GOP identity crisis calls for reality check

by Hunter Harris / Beacon Staff • November 14, 2012

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Beaten and bruised following the 2012 election cycle, the Republican Party needs to reevaluate its approach.
Beaten and bruised following the 2012 election cycle, the Republican Party needs to reevaluate its approach.

The upcoming release of Steven Spielberg’s Lincoln, and the recent loss of Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney have had me thinking about the Grand Old Party. Contrasting the version of Republicanism Spielberg presents — traditional yet progressive — and the facet presented on Hannity — loud and ignorant — one question continually plagues me: Is this the Republican Party? The party of Reagan? The party of Colin Powell and John McCain, Abraham Lincoln and Teddy Roosevelt?

Watching footage of Mitt Romney say that 47 percent of Americans immorally think they are entitled to health care, food, housing, and “you-name-it,” I was struck by the sneering inadequacy of this say-anything strategy, and the answer hit me: It’s not. This Party — carefully crafted by Fox News and conservative radio, stitched together with an alarming extremism — is no more the party of Reagan than it’s the party of Palin. Though every election cycle is important, for Republicans this election was pivotal, stressing the party’s distinct weaknesses, critical misses that Romney’s failed candidacy puts into perspective.

In terms of the GOP’s future, this is what should happen: Following a failed presidential bid full of foreign policy gaffes, unreleased tax forms, an evasive vice presidential candidate, and frightening videos of Donald Trump making Batman villain-esque demands, it’s time to reevaluate. The words of YouTube sensation Sassy Gay Friend have rarely been more fitting: “Look at your life. Look at your choices.”

Following this advice, GOP leaders would see that the current policy of making value judgments about the worth and “Americanism” of minority groups is fruitless, and would alter its stances on contemporary social issues to become more moderate. Fashioning itself as the party of economic reform, it would promote fiscally conservative policies that won’t try to win arguments by saying untrue things louder. The Republican Party would actually use facts and data to draw logical conclusions that involve tax increases.

Republicans would choose between Rush Limbaugh and minority voters, Rush Limbaugh and female voters, and take away any social media platform Donald Trump has, because the only thing it benefits is the ratings of the late night shows that mock him. They would become a gang of actual mavericks, promoting bipartisan inclusion and highlighting fiscal responsibility and American isolationism, more concerned with reasonable spending on suitable domestic defense coupled with non-interventionist foreign policy.

For now, this is not the case. No one can accurately forecast the political future of anyone in Washington, but the tide is heading toward qualified insanity. Misattributed to Benjamin Franklin, Mark Twain, and Albert Einstein, the quotation “The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results” feels fitting. 

In any official capacity, the GOP won’t choose between talkshow windbags and critical minority voters, just as it won’t choose bipartisanship over extremism; it will continue to provide loopholes for high-income supporters to the detriment of middle and lower-class Americans. Republican pundits will continue claiming that Obama is a socialist, Donald Trump will continue to question the President’s ancestry, and Karl Rove will still go on Fox News bewildered that the Party he engineered has not won. It’s a pity that the extremist faction of the Party is also the loudest, with enough time on cable to sink a once-respectable ship.

Perhaps — being a liberal unaffiliated with either party —  I hold some sort of bias. Maybe there’s just some vision of contemporary Republicanism that I’m not seeing. Though I fundamentally disagree with many conservative policies, I respect them by virtue of everyone’s right to voice an opinion. My concern, rather, is that, though Republicans hold value and believe in the same America I do, this is not what’s being represented at party conventions and in the media. When I turn on Fox News, I don’t see Republicanism: I see race-baiting, loud talking, and classist warmongers that will do or say anything grossly offensive to stay relevant.

I reject this high profile, highly publicized GOP because that’s not the way it needs to be. Moderate Republicans still exist; true maverick Republicans are still around. I’m not saying that we need a Republican Party that supports Obama and his liberal following, but we need one that respects them. Replace Sarah Palin with Condoleezza Rice and Mitch McConnell with Chris Christie. There is a diverse electorate out there, one that is getting younger and more liberal every day.

This Republican policy of conservative exclusion and a refusal to reckon with political and economic truths is going nowhere fast. I fear it’s our futures they’re taking with them.