I did not want to get out of bed this morning. Not because I was afraid that a secret Marxist, anti-colonialist, Muslim, whatever was still the President. Or that he was set to be replaced by a man with a Cold War mentality and magic underwear who adheres to a belief system that claims that blacks are cursed. No, I was just really tired.
But now that I’m up, mobile, and more or less awake, I have finally been able to take a look at the particulars of Obama’s reelection victory. While the overall margin of victory was a bit surprising, considering how narrow the polls were leading up to the day, this election seemingly lacked the punch and consequence of the 2008 and 2010 affairs that saw great upheavals in the White House and in Congress. This morning the incumbent is still Commander in Chief, the GOP still controls the House, and the Democrats have maintained a narrow majority in the Senate.
What does this mean for the Republican party? In the two years following President Obama’s election in 2008 the Republicans worked tirelessly to motivate their base and galvanize their most extreme elements in repudiation of the President and the Democrats, leading to a huge turnover of seats in Congress that allowed the Republicans to take the majority in the House of Representatives and greatly narrow the Democratic majority in the Senate. Now in 2012, with a sputtering and sluggish economy, high unemployment, and an uncertain security situation abroad, the GOP was in a prime position to carry that momentum forward and improve upon the position they put themselves in 2 years ago. But they just couldn’t get it done.
Why not? I have no doubt that there will be a flurry of explanations and excuses offered up in the coming weeks, many of them (okay most of them) coming from people more intelligent that I, but it appears to me that many voters are simply turned off by the ultra-conservatism that has become a prevalent part of the GOP platform. It is no secret that the GOP has moved strongly and steadily to the right ever since 2008, a phenomenon that was punctuated by the success of Tea Party backed candidates in the mid-term elections of 2010 and lead to a pattern of obstructionism in the House and Mitch McConnell’s top priority in the senate.
But in 2012 the electorate has given the election to the Democratic incumbent (by nearly 100 electoral votes as of this writing) and the Democrats have earned a net gain in seats in both chambers of Congress. This gain of seats for the Democrats is evidence of a repudiation of ultra-conservatism in Congress and is highlighted by the defeat of Tea Party incumbents Allen West and Joe Walsh, and the fact that Michele Bachmann‘s fate came down to the wire despite the fact that she grossly outspent her opponent this election cycle.
So what’s next as the Republicans look forward to 2014? After seeing gay marriage legalized in three out of the four states that had it on the ballot and recreational marijuana legalized in two out of the three states with it on the ballot, after giving up ground in Congress (especially losing key Tea Party favorites), the abject failure of of the ultra-conservative primary campaigns of Rick Santorum and Newt Gingrich, and the disappointing general election showing of Mitt Romney, is it not clear that the GOP needs a new game plan? The momentum of the push to the right is petering out. It’s still there, but no where near what it was two years ago, and it likely will not be there again. It would appear that the best course of action for the GOP is to throw it in reverse, pull back towards the center, and seek electoral victory via a successful policy record enacted through bi-partisan cooperation. American voters are realizing that the obstructionism and backwards social policies that have been the backbone of the Tea Party movement and have informed the policies and actions of the GOP as of late are not the way forward for the country. Republicans need to realize this too, and soon.
Perhaps Lindsay Graham, Republican Senator from North Carolina, said it best:
“If I hear anybody say it was because Romney wasn’t conservative enough, I’m going to go nuts. We’re not losing 95 percent of African-Americans and two-thirds of Hispanics and voters under 30 because we’re not being hard-ass enough.”