The last time we wrote one of these things was a few months after the start of Obama’s first term: Open Letter to the Republican Party. At that time we deplored the Republican party’s obsession with sex and religion, and we called for dropping those issues from our political discourse.
We had to post a follow-up to explain that we weren’t advocating “selling out” and pitching a “big tent” to embrace ideas we oppose (see “Big Tent” Addendum). Our position was that the party should return to its traditional concerns — the Constitution, the rule of law, national defense, free enterprise, limited government, low taxes, balanced budgets, and individual rights — and the “social” issues should be dropped because: (a) constitutionally speaking, they’re not federal government issues; and (b) they’re losers in a national election.
Now that the 2012 presidential election is over and we got our heads handed to us again, we have more to say. As before, the party won’t pay any attention, but we’re going to have our say anyway, so here it comes:
My fellow Republicans:
In the aftermath of yet another catastrophic presidential election, we see the experts offering the opinion that our party failed because we didn’t recognize that there’s been a change in the demographics of the nation, and the Democrats are better at reaching out to those new constituencies than we are. The experts specifically mention the voting patterns of young people, women, blacks, Hispanics, etc. The experts say that we need to do better in attracting their votes.
But this expert analysis overlooks something — the demographics of our nation have always been changing. There was a time when the original Dutch settlers deplored the arrival of the English. We are told there are still rarified social circles in New York — which we imagine consist of people with names like Van Buren, Roosevelt, Vanderbilt, and Van Rensselaer — where, only half in jest, it’s disparagingly said that being Anglo is nouveau. After the colonies became overwhelmingly British, which required some adjustments, there was a massive influx of German speakers, but that demographic crisis settled down too.
Then came wave after wave of immigrants from other countries, each one deplored by those who, at the time, considered themselves to be the “true” Americans, yet each new group became assimilated into the national fabric. Immigration continues today, and it’s unlikely to ever end. But despite all the immigration that was going on, the Republicans were a successful national party for more than a century. Our ideas appealed to everyone (well, almost everyone), regardless of demographics. So what’s the problem now?
Our party’s problem isn’t that the nation’s demographics are changing — that’s nothing new. It’s the issues we represent. For the last generation, our party has been talking about sex and religion, and all too often those are the issues that dominate our campaigns. Frankly, political concern with such private matters isn’t only unconstitutional, it’s also repulsive. And therefore so is our party.
That hurts, doesn’t it? Well, I don’t care if it hurts, because it’s the truth. It’s not enough to promise that we’ll stay out of the people’s pockets; we also need to reassure them that we’ll stay out of their pants. Live as you like and raise your families as you like, but that’s where the line must be drawn. If you threaten to step over that line to tell other people how to live, no one will trust you with political power. Nor should they.
Look at the results. We had a presidential candidate who, despite what was said in opposition commercials, never seemed obsessed with sex and religion. We watched his campaign carefully, and neither he nor his running-mate pandered to that constituency. They reached out to everyone with traditional Republican issues, as our party always used to do. Yet, because so many other Republican candidates had made literally insane comments about personal, private subjects, the party’s franchise was hopelessly soiled and we lost the presidency — in a year that was made for a successful challenge.
We’re not all crazy, so why are so many of our candidates obsessed with sex and religion? It’s because the party machinery virtually assures that only people who either hold those views or who pander to them can get nominated. That’s why we end up with embarrassing candidates who routinely lose in races that should have been ours to win. What can be done about these ideological gate-keepers? We don’t know, because they control the machinery so at this point they literally are the party.
How did this happen to us? There was a time when the social conservatives were mostly Democrats. After they were “betrayed” by Johnson’s support for civil rights legislation, Nixon reached out to them and attracted them to the GOP (see Southern strategy). Barry Goldwater was appalled at what was happening. At one point he made a statement (regarding abortion and the nomination of a Supreme Court justice) that summed the whole situation up: “Every good Christian ought to kick Falwell right in the ass.” See Conservative pioneer became an outcast.
But Goldwater was ignored, and now the party is run by people he described as a ”bunch of kooks,” (same link as above). The result is that we just lost an election that seemed impossible to lose — except that our party is perceived as being run by theocratic maniacs — which is largely true. Life was easier when those people were Democrats, fans of William Jennings Bryan, and their national party ignored them. Alas, Nixon not only invited them into the GOP, he gave them a seat at the table. Now they run the party — but they’re unlikely to ever win a national election.
In conclusion, the experts are wrong in their analysis of why we lost. It’s not about demographics — that’s putting the blame on them. It’s not them, it’s you! And that’s why I’m seriously considering re-registering as an Independent. No, of course I won’t go over to the other side, but I don’t like what you’ve done to my party. More importantly, the country doesn’t like it either.
/s/ The Curmudgeon
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