The Party Is Over

Poor Troy Senik.

He's a Republican, so everyone knows
he's stupid.

He used to write speeches for George
Bush and Newt Gingrich, so everyone avoids him at social gatherings.

And now all his clients are getting handed
their pink slips, so he's gonna have to start earning his living the
honest way for once.

But that's not even the worst part
of it.

Poor Troy Senik.

He's a Republican, so everyone knows
he's stupid.

He used to write speeches for George
Bush and Newt Gingrich, so everyone avoids him at social gatherings.

And now all his clients are getting handed
their pink slips, so he's gonna have to start earning his living the
honest way for once.

But that's not even the worst part
of it.

The worst part is that just he published
a piece entitled "Republicans Agonistes", which ended with this
paragraph: "The time for the Republican Party's existential
crisis is coming to a close. Now is the hour for a new generation
of innovative, optimistic, and principled leaders to see this moment
for what it is - an opportunity to renew a proud movement and lead
it towards future victories."

Then, the very next day, Arlen Specter
showed us precisely where the party's existential crisis really is
at, after all. (Hint: It's not exactly "coming to a

Indeed, not only is this meltdown not
ending now, it is only just beginning. But I will give Senik credit
for one thing. He has correctly labeled this as an existential
crisis. He's right about that. This is no garden variety
rough patch in the road. This could well spell the end of an institution
in American politics that has been around since Lincoln, and this country's
national party structure of the same vintage.

Mockingly, Senik opens his essay with
a wee taste of right-wing sarcasm: "The Republican Party is
dead. Haven't you heard? Despite winning seven of the past
11 presidential elections and controlling at least one house of Congress
for 13 of the past 15 years, our salad days are over. The ascendancy
of Nancy Pelosi, Harry Reid, and Barack Obama has shipwrecked the GOP
in perpetuity. Those of us who fought the good fight will now
have to go back to country clubbing, Bible thumping, and war mongering
in the private sector. To add insult to injury, we're the only
major institution that has failed in the last year without receiving
a generous taxpayer bailout."

Heh-heh. Those regressive cats
sure are good at comedy, eh? Now if only they could do it on purpose,
maybe they'd be getting somewhere with their show business careers.

Senik goes from there to chronicle all
the previous near-death experiences of the Party - 1964, 1974, etc.
- that turned out to be greatly exaggerated reports of the GOP's
demise. The point being, of course, that this kind of thing happens
all the time. He therefore argues that, "The question for Republicans,
then, is not if they can come back, but rather when and how."

That's actually quite wrong, though.
The real question for Republicans is, instead, whether they will survive
as a rump regional party of maniacal Troglodytes, or not at all.

Everything is going against the Party
right now, ranging from demographic shifts to leadership vacuums to
loss of control of every institution of American government to the massive
popularity of the new president from the other party. But these
are small potatoes compared to the two real problems that are rapidly
dragging the party toward the precipice of oblivion.

The first monstrous problem for the GOP
is that they're so good at winning elections. Or at least they
were. They'd have been great if only they hadn't actually
governed. Had they just stayed over there in the weeds, carping
incessantly about taxes, weakness abroad, taxes, homos, taxes, spending
and - did I mention taxes? - they could have gone on forever getting
enough votes to continue on as America's Perpetual Pain in the Ass
Party. Unfortunately, though, they made the mistake of actually
winning. They got so good at sliming their opponents and stealing
elections and employing fear to get votes that, the next thing you knew,
they were actually in charge.

Big, big mistake. Americans have
seen what Republican government looks like. It's seriously ugly,
and that's even when it doesn't produce a crisis. All the
more so when it does produce one, and far more yet when it's six or
seven, simultaneously.

I know, I know, it's weird. But,
just the same, Americans just don't seem to want economies plummeting,
debts exploding, cities attacked by terrorists, other cities drowning,
endless wars based on lies, cronyism, nepotism, looting, environmental
disasters, alienated allies, wrecked national reputations, or snarling
vice presidents on their television sets. Nor do they want congressional
legislation, enacted by a president flying across the country to sign
the bill, that tells Americans how to handle their individual family
medical tragedies. Like I said, it's weird. I guess Americans
are just quirky that way.

Well, okay. Then it would seem
like the logical thing for the GOP to do would be to move away from
the baggage of its radical albatross and return to the days of Gerald
Ford and Nelson Rockefeller, back when the right wing of the party was
considered scarier than a 3-D Hollywood horror movie even by the other
members of the same party. Well, it would seem. But, you
see, that's the GOP's second gigantic problem. It cannot do
the one thing that could possibly save it.

Indeed, not only can it not, but it doesn't
want to. And not only doesn't it want to, but it doesn't even
get that it must, or even should, if wants to have any hope of surviving.
It's truly amazing. I've talked to, and read pieces written
by, regressives who seriously argue that the GOP's problem is that
it hasn't been conservative enough. Indeed, I saw one young
lady from the Heritage Foundation make the argument that neither George
W. Bush nor William F. Buckley were real conservatives.
That's pretty hysterical if you think about it (something regressives
never want you to actually do). But consider the main programmatic
commitments of the Bush administration: wars overseas, huge military
expenditures, lopsided bias in favor of Israel, arrogant unilateralism
towards the UN and all other countries, massive tax cuts, anti-gay legislation,
Social Security privatization, deregulation, anti-abortion policies,
blocking of stem-cell research, environmental degradation, massive expansion
of the wealth gap, erosion of the separation of church and state, and
so on.

Which of these, I'm curious, don't
come right out of the contemporary conservative (pardon the obscene
oxymoron there) play book? Sure, you could say that regressives
are upset because Bush expanded Medicare (although the more accurate
way to put it would be that he expanded the profits of insurance and
pharmaceutical companies through the vehicle of Medicare), and that
he doubled the national debt (which is kinda inevitable if you massively
increase expenditures whilst slashing tax revenues; See Reagan,
Ronald W., and the Tripling of the Debt). But let's be serious,
shall we? No one can credibly argue that George W. Bush
was not a conservative. No one, that is, except the certifiably
insane freaks on the right, who, mercifully, are finally becoming again
the laughingstocks they once were in American society, and for precisely
this reason.

Nevertheless, they continue their relentless
march to the Land of the Ludicrous. I mean, just how amazingly
silly is it to claim that George W. Bush wasn't a real conservative?
How insane do you have to have become to argue that this is why the
party is losing elections? How completely bonkers do you have
to have gone to prescribe a turn further to the right in order to do
better from this point forward?

The Specter purge - and make no mistake,
though it was his decision, it was no more 'voluntary' than the choice
to exit a burning building - would represent the leading edge of a
departure trend that would rock the Republican Party, except for one
small problem: There is really hardly anything left of a moderate
wing of the party anymore. Specter would be leading the disaffected
droves out of the party, but there are none left to speak of, at least
at the national level. It is not unfair to say the Susan Collins
and Olympia Snowe, both senators from Maine, are the only remaining
moderate Republicans in Congress today.

At least one of them is really unhappy,
too. Snowe penned an article in the New York Times this week,
entitled "We Didn't Have To Lose Arlen Specter", in which
she vents a bit of her anger at the radical right for driving Specter
and, a decade ago Jim Jeffords, out of the party. Specter's own
announcement speech was even more hostile, and remarkably candid for
a politician. He spoke clearly about how the Club For Growth and
other orthodox elements of the radical right have made it almost impossible
for center-right Republicans to survive in office. Even if they
can survive the threat of a far-right challenger in the primary, or
the indifference of the party base such as greeted John McCain last
year until he brought on the Palin abomination, they are then too wounded
to win in the general election.

Snowe takes aim at social conservatives
for purifying the party right down to its unwinnable essence.
But what is most remarkable is that she - an angry moderate - gets
her party's crisis almost as wrong as the looney fringe. Reacting
to the capture of the party by the social conservatives, she writes:

"It is for this reason that we should
heed the words of President Ronald Reagan, who urged, 'We should emphasize
the things that unite us and make these the only 'litmus test' of what
constitutes a Republican: our belief in restraining government spending,
pro-growth policies, tax reduction, sound national defense, and maximum
individual liberty.' He continued, 'As to the other issues that
draw on the deep springs of morality and emotion, let us decide that
we can disagree among ourselves as Republicans and tolerate the disagreement.'"

Quite laughable stuff, really.
It's as if the only sin of the right has been its insistence on emphasizing
abortion, gay marriage and stem cell research as key Republican issues.
Imagine how far gone these people are when even their moderate champion,
writing in anger about the far right, doesn't begin to address their
core dilemma. Yo, Olympia, I have some really awful news to give
you, to go along with the bad news you've already received. Here
it is: You guys have been wrong on EVERYTHING!!

Do you really think, Senator, that if
you just let up on abortion but continued to manufacture millions of
unemployed homeless people out of the former middle class that you would
start winning elections again? And do you really think that you
would be allowed to let up on abortion by your party's base - the
same nice folks who were getting ready to purge Arlen Specter - even
if you could make that deal?

Do you really think, Senator, that if
your party could somehow drunkenly stumble its way into a humane and
science-based position on stem cell research at home, while continuing
to lie its way into disastrous wars abroad, that the American public
would rally to your cause? And do you really think your base of
reactionary voters would let you do it, anyhow?

Is it really your belief, Senator Snowe,
that if only the GOP would let the queers have their freakin' marriage
certificates that the party could then continue to win elections on
a platform of planetary destruction via environmental catastrophe?
And do you think your lovely base of nice Christian conservatives would
allow you to do this, anyhow?

What Olympia Snowe doesn't get is how
far gone it all is now. And what she also doesn't get is how
desperate the party is when it continues turning to Ronald Reagan to
solve their problems, as if he were Jesus's kid brother.

More and more Americans - especially
the young, tolerant, left-leaning ones - don't know Reagan from
James K. Polk, and the GOP's constant appeal to worship at the shrine
of Saint Ron strikes them as exactly what it is - living in the past.

And it's a mythological past, anyhow.
Reagan raised taxes after he slashed them. He had a huge recession.
He tripled the national debt. He signed a very liberal abortion
bill in California. He sold missiles to Iran. He shredded
the Constitution. He didn't defeat the Soviets and end the Cold
War, though I must admit, he did kick ass on Grenada (right after the
hundreds of Marines he had stuck in Lebanon for no reason got wiped
out, of course).

What Reagan did best, if you're of
the sort who falls for this kind of crap, is to talk happy talk about
how good and right and powerful and moral we all are. But he didn't
live that life himself, he didn't improve the country or the world
with his policies, and nobody gives a shit anymore, anyhow. The
degree to which the party faithful keep trotting this guy out like some
deity is a perfect measurement of how little they actually have to offer.
It's pathetic beyond belief, and it's no wonder those pesky elections
keep going into the 'L' column, one after another, with no end in
sight whatsoever.

Of course, there is a silver-lining to
having 'irrelevented' yourself to such an extent that you now not
only don't control any institution of government, but you are about
to not even be able to muster the bare minority you need in the Senate
to filibuster a bill and block its consideration. That's a pretty
impressive trick, and the GOP is hardly done, I would say. To
wit, they just lost a by-election in upstate New York where a Democratic
candidate coming from outside the district, which leans heavily Republican,
and having little help from either the president or the Democratic Party,
nevertheless managed to beat the well-known Republican candidate who
was fully backed by the national GOP and its clown chairman, Michael
Steele. At this rate, my guess is that 2010 is going to be another
blood-letting for the GOP, just like the last two.

But the silver-lining to these very stormy
clouds is this: If actually winning elections and having to govern
is the kiss of death for your party, then the GOP has at least been
rendered to a place where it can sit on the sidelines and not continue
destroying itself by actually making policy decisions.

Or, at least, not destroy itself quite
so much. Its new job is little more than to criticize the other
guys now in government. Whatever else you can say about Obama
and the Democrats, they seem to be trying a bit to clean up the mess
they've inherited, and they seem to be doing it rather gracefully,
if half-heartedly, all things considered.

So what has the loyal opposition been
saying? The president uses Teleprompters! He gave the Queen
an iPod! He bowed to the Saudi king! He accepted a book
from Hugo Chavez! Worse, still, he smiled when he shook the guy's

Not so impressive, eh? These goons
can't even do carping well.

They have no leaders, no constructive
contribution to the debate other than shouting "No!", and now so
little power that they can't even filibuster from the minority in
the Senate.

This party is over.

And, surveying the wreckage of a once
great country, not a minute too soon.

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