Despite the onslaught of early obituaries for the Republican Party, the GOP is far from dead. Nevertheless, a shift in strategy is certainly in order. In the aftermath of the election, conservative hounds like O’Reilly, Hannity and Limbaugh have been commenting on a disappointing shift to the left of the American electorate. Throughout the past month, a swarm of questionably qualified pundits have visited nearly every political show on TV alerting the country that the winds are blowing in a new direction—a leftward leaning electorate is emerging, shored up by procreating minorities. The Republicans, they say, have a demographics problem.
I don’t buy in to this tectonic shift theory. The electorate hasn’t moved to the left—the Republican Party has moved to the right. And they've moved this way at such a dizzying speed that they now seem to be the victims of a vertiginous delusion that they are still wholesome apple pie loving centrists.
After a decade of war, hard-nosed stances on the Middle East and tough-guy ultimatums no longer have the rugged cowboy appeal that they used to. When open diplomacy can avert war and prevent children from being sent to some far off desert to fight an anonymous enemy, the electorate may just be more inclined to take that option. Reigning in the foreign policy swagger of the Bush administration is hardly a liberal loving hippyish stance after more than six thousand American casualties. So when Americans vote for opening communication channels with the “world’s worst actors” in the hope of diplomatic resolutions, well hey, that doesn’t sound like a leftist commie move. That’s balanced judgment. That’s conservative.
Similarly, when the American electorate assesses the economic predicament of a growing deficit and a lingering recession, does it sound like a leftward leap to insist on coupling marginal tax increases on the people who will be least affected by them with balanced spending cuts? Do directed entitlements that keep the least vulnerable Americans safe, sound like a socialist policy? Or does it sound like the Christian ethic that this country claims to have been founded on?
How about the gumption to assert that the wealthiest country in the history of the world should join the ranks of less affluent countries and provide basic healthcare for its citizens? Does that sound like a socialist manifesto? Have you ever participated in the Pepsi taste test? When you remove the propaganda that informs your preconceptions, you often get a disillusioning surprise.
Despite his failure to evince his deep-rooted socialist ideologies, many on the right still believe that Obama is suddenly going to juke to the left during his second term, establish a Duma, cap profits, raise the marginal tax rate to 100% and incentivize working people to stop working. Nevertheless, the majority of Americans saw Obama as the most sober-minded candidate with the best chance of taking the country in the right direction.
The election was a wake-up call for the Republican Party. Karl Rove seems to have slithered back into his den. The GOP’s shift to the right has been tempered, and the tea party is increasingly perceived as a stigma. America is a centrist country and the party that best caters to the center will have the best success rate.
Perhaps now more true conservatives will be able to free themselves of the shackles of the Tea Party and begin the slow journey back to where they claim to have always been. The Tea Party is like cholesterol for the Republicans. It’s sticky and difficult to break-up. But it needs to be done if the Party is to revive itself.