THE BLOG
12/07/2008 05:12 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011

One Sentence Helps Explain Why the GOP Lost

The final week of the campaign, a last-ditch fundraising email was sent out by the National Republican Senatorial Committee, under the name of actor Kelsey Grammer. It was notable in explaining the Republican loss for two reasons.

The first, and perhaps most bizarre, is a breathtaking oversight. Not once does it ever mention the name..."John McCain." It mentions Sarah Palin, it even mentions Joe the Plumber, but in asking people to donate money to the Republican Party, not one word about the person who is, in fact, leading the Republican Party. If anything screams to the lackluster support of that cause, this omission is shockingly high on the list.

But the other thing notable about the letter speaks to something deeper, something that addresses the underlying reasons beneath the viscerally angry, frightened and often cruel reactions we've seen at GOP rallies around the country. The email asks:

"Will you help stop liberals from seizing total control of our government?"

In one clear sentence, we are given an insight into the conservative mindset. In this simple question, we see more than just a sense of entitlement, almost to the degree of noblesse oblige. It's more even than a fear of change. More than an intolerance to others. It's all that, to be sure -- but above all, we see an aversion of democracy.

At Republican rallies around the country, we heard pontificating speeches about "real" Americans and the true "patriotic" Americans. Yet when some regularly show their supposedly "real" patriotism by no more than hiding behind a small, plastic pin, it is not surprising to discover that those beliefs are just as small and plastic. How puny-minded, dishonest and arrogant -- what occurred on Tuesday at voting booths across America was not "seizing total control." What occurred was the definition of democracy. Its essence. This is what elections are. Seizing control is what a military coup d'etat is. The closest that we've come in America to "seizing" control of the government is Bush v. Gore.

The orderly change in power after elections is what proud Americans are generally most proud of.

After the election, there will be Republicans vocally representing their constituents in the Senate, House and throughout state governments and the judicial system. That's how elections work. Just because you've been in power for eight years, that doesn't mean you don't have to give it up if "We, the People" vote you out because the majority has finally had enough.

Make no mistake, there is no tolerance, thought or grace in the words of that letter. It is a ham-fisted, dismissive effort to stop "liberals," period. Never mind explaining your concerns. Never mind what those liberal ideas might actually be -- like, perhaps, the 40-hour work week, minimum wage, child labor laws, FDIC banking insurance protection (boy, that sure has come in handy these days, hunh?!), Social Security and Medicare -- no, as long as it is "liberal," it must be stopped.

This is not new, of course. Demonizing the liberal viewpoint in total began 24 years ago when Ronald Reagan snidely denigrated "the L word." It helped the Republican Party win some elections, but ultimately corroded the party to the degree that we see today, floundering and empty. A house of cards, built on a house of sand, until finally the weight of reality came crushing it. Even Neil Cavuto on Fox News (!) called out John McCain as having no convictions in his economic policy. Understand the importance of this: we are referring to "no convictions in his economic policy" in the midst of the nation's worst economic crisis since Great Depression.

It must be noted that it was the liberal Franklin Roosevelt who helped get America out of that Great Depression, with his liberal programs -- like the WPA, Civilian Conservation Corps, TVA, FHA loans, and more. Yet, even today, 75 years later, we still hear of "The L word," still begging to stop liberals. It doesn't matter if the idea can actually help America.

Of course, it's impossible to claim you truly put Country First [tm] if you dismiss all ideas that help America simply because they happen to come from an "L."

To be clear, the entirety of conservative philosophy cannot be pinned to one quote. That clarion plea is just a single tenet of a full philosophy. But there's no denying its widespread importance to the GOP's elective failure when we hear it driving the cries and threats of pure hatred and fear at Republican rallies and across stump speeches. The fear exists for many reasons, no doubt, but at its center is the fear of losing the control a party has held for eight years.

There is no exaggeration meant here. It is a fear that is specifically repeated in the email. It is of an importance so deliberate that it is highlighted in the very opening paragraph:

"In 6 days we might wake up to read that Barack Obama and liberal Democrats have seized total control of Washington. "

Here is as plain an expression as possible of the National Republican Senatorial Committee's conservative view: that when others win an election, it is illegitimate. Not only did others seize control but - expressed twice, so there is no mistaking - seized "total control."

To some, hopefully just a few -- but however many, it's one too many -- there is this belief among some conservatives that winning an election is "seizing total control." It's a despicable, reprehensible thought.

"Oh, you know what we mean" is often the disingenuous attempt to smooth over such ignorant attitudes.

Honestly, no, I don't. Just as when McCain spokesman Michael Goldfarb made his smarmy fake-charge about anti-Semites to Rick Sanchez on CNN and then disingenuously attempted to smooth it over continually with "You know who I mean" -- no, again, I don't know what you mean.

All I know is that this is a repeated plea against liberals "seizing total control" of our government. If it means anything other than that, it makes absolutely no sense. If it means precisely that...it makes absolutely no sense.

In the end, if anything explains why the Republican Party lost control of Congress two years ago, and lost the presidency in an Electoral landslide this year, one need look no further than the attitude expressed in this letter from the conservatives of the National Republican Senatorial Committee:

They don't appear to appreciate democracy. Worse, they don't appear to even care about democracy. And so, they lost focus, and they lost meaning. And once again, just as two years ago, they lost an election. Big.

On Tuesday, there was an orderly change in power after an election. This is the essence of America. The country will go on. And there will be another election.

That's democracy. That's America. Best wishes to everyone -- liberals, conservatives and everyone in between.

There will be another election.

But until the Republican Party finds a direction and regains the substance that its far-right conservative wing has emptied, the results will be the same.