The Republican Party: dead or still twitching?

Less than three in ten Americans view the Republican Party in a favourable light, a CNN poll found this week. And in other breaking news, I’m still flat-chested.

Timed to coincide with the publication of the GOP’s 2012 election ‘autopsy‘ (their word – because why wouldn’t you name your report into what went wrong with the term for a thorough examination of a corpse to determine the manner of its death?), the CNN poll came a day after the end of the party’s Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC), the annual national gathering of key figures and activists.

If GOP Chair Reince Priebus needed further evidence to illustrate his autopsy findings that the party is “scary“, “narrow-minded” and “out of touch” – other of course than the 65 million two-fingers the party received in November – the conference provided him with a laboratory of living, breathing examples that may prove that Mary Shelley was right all along.

Giving a platform to the likes of professional lunatics Sarah Palin, the NRA’s Wayne LaPierre and Donald Trump (and it doesn’t matter that Trump spoke to an empty room in a graveyard slot, the fact that he was invited while New Jersey Governor Chris Christie was not speaks louder than a tourist on the metro) was like poking a corpse with a stick. Yep, it’s still dead.


Rand Paul departs the Capitol after his filibuster by @Dharapak

Or is it? The conference didn’t serve just to amplify the death rattle. The ‘future’ of the GOP, Senators Marco Rubio (for the young ‘progressives’) and Rand Paul (for the awkward squad), gave rousing speeches although neither said much of great interest; it is far too early for them to do anything other than give their supporters a little cheer to show the party hasn’t completely flatlined. Rand was the winner of the CPAC straw poll, the end-of-conference indicator of conservative feeling, although this was off the back of his impressive 13-hour filibuster over drones, so an unsurprising victory.

There are parallels with the Tories in 1997. Deeply unpopular, the party faced an overwhelming battle after it was dumped out of office to prove it was in touch with an electorate that considered it nasty, uncaring and old-fashioned.

The difference here is that the Tory party recognised this and worked to incorporate compassionate conservatism into its narrative; the GOP as it stands now seems too in thrall to its financial backers, and either oblivious to, or too frightened to acknowledge, the significant changes in the social issues important to the country in which it lives, a country recognising, for example, the rights of people to legally declare their love, the unfathomable power of the gun lobby, and the rights of women to have control over their own bodies.

Perhaps I am being unfair. Indeed there has been an encouraging softening by some in the party of the once-rigid opposition to citizenship for undocumented workers, and the autopsy report reflects this. And perhaps it is too soon. It is, after all, a mere four months since the election. The GOP autopsy does at least hold a mirror to the face of the party.

The GOP has an opportunity to apply the ideals and values that once made it a popular and respected party to the brave new world that it aspires to lead.  If the party doesn’t have the courage to ruthlessly jettison those who are determined to keep it strapped to the gurney – and that includes its current leadership – it will remain encumbered by restraints, seeing just one thing from the low point afforded by its more extreme base.

Good view from back there, yeah?


By Pete Souza


About hebe in dc

British Girl in Washington DC @hebeindc
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7 Responses to The Republican Party: dead or still twitching?

  1. Anthony says:

    TBF it took the Tories till about 2003 to realise it, so the Republicans have a while yet…

  2. Vinny says:

    Not even sure they’d changed by 2003 – I mean Michael Howard as leader? Tory change anyway ? They’ve got a PR man to lead the most right-wing government we’ve ever had & I lived through the early ’80s & Thatcher.

    • hebe in dc says:

      I think in terms of social change, the Tories have come pretty far from where they were in the 80’s. But yes, there was that period of messy leadership. I worked for Michael Howard when he was Environment Secretary .. *shudder* … cheers for reading and commenting.

  3. klausjoynson says:

    The Republicans remind me more of the Labour party circa 1980, when a decade of certanties were gradually taken away from them – when they realised that someone like Arthur Scargill (who was saying something like ‘I will not be satisfied until we get 90% of all public sector wages’) wasn’t going to help them win an election any time soon. The Republicans have that sort of mania at the moment, and it’s going to take the same amount of time for them to realise how out of step they are.

    At least the Conservatives tried their best after 1997 with someone young and with new ideas. Okay that was William Hague, who they immediately disposed of when it looked like it wasn’t working with Ian Duncan Smith, who they immediately disposed of when they thought experience might count with Michael Howard. But at least they were trying. In the end they just got someone who sounded like Tony Blair with David Cameron.

    • hebe in dc says:

      I think you’re right, there are similarities with Labour back then. Neil Kinnock doesn’t get the recognition for the astonishing job he did in dragging the party into a semi-electable state. Many thanks for commenting.

  4. Chris B says:

    The GOP is having a major identity crisis, to the extent that I’m not sure it knows what it even stands for any longer. There is a schism forming between those who understand the social climate has changed and they must change with it (marriage equality, women’s rights, etc) and hardliners who refuse to let go of “traditional values.” One of the biggest rallying cries of the party has traditionally been “small and unobtrusive government,” yet you now have republicans in Congress pushing bills attempting to legislate what goes on inside your bedroom as well as your body, citing the Bible as their only legal standing (I’m not even sure when the GOP became God’s Party–I’m pretty sure Jesus would have been a Liberal). Another call of the True Patriots has been “the Constitution is sacred,” yet we now have states like North Carolina attempting to establish an official state religion and Louisiana attempting to establish a panel that will decide what Federal laws are valid within the state, both of which are blatantly unconstitutional.

    Forgive me if I sound a little bitter. I was… once one of them. I got better.

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