Death of a Party
It is the inevitable third act of every recent election. The defeated side demands a recount or legal recourse. It’s the adult version of “It’s not fair. Do over!” Whether it’s the Democrats (remember Florida in 2000 with their “dangling” and “pregnant” chads) or Karl Rove’s on-air hissy-fit last Tuesday, sometimes facts are ignored and argued as if unfixed.
The presidential election last Tuesday saw a decisive win for President Obama, winning 332 to 206 in the Electoral College and 62,613,406 to 59,140,591 in the popular vote, garnering 62 more electoral votes than he required and winning the popular vote by 3,472,815 (roughly the same as the populations of Alaska, North Dakota, Vermont, Washington, D.C. and Wyoming combined). These are the facts. To ignore them or dispute them is unproductive folly. Like it or not, President Obama (and the Democrats) will continue to control the White House for four more years. But before the Republicans began to lick their wounds and regroup, or begin the painful process of self-exploration, too many of their adherents have taken to crying publicly and stomping their feet.
Bertrand Russell said, “The whole problem with the world is that fools and fanatics are always so certain of themselves, but wiser people so full of doubts.” Truer words have never been uttered. When someone is convinced of the sanctity of their position with absolute certainty, expounding with vitriol and ferocity against the “uneducated masses,” I instinctively dismiss them, protect my children and grab for my wallet.
I always thought that the young, in their idealistic naiveté of wanting to save the world voted Democratic until they began to make some money of their own. Gradually, their position would change from “save the world” and “help the downtrodden” to “not another slice of my pie” and a NIMBY attitude. I used to think of Republicans as the party of Alex P. Keaton and Gordon Gecko; market-based capitalists firmly in the Ayn Rand camp of egoism, self-control and material gain. Perhaps it is a consequence of my having to relocate to Texas in search of the country’s best medical care for my wife, but I now find myself redefining my definition of Republicans. Nationwide, there has been a shift in the ideals of the Republican Party, carried on the heels of right-wing Christians centered in the Bible-belt. Every Republican running since Ronald Reagan has run on an outdated, idealistic, fantastic, revisionist historian view of American life in the 1950’s. “If only we could go back to the way it used to be.” Forgetting, for example, the treatment of women, homosexuals, blacks, Asians, Hispanics, Native Americans, (essentially, everybody who was not a white man), a government that took us to the brink of nuclear annihilation and created a foundation of lies for what would become the Viet Nam war.
Having learned our lessons, through the hard fought civil rights movement, the women’s liberation movement and the return of 11,000 body bags from Viet Nam, Cambodia and Laos (and a generationally divided country where the youth (who were called upon to fight in the war) mistrusted a government that abused it), capitalistic market forces marched on, taking us from the upheaval of the 1960’s to the anti-war crescendo of the mid-1970’s with the overthrow of a sitting president, to the debauchery of the 1970’s and drug-addled 1980’s. The 1990’s saw baby boomers acknowledge that they were the capitalists after all and return to making money, content that they could save the world once their summer home in Maui was paid off. This brings us to that historical fulcrum, September 11, 2001. All at once, as the second plane hit the South tower, our insulated, global ignorance shattered with the World Trade Tower glass. When 3,000 of our neighbors were incinerated that day, we saw in all its naked anger the effects radical religion can have on society. We did not deserve this assault, but neither did we prevent its happening. Content to let our government back one Middle Eastern dictator after another (from the Shah in Iran to Saddam Hussein in Iraq, from the Saudi family to Mubarak in Egypt) we lived our lives in happy oblivion under the dated misconception that we were protected by two oceans. Once we circled the wagons and held each other for comfort in the new and terrifying world order where enemies did not march under a recognized flag and so-called “smart bombs” assuaged any guilt we had bombing civilian neighborhoods where our enemies used schools and hospitals as human shields, the Republican party reverted back to a world view that neither existed nor should have existed; a world where minorities, women and homosexuals were heeled under by white middle-aged men and religious zeal validated any injustices. Unfortunately, or fortunately, the ensuing six decades since the 1950’s saw the “melting pot” of America change the flavors of the stew. As the number of Asians and Hispanics increased, the percent of the population comprised of whites diminished accordingly. Republicans continued to ignore this demographic paradigm shift and catered to an ever decreasing slice of Americans. Emboldened by the Christian right and using all manner of euphemisms for “middle aged white men,” the soundly beaten Republican Party now finds itself at a crossroads. One road leads to a future based on personal responsibility and social accountability while the other terminates in a dead end in less than ten years.
Nowhere is this battle more evident than in Texas. In fact, with California (and its 55 electoral votes) and New York (and its 29 electoral votes) solidly blue, Texas (and its 38 electoral votes) is the future of the Republican Party. As the immigration wave continues to push northward through the country and the young migrate south, typically Republican Texas demographics dwindle. Seen as reliably red since Lyndon Johnson proclaimed to Bill Moyers after signing the Civil Rights Act of 1964, “I think we just delivered the South to the Republican Party for a long time to come,” minorities now hold sway over the party’s very existence. And rather than face this fact, some Texans threaten to do again what they did in 1861, that is to say secede.
The White House website has created a “We the People” site allowing citizens to create petitions for government consideration. A cursory view of the site shows that forty-two states have petitions (some multiple as if their citizens cannot read) requesting to “peacefully be allowed to secede from the United States and form their own government.” However, while most of these petitions will fail to reach the 25,000 signature threshold, upon which a formal response will be generated by the administration, the Texas petition is closing in on 100,000 signatures as of this writing. Only those petitions from Georgia, Tennessee, Florida, Alabama, Texas and Louisiana have eclipsed the 25,000 signature mark, the second highest tally being Louisiana with just over 33,000 signatures. Ironically, and no doubt created with some caprice, there is a petition which has gathered over 4,000 signatures requesting that the city of Austin be allowed “to withdraw from the state of Texas and remain part of the United States!”
Current Republican intransigence and Texan hubris guarantee the party’s extinction. There are estimates that Texas will transition to a blue state within the course of the next presidential election cycle. If that is allowed to occur, if California, Texas and New York are solidly blue, there is virtually no mathematical chance for a Republican to garner the requisite 270 electoral votes to become president. Covering one’s eyes does not prevent the bus from hitting you. Threatening to secede does nothing to prevent your losing your seat at the table. Republicans must acknowledge that it is not 1950 any longer and that minorities (who will not remain “minor” for very much longer), women and homosexuals may soon make up the lion’s share of the electorate and have learned to make their voices known. Mitt Romney won the male vote 52% to 45%, the 65 and older vote 56% to 44%, the white vote 59% to 39%, the religious vote 59% to 39%, the anti-immigrant (self-deporting is a good and viable idea) vote 73% to 24% and married people vote 56% to 42%. However, it was clearly not enough. Will we look back upon the 2012 election as the last run by Republicans using the old game plan, having embraced change while encouraging personal responsibility or as a sacrosanct platform used again in 2016 and saw the party of Lincoln fade from relevance and disappear? In a word, should we help those wanting to secede pack or show them their seat at the new American table?