Whither the Grand Old Prevaricators?
By Emily Theroux
Everyone’s carping about it on cable, retweeting it on Twitter, and regurgitating it on talk radio’s endless propaganda loop.
Is the Republican Party really undergoing a post-election “makeover”?
Will Southern-state “secession” incite spiritual intercession? Is “Grover over”? Will Mitch pull the switch on the filibuster? Can Cantor cease his banter over tax cuts? Will Jan call a ban on Arizona’s “papers capers”?
And will John McCain ever shut his cantankerous piehole about Susan Rice — and admit that the Vietnam War has been over for almost 38 years, the 2008 presidential campaign’s in the history books, and it’s way past time for him to retire from politics and join his fellow “ancient mariners” at the local VFW post, where he can park himself in a porch rocker and swaddle his voluminous bitterness, antipathy, and rancor in well-deserved oblivion.
Immediately after the election, Republicans seemed genuinely chastened by the expressed will of the people — at least the ones who would own up to it. But their policy prescriptions weren’t a lot more generous than I would have expected, incorrigible cynic that I am.
“Republicans must start over again,” declared George Will — with “a more likable candidate.” Charles Krauthammer ventured that “a single policy change” should fix what ails the Republican Party: Extending an olive branch to Latinos on immigration policy. “Border fence plus amnesty. Yes, amnesty. Use the word. Shock and awe — full legal normalization (just short of citizenship) in return for full border enforcement.”
Along came Louisiana Gov. Bobby”Jindal, shilling at warp speed. “Kenneth the Page,” who’s got his eye clearly affixed on his 2016 chances, told Politico the GOP “should stop being the stupid party.” Extremists within the ranks had made far too many “offensive, bizarre comments,” said Jindal. “We’ve also had enough of this dumbed-down conservatism,” he added. “We need to stop being simplistic, we need to trust the intelligence of the American people, and we need to stop insulting the intelligence of the voters.”
Then former Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour had to go and dump the party poohbahs back into the deep end of the latrine, declaring before the Republican Governors Association that the GOP’s “political organizational activity” needed “a very serious proctology exam.” (You’d think Watergate would have taught these good old boys never to excuse “organizational” flaws by blaming them on the plumbing.)
Even Rush Limbaugh was initially contrite (before lurching immediately afterward into a racist diatribe about “getting stuff,” redistribution of wealth, and what he called the lack of “a work ethic” among Obama voters). “This should have been a slam dunk,” Rush said, the day after Mitt Romney’s loss stunned a party that had convinced itself that Romney would win in a landslide. “But it wasn’t. There are reasons why. We’re gonna have to dig deep to find them, and we’re gonna have to be honest with ourselves when we find the answers to this.”
Rachel isn’t buying the ‘course correction’ crapola, either
If El Rushbo snorkeled back up from the depths of the sewer with answers of any kind, he hasn’t been letting on lately. For that matter, neither have many voices that aren’t quite as far right as he is on the wacko spectrum. And if you think about it, why didn’t Jindal, Barbour, Rupert Murdoch, Sean Hannity, or Erick Erickson experience their “epiphanies” on inclusiveness before Mitt Romney ran for the presidency and lost the brass ring for them?
Rachel Maddow says only the Beltway bobbleheads think the Republican Party has “learned its lesson” and is now genuinely following the pathway to reform.
“You know, it’s funny. If you listen to the Beltway talk about what’s going on in American politics right now, the major narrative … is about the sort of ‘course correction’ happening in the Republican Party, right? The Republican Party has ‘learned its lesson.’
“If only in the interest of self-preservation, Republicans are right
now giving up on these policy stances that cost them so much in the last election, that made their party seem essentially pre-modern — all of this stuff that alienated women and young people, and non-white people and gay people. I mean, if you listen to the Beltway media, the Republican course correction on this problem — post-election, a course correction is totally under way.”
But what are Indiana state legislators focusing on, now that they’ve “taken the proverbial post-election cold shower” that Maddow says a political party usually endures after it gets “shellacked” the way the GOP did on Nov. 6? Only three weeks after a stinging electoral rebuke of its culturally extreme Senate candidate, Richard Mourdock, the Hoosier State GOP resolved that “what they really need to do is doubly, triply, extra ban gay marriage,” she observed.
Never mind that same-sex marriage is already illegal in Indiana. The party has proposed a constitutional ban on gay marriage and civil unions — an amendment that may affect more than 600 existing provisions of the Indiana code, which currently grant numerous connubial rights and conflict-of-interest protections to unmarried, opposite-gender couples.
Will GOP mutineers really ditch Norquist’s sacred pledge?
“Mutiny! Dissension in the ranks! A break in vows to the almighty Norquist!” wrote Jena McGregor earlier this week in The Washington Post.
Four GOP stalwarts — Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, Rep. Peter King of New York, Sen. Saxby Chambliss of Georgia, and Sen. Bob Corker of Tennessee — stepped up over the weekend to declare that they aren’t afraid of Big Bad Grover and his hallowed Taxpayer Protection Pledge, a document he has brandished over the heads of elected Republicans since founding Americans for Tax Reform in 1986. The apostates say they’re willing to consider scuttling the pledge (whose signatories vow never to raise taxes, eliminate tax cuts, or even increase revenues) in order to reach a deal that would reform “entitlements” (at this point, defined as Medicare and Medicaid) and forestall the much-ballyhooed “fiscal cliff.”
Grover, who “dabbles in stand-up comedy,” isn’t laughing now, however, as more and more defectors swell the ranks of tax-policy renegades — even though he felt it necessary to point out that nobody has violated the pledge by actually voting for a tax increase. (Norquist studiously avoided uttering the word yet.) “We’ve got some people discussing impure thoughts on national television,” Norquist sniffed dismissively on CNN.
Will these trash-talking, inveterate obstructionists really deliver on their braggadocio about abandoning “self-deportation,” ditching the permanent 1 percent tax cut, and stooping to compromise with “the Democrat Party”?
I’m afraid I’ll believe that the day Mitch McConnell cashes in his chips and shuffles off to his old Kentucky home, and he doesn’t show signs of capitulating any time soon. Likewise with John Boehner — although I think he actually intends to follow through on his post-election concessions at the moments when he issues them. Things get prickly, though, when he returns to Congress to face those Tea Party dead-enders, who I’m almost certain give him ultimatums instead of the other way around.
This pack of “old, angry white guys” realizes that the GOP can’t win without the support of America’s fastest-growing demographic — but anyone who wants to give the Republicans a second chance on immigration should beware their duplicity. (Please note that none of them is extending this sudden pro-Latino magnanimity to African-Americans.)
Right-wingers like Krauthammer and Hannity, who view amnesty for undocumented immigrants as both a palatable half-measure and “a Latino-winning electoral silver bullet,” in the words of conservative New York Times columnist Ross Douthat, think they can sweep the 2016 election by “embrac(ing) amnesty and nominat(ing) Marco Rubio.”
Here’s the new, “reformed” GOP program thus far, in a nutshell: “Repeal and replace” the racially divisive talking points — and try to be a little more subtle about ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, class inequality, and religious tolerance. (Don’t be so strident on issues like food stamps, “unwed” mothers, welfare cheats, speaking English, lesbian TV hosts, lapel flags, rap music, and birth certificates.)
Strive whenever possible to sound more engaged, charitable, affirming, and humane. Speak the language of empathy. Persuade Latinos and women how much you truly care about and champion their concerns; pretend that you, like Romney said of Obama, want to lavish them with “gifts.” Make your words as syrupy and ingratiating as you can stomach, and you just might find that Dubya’s old “compassionate conservative” ploy will work for you, too.
If the GOP actually learned anything from the defeat of Willard Romney, it wasn’t how to “listen better” to the hopes and dreams of ordinary people. It was how to tell an ever-more-convincing lie.