Felicia Muftic " GOP ‘purists’ leave party stuck in the mud
May 31, 2009
When Rush Limbaugh and Dick Cheney took it on themselves to purge Gen. Colin Powell from the Republican ranks, the message to moderate Republicans has now become “loose canons, independent thinkers and those taking the cafeteria approach on issues and candidates do not need to apply”. The right of center has been replaced by the right with no center. That’s suicide. The political brass ring will continue to go to the party that wins the center.
Here is the danger. Those in 2009 who call themselves independents (36 percent) outnumber Republicans (27 percent) and they equal Democrats (36 percent), according to a recent Gallup poll. How did this happen?
The Republicans are suffering from the disease of disconnection. While they are searching for ideological purity, voters are looking for someone to save them from their economic agonies. The GOP’s timing is off: They are talking about how to drive the car down the road before they get the engine running. In addition, their faces and voices are a cultural turnoff to many but those in the Deep South.
Most voters are hurting so much, whether it is fear of losing jobs, homes, 401Ks and health insurance, they just want their problems fixed by someone and they are tucking ideological concerns in some deep dark corner.
The Republicans’ timing is off. Obama talks about the short term and the long term. The Republicans talk only about the long term: “Some day we will be so in debt, your taxes and inflation will increase.” Obama’s plans for the short term are found in the 18 month cycle of the stimulus: Rev up government spending to prime the carburetor since the gas has run out, pour in gallons of fuel, gun the engines, and get on down the road. The Republicans so far have failed to convince many that they have fuel even to get the engine to turn over.
When he speaks about the long term, Obama acknowledges Republicans’ concerns and recognizes he’ll have to do a U-turn. Down the road he will have to cut government spending, increase revenue to the treasury to make up the debt, and above all, have economic policies that increase the gross domestic product. Increased revenue does not necessarily mean a tax increase to anyone but the very rich; it could also mean using the current tax structure since the size of the base it draws from would increase as the economy expands.
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Cutting government spending while paying for a national health plan and dealing with solvency of Medicare is another feat worthy of a muscle truck. It can only happen if all health care costs are reduced by some mechanism. I have no doubt Social Security benefits will be restricted to fewer folks and more folks will have to pay more into the system. Tackling Medicare and Social Security deficits will be a political mud hole of an epic size and so far Obama has convinced voters he can power through it. Republicans so far have said the only way to avoid the problem is just to say “no” to whatever Democrats propose or to offer the “same old, same old” that didn’t work before..
The cultural disconnect is another factor. So long as the GOP’s political base speaks with a Southern drawl, they will have a limited national appeal. Demographics of younger generations, post-segregation affirmative action, and Hispanic migration have changed forever the nature of this country’s majority. Shrill right wing voices objecting to Obama’s pick for the Supreme Court on the basis that she is not a white male and might have feelings that could mean she is an activist only digs the conservatives’ grave deeper, ticking off what is left of the Hispanic vote and women. Right to life, the GOP litmus test of the past, still splits this country down the middle, but it has diminished in importance as a political motivator, overwhelmed by economic issues.
I wonder where my Republican parents, who passed away in 1986, would be political these days. President Obama’s pragmatic move to the right on foreign policy, a mini-surge in Afghanistan, and a retooling of our military might have satisfied their support of a strong defense. Their fiscal conservatism might bend: They did vote for the first two terms of FDR. The cultural disconnect might yet be the straw that broke the back of their loyalty to the Republican Party. They were adamant pro-choice Republicans and patriotic Americans. They resented the takeover of the Republican Party by the social conservatives to the point of being livid about it.
Whether they would have changed their party affiliation to independent or remain Republicans in name only, I do not know for sure. What I do know is that for the GOP to regain power, they will at least have to reconstruct a connection with people like them.