As I was saying on Election Day, Nov. 4 was in effect two separate, overlaid events: Obama's and the Democratic Party's win, and McCain's and the GOP's defeat. But there's yet another meaning, also effectively separate, and that's the failure of the McCain–Palin strategy of the past month or so, which was basically a grotesquely exaggerated (or refreshingly undisguised) version of what the GOP has relied on for decades: the appeal to fear and bigotry, as seen in the way McCain's crowd booed Obama's name during their candidate's relatively graceful concession speech. That strategy, it seems, doesn't work anymore...and that's cause for celebration in itself.
If GOP is having an identity crisis, it's long overdue: the Republican Party is a Frankenstein's monster of ideologies that do not go together. There was a point in the primaries when we had three leading Republican candidates, Romney, Huckabee, and McCain—and if you take out the Mormonism, what you've got there is pretty much Big Business, Evangelical Christianity, and War Hawkery. Wall Street and the Army maybe fit together (as Eisenhower pointed out) but as I believe Thomas Frank argued somewhere, the real enemy of social conservatism probably isn't liberals but businessmen (who as long as the market is free will always let South Park run wild as long as it's bringing in the big bucks, and frankly wouldn't think twice about ripping Janet Jackson's bodice off themselves if they wouldn't get fined or taken off the air for it).
Some say stick a fork in 'em, the GOP is done for—that the Republicans have to move to the center or face oblivion. I hope those people are right. Some say, too, that they'll split, and then we'll have basically the old-school Republicans, who don't give half a shit about God or abortion, and then the Palin Party, who can rage and fail all they want, God bless 'em. (A friend of mine has been talking about how much he hopes Palin does run for president in 2012, or 2016, or really any year, in any race—he'd be delighted to run against her, he says, and although I find her terrifying, I can't say I entirely disagree.)
And this isn't just liberal spin. Here's Gov. Pawlenty (Minn.), who was on McCain's VP shortlist, speaking yesterday at the Republican Governors Association conference:
"We cannot be a majority governing party when we essentially cannot compete in the Northeast, we are losing our ability to compete in Great Lakes states, we cannot compete on the West Coast, we are increasingly in danger of competing in the mid-Atlantic states, and the Democrats are now winning some of the western states. That is not a formula for being a majority governing party in this nation. And similarly, we cannot compete, and prevail, as a majority governing party if we have a significant deficit, as we do, with women, where we have a large deficit with Hispanics, where we have a large deficit with African-American voters, where we have a large deficit with people of modest incomes and modest financial circumstances. Those are not factors that make up a formula for success going forward... The country is changing culturally, demographically, technologically, economically... And the Republican Party isn't changing in a way that reflects those...changes across the country."
I'm not sure how central this is, but what stands out most to me is the failure of Nixon's racist (or at least racist-friendly) "Southern Strategy" and the general social positions that grew out of that (when the GOP realized that the Democrats had provided them with a tremendous political opportunity by alienating Southern racists, they got themselves into an alliance of which racism was only one of the delightful hot topics). This may not necessarily be a statement about our moral development as a country—it may just be that as the population grows less white and more urban,* the GOP's old strategies just aren't effective anymore—but either way, I ain't complaining.
Enough politics. I'm not even quite sure why I'm writing this—does anyone not know this stuff? Here's a picture of a ping-pong tree sponge.
* When I say urban, I mean city-dwelling. I'm not using it in that weird way where it's supposed to mean black. (Would that even be accurate? I'm not aware of any significant change in the black population, percentagewise. Votingwise, yes. But less white the country's certainly growing.)