Political Animal


August 25, 2012 9:26 AM On the eventual (near) inevitability of Ryan/Paul (or some equally ghastly presidential duo)

By Kathleen Geier

Though this will basically be a total Debbie Downer of a post, I’ll kick it off on a more upbeat note: I do believe that despite our still-terrible economy, despite polls that show the electorate to be closely divided, President Obama will win re-election this fall. It’s likely to be close, but I think that the economy is improving just enough (albeit just barely), Mitt Romney is a rotten enough candidate, the racial demographics of the country are continuing to change in a way that favor Democrats, and Barack Obama is a decent campaigner. All those factors seem to augur a Democatic win.

But sadly, America can’t stave off disaster forever. The Republicans have a very good shot at winning the presidency in 2016, and if they don’t do it then, the odds will favor them even more strongly in 2020. The sad fact is, we can’t hold back these jagoffs forever. This country is a two-party system and that’s how we roll, with the White House switching back and forth between the two parties. Even under the most optimistic assumptions, with a country that is in much, much better shape by 2016, with an economy that is purring along and a new health care system that succeeds brilliantly and is more wildly popular than even its most fervent supporters dared to hope, it won’t necessarily redound to the credit of the Democratic party. After all, after eight years of Clinton, the country appeared to be in pretty good shape, but that didn’t prevent the Republicans from winning in 2000 (or, in reality, coming close enough so they could steal it).

None of this would matter terribly much if we still had your father’s — of maybe by now, it’s more like your grandfather’s — G.O.P. But what we’re actually dealing with is a radicalized, hyper-partisan, lunatic fringe party that keeps blazing new trails in wingnuttery. In 2010, I thought that Christine O’Donnell was firmly ensconced in the record books with a Wingnut Achievement Award for national candidates that would not soon be equaled. But just two years later here we have Todd Akin, going for the wingnut gold. Step aside, Christine O’Donnell — you have just been outwingnutted!

The Republicans, unfortunately, will inevitably be elected to the White House again, most likely in four or eight years. And once they’re there, they are likely to be even more conservative and hyper-partisan than George W. Bush’s administration was. Like Dubya’s crew, they will break longstanding political norms and traditions and move the country’s center of gravity ever even more sharply to the right. And then the next Democratic administration will, like the Obama administration, mostly be preoccupied with making sure nothing gets any worse. If they can enact even incremental progressive reforms it will be a miracle.

What could change this? Certainly, if the Republicans lose a couple more elections, and maybe lose them by substantial margins, the party elders may decide to put the breaks on the radicals and reposition the party closer to the center. But for the Republicans to lose, the Democrats have to win. And currently, what the Democrats have to offer voters is limited. Features of our constitution like the electoral college, the U.S. senate, and the non-parliamentary system make change dauntingly hard and favor the interests of smaller, more conservative states. The filibuster reinforces those malignant tendencies. Corporate interests completely control the Republicans and exert a significant, though not total, influence over the Dems, so economic policies that are in the interest of the 99% have a tough time being enacted. And there’s more, but you get the idea. I don’t see either of those structures — our constitution, or our largely unregulated form of capitalism — changing any time soon. Both those structures favor Republican radicalism and obstructionism, and hurt Democrats, particularly any Democratic attempts to represent the interests of working people.

I do, however, see two rays of hope for the Democrats. One is demographic. As Jonathan Chait and others have argued, the increasing non-whiteness of the U.S. population is fertile ground for Democrats, and could be the basis of an “emerging Democratic majority.” The Republican electorate is, increasingly, older, whiter, and more male; in a a recent WSJ/NBC poll, an astonishing zero percent of African-American voters were supporting Mitt Romney. As recently as 2000, the G.O.P. was trying to reach out to more nonwhite voters, particularly Latinos, but with anti-immigrant legislation in Arizona and elsewhere, those efforts have come to a screeching halt.

This seems astonishingly short-sighted. Of course, this may be a temporary strategy on the part of the G.O.P., driven by the fact that we have an African-American president, so prying away nonwhite votes from him is especially difficult, and ginning up white resentment of him is an easy way to motivate the Republican base. But Latino voters are unlikely to soon forget those “show us your paper” laws, or the racist treatment many conservatives dished out towards Sonia Sotomayor. Certainly in California, the anti-immigrant zealotry of the Republican party has led to a sharp decline in the party’s fortunes there. Could the same pattern repeat itself in the U.S. as a whole? Let’s hope so!

On the other hand, political coalitions change, parties adapt, and demographics is not destiny. I would think that the strategists of the Republican party are smart enough to figure a way around this, and to be more inclusive of at least some groups or subgroups of nonwhites. We should also keep in mind that who counts as “white” is historically contingent. The Irish, after all, became white; perhaps one day the Latinos will, as well.

Other than demographics, the other hope I see for the Democrats (and the country) — and it is, alas, an exceedingly vague one — is a mass political movement. I am of course disappointed that Occupy didn’t do more, but it did achieve some positive things. It changed the political discourse and at long last, shone the political spotlight on economic inequality. I think it also led Obama to toughen up his rhetoric and to pull back from further damaging budget negotiations with the Republicans.

The problem with a mass movement is, I don’t see, structurally, where it will come from, and what will sustain it. Of course Occupy came seemingly out of nowhere as well, so maybe another movement will take form unexpectedly, learn from Occupy’s mistakes, and build on it from there. There is always that hope. Sadly, though, from where I stand, I don’t see that happening. At least not anytime soon.

What I do see is more G.O.P. extremism and the enactment of more reactionary policies, and Democrats, when they do get in there, frantically plugging holes in the dike to keep things from being worse. They’ll win some important battles, but I think the G.O.P. is poised to win the war. And sadly, I don’t see this dynamic changing for the foreseeable future. So as profoundly relieved as we will all be if we dodge the Mitt Romney bullet and President Obama gets re-elected this fall, our luck won’t hold out forever. Come 2012 or 2020, the band may well be playing “Hail to the Chief” to President Paul Ryan or (even more ghastly) Rand Paul.

But cheer up — during the inauguration you can all come over to my place for a hot cup of hemlock soup!

Kathleen Geier is a writer and public policy researcher who lives in Chicago. She blogs at Inequality Matters. Find her on Twitter: @Kathy_Gee


  • Neildsmith on August 25, 2012 11:55 AM:

    When the GOP inevitably regains power they will drive us all nuts and probably roll back many of the programs progressives hold dear. But that's OK, because it will be the will of the people. We can't want this more than the rest of the country. Americans will have to learn a bitter lesson before they come back our way. Progressives should grin and bear it when it comes and resist the impulse to mitigate the damage. We tried that for the last several years and got slapped (by the elderly no less!) for our trouble.

    Off the cliff!

  • Rayspace on August 25, 2012 11:58 AM:

    I'm a little bit more optimistic than you, Kathleen. The demographic changes you cite will help Democrats again in 2016. No, a Democratic victory is not inevitable, but it's unlikely that Republicans can reverse course enough on the overt racism of their appeal to siphon off enough African-American/Latino/Asian voters to win a mere 4 years from now.

    Or, better yet, try this experiment--assuming the economy recovers by 2016, what argument could the current cast of Republican officeholders (from whom the 2016 nominee will come) make that will cause a significant enough number of the above-mentioned voters to vote Republican--sufficient enough to account for the declining number of white voters, who will be an even smaller portion of the electorate by 2016 than they are now? I don't think "We were only kidding" is a winning theme.

  • Daryl McCullough on August 25, 2012 12:03 PM:

    I think it would not be such a huge disaster that the Republicans take power for a few years, EXCEPT for the Supreme Court (and more generally, the judiciary). The damage done by a Republican President and Congress can be undone by a Democratic President and Congress, but a Supreme Court justice can continue to wreak havoc for decades.

  • Reid on August 25, 2012 12:10 PM:

    Demographic changes doom Republicans. US will have voting like CA soon.

  • bloomingpol on August 25, 2012 12:13 PM:

    I'm not sure exactly how fast climate change is going to impact our economy and our politics, but I suspect it is a lot faster than most Americans, including progressive bloggers, think. So the first thing I think when I see predictions like these is: "and where is the devastation to our food supply, the rising sea levels on the east coast (see FL), the enormous costs of weather disasters, and the associated disruption of transportation, communications and homes and businesses fitting into these scenarios." It's like we hear about floods last year and then drought this year affecting the Mississippi, the worst wildfire season ever, half of the country or more being so dry that nothing can grow, the horrific tornadoes so early in the year, and on and on, and then talk politics and put it out of our minds. We can do better. If we leave that out of our political discourse we do ourselves and our readers a disservice. It's going to get very bad, and in my judgement, very soon.

  • Tony Greco on August 25, 2012 12:14 PM:

    An excellent analysis, Kathleen.

    Just yesterday, I was telling a friend why I think there is a depressingly high likelihood that Paul Ryan will be elected Pres in 2016, based on the reasonable expectation that
    1) Romney/Ryan will lose this year, but narrowly 2) Obama will have a mediocre second term, because of his own limitations as well as Republican success in blocking what he does try to accomplish 3) Ryan will be the Republican heir apparent in 2016 and 4) the public will be yearning for 'change' after 8 lackluster (at best) years.

  • Josef K on August 25, 2012 12:17 PM:

    There's one other element that's gone unmentioned: the new slate of "Voter ID" laws that've been passed (but thankfully largely delayed) at the State level. I've no idea how much they might/might not affect this election cycle, but its become visible enough that it might now be a case of dimminishing returns for the GOP.

    Then again, Americans allowed W and company to utterly debase what the country stood for, so mayhap a return to outright voter suppression will be likewise accepted.

    What the hell is wrong with this country?

  • Davis X. Machina on August 25, 2012 12:18 PM:

    Until the Civil War finally ends, the Republicans will always be a threat. They were a threat a century or so ago, when they were called 'Democrats', they're a threat now.

  • Kevin Ray on August 25, 2012 12:21 PM:


    The Supreme Court's a pretty big exception. Kinda like saying other than the 100 year war, the 14th century wasn't all that bad (thanks to Molly Ivins, God rest her).

    Also, you may be right, but dear God I'm tired of getting Democratic administrations that have to take eight years undoing damage. At best, they're able to plug most holes, but since no new real change has happened, at the end, the electorate say, "why not give the other guys a chance? I don't see much difference.", and we get an election close enough to be decided on such weighty issues as who invented the internet. At worst, they can't even repair the damage, and people get fed up with the appearance of ineptitude - something that's frighteningly close to happening now.

    I'm damn tired of voting against something. I want to vote for something, at least once in my life.

  • Anonymous on August 25, 2012 12:24 PM:

    We need to figure out a way to convince middle of the road Republicans (of which there are many) that their party has gone insane and they need to counter the influence of the tp'ers, etc. by voting for more mainstream candidates, or if there is none, to vote for Dems (even if they have to hold their noses in the process) or not to vote at all. Unfortunately too many of them are apathetic, don't like either Obama or Romney, don't like their rightwing congressman but won't vote against him/her, don't see any point to this at all. And many of them are not stupid, just busy trying to lead their lives. Unfortunately also bigotry has an influence - not just Obama, but the rising Hispanic population in areas in the SW has many frustrated, afraid or angry.

  • Varecia on August 25, 2012 12:28 PM:

    Well. It's going to require some kind of action that we either haven't done or haven't done enough of. Part of it has to do with broader and deeper framing and messaging, not just in terms of a specific election cycle, but for the long term. If you haven't read Lakoff's Little Blue Book and started talking relentlessly about Democrat values in those terms, then that's a good start. Start changing the language and the cognitive models, and you've gone a long way toward changing the political and social climate. But I don't think that's all.

  • jheartney on August 25, 2012 12:29 PM:

    It's very possible for American political parties to die (see Whigs, The). And the current GOP is testing the waters for this, at least as a presidential party.

    Bringing up the 2000 election as an example is instructive. There, despite considerable monetary advantages, the usual 8-year itch for a party change, the lingering aftereffects of the Lewinsky scandal, a significant third-party challenge splitting the liberal vote, plus the tacit support of the national press, the Republicans lost the popular vote and squeaked out the barest of electoral wins. Their victory in 2004 was only marginally stronger, despite having the advantages of incumbency as well as a favorable economy and a friendly press. In neither election did they earn over 300 electoral votes.

    By contrast, all Democratic presidential victories since 1992 have been convincing affairs, always achieving over 300 electoral votes (Obama got 365). And every year demographics get friendlier for the Democrats and worse for the Republicans. If George W Bush had faced the same demographic electorate that John McCain faced in 2008, Gore would have won the electoral college easily.

    I think there's a fair chance that we've seen the last Republican president. On paper, Romney ought to be a nearly prohibitive favorite - the economy sucks, his base is highly energized, and he has more money than God. Yet the smart money at this point says he'll lose. And if the Pubs can't pull out a victory this year, what chance do they have in 2016, when the economy ought to favor their opponents, Obamacare will have fully kicked in (and will have given the lie to all the Republican fearmongering), and a few more years of demographic change will have made things even more unfriendly for the party of mostly white older folks? Then for the presidential years that follow, demographics seals the GOP's doom.

  • Neildsmith on August 25, 2012 12:34 PM:

    Anonymous... Last week on Up with Chris Hayes on MSNBC he interviewed a woman who lost her job and is now on food stamps. She and her husband (who also lost his job during the recession) are trying to get a better education and was making the point that people on food stamps are deserving of our help.

    All good stuff until... Hayes asked her if she voted in 2008. She said no. At that point I was ready to throw something at the TV. You see... we don't necessarily need moderate republicans (although it would be nice) we need to convince those idiots who think they don't need to vote that they are helping destroy this country.

    Check it out.


  • SYSPROG on August 25, 2012 12:34 PM:

    I don't disagree Kathleen but lord, it's depressing...what struck me this morning is looking at the lineup for the GOP convention they are 'previewing' the next candidates for President (2016). What are WE doing? The 'news' just reports Biden might be in and maybe after she rests up, Hillary. I love both of them but WHERE ARE THE YOUNG PEOPLE? I'm loving all the women lined up for the Democratic Convention but not a legislator among them. PLEASE please give us some HOPE.

  • c u n d gulag on August 25, 2012 12:40 PM:

    A Romney win with a Republican Congress this year, would be an unmitigated disaster.

    But the same can be said if there's a Republican President and Congress anytime in the forseeable future - there's not a sane candidate in sight, and I don't see any sign of one on the horizon.

    First, they'll gleefully roll-back the ACA. The quicker the better - especially now if Mitt winss, before people get to liking it too much after it's fully implemented.

    After dismantling ACA, they'll set their sights on Medicaid, Medicare and Social Security - leaving the first to the states, the second to vouchers, and the third to Wall Street.

    Abortion will be illegal in all 50 states, and territories - unless deemed necessary by an employer. "For the life of the profits," so to speak.

    No minimum wages anywhere.
    No more OSHA either. 'Job doesn't pay enough, or is too dangerous?' - don't take it, or quit, you'll be told.
    Workers will be at the mercy of employers. Any benefits will be shrunk, if not eliminated - say goodbye to paid lunch hours, breaks, overtime, and vacations.

    No more law suits against employers and corporations. PERIOD!
    Also, no EPA or any other environmental departments.

    No public education as we now know it.
    Pulbic education will be vaporized by being voucherized.
    No child will be able to get into a good college, without first have been through thorough Christian indoctrination.

    Get used to voter suppression laws - they'll repeal the Civil Rights Acts I & II.
    Voter ID will be extended, with even more restrictions, and may only be available at a prohibitive cost - this will keep the "riff-raff" from voting - or, making it more difficult by making it more expensive.
    This can also help to keep the country under "One Party Rule" for a long, long, time.

    If you like that "seperation of church and state," well, start praying, because that will go to.
    We'll be a Dominionist Evangelical Christian country, and if you don't pray, you pretty much won't have a prayer of holding office, or getting or keeping a good job.
    There WILL be religious requirements to hold office, and for certain jobs.

    There will be no "social safety net" outside of your church. And if you don't have a church, well, too bad.

    A Republican President will sign all of these laws, applying his signature with a flourish.

    And the SCOTUS will rule in favor of all of these laws in every growing majorities, first 5-4, then 6-3, then 7-2, etc.

    Unless the Republican Party gets saner real fast, or we can keep them from gaining control of the government, this is our dystopian future: The Dominionist Christian Corporate Individual States of America. Or, ISA.

    Think Haiti, but larger and with seasons - which may soon consist of the warm wet season, and the hot arid season, or one or the other all year, depending on where you live.

    ISA! ISA!! ISA!!!

    Note: I'm a pessimist by nature, if you can't tell.

  • dalloway on August 25, 2012 12:45 PM:

    ISA -- also standing for Insane States of America, and that's what we'll be if this comes to pass. Oh, and you forgot about all the shiny, new wars the Republicans will start for... well, just for the hell of it.

  • Robert Nagle on August 25, 2012 12:54 PM:

    First, I share your general assessment, and worry more about Paul Ryan for 2016 than for 2012.

    Two things which could shake things up.

    Demographically, Texas should come close to flipping to a blue state over the next decade. Maybe in 2020, although probably later. Latino populations have been skyrocketing. They just haven't registered to vote yet.

    Robert Nagle http://www.imaginaryplanet.net/weblogs/idiotprogrammer/

  • cwolf on August 25, 2012 1:06 PM:

    ...I think the G.O.P. is poised to win the war.

    Well if science is the judge than that war is over. We lost.

    CO2 is already past 400ppm and soaring. West Texas & several other states will soon look like Arizona, but without the Colorado River it will be more like the Sahara.
    This is inevitable.

    Nuclear "accidents" regularly poison the air and water and more recently, huge swaths of land that must be fenced off the livable map. Soon these dead-to-human-life swaths will overlap.
    This is inevitable.

    Herbicides, pesticides, and in general - Weird Chemicals that make people sick. Sick people make mistakes and die..

    Old tropical diseases moving north and Weird laboratory biologicals showing up all over makeing people sick. Sick people make mistakes and die.

    Makes all the above "necessary" and "patriotic".

  • TCinLA on August 25, 2012 1:07 PM:

    Other than demographics, the other hope I see for the Democrats (and the country) — and it is, alas, an exceedingly vague one — is a mass political movement.

    Kathleen: first, thank you very much for an extremely thought-provoking post. I don't know how old you are, but I suspect you are young enough to have no experience of the last time a progressive social movement was built, back in the 60s. Since I am deeply rooted in that with some knowledge of radical history, I'll present some thoughts here for you (and others).

    First, I would suggest you get Arthur Schlesinger's "The Coming of the New Deal" and read it. It's important because it shows you that the New Deal didn't just pop out of Jupiter's head one afternoon. The people who were responsible for the New Deal (like the greatly underappreciated Frances Perkins, the mother of labor legislation and Social Security) spent their entire lives working for these things and even then didn't get all they wanted.

    That is the level of committment that is needed, and I will refer you to the modern wingnut movement as a proof of what kind of long-term commitment is needed. These people did not spring out of the ground in 1990. They started in the 1950s, and when they were overwhelmingly defeated in the Goldwater campaign of 1964, they didn't fold their tents and head into the desert. They quadrupled down and went to work. 4 years later they elected the one "mainstream" Republican politician who had treated them with respect in 1964 (read Pearlstein's "Nixonland" for the account of Nixon's recovery between 1962-68). Then they kept on. The result is what we have today.

    The law of balance in the universe means that only an equal force can defeat this force. Sadly, we of the left failed with that. We thought the "wins" we got in the 60s with civil rights legislation, ending the war, creation of the women's movement, etc., meant that we had won the war. So we didn't stick arouned, and when the military came up with the volunteer army to get around "Vietnam syndrome" we said nothing, and watched a democratic citizen military go down the imperial drain. Result? The wars of the past decade. We watched the ERA go down to defeat. Result? The "war on women" today. And of course, in our purity, naievete and ignorance, we got "discouraged" and dropped out. That was my Left. The same thing happened in 2008-2010: I saw enthusiasm like I hadn't seen since 1968 working on fund-raising with the 2008 campaign, with people who had never participated rewriting their budgets to contribute. And then it turned we hadn't finally "won the election of 1968" and Obama wasn't Robert Kennedy. People who have been around here for awhile can tell you I was among the most disappointed and "anti-Obama" for a good long while, till I picked myself up, looked around, and got the compass back. He's still not going to be Robert Kennedy, but my knowledge of history tells me we are now in need of the "anti-fascist Popular Front" to defeat this enemy. So here I am, back in the fight.

    What we're going to need for those short-term goals you have of 2016 and 2020 is that anti-fascist popular front, and that's going to come from organizing on the lines of Occupy. And then there has to be the long-term commitment to working for what we want. That's the only way I know for the movement you (and I) want to see created.

    It's hard doing this. Here I am, working with the GI antiwar movement since 2008 exactly the same way I was in 1968 (because we didn't stick with it, and didn't understand the underlying forces we were dealing with). It does feel like Groundhog Day, and it's harder now, because there's no draft to scare people into finding out what they're potentially liable for, and they're fine with "somebody else" doing it.

    I've been in this stuff now for 50 years, and likely will be another 18-20, and I doubt I will

  • TCinLA on August 25, 2012 1:10 PM:

    Little over-wordy above, so this is the final paragrap[h:

    Other than demographics, the other hope I see for the Democrats (and the country) — and it is, alas, an exceedingly vague one — is a mass political movement.

    I've been in this stuff now for 50 years, and likely will be another 18-20, and I doubt I will see "success" before I go, but I intend to see "progress toward the goal." If we do this, we can win. The old Chinese saying that "the journey of a thousand miles starts with the first step" is true. The least thing you get from doing this is the ability to look yourself in the mirror on the morning and not recoil in self-loathing. And you meet a more interesting class of people along the way. Like here.

  • RMcD on August 25, 2012 1:14 PM:

    A good analysis, but you might distinguish what political "success" means here. I'd say that, if you think about that from a policy standpoint, you'll see a much more mixed bag than you forecast.

    First, where I think you're right is on issues of (1) class and economic equality, and (2) global warming. But this may be more a result of the interests that naturally arise in a wealthy capitalist economy rather than the fecklessness of our pols or the seesawing of our parties. As long as money drives politics, we're stuck with an uphill slog to address concerns that challenge elite pocketbooks, even symbolically. Look at supposedly more enlightened Europe: their response to the last four years of economic turmoil has been even worse than ours.

    On a more positive note, however, social liberalism is going to win big over the next generation, as the stigmas associated with race, ethnicity, gender, and sexual orientation continue to fade, as they have been for the last generation or more. And so, the cards that the GOP has to play in order to maintain the dominance of the 1% will get less and less viable (as Chait and Teixeira and Judis have argued).

    And, finally, if you look at Bush and Obama, you can make a pretty good case that Obama's impact has already been greater. Kevin Drum had a good post this week on just how ephemeral Bush's policy legacy has proven to be. Meanwhile, the ACA, if Obama can win a second term and ensure it gets implemented, will be a monumental achievement for the progressive cause, the greatest in almost 50 years.

  • jjm on August 25, 2012 1:14 PM:

    If Obama wins, and he must, he will have been an actually transformative president, rolling back and essentially ending the Reagan Revolution which has had such detrimental effects on our country.

    I know Reagan is idolized by the GOP, and Obama has said he wanted to be 'like Reagan'--but not in his policies and politics, but in his being transformative.

    It will have taken a great deal to turn the country in a different direction, and that's why the GOP has been so desperate to bump him off.

    So if you love ever escalating inequality of wealth, hyper-militarization, trafficking with dictators, and (since it turns out, Reagan was a member of the John Birch Society) the intrinsic racism and adulation of wealth that Reagan brought to us, then don't vote for Obama.

  • dweb on August 25, 2012 1:24 PM:

    I think there are some forces at play here which are not yet getting a lot of attention and do not augur well for the GOP. This is a party with a mounting schism at play and the Akin debacle has just made it a lot worse.


    Look at Mike Huckabee's assertions to the right wing about what the "traditional" wing of the party attempted in its efforts to drive Akin off the stage.

    The right wing does NOT trust the traditional party....and these recent actions, especially of they lose this election are going to set off a firestorm between the two wings over who was right and whether the party chose the right candidate for President.

  • Oldngrumpy on August 25, 2012 1:34 PM:

    Trends have their own momentum, so it's unrealistic to imagine that we could see 30+ years of that momentum halted, much less reversed, in just 3. America will continue to slide in very important aspects of life until it becomes undeniably obvious we are going the wrong direction. "European" has become synonymous with "socialism" in GOP buzzwordery because it's imperative that Americans not look across the pond at people who actually benefit from government policy and see rewards for their labors. Even our closest friendly neighbor to the north is condemned in Republican rhetoric as "socialistic" and bordering on enemy status.

    It will get worse before it gets better. The major fear I have is that Republicans will use their electorate granted power to circumvent the democratic process and entrench their ideology. For all the misdeeds and outright manipulation of policy and law accomplished by the Bush gang of thieves there has been little effort toward reversal by Obama. Precedent goes against such out of respect for the previously declared will of the people, even if that will was subverted or ignored, as it was in 2000 and 2004.

    America desperately needs another Truman, but it will have to suffer a bit longer before it comes to that realization. Just hope that the next Republican President doesn't decide to invade Denmark to stamp out the ugly presence of "socialism" that continues to threaten our standing in every important quality of life measure.

  • TCinLA on August 25, 2012 1:35 PM:

    Jesus H. Christ - this is the guy I have decided to defend?????

    From this morning's TPM:

    President Obama promises in a major new interview that Americans weary of partisan gridlock that Washington will be much more compromise-friendly if he wins a second term in the White House.

    In an interview with the Associated Press published Saturday, Obama says Republicans hell-bent on shutting down his agenda will be more willing to play ball if he’s re-elected.

    He said two changes — the facts that “the American people will have voted,” and that Republicans will no longer need to be focused on beating him — could lead to better conditions for deal-making.

    If Republicans are willing, Obama said, “I’m prepared to make a whole range of compromises” that could even rankle his own party. But he did not get specific.

    What the hell part of Reality does this fool not get????? If he actually believes this bullshit then he is a freaking MORON. This is a demonstration of the definition of insanity: doing the same thing and expecting a different result.

    We're supporting this guy so he can go do the same stupid shit he did in 2009-2011?????

    Jeeezus H. Keeeeeeerist!

  • Thymezone on August 25, 2012 1:53 PM:

    Thanks for the hemlock offer. After pulling a rather odd prediction right out of your hindquarters and selling it as reasoned analysis, which it is not ... the toxic soup sounds good. Maybe with some crusts and pate?

    Good grief, must be a slow blog day. Please, less of this kind of nonsense.

  • R. Stanton Scott on August 25, 2012 2:02 PM:

    Republicans win elections outside of homogenous districts/jurisdictions only during off-year elections when turnout matters more or when they disguise their true beliefs and policy preferences. Because they have not built a true broad electoral coalition, their only real electoral power rests in the enthusiasm of their base and its willingness to turn out.

    This works well enough in gerrymandered districts or small conservative states. But saying what they really think both excites true liberals and turns them out more effectively than their own party could, it peels off moderates who prefer stability based on centrist policies and disrupts the weak coalition they've constructed.

    You rightly cite Christine O'Donnell and Todd Akin as examples of the extremism of today's GOP as something to be feared should they gain power. But you don't mention that it didn't work out well for O'Donnell with respect to actually getting elected (see also Sharon Angle) and Akin's prospects don't look too good either. Note that these are not new views or policy positions - just that candidates only recently feel comfortable sharing them openly.

    The actual policies preferred by this sort of politician are not broadly popular, and it's no accident that what's left of the GOP establishment - which is no less extreme but understands that extremism has never won them the Presidency where moderating their extremism can work (see Goldwater, Barry and Conservatism, Compassionate) - wants to quiet this down. They understand that not only does Tea Party style extremism turn off business people who understand that corporations prefer to keep the State out of both business and social matters, it also excites the liberal base and makes picking off liberal-leaning voters (e.g., women, minorities) that much more difficult.

    Yes, the demographics are against them and they know it. They also know that extremism won't help fix this. And finally, they understand that few voters are actually persuadable today - few women who have never thought about it before will think forcing them to endure pregnancy caused by rape is a good policy. Politics today is about finding your voters and turning them out, and scaring the crap out of the other side is a great way to get them out to vote against you.

    All this means that the more extreme the GOP gets the more difficult election - especially state or nation wide becomes. The GOP will not win another national election until they moderate their message.

  • Tomm Undergod on August 25, 2012 2:13 PM:

    As demographics and Repub wingnuttery drive the once GOP further into irrelevance and insanity, the minority party will decline at any increasing rate until the old white man's cult of ignorance and fantasy disappears into history, killed by reality's well known liberal bias. Then the damned Dums can split in two and reasonably rational people committed to addressing Real World issues will continue to have Conservadums and Mid-Roaders debating like people who love their country more than partisanship, and the scorned traitors can stew in their parched, empty fields and bone-dry fire zones.

    [NB: This Captcha crap is for the birds.]

    Unfortunately, if they ever again attain as much power as they wield so viciously and seditiously today, it will be the end of the world. There is no time left for pendulum swinging because the US confronts multiple catastrophic problems NOW, from income inequality to trigger-happy warmongers, from joblessness to unaffordable education and a rising tide of ignorance and, frankly, totalitarian advocates and apologists. As infrastructure decays even faster than the middle class and the rest of the world continues replacing the US granfalloon as a leader for tolerance, social justice, freedom, and individual happiness, reversing Roe v Wade and Brown v Board of Education, repealing the Voting Rights Act, shredding our pathetic "social safety net," moving money and power from the productive hands of labor to the pockets of the callous rentiers who comprise The New 400, there is no longer time to spare because it really is now or, literally, never.

  • Tomm Undergod on August 25, 2012 2:16 PM:

    As demographics and Repub wingnuttery drive the once GOP further into irrelevance and insanity, the minority party will decline at any increasing rate until the old white man's cult of ignorance and fantasy disappears into history, killed by reality's well known liberal bias. Then the damned Dums can split in two and reasonably rational people committed to addressing Real World issues will continue to have Conservadums and Mid-Roaders debating like people who love their country more than partisanship, and the scorned traitors can stew in their parched, empty fields and bone-dry fire zones.

    [NB: This Captcha crap is for the birds.]Unfortunately, if they ever again attain as much power as they wield so viciously and seditiously today, it will be the end of the world. There is no time left for pendulum swinging because the US confronts multiple catastrophic problems NOW, from income inequality to trigger-happy warmongers, from joblessness to unaffordable education and a rising tide of ignorance and, frankly, totalitarian advocates and apologists. As infrastructure decays even faster than the middle class and the rest of the world continues replacing the US granfalloon as a leader for tolerance, social justice, freedom, and individual happiness, reversing Roe v Wade and Brown v Board of Education, repealing the Voting Rights Act, shredding our pathetic "social safety net," moving money and power from the productive hands of labor to the pockets of the callous rentiers who comprise The New 400, there is no longer time to spare because it really is now or, literally, never.

  • Varecia on August 25, 2012 2:24 PM:

    TCinLA, if you read the whole thing at TPM, it looks like he's trying to position himself as the reasonable, middle of the roader IN CONTRAST to Romney's far right rigidity. I don't know how it would translate into actual practice, but I suspect that Obama knows that Republicans will be no more willing to compromise during a second term than his first, so it's something he can talk about and use now knowing that it's moot. It's a campaign position that will never happen. So don't sweat.

  • buddy66 on August 25, 2012 2:37 PM:

    A charismatic flag-waving neofascist cuckoo will lead the white sclerotics to their promised racially segregated land with a third party, thus splitting the Grand Old Party forever.

    Of course the plutocrats will then buy the Dems and, oh well...

  • Equal Opportunity Cynic on August 25, 2012 2:53 PM:

    Neildsmith: I watched for a few minutes to try to figure out where Ms. Wells is from. I don't recognize the backdrop but I trust from the intensity of your vitriol that she's a swing state resident hence has a meaningful Presidential vote.

  • JR on August 25, 2012 3:02 PM:

    Two things that make me more optimistic:

    1) The other great threat to the GOP is generational change. Unless the GOP starts making a 180 on social issues, it will lose young voters, who are increasingly less white and pro-gay rights.

    2) If it truly looks like the GOP is gearing up for Ryan/Paul ticket in 2016, I see Hillary getting into the race, if she isn't already. The Democratic establishment would step aside and we'll see women engaged like never before. I write this as someone who did not support her in 2008 (out of fear of her husband's ability to step aside), but would passionately fight for her in 2016.

  • jd on August 25, 2012 3:07 PM:

    R. Stanton Scott wrote:

    "All this means that the more extreme the GOP gets the more difficult election - especially state or nation wide becomes. The GOP will not win another national election until they moderate their message."

    Correct. And they can't moderate their message because the social conservatives will bolt the party and that will be that. The ideological-theological mind cannot change. The GOP is stuck. The only question is when will what they believe sink into the American populace? When that happens, it's game over. Todd Akin helped last week. The Democrats have been afraid to talk about social issues. The GOP is making that easier now with their extremism.

    The premise of this article is false.

  • Brownell on August 25, 2012 3:14 PM:

    Thanks to jheartney and TCinLA for taking the long view, saving me some trouble and space. Like them, my little glimmer of optimism is based on history - the rise of the Republican party from the ashes of the Federalist and Whig parties - and on the ragged ups and downs of progressive movements in our lifetime. It's true that current rightwing supremacy is based on decades of well-funded reactionary advocacy and organization as well as popular divisions reacting to the 60's achievements of the civil rights, feminist and antiwar movements. Our position now is that rightwing ideology has suffered serious, maybe fatal failures, and thankfully that our country's most serious divisions are on the right.

    It is quite possible that a centrist party may emerge, claiming some Democrats and many more Republicans. Given that a majority of current "independents" are disaffected Republicans and there is the ready availability of a few centrist Bloombergs and their money, I'm actually optimistic that a third centrist force could splinter the Republican party and give the current Democratic coalition a few years' breathing space. A narrow Democratic plurality allied with elements of the new third party could clean up the worst features of the Republican-industrial-financial mess and allow the pieces of a progressive coalition to grow into a real force. This coalition could begin the long road to address our climate challenge, the failures of our economic and educational institutions and even, perhaps, get a grip on the military-industrial complex.

    The proof for me of a successful coalition between Democrats and sensible centrists would be progress toward long-term progressive goals, that is, achievement of the Obama Administration's centrist initiatives - investment in education, infrastructure, environmental protection and international initiative toward peace and freedom. Stronger evidence of long-term progress would be an organized movement capable of achieving a series of constitutional amendments to protect our hard-won advances: the Equal Rights Amendment, an effective constitutional remedy for Citizens' United, Constitutional protection of voting rights for all, and a modification of the Electoral College to give large states parity with small states - for starters. I would be happy to live long enough to see us advance this far. The New Deal coalition was badly flawed but it survived almost fifty years and brought some lasting changes that we must now defend. Our generation would do well to defend the progress of the New Deal, fix that generation's failures and advance us another step down the road.

  • Neildsmith on August 25, 2012 3:31 PM:

    EO Cynic... I don't know where she was from but I'm not sure it matters if she was from a swing state or not. Even if she has a democratic rep or senator, those who want help from government need to participate.

  • jjm on August 25, 2012 3:59 PM:

    @Brownell: "the Obama Administration's centrist initiatives - investment in education, infrastructure, environmental protection and international initiative toward peace and freedom."

    Why call these centrist? They are simply normal functions of government. But the fact that they even have to be 'initiatives' tells you the degree to which the radically anti-governance GOP since Reagan has hijacked government and handed all this over to the wealthy and corporate interests.

  • PTate in MN on August 25, 2012 4:38 PM:

    What a thought-provoking post and interesting comments! I particularly appreciate the seasoned perspective of TCinLA, but every comment is worth pondering.

    I agree with everyone that things are looking pretty glum right now. How discouraging that such a large percentage of American voters turn out to be gullible, bigots, misinformed, ill-informed, ignorant or just plain goofy!

    Nevertheless, it is a mistake to think that the Republican party is equivalent to the Democratic party, and I believe that the difference dooms the current Republicans. The difference is that the Democratic party, for all its faults, remains a party of the people, and it represents the interests of the people whereas the Republicans are a political operation--well-funded, well-organized, ruthless and unscrupulous--whose narrow goal is to reverse 60 years of economic and social policy. This operation is best represented as a club of billionaires and their stooges, the thugs who are willing to betray the interests of the majority of Americans in order to reap fat rewards for themselves. To name names, the Koch brothers and Rupert Murdoch are foremost among the billionaires, and their stooges include people like Newt Gingrich, Dick Armey, Grover Norquist, Paul Ryan, Karl Rove, Clarence Thomas, Anthony Scalia, and Roger Ailes. Fundamentally, it is an army of old men striving to implement old ideas and an old order; they have no interest in governing, only in blocking government.

    This operation can count on unthinking support from the 20-30% of Americans, the authoritarians, who use their religious affiliation as a means creating In-groups, controlling sexuality (female, gay, people of color), punishing wrongdoers, and attacking the weak and non-conformist.

    But beyond that 20-30%, they have to lie, manipulate and terrify. They are on their way to losing 80% of the female vote and every time they propose tax cuts for the uber-rich, a few more independents switch sides. And I believe the futility and destructiveness of their policies will become clearer to a majority of Americans as global climate change causes food and water shortages, and population pressures and over-consumption of natural resources leads to scarcity.

    So, if we want to lessen the threat that we will endure a President Ryan in 2016, we need to be working now--ceaselessly--on policies that will cut off their wealth, expose their identities, plans, operations and tactics, and above all, reduce the fear that they prey upon.

  • Hyde on August 25, 2012 6:53 PM:

    While it's inevitable we're going to have a Republican president again, my hope has been that the party has gone so far over the cliff that we're overdue for a blowout Democratic win at some point. The current alignment of the parties makes it unlikely we could ever get an exact mirror image of 1984, with the GOP winning just one state (given the continuing existence of Utah, Idaho, Wyoming, and Alabama, among others).

    But it's not too hard to imagine a Democrat running against the sort of true believer the Republicans are likely to nominate in 2016 (should they lose again with a second straight so-called "RINO") getting into the high fifties in the popular vote. And even if the Republicans get 130-150 electoral votes in that scenario, a margin like that is likely to get their attention.

    Also, if things ever so bad that the GOP loses Texas, currently the only large state they don't have to fight for, they will have no choice but to back away from their fringe. Frankly, I'd love to live in a world with two sane political parties again, even if my party of choice lost occasionally.

  • rrk1 on August 25, 2012 7:03 PM:

    I guess I should be smoking what a lot of commenters here are, but my drug of choice, alcohol, makes me see things rather pessimistically.

    Like generals, there is a tendency to fight the last war when the circumstances for the imminent one are entirely different.

    In normal (whatever that is) circumstances, this election would be a slam-dunk for the Democrats despite Obama's stupefying short comings. But the playing field is anything but level. And a close election, which this one will be, is a fertile ground for robbery. Some variation on 2000 is likely. The ruthless drive of the Rethugs, and any number of unseen, and undiscovered, tactics to control the vote count are going to be in play.

    For one thing, 'Citizens' United' has upended everything. For another, aggressive Rethug voter suppression efforts are going to be effective. For a third, the obstructionism of the Rethugs and the collaboration of the financial/corporate sector to make the economy as bad as it can before the election will also be effective. The power of money, and the ruthlessness of the Rethugs will likely result in a Ryan-Romney win. Ryan is obviously the driving force, and will continue to be.

    At root cause is that you can't beat something with nothing. The Rethugs have something, and the Democrats have nothing. There is no left, no organized and committed opposition on the scale with the religious-fascist right, or the corporate- capitalist right.

    A rollback of all the 20th century social gains is entirely possible after November 6, if not probably, and even if Obama wins a second term the gridlock of the past four years is absolutely certain to continue. There is no indication that 'compromise' in a second Obama administration is going to be any different than it has been since 2009. If Obama compromises it will be at the expense of the social safety net, as he will move towards the dark side in the name of destructive 'bipartisanship'. The man has no balls except when creating secret assassination lists, and supporting torture, rendition, and indefinite detention of American citizens.

    It is with the utmost revulsion that I vote for him.

  • Irishcc on August 25, 2012 9:02 PM:

    You're right. This was a particularly dismal post. Unless of course your intention was spread your own apparent sense of hopelessness to a wider audience in a "misery loves company" moment. By all means, let us spread the message that failure is inevitable. We have a 40% participation rate right now; let's shoot for 20%.

  • BCanuck on August 26, 2012 9:45 AM:

    '..., the party elders may decide to put the breaks on the radicals and reposition the party closer to the center.'
    The party elders are no longer in charge, ask Richard Lugar.

    How can the GOP be fringe party if it keeps winning national races?