accused him of racism. Romney did, however, falsely accuse Obama of eliminating the Clinton work requirements for welfare--playing to the racist subset of Americans I linked to above.

Romney won 34% of the vote of his Massachusetts small town Belmont. Obama's 66%. is considerably higher than the 47% Romney says Obama had in the bag. Looks like Romney couldn't get the affluent vote either.

Forward is not always the right direction

Jim Pauwels writes: "... I dont suppose anyone would deny that fanning the flames of class resentment was one of the Obama campaigns most important, and potent, political strategies." Maybe I'm no one, but I would deny it. Obama didn't come close to "fanning the flames of class resentment." He could barely bring himself to repeat what the CBO and any of half a dozen other authorities kept pointing out: That income inequality in this country has reached scandalous levels and tax policy has aggravated instead of ameliorating it. And that wimpy, insipid line about "asking wealthy people like me to pay a little bit more"--that qualifies as "fanning the flames"?Class resentment? We haven't seen class resentment in this country. And we certainly didn't see the 44th president "fanning the flames of class resentment."

Righteous indignation at freeloading, non-taxpaying rich people is not "fanning the flames of class hatred". Some rich people do pay taxes, and give to philantropy besides. Some rich Americans have even formed an organization to make it known that *they* think they should pay more taxes.This is not a class thing, it's a justice thing. Even a 10 year old knows that each person ought to pay his/her debts.

"3 I think youre onto something with your observation that if statementsare perceived as racist by those who have historically been victims of racism, then, in a political sense, they are racist. Another way to think of this if one has *not* historically been a victim of racism is to have a preferential option for the interpretation of those who *have* been victims of racism."Yes, I agree. Speakers need to be sensitive to victims. That doesn't mean victims are the absolute arbiters of the speakers' intentions, though.

Ed --I read recently that small businessmen who do pay taxes are starting to wise up to the fact that many of the rich and super-rich with tax specialists and tax loopholes get away sometimes with no taxes at all or very little, and these businessmen are turning against the GOP because of it. They want tax reform too. There are lots of small businessmen out there, so the GOP better watch out.

Don Wycliff - you are very far from nobody, but the Obama campaign and its Super PAC allies spent tens of millions of dollars on attack ads in Ohio that blistered - generally with varying degrees of dishonesty - Romney's tenure (and post-tenure) at Bain Capital. These ads were intended to stoke class resentment. Apparently, they were effective.Here is one journalist's take on it.

@Jim Pauwels (11/9, 12:39 am) With all due respect, the issue at hand is Don Wycliff's closing assertion: "With its undisguised hostility to non-traditional Americans, the Republican Party has painted itself into a corner. It has to find a way out or resign itself to increasing irrelevancy.That would be bad for the partyand for the nation. America needs two vibrant, viable parties offering different approaches to our problems and challenges. Someone needs to take the GOP by the scruff of its neck and drag it into the 21st Century."Middle-aged white guy Kevin Drum (a generally even-tempered, somewhat heterodox liberal political blogger) lays it out in more detail, after quoting Fox News' Sean Hannity and Bernie Goldberg approvingly on the need for the Republican Party to change:"Lightening up on immigration won't be enough. Like it or not, conservatives are going to need a much more thorough housecleaning if they want to survive in an increasingly diverse future. No more gratuitous ethnic mockery. No more pretense that reverse racism is the real racism. No more suggestions that minorities just want a handout. No more screeching about the incipient threat of Sharia law. No more saturation coverage of the pathetic New Black Panthers. No more complaining that blacks get to use the N word but whites don't. No more summers of hate on Fox News. No more tolerance for Dinesh D'Souza and his "roots of Obama's rage" schtick; or for Glenn Beck saying Obama has a "deep-seated hatred of white people"; or for Rush Limbaugh claiming that "Obama's entire economic program is reparations." No more jeering at the mere concept of "diversity." And no more too-clever-by-half attempts to say all this stuff without really saying it, and then pretending to be shocked when you're called on it. Pretending might make you feel virtuous, but it doesn't fool anyone and it won't win you any new supporters.That's just a start. One way or another, the Republican Party simply has to stamp this out. And not just because they need to do it to survive, but because it's the right thing to do. That still counts, doesn't it?"

Hi Jim Pauwels, Perry, Gingrich, and Santorum trashed Romney's tenure at Bain first and just as vigorously as Obama. Sheldon Adelson even produced a 30 minute slasher documentary against it. Tell Adam Smith and Theodore Roosevelt that progressive taxation is class warfare.Larry Weisenthal/Huntington Beach CA

Regarding Joe McFaul's observations about the nasty humor pointed at Obama, any reader here might take a moment to read respondents' comments on any post on At times they can be revolting. Generally low-intellect, disjoint, incoherent, and frequently tinged with racist overtones (undertones?). Wait until Michelle Obama is in the news for some reason or another and then read what the "Fox Nation" has to say. Very, very far from the polite, erudite exchanges we enjoy here. This is a population in its last throes, apoplectic that their world view is no longer palatable, much less dominant, to the majority of this country. If the GOP even bothers themselves with such neanderthals, good riddance. Enjoy your trip to oblivion.

My temperamentally quite conservative stock broker emailed me today that he thinks all the media types should be fired. He's particularly concerned about the hysteria they sometimes inspire.

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