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November 05, 2012 10:05 AM Why the GOP Deserves to Lose

By Will Marshall

Whatever happens, it’s a safe bet the 2012 presidential election won’t go down in history as one for the ages. Barack Obama and Mitt Romney have bickered ad nauseum, but neither has put before voters credible plans for reviving the economy or breaking the choke hold that political polarization has on American democracy.

The choice facing voters, however, isn’t just between the two candidates. It’s also between the parties they represent. And here the choice is easier: Based on its record of political sabotage over the past four years, the Republican Party richly deserves to lose.

America could survive four years of President Romney. But a Romney victory would reward his party’s reckless embrace of ideological extremism and obstructionism. It would vindicate the GOP’s decision to abandon the political center, put partisanship before country, and cater shamelessly to the voters’ darker impulses.

Worst of all, it would give power to a party that hates government so much that it is incapable of governing. A Republican victory would likely mean four years in which the problem-solving capacities of our national government would continue to atrophy.

This is a pretty serious indictment, so let’s be specific.

The next president’s first big challenge will be to keep America from barreling off the fiscal cliff. That would mean higher taxes for everyone and irresponsible cuts in both domestic and defense spending. Letting that happen would fix our debt problem, but in the worst possible way — by plunging our fragile economy into an icy bath of job-killing austerity.

Fiscal politics can’t be divorced from economic politics. We need to fix the debt because we need to fix our economy. Everything else — spurring new investments in growth; overhauling our tax system; reforming entitlements; rationalizing defense spending, improving public education; fixing our immigration mess — depends on putting in place a credible framework for debt reduction as the recovery picks up strength.

Republicans have no serious answer to America’s fiscal dilemma. Their plan to reduce the debt by spending cuts alone is a political fantasy. No self-respecting Democrat would ever go along with it, and plenty of GOP voters would rise in revolt if it actually happened. Yet today’s Republicans have sold their political souls to Grover Norquist, signing blood oaths to never, ever do what Ronald Reagan did repeatedly — raise taxes to close deficits.

Sure, Romney probably didn’t mean it during the GOP primaries when he joined his rivals in rejecting even a 10-1 ratio of spending cuts to tax hikes. Maybe a President Romney would try to broker a bipartisan deal that combines higher revenues and spending cuts. But why would his party, flush with electoral victory, go along?

Democrats might not be in a compromising mood either if President Romney honored his pledge to start undoing Obamacare on day one. Nothing is more likely to trigger a resumption of partisan trench warfare on Capitol Hill, not to mention endless litigation. And if voters were angry at Obama for taking his eye of the economic ball during the great health reform battle, imagine how’ll they feel if Republicans spend the next two years reprising that battle instead of attending to a still-weak economy.

Another urgent task facing the next president will be to get energy and environmental policy back on track. Here again the contrast between Obama’s comprehensive approach and the Republicans’ one-sided demands is stark. Their “drill-baby-drill” mantra would deepen America’s reliance on fossil fuels, especially coal, boost U.S. carbon emissions and retard the development of renewable fuels and clean technologies of all kinds.

In fact, America’s shale gas and oil windfall is a tremendous boon to the U.S. economy. Obama has acknowledged as much, even as some environmental activists and liberals delude themselves into thinking we won’t develop these resources. But more shale gas and oil must be part of a balanced national energy strategy that also puts a price on carbon emissions to drive private investments in energy efficiency and innovation.

Immigration reform is another task that has been deferred too long. Obama has vowed to make it a priority in a second term, but it’s hard to see how the Republicans could build a broad political consensus behind their militantly restrictionist views.

Could Romney, who famously urged illegal immigrants to “self-deport,” pull a “Nixon to China” and embrace a comprehensive reform blueprint that includes a path to legal status for a significant chunk of them? Well, he’s nothing if not flexible when it comes to changing his positions. But why would his triumphant party feel any need to back off of its opposition to “amnesty,” especially if they only won about a quarter of the Latino vote?

Nothing better captures the radicalization of the GOP — and its political costs — than the party’s swing to the right on immigration. The last two GOP presidential nominees supported comprehensive immigration reform, with George W. Bush winning 40 percent of the Latino vote in 2004. Under the influence of Tea Party-infused nativism, the Republicans have burned bridges to these voters and turned themselves into a party of white identity politics.

Their attempts to resurrect the old bugaboo of “welfare dependency” and relentless efforts to delegitimize Barack Obama have not gone unnoticed by black Americans. They wonder why the temperate Obama, who goes out of his ways to avoid rubbing salt in America’s racial wounds, should be regarded by many on the right as some kind of foreigner or “socialist” interloper who wasn’t really born here and therefore is literally un-American. If this isn’t a matter of racial prejudice, what is it?

Presidential elections are opportunities for political accountability and democratic self-correction. For decades after the schisms of the late 1960s, Democrats were punished by voters for having wandered deep into the fever swamps of left-wing ideology. Now it’s the Republicans who have embraced a radical anti-government dogma that is out of step with America’s essentially moderate political ethos.

It’s up to voters, especially independents and moderates, to fortify the pragmatic center by denying Republicans victory.

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Will Marshall is the president of the Progressive Policy Institute.
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Comments

  • Anonymous on November 06, 2012 9:07 AM:

    looks like Gary Johnson is getting some supports away from Romney.
    Republicans need some soul searching and reforming to do just like Democrats did in 1980s.

  • LL on November 06, 2012 9:16 AM:

    I'm rendered nearly speechless by this column. The Dems have never "wandered into the fever swamps of the left" in the way the GOP has blithely sprinted into the fever swamps of the right. This column suffers from the same "both sides do it" bullshit that has been afflicting journalism and think-tanks now for 30 years and more. The GOP has been dragging the Democratic party to the right for nearly 40 years, and this shows no signs of slowing. And it is slowly destroying this country. The GOP is winning our ongoing Civil War.

    What is now the "far-left" in America used to be a sensible, center-left position. To compare that to what the GOP has done to itself and the country is disingenuous at best, and just stupid at worst.

    There is NO "far-left" in this country. Even Jill Stein's positions are not as far-left as I would go if I were King. Franklin had it right: "if we don't hang together we will all surely hang separately." GOP voters have no comprehension whatever of this fundamental truth of human existence and they are going to destroy us all because of that. If we don't re-imagine our country as a far more communal place, we are doomed to a very bleak future. There is simply no longer "enough" to go around. Basic resources in particular. Climate change is going to bite down very, very hard on humanity right at the point where the end of fossil-fuel energy means we will not have the ability to adapt to climate change the way we could if we still had the cheap energy we could have had if we had not burned it all up in 40% efficient heat-engines (that is, cars). That is pretty much our biggest challenge, and the GOP is burying its head in the sand about it...as are the Dems, alas.

    If this column is representative of the way our Village Elders on the "left" are thinking, we're all fucked. Will Marshall really might want to re-consider some of this in light of actual reality, instead of the Village Reality that dominates DC today. Moderation is not going to help in the face of the problems we have. Moderation in the face of a House of Representatives controlled by insane people is not going to help us. When will we on the Left ever get it through out skulls that the GOP wishes we would all die? Sooner than later. Until we start to REALLY fight back...they win. We have to try to save them too, in spite of themselves. Moderation won't help there, either.

  • Dave on November 06, 2012 9:58 AM:

    100% LL's got it. WTF is this sh*t... from a "progressive"? As in to the left of the 1%?

  • divF on November 06, 2012 11:34 AM:

    re: "fever swamps of the left" - balderdash. What the Dems did was pass civil rights legislation in the 1960's, and opposed the Vietnam war "prematurely". It has been punished for it ever since.

  • hells littlest angel on November 06, 2012 12:09 PM:

    "America could survive four years of President Romney. But a Romney victory would reward his partyís reckless embrace of ideological extremism and obstructionism. It would vindicate the GOPís decision to abandon the political center, put partisanship before country, and cater shamelessly to the votersí darker impulses.

    Worst of all, it would give power to a party that hates government so much that it is incapable of governing. A Republican victory would likely mean four years in which the problem-solving capacities of our national government would continue to atrophy."


    Interesting. A lot of writers would have used what followed the bolded text above with evidence to support their thesis, rather than undermine it -- unless you're using the word "survive" in the most pointlessly literal way. But then, this entire column is nothing but inane Broderism.

  • Sgt. Gym Bunny on November 06, 2012 12:58 PM:

    "Barack Obama and Mitt Romney have bickered ad nauseum, but neither has put before voters credible plans for reviving the economy or breaking the choke hold that political polarization has on American democracy."

    Erm... don't know how I feel about this observation but only because those two sticky-bombs of policy goals are highly abstract concepts. We generally know what doesn't help the process (trickle-down economics for the former, opposing the other guy's policies simply because he's for it for the latter); but what "will" bring the economy back is a matter of trial-and-error policy implementation and time itself. Nobody can really predict how the economy will definitely shape out, but trying something new after 30 years of supply-side can't hurt us anymore (well, maybe...)

    And that's the rub. Obama has put out a credible plan for reviving the economy. Remember ACA? The Auto Industry? The Manufacturing industry in general? The jobs plan that the Congressional GOP was happy smother in its sleep?

    Romney is the one who hasn't put forth a credible plan. This made has constructed a political campaign on saying absolutely nothing about what his intentions are for a Romney Presidency. Not that he doesn't have a plan. He does: it's to take us back to the pre-20th century days when the robber barons ran the country. He just ain't sayin' it.

    And what LL said above. Find me the left's mainstream equivalent of "legitimate rape" and I will eat my own ass with maple syrup on top. (Fringe elements don't count--which is the point.)

  • zandru on November 06, 2012 1:49 PM:

    "It's time to hurt the elephant"

    When I read that, a thrill ran down my leg, as Chris Matthews might say. But then there was NOTHING along these lines in the article!

    I was hoping for some details, maybe involving non-stop ridicule, working the refs of the shame-stream media to demand why they were STILL printing fossils like George Will and Jonah Goldberg, relentless blogging of every stupid GOP statement, every obstructionist vote ... well, I expected a lot more than I can think of just off the top of my head.

    We all want to "hurt the elephant." Because both sides do NOT do it. And merely voting isn't going to do it.

    Mr. Marshall, try again.

  • Stephen on November 06, 2012 5:20 PM:

    I'm with LL. A very ill thought-out piece.

  • thewarthatkilledachilles on November 07, 2012 7:54 AM:

    The consensus along all the pithy observations , à la , Broderism and the diversion from - ? Hurt The Elephant ? - , ... something new after 30 years of supply-side can't hurt ... , a grand summation and failing grade from hells littlest angel , to the left of the 1%? , etc .
    I will risk saying the well respected McGovern in his campaign against Perlstein's Nixonland Nixon , (re ?) opened what were my adolescent and early twenties thinking (eating , beer , wine & song , then , last but not by any measure least , lovely friction) . Opened my thinking , but not enough to lean over and spill my brains out . What is the point of concern trollery when reduced to comparing Michelle Bachman to Abby Hoffman . Any other course other than (responsibly) hurting , meaning destroying , the destructive compulsion of the cowardly manipulative elephant . I could defend Hoffman up to his suicide as , among the model types , from the character types of prototypical American entrepreneur . I can defend Bachman as an encouraged lunatic , who does as lunatics do . Manipulated by cowardly billionaires , flush with billionaire cash , in her fevered imagination destined to romantically destroy what she blindly strikes at .
    I am another voice in the chorus , an otherwise unqualified Yippee for LL's lead instrument , period .