Is The GOP Committing Suicide?
After convention speeches by the two Pats - Robertson and Buchanan - in 1992 helped elect Bill Clinton, organizers of the GOP's quadrennial gatherings effortlessly replaced Holy Roller hellfire with Happy Days hip hop.
In theory, political parties, whose function is to win first and govern later, are constantly evolving and adapting to changing demographics, issues and culture shifts.
But in practice in 2007, the Republican Party is diving for bottom. George Bush, the party's presidential candidates, and Republicans in Congress have set about destroying virtually everything they built.
They are defying all theories of rational self-interest, with behavior comparable to that of the Mets, that have in just 18 games thrown away a seemingly insurmountable advantage. Or, in the world of poker, behavior comparable to Mike "Full Tilt" Matusow, who has blown millions in stunning displays of ineptitude.
In fact, it is hard to find a match for the GOP's hodge-podge of manic stupidity: (Read more below)
The Supreme Court nomination of Harriett Miers; the mangling of New Orleans; the perseverating support of Rumsfeld and Gonzales; the insulation of Tom DeLay from ethics inquiries; the shunning of a presidential debate at Morgan State, a historically black college; the meticulous cultivation of corruption on Capitol Hill; the derisive treatment of such appointees as Paul O'Neil and Christine Todd Whitman turning them into attention-getting critics of the administration.
Nothing however, better exemplifies the compulsive irrationality that has taken over the Republican Party than its handling of the Hispanic electorate.
Latino voters, as Bush demonstrated in 2004, are by no means locked into the Democratic fold. On top of that, Republican strategists have been pounding for a decade the theme that Hispanics are crucial to the GOP future.
Ken Mehlman, who ran both Bush's 2004 campaign and the RNC, declared in a July 2006 speech (one of many on the subject) that as party chair,
"I know...that a Republican Party that does not reach out to Hispanics cannot win ... and a Republican Party that does not reach out to Hispanics does not deserve to win."
Similarly, Ed Gillespie, who ran the RNC before Mehlman, and who is now counselor to the president, laid it on the line in an April 2006 Wall Street Journal op-ed:
"The Republican Party cannot become an anti-immigration party. Our majority already rests too heavily on white voters, given that current demographic voting percentages will not allow us to hold our majority in the future. Between 2000 and 2004, President Bush increased his support in the Hispanic community by nine percentage points. Had he not, John Kerry would be president today.... Anti-immigration rhetoric is a political siren song, and Republicans must resist its lure by lashing ourselves to our party's twin masts of freedom and growth -- or our majority will crash on the shoals."
House and Senate Republicans have not only led the charge in killing immigration reform legislation, however, but their rhetoric has served to legitimize explicitly anti-immigrant and anti-Hispanic calls to action in city councils, on numerous web sites, on talk radio, and in public discourse generally.
Before the massive May 1, 2006, "A Day Without Immigrants" protests, Iowa Representative Steve King (R) declared:
"What would that May 1st look like without illegal immigration? There would be no one to smuggle across our southern border the heroin, marijuana, cocaine, and methamphetamines that plague the United States, reducing the U.S. supply of meth that day by 80%. The lives of 12 U.S. citizens would be saved who otherwise die a violent death at the hands of murderous illegal aliens each day. Another 13 Americans would survive who are otherwise killed each day by uninsured drunk driving illegals. Our hospital emergency rooms would not be flooded with everything from gunshot wounds, to anchor babies, to imported diseases to hangnails, giving American citizens the day off from standing in line behind illegals. Eight American children would not suffer the horror as a victim of a sex crime."
King's rhetoric undoubtedly appeals to many of his constituents - he gets re-elected by large margins - but some might suspect that the Iowa congressman is a Democratic plant. King's remarks, needless to say, are extensively covered in Spanish language media.
Conservative radio talk show host Neal Boortz does him one better.
"When we yank out the welcome mat, and they all start going back to Mexico, as a going away gift let's all give them a box of nuclear waste.... Tell 'em it'll heat tortillas."
Add to this the behavior of the current crop of Republican presidential candidates, all of whom know the importance of Latino voters in the general election.
In 2000 -- the last contested fight for the GOP nomination -- it would have been inconceivable that the candidates would have turned down a debate on Univision, the largest Spanish language television network in the country.
This year, with the exception of John McCain, they did.
Along similar lines, as recently as March 2006, Romney backed legislation that would have put millions of illegal immigrants on a "path to citizenship." Giuliani, in turn, was an outspoken supporter of immigrants, legal and illegal. Now, both of them have become unabashed critics of immigration reform, and treat as radioactive talk focused on immigrants' rights.
Of course, there could be a more subtle strategy at work here.
Perhaps Republican kingpins consider the best possible long-term strategy letting Democrats take over responsibility for the extraordinary mess Bush will leave behind. The next president will have to deal with Iraq, Iran with the bomb, biological and chemical threats, $8.98 trillion in national debt, global warming, rising gas prices, a Mideast on fire, overstretched troops, a legion of returning wounded soldiers, a country unprepared for its aging population, North Korea's supply of nuclear technology to Syria, a steadily eroding dollar, a surging China, and an exponential increase in the number of those who wish America ill.
Is this why the party plagued by weak allegiance on the part of female voters has three frontrunners for the nomination with a combined total of seven marriages and three trophy wives? And the fourth top candidate a Mormon at a time of anti-Mormon caricature (Under the Banner of Heaven, Big Love) facing major hurdles with the party's evangelical base?
There is a precedent for this. The last time the Republican Party was this stupid was in 1972 with Watergate. In the 1974 elections the Democrats triumphed in Congress, and in 1976 Jimmy Carter won the White House.
Success was, however, short lived: Interest rates, inflation, and joblessness skyrocketed; Iran took hostage 66 Americans at the U.S. embassy in Teheran; and the 1980 election produced the most conservative presidency in decades, kicking off 24 years of Republican ascendancy.