Tuesday, January 17, 2012

A Liberal Dose of Conservatism

Today, Newt Gingrich said that if he doesn't win the Saturday Primary in South Carolina, the GOP "will probably nominate a moderate. And the odds are fairly high he will lose to Obama."

To his credit, Newt knows a lot about defeating Democrats, but we've heard this mantra before. Four years ago, Ann Coulter and many others went on Fox News decrying John McCain, saying that the GOP had already lost the election if they end up nominating him, which was true. John McCain didn't stand a chance, but to scapegoat "moderate" Republicans like that is to completely miss the point, (ironically, that also changes the very definition of a moderate) making it more clear than ever that they learned nothing from their astounding defeat in 2008. I fully expect the GOP establishment to continue to jump on the moderate hate wagon as Mitt Romney closes in on the nomination.

The GOP continues to live in this fantasy world where Ronald Reagan was a noninclusive neoconservative that got elected because he was the McMuffin of capitalists. They completely forget that he was not only a believer in the "big tent" idea, but that he also expanded the government and closed tax loopholes for wealthy businesses to reign in the deficit. Corporations and the rich paid more taxes under Reagan, and in fact, have never paid higher taxes since, not even when Bill Clinton was President. Obama has not once introduced or supported a bill that would bring upper class and corporate taxes back to where they were in the late 80s.

Reagan also wanted to scale back our nuclear weapons arsenal. He supported and signed a bill that gave amnesty to illegal aliens. As Governor of California he signed legislation that not only made it easier for women to get abortions, but allowed more tax-payer funded abortions than Mitt Romney ever resided over as Governor of Massachusetts.

That being said, Mitt Romney was an Independent during the Reagan/Bush years, and thought that Reagan was too conservative. They certainly had disagreements on how health care should be administered. There was a time when Romney was the quintessential moderate Republican, which still haunts him to this day within his own party.

John McCain also solidified his status as a moderate conservative prior to receiving the 2008 Republican Presidential nomination. He viciously attacked the right-wing, and loathed leaders in the Christian community that tried to use their influence to bring about theocracy. He supported campaign finance reform and amnesty for illegal aliens as well. He was against the Bush tax cuts, and slammed George W. Bush for merely debating torture as an option in time of war.

The Republicans are correct in labeling these two candidates as moderates, however, they are are wrong in assuming that is what led to, or will inevitably lead to, their demise at the hands of a Democrat.

The broken record sounds a bit like this. "George W. Bush was a moderate who expanded government and caved in to the Democrats too often, which caused us to lose the 2008 election to Barack Obama. Barack Obama is a liberal socialist who failed to recover the economy fast enough. Whoever we nominate will beat Barack Obama, so we should put the right guy in there to defeat him." ...the right guy being whomever has the most conservative, right-wing record.

This is how completely out-of-touch the GOP is with mainstream America. The 80% of us who live somewhere in the middle between the left and right want nothing more than a President who can change the way things work in Washington. Obama is clearly not the guy who's going to bring about the kind of dramatic change we were looking for, but the complaints coming from Independents have more to do with disappointment that he hasn't done more, than the belief that he is a failure. I find it hard to believe that the Independents and moderate Republicans that voted for Obama in 2008 are looking for a candidate that is more conservative than George W. Bush. This attitude is what caused both John McCain and Mitt Romney to give up their moderate views in exchange for an extremist, radical, noninclusive, right-wing conservative platform. Both would be electable candidates had they stayed true to their moderate roots. There is not a shred of evidence to suggest that America is looking for what establishment Republicans are calling for in their presidential nomination.

It's too late now, because Mitt Romney's skeletons are out of the closet and he's well on his way to winning the nomination. He will lose to Barack Obama, not because he's a moderate, but because he will likely make the mistake that any of these nominees would make at the hands of the neoconservative, evangelical Christian base. He will lose the Hispanic vote that significantly helped George W. Bush win re-election. He will lose the LGBT vote, and everyone who supports their equal rights cause. He will lose the Black vote, most likely because he will patronize them and suggest that they're only voting for Obama because they are too stupid to think for themselves. He will also lose the vote of those who support women's reproductive rights. Most of the polls suggest that the majority of Americans were disappointed with Obama's health care reform because it didn't go far enough, but even being conservative about it would suggest that threatening to veto or dismantle the bill would cut him off from half of the voting population.

The big tent that Ronald Reagan built has slowly deteriorated over the past three decades, and is now all but completely destroyed. This actually makes Obama a lot more like Reagan than Republicans would ever want to admit. Jimmy Carter was seen as a failure, and Walter Mondale was seen as both a reincarnation of Jimmy Carter, as well as an unprincipled fair-weather liberal. Reagan's policies were controversial, and the country was not convinced that we were on the right road to economic recovery, but re-elected him in a landslide because there were no better options. Much like Reagan, Obama uses humor to brush off the vicious attacks of his opponents. While he has shown he is capable of both landing and taking punches, much like Reagan, he will never hit his opponent below the belt. I wouldn't even be surprised to hear Obama use a famous line from Reagan's campaign, "Are you better off now than you were four years ago?"

Republicans often cite the momentum they built in 2010 as a sign that the tides have turned. Yet, look at what happened in campaigns where the Tea Party hand-picked the nominee, or inserted a third-party candidate in elections that were otherwise winnable by Republicans. In fact, it has been said many times, had it not been for the Tea Party, the Republicans would have taken the Senate. They also seem to forget that voter turnout was extremely low in 2010, as it is in every mid-term election, which is why Republicans tend to gain momentum in them. Some of the Republicans that were elected are now being recalled. Two seats in the Minnesota legislature were turned over to Democrats in the last special election, and today one million petitions were handed in to start the recall process for Governor Scott Walker. All evidence, including polling data and election trends, is suggesting that the tide is rolling back towards the Democrats. As a volunteer in the 2008 Obama campaign, I saw first-hand how powerful and organized his Get-Out-The-Vote program was, and while voter enthusiasm may be low, GOTV will still be a force to be reckoned with.

The only thing the GOP has going for it is the SCOTUS decision that allows corporations to donate endless amounts of funds to their campaigns. If they're not careful, this could be a double-edged sword, and it might not take much to convince some of those corporations to support Democrats. All-in-all, Republicans are now seen as the party that is most in bed with Wall Street, making it very difficult for the GOP to circumvent transparency on their apparent disdain for the 99%. Perhaps this will be the first election in more than a century where corporate campaign spending has a diminished effect.

Obama's strategy, which continues to completely go over the heads of GOP strategists, is akin to what boxers call Rope-a-dope. He gets his opponents whipped up into a fury early and fights conservatively, but ultimately stays in the match to the bitter end. He meticulously lands enough jabs to slowly wear down his opponent, then when the time is right, goes in for the knockout punch. Hillary Clinton knows about this strategy all too well, and no doubtingly respects Obama for it, when it comes to defeating Republicans. The Republicans clearly have yet to pick up on it, and are currently falling into the trap that has been laid down in front of them.

While I can't predict the future, it's no surprise that Republicans are struggling to find enthusiasm for the field of candidates they have to choose from, who are mostly separated from each other by petty and insignificant differences. All of the anger and hatred they have towards Obama will amount to nothing, because they couldn't find a nominee they could all get behind. The Republican Party is completely fractured, mostly chasing off those with any real common sense, who may appeal to a larger subset of voters than the diminishing Republican base. The tragic demise of the party of Abraham Lincoln means that Obama will not have a worthy opponent in this election that will challenge him to make good on the promises he made in 2008, and America may never see this great country rise to the potential it once had.