An interesting article by Gary Kamiya at Salon yesterday takes a look at what Republicans might have to do to once again become appealing to the wider electorate. The article makes explicit the basis of the stereotype that Republicans only care about God, guns, and gays.
First, Kamiya outlines the wrong way — the way of far-right commentators like Ann Coulter, Pat Buchanan, and Rush Limbaugh. Here’s a sample:
The McCain-detesting Coulter wrote, “The only good thing about McCain is that he gave us a genuine conservative, Sarah Palin. He’s like one of those insects that lives just long enough to reproduce so that the species can survive. That’s why a lot of us are referring to Sarah as ‘The One’ these days.”
From Kamiya’s point of view, a future Palin (or Palin-like) candidacy spells only doom for the party.
The painful truth for conservatives is that the dogs aren’t eating their dog food — and every national trend indicates that they will never eat it again. Which means the GOP faces a wrenching choice: remain true to its increasingly irrelevant and rejected ideology and fade into political insignificance, or remake itself as essentially a more moderate version of the Democratic Party.
Yup, just as Clinton was a successful Democrat by moving to the political right, Kamiya sees Republican’s only choice is to move to the left. And why is this required? Because educated, professional, financially -secure voters were Republicans in previous times, but not any longer:
The Republican majority used to be made up of a combination of working-class whites and wealthy, educated businessmen and professionals. Now the college graduates and the professionals (who vastly outnumber the businessmen) are voting Democratic.
I have often been perplexed at the composition of the Republican Party. What do crusty old bankers and dirt-farming blue collars really have in common? As Kamiya puts it:
The GOP faces two problems for which it has no answers. The first is that its two main branches are fundamentally incompatible. The right has always been divided between a libertarian, free-market, anti-government, no-tax wing, and a traditional-values, moral-issues wing. These are strange bedfellows. Libertarians abhor any kind of coercive policies, no matter how “moral” their aims, whether they’re imposed by government or anyone else. They tend to be tolerant on social issues. Traditionalists, many of them devout Christians, regard their version of morality as the highest value and demand coercive governmental measures — on abortion and gay marriage, for example — to instill it.
It seems that Republicans have, to a large extent, lost their middle — and, unfortunately for the current GOP, that’s where most Americans live. Moderates have rejected the GOP because Bush was a disaster and the party is now run by “movement conservatives” — true believers, “who bitterly oppose secular modernism and everything associated with it.”
I konw this makes Republicans sound more like disenfranchised Muslims shaking their fists at the world and begging Allah to make things right — but I think the point is valid. Kamiya puts it well:
…moderates are completely turned off both by the GOP’s performance and by its extreme, demonizing worldview and rhetoric… for them the GOP’s culture war is both irrelevant and offensive.
As I point out often on this blog, the heady religionism of the far-right is a kind of infection — a mental disease that prevents folks, has always preveneted folks, and will continue to prevent folks from being able to just get along. The sooner we all realize this and have the intellectual courage to confront and challenge people who hold such “devout” views — the better off America wil be.
Kamiya closes with a few reccomendations for Republicans:
The only viable path for the GOP if it wants to continue to be a mainstream political force is to reject its extreme economic libertarianism and its extreme social conservatism, lose its harsh, messianic tone, and remake itself as a moderate party that supports effective government but is wary of excessive Democratic social engineering and is slightly more traditional on social issues.
That kind of party, should it actually come into being, would be a formidable one indeed.