Many people across the political spectrum – myself included – have spent the past few weeks hoping, surmising, and even expecting that one result of this election, perhaps the most important result of this election, is that it may have delivered to the right a wake-up call. That the drumming they received in state houses, legislatures, on the Hill, and in the White House would bring about some new thinking, that more prescient members may come around to the idea that they must as a whole stop doing so much to appease the radical fringe – currently in the form of the Tea Party (one lone but germaine example of which is here, and the subject is also covered quite well in David Corn’s book Showdown) – and halt these elements from dragging the whole party further right, which continues to alienate voters. That they may decide in order to win elections, in order to continue to influence events and remain relevant – and in order to stave off the emergence of a third party, as has been suggested in some circles – they might need to go after voters other than upper-class white men (if there’s one thing we should have learned from this election, it is the importance of minorities). They might decide, “it’s time for Republican elected leaders to stand up and to repudiate this nonsense [of the extreme right wing], and to repudiate it directly,” says Republican strategist Steve Schmidt (on Salon.com). They might think, as Newt Gingrich put so eloquently:
“For the conservative movement and the Republican Party to succeed in the future (and while they are not identical the two are inextricably bound together) we will have to learn the lessons of 2012. An intellectually honest and courageous Republican Party has nothing to fear from the current situation.”
And here I completely agree with Newt, something I never thought I’d be compelled to admit (I’ve mentioned this quote before, which can be found here).
But a very in-depth analysis by Frank Rich of New York Magazine says that it is crazy to think that the Tea Party will be rendered irrelevant or cease to exist, or even that the GOP will undergo any kind of serious transformation. He writes:
History tells us that American liberals have long underestimated the reach and resilience of the right, repeatedly dismissing it as a lunatic fringe and pronouncing it dead only to watch it bounce back stronger after each setback. That pattern was identified in an influential essay, “The Problem of American Conservatism,” published by the historian Alan Brinkley in 1994. Brinkley was writing two years after the religious right of Pat Robertson had stunned liberals by hijacking the GOP convention from the country-club patrician George H.W. Bush—the same fundamentalist right that had ostensibly retreated from politics after the humiliating Scopes trial in the twenties.
He goes on to give specific instances of liberals make these same claims and being proven wrong. Though I’m not sure I agree – in the interest of pragmatism – with his characterization of conservatives (for some individuals I sure fking do, but not necessarily the group as a whole), it sure is a colorful and memorable image:
Such is the power of denial that we simply refuse to concede that, by the metric of intractability, at least, conservatives are the cockroaches of the American body politic, poised to outlast us all. And so, after Obama’s victory in 2008, the Democratic pollster Stan Greenberg spoke for sentimental liberal triumphalists everywhere when he concluded that America is now “in a progressive period” and that “the conservative movement brought about by the Gingrich revolution has been crushed.” That progressive period lasted all of a year, giving way to the 2009 gubernatorial victories of the conservatives Bob McDonnell (in the purple state of Virginia) and Chris Christie (in blue New Jersey), as well as that summer’s raucous Obamacare protests. Few Democrats had imagined that the new African-American president would be besieged so quickly by a conservative populist movement whose adherents dressed in 1776 drag and worshipped the frothing-at-the-blackboard Glenn Beck. Or that such a movement would administer a “shellacking” in the midterms.
What I find most salient and compelling in this article – which was published on October 14th, several weeks before the election – is Rich’s prediction for the left’s reaction to an Obama win, and how smoothly and easily we’ve slipped into this narrative:
One can almost write the obituaries for the right that would appear after a Romney defeat right now. Even the millions spent by Karl Rove’s sugar daddies in the post–Citizens United era had failed to sell a far-right GOP to American voters. Once again the republic has been saved from the crazies by good old bipartisan centrist common sense.
Much gloating has been done over the now-apparent inefficacy of Karl Rove’s PACs (just one example here.) The obituary has come to be written pretty much just as predicted. To me, this lends credibility to Rich’s other positions, meaning the radicals on the right are due for a resurgence. Which I believe is one of the seven seals of the apocalypse. The full Rich article can be found here.