Sunday, November 11, 2012

Wipeout! The GOP Wave Crashes.

It's funny how elections make clear what is already in plain sight. The decline of the Republican Party and the discrediting of its radical right wing has been evident for the past 3 to 4 years. Instead of following an agenda, they've focused on obstruction. When they deigned to speak about policy, it was usually in the negative: anti-abortion, anti-marriage equality, anti-tax for millionaires and anti-immigrant. It's no wonder that women, African-Americans, Latinos and Asian-Americans were anti-GOP.

It's also appropriate that the final stake in the right's collective heart came in the form of a nasty, windy, watery, power-sapping weather event called Sandy. I've been warning about the conservative wave crashing on the beach for most of the year, including after Hurricane Isaac in August.

It is ever thus. And now comes the figurative cleanup. From Sean Hannity's epiphany on immigration, to Bill Kristol's rebirth on taxes (and the answer is no, raising taxes on the wealthy will not kill anyone), to the rejection of the religious right's message of exclusion and false piety, this election will very quickly result in the Republican's changing their tune in order to avoid complete irrelevancy.

Oh yes, there will still be Tea Partiers and other conservatives in Congress, but they will be marginalized and will vote against anything that smacks of compromise or common sense. Others, though, will see the light. Lindsay Graham has already shown his grace by working with New York's Charles Schumer on an immigration bill that could come in the lame duck session. There's even talk that the environment and climate change could enable this Congress, or the next one, to come to grips with what's been obvious to the rest of us for over a decade. Along with tax reform, that could make these next seven weeks the most productive of this eminently forgettable Congressional session.

And it's all because of an election that highlighted a get-out-the-vote machine that will become an instant classic in the next edition of Political Science textbooks across the nation. President Obama's team was able to turn a bad economy and a seemingly insurmountable deficit of enthusiasm into a convincing win, in large part because the Romney campaign aligned itself with the anti-math crowd and convinced itself that Obama couldn't win.

But this was an election about ideas, and Obama won that battle as well. Most voters agreed with the president on taxes, marriage equality, women's reproductive rights, immigration and investing in education and research. Medicare, which was supposed to be the GOP's winning issue, was a dud. Paul Ryan was forced early on to abandon both this issue and his meat cleaver budget, leaving him with little to say except to parrot Romney's ultimately failed ideas. That the election was close is a testament to how divided the country is, but the ever-decreasing white vote that went for Romney was no match for the rainbow coalition that came out for the president.

Is it an enduring coalition for Democrats? It will be if the Republicans don't shed some of their antiquated ideas. I expect we'll see a lot more of Marco Rubio over the next two years and a little more of Chris Christie, who raised his profile as someone willing to work with the other party to get things done during the devastation caused by Sandy and Obama's visit to New Jersey. (Memo to the GOP: Sandy meant very little to your electoral loss. Did women and Latinos decide to vote Obama after a hurricane, or after your minions savaged themselves by equating rape with God's plan?) We might even see some moderates peeking over the curtain from time to time.

The main lesson we all need to take from the election is that the people want the government to help solve our problems. They don't want government completely out of the way, but would rather that it do what it's supposed to do: keep us safe, keep us working, and taking care that the safety net catches those who need it. We'll take care of the rest. The Democrats can't get too full of themselves and their message because this was not a mandate election. It was a reaffirmation election that told Barack Obama to complete the job he started in 2009 and to work with the other side to fix the system. The GOP will obstruct and filibuster at its peril. They need to work with the president on all issues and not wait until the next election to see if they can outflank him. That didn't work for the past two years and it won't work in the future.

I am optimistic for the first time in a while. It might be misplaced, or I might be more naive than the next guy, but I really think we'll get the government unplugged and start to see some real progress.

The wave has crashed. Now let's hope the tide has turned.

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