Sunday, November 23, 2014

For the GOP: One Step Forward, Two Steps Back

You know that old saying, be careful what you wish for? Well, over the next 24 months - and beyond - an awful lot of Republicans are going to get a crash course in it.

It's tempting for a good many Republicans - and , it goes without saying, the vast majority of the lame-stream media - to interpret the 2014 midterms as a mandate. The public hath spoken and all ye should pay heed to thy warning, lest thee suffer thy wrath.

Well, no so fast. According to a GOP strategist, the Republican wave is actually "very bad news." In a piece in the Daily Kos, Chris Ladd lays out the GOP's problem in a nutshell. While they continue to do a very effective job at the Congressional level, mainly due to gerrymandering, on a national level, they still can't break what Ladd calls "the blue wall." This is a group of states that Democrats have ostensibly locked up. At present, they constitute 257 out of the 270 electoral votes needed to win the presidency. It's damn near impossible to win a national election when your margin for error is reduced to just 13 electoral votes.

In essence, by winning big in the midterms, all Republicans did was pile on where they are already strongest without laying the foundation for building a coalition in other less-reinforced geographic areas that they will desperately need in 2016. Long story, short: "Republican support grew deeper in 2014, not broader."

Of all the points Ladd makes, the three most salient for me were: 1. The Democratic ballot initiatives which were successful in every state, even Red ones, signal a shift in the electorate not to the right but to the left; 2. Republicans will have to defend 24 Senate seats in 2016, while Democrats will only have to defend 10. It shouldn't be that difficult for Democrats to net at least five seats, regaining the majority; and 3. Rather than come up with viable solutions for an ever-changing global economy, Republicans will pander to their worst elements by focusing on "climate denial, theocracy, thinly veiled racism, paranoia, and Benghazi hearings."

But the most damning indictment Ladd makes is this statement:

It is almost too late for Republicans to participate in shaping the next wave of our economic and political transformation. The opportunities we inherited coming out of the Reagan Era are blinking out of existence one by one while we chase so-called “issues” so stupid, so blindingly disconnected from our emerging needs that our grandchildren will look back on our performance in much the same way that we see the failures of the generation that fought desegregation. Something, some force, some gathering of sane, rational, authentically concerned human beings generally at peace with reality must emerge in the next four to six years from the right, or our opportunity will be lost for a long generation. Needless to say, Greg Abbott and Joni Ernst are not that force. ‘Winning’ this election did not help that force emerge.

To a certain extent both political parties have been guilty of misreading their electoral successes as mandates. As a result, they've tended to overreach. The Democrats were guilty of doing that in 2006 and '08. The Republican gains in both 2010 and 2014 have been likewise misread by their base. The difference between the two, however, is that the Republicans, unlike the Democrats, are swimming upstream nationally. Going into 2016, the GOP is facing the prospect of losing six out of the last seven popular votes for the presidency. That is a damning indictment and one which Ladd and many other Republican analysts are deeply concerned about.

Of course, it doesn't help matters either that the GOP has been hijacked by an element - the Tea Party - that is as looney as it is extremist.  As I mentioned in an earlier piece, in-coming majority leader Mitch McConnell is going to have his hands full keeping his caucus in line. Buckle up, kids. These next two years should be hysterical.

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