Despite a lot of strong emotional reactions, we don't have a new president and the composition of Congress hasn't changed all that much. In that most basic sense, the federal elections of 2012 haven't really changed anything at all.
At a deeper level though, there seems to already be a shift in the public mood and debate. In many ways, the entire narrative that Republicans have been working on for the last four years is in the process of falling apart at a rapid pace.
Obama's first election wasn't a fluke
Above all, the 2012 election has reaffirmed the nation's decision to elect Barack Obama. This proves that the first time was not an accident and that Obama is no Jimmy Carter. In fact, no matter what happens now, American history will always at least remember Obama as a two-term president. With an administration spanning eight years, it is undeniable that he will leave a lasting influence on the country.
Elected Republicans rediscover compromise
The narrative that has been sustaining Republican deadlock in Congress was that the American people had rejected Obama through the rise of the Tea Party in 2010 House elections. Accordingly, any efforts they made to undercut his agenda should theoretically be representative of America's wishes. Now, that narrative is useless, and key Republican figures have noted that there are ready to compromise and work through some of Obama's proposals.
Specifically, recent polls indicate that if an agreement isn't reached to prevent the "Fiscal Cliff" Republicans have been hyping, it will be the Republicans themselves who end up with most of the public's blame.
Obama's aggressive electoral strategy paid off
A lot of pundits thought Obama was being overconfident with his attempts to spend limited campaign resources in traditionally red states like North Carolina. Cautious liberals recommended a defensive strategy focused on a rust-state battleground, but Obama decided to launch an attack straight in to some of the states other Democrats would have written off from the start.
Without a doubt, Obama's gambit returned a huge profit of electoral votes. Not only did he win by a larger margin than Carter, Eisenhower, or Nixon, he also proved that he can take bold action and succeed where others have failed.
The GOP is becoming even more divided
Hard-core conservatives are convinced that Romney lost because he was too moderate. Moderate Republicans think the opposite. The libertarian wing of the GOP is pointing to poor treatment of Ron Paul to explain a record number of votes for Gary Johnson and poor turnout for Romney.
It might not even matter which group is right, because the simple existence of such bitter divisions is going to complicate the construction of any new uniting narratives.
Many Republican voters just don't want to talk about it
Another interesting trend I've noticed from around the web is that a lot of conservative commenters only want to talk about how they don't want to talk about politics any more. They claim liberals are mean and that the country is doomed, but otherwise, they've had enough.
From Reddit to forums we've never heard of, bipartisan discussion boards are becoming lopsided as Republican supporters increasingly refuse to participate.
Except the ones who should probably stop talking...
But, if you look hard enough in to the places where "libruls" aren't allowed to post, you can still find plenty of proud Republicans out there with increasingly insane political views. We've heard the birther conspiracies, and we've heard the secret Muslim theories, but now some are wondering out loud if he's the anti-Christ himself. Apparently, that "Saracen bastard" can't even pardon a turkey without infuriating the far-out fringe of the far-right wing.
"Foot in mouth" disease has been a rampant problem among Republican politicians lately, and enthusiasm for carrying the GOP torch seems to be left with those who have little tact or political common-sense.
What does the future of the Republican party hold? That isn't completely clear yet, except that the future can no longer resemble the recent past. The strategy and narrative that dominated 2008 to 2012 have failed, and picking up the pieces will be even more difficult this time around.
The political and media establishment has finally found something they can unite over - their seething hatred of Ron Paul and everything his unconventional campaign threatens to do to their financial and political base of power.
With recent polls showing a surge for Ron Paul in the Iowa primary caucus, a massive wave of attack pieces has been unleashed today in the mainstream press.
Empty Accusations of Racism
A Google News search reveals that more than 200 articles have been published today in mainstream papers that are related to the twenty-year old newsletters that once went out under Ron Paul's name.
In every election since then, Ron Paul has denounced the content of the newsletters and denied writing them. This claim is highly believable to anyone who has followed the writings and speeches of a man who claims Dr. Martin Luther King and Rosa Parks as personal heroes and idols.
At the time these newsletters were published, the Representative from Texas was active in his medical practice. A practice that, I might add, never turned a single patient away for race, religion, creed, or even an inability to pay. Consistent with his libertarian principles, the doctor would rather take a loss on delivering a poor family's child than accept funding from Medicare and other federal sources.
If anything, the newsletters show a lack of oversight and a managerial failure for a man who had little such experience at that point in his life. Twenty years out, I believe he may just have learned a lesson and grown from the consequences of his mistake. While he does accept a moral responsibility for allowing such racist trash to go out under his name, there is nothing else in his history to suggest he ever believed or intended to endorse the things that were written.
On actual policy proposals, Ron Paul is the only candidate who would end the incredibly racist wars on drugs and terrorism. Study after study shows that minorities are disproportionately impacted by our current drug laws, and they're also more likely to serve on the front lines in dangerous combat positions. For these reasons, he has actually picked up more support from African Americans than any other Republican in recent history.
Individualism vs Group Mentality
When asked about his views on race, Ron Paul sticks to his individualistic ideology:
In the long run, the only way racism can be overcome is through the philosophy of individualism, which I have promoted throughout my life. Our rights come to us not because we belong to some group, but our rights come to us as individuals. And it is as individuals that we should judge one another. Racism is a particularly odious form of collectivism whereby individuals are treated not on their merits but on the basis of group identity. Nothing in my political philosophy, which is the exact opposite of the racial totalitarianism of the twentieth century, gives aid or comfort to such thinking. To the contrary, my philosophy of individualism is the most radical intellectual challenge to racism ever posed.
As an individualist, Ron Paul shows no allegiance to the groups recognized by the political establishment. His message doesn't follow the party line of Republicans or Democrats - and it infuriates those invested in the system that has repeatedly failed the American citizen.
But you can't be serious!
Many other media outlets are taking a less subtle approach to their attacks on Ron Paul. They claim that even if he wins Iowa, he can't win anything else - or that he just can't be taken seriously because his positions don't line up with the increasingly unpopular and out of touch orthodoxy coming from Washington D.C.
One popular theme is that if Ron Paul does win in Iowa, it won't do much but discredit the state's primary process. This idea has been introduced by none other than Iowa's governor himself, who is basically saying to ignore the wishes of his state if those wishes aren't acceptable to the narrow range of ideology propagated by the political establishment:
“People are going to look at who comes in second and who comes in third,” said Gov. Terry Branstad. “If Romney comes in a strong second, it definitely helps him going into New Hampshire and the other states.”
Politico takes the idea and runs with it, musing about whether or not a Ron Paul win could completely "kill" the caucus. Of course, the Iowa caucus was fine when it picked Bush twice, but as soon as there is a candidate who will stand up to the military contractors and financial interests, the system is held in doubt.
As serious as it gets
Whether or not Ron Paul can maintain his lead in Iowa - and how far that momentum will carry him through the primaries - is yet to be seen. What is certain though, is that many Americans are uniting in support of the one man in this election who strikes fear in to the advocates of the system and status-quo. Perhaps they should wake up to the reality of their own declining relevance instead of trying to tell us what is reasonable and acceptable in this nation's political discourse...
Just a week or two ago, few people expected that a Republican would rise up to win election to Ted Kennedy's old Senate seat. Then again, it was just two years ago that Democratic Congressional candidates swept to one of the largest majorities their party has enjoyed in my relatively short lifetime.
Charisma is the first obvious culprit here. Coakley comes off as rigid and possibly detached, and unfortunately anyone in electoral politics needs to have figured out by now that a lot of people would rather vote for the individual than their policies. A warm inviting personality can win a bunch of election support even if their actual political ideas are insane. Yes Timmy, there are many reasons as to why a Democratic Republic is not a perfect form of government..
The healthcare boondoggle definitely isn't helping the incumbent Democrats, either. While a lot of Americans are upset about their coverage, the cost of healthcare, or the fact that they don't have any coverage - there is also a slim majority of workers who are covered under employer plans. These people are pretty much detached from ever paying for their medical expenses (and they even receive some tax benefits for being so aloof from paying the bill!), so they're pretty happy with the status quo. Yet even if a majority of Americans are happy with having their own needs taken care of, they're willing to entertain ideas that would drive down costs or help those in genuine need acquire the medicine we have available. The problem is, the Democrats took the opportunity and compromised it down to what resembles a massive corporate handout: individual mandates, taxes on employer-based plans, a cheap new exit-strategy for employers who are sick of providing medical benefits, and various protections for the insurance, pharmaceutical, and ambulance-chasing industries. Even without the loss of a Massachusetts seat to Scott Brown, House Democrats are having a hard time swallowing the pill that was developed in the Senate.
And of course, there's something we don't have any of that is influencing the decision:
Jobs, jobs, jobs! Any time the economy is tough and people can't find work, the first person to be blamed is someone who shared party affiliation with the current majority. In this case it doesn't really matter if Bush's overspending, corporate bailouts, and useless wars are the cause of our financial troubles, because voters believe that if the Democrats were capable they would have been able to fix the situation by now. In fact, if a fraction of our banking bailout had gone directly to some time of employment with a strong economic return (ie: infrastructure development, toxic cleanups, etc..) we could have a lot more work available and would probably save money in the long run because we wouldn't be getting ready for the next round of bailouts and stimulus. Trust me though, it will be coming down the pipes soon whether or not we can ultimately afford it. And speaking of what we can afford...
The country is broke! I'm not saying the government can't continue to pay off its debtors for the time being, but to do so we're rather reliant on our ability to devalue the currency and tax labor. With the world united in quantitative easing and labor vanishing rapidly, the government's ability to pay liabilities may be tested if trends don't reverse. But I'm talking about being broke on the individual and state levels - and that's something we have a big problem with as more and more houses enter default, more couples & individuals file for bankruptcy, and more states like California face budgetary crises that result in serious credit downgrades and warnings about repayment odds.
Will Scott Brown negotiate healthcare in good faith? He says he wants to send it back to the drawing board, but does this mean we could end up with a new bipartisan version of the legislation that is even worse than the currently unpopular bill the Senate came up with?
The Democrats have an opportunity here - or they had one at least - to deliver a healthcare reform bill that actually reduces costs and expands coverage. Sound impossible? Well, all of the international comparisons suggest we have a lot of room to work with and it would be realistic to achieve both goals. The problem is all of the middle men we've institutionalized with legislation, tax breaks, and "deregulation" (where deregulation accurately means a government policy designed to maximize demand for a product or industry, while protecting said industry from any threats that would undermine profitability.) Wait, you didn't think deregulation meant a free market economy, did you?!
I've recently decided to look back on the history of the tea party. Its kind of strange and it doesn't bode well for the future of the Republicans as a united party.
On Dec. 2007 there was a grass-roots money bomb for Ron Paul scheduled on the historic date as a modern "tea party." Paul's campaign finance manager tried to get the organizers to drop their plan because they needed the money sooner & the money bombs seemed to dry up weekly contributions in anticipation of the big event days. Supporters wanted to stick to the symbolic anti-tax protest, and that was pretty much the end of cooperation between the campaign & the grass roots.
So anyway, it wasn't too long after that the primary results were coming in and people started drifting off toward their 2nd & 3rd choice candidates. Obama ended up getting the next biggest 'money bomb' in about March of '08, and it was organized by many of the same social networks that put Ron Paul on the front pages. So in a lotta ways, the original tea party already broke for Obama. (If you didn't see Obama's campaign appeals to libertarians & progressives, well, you were as tunnel blind as we were)
It looks like February 2009 is when the tea party meme resurfaced, when Rick Santelli got angry at the government for promoting reckless financial behavior.
Oddly enough, no one noticed when Santelli was also ranting and raving in Sept & Oct '08 about how corrupt & destructive Bush's original bankster bailout was in the first place.
Shortly thereafter, Republican national marketing groups got busy organizing the Apr 15 tea party protests. Glenn Beck got a whole bunch of crazies together for his 9-11 thing.
So in the end, I don't see much of any influence of Ron Paul or Santelli on the modern tea party concept. Most of the protesters here are nationalist-nativists with a wicked strong socially conservative streak.
Remember, the RP group of the Republican party is about 10%, the nativist/nationalists are another 40%, evangelicals another 40% (with strong overlap), and the country club types are probably the most important/powerful 10%.
The tea party movement in current form offers little to libertarians, evangelicals, or country-club Republicans. The tricky part is that the country-club types are "running" the tea party show even while this splinter group threatens to take down the Republican coalition. Its like knowing a legion in your army wants nothing more than to overthrow you but that they're unable to as you're the one organizing them and giving them bullets. (think about Kim Jong il and the way he only poses for pictures with his military when their guns are unloaded)
So here in FL, we hate Crist but this 'tea party' nomad running against him just looks like way more crazy and moving in the wrong direction. Crist can spend money, but only when it comes to his political allies & business friends. Crazy tea-bag nomad doesn't ever want to spend any money at all - unless its banning abortion, deporting illegals, and killing Muslims.
What we really need in this country is to find more productive ways to spend the money our government is already spending. Take a look at the military, prison, and banking outlays and imagine how much better it would be for our future if we could apply these things to supporting a healthier and more educated society...
Now, where is the political party that supports these things? Surely it isn't the corporate Democrats, but anyone looking for salvation from the right is in for a reactionary disappointment of epic proportions!
A lot of Americans are quick to grab at the totem of "moderate," but what does this really mean?
Here's a graphic I made and posted a while back on the old site, but unfortunately I've since lost the demographics I was using to derive it:
We have four colors represented in the graph:
- Light Blue: Progressive democrats, primarily concerned with economic fairness and human rights.
- Dark Purple: Centrist or Nationalist/Corporatist Democrats. Despite making up a smaller part of the voting population, they are the majority of elected representatives.
- Red: Nationalist or Mainstream Republicans, primarily concerned with military dominance, appeasing corporate overlords in hope of bring trickled down upon, and religion.
- Orange: Liberal Republicans, Libertarians, Ron Paul Republicans, and other populist organizations
Independents can be anywhere really, a lot of the times they will address each issue on its own merits rather than sticking to any particular political labeling. This subgroup might pick a leader based on single issues, or even personality, character, or debate performance.
Now, what happens is that progressive Democrats continue to support moderate candidates, and these candidates actually share more in common with the Neo-cons of Bush's administration than they do with the progressives who are supporting them. In a corporatist political environment, competing sectors seek political favors to expand their market power, and the centrist realm is dominated by the dominant beneficiaries of government policy. Basically, the military, the media, unionized manufacturing, and public employee unions share a pro-nationalist expansionary policy at all times, because they are the primary beneficiaries of any such spending.
Following Obama's election, we began to witness one of the most significant electoral shifts in the last several generations. Not only have the progressives began to put pressure and spoken out against the Democratic majority in Congress, but a lot of Republicans have also begun to drift away from their traditional party leadership.
One factor promoting this shift is the new nature of online media. Dissatisfaction with old experts has created a niche for bloggers and amatuer pundits who want to spread their political ideas. Since the reach of new media is so much more focused than old mass-media, the newer splinter groups may share some ideas without necessarily being unified into a new political front.
The policies defined by the moderate middle (corporate subsidy and militarist nationalism) will increasingly face attack from the left and right flanks.
As the Republican party continues to factionalize, progressive leaders will seize on the opportunity to collect disaffected libertarians and populist conservatives. A new opposition party will spring up to the left of today's "centrist Democrats," and the old Republican Reagan coalition will fade into irrelevancy.
Well, that's the optimistic case... 😉