October 30, 2012

Horses and bayonets: Why the Democratic Party is the party of the future and Republicans are stuck in the past

Mitt Romney and Barack Obama facing off in the final presidential debate, showed a difference in tone but not so much in policy.

Mitt Romney and Barack Obama facing off in the final presidential debate, showed a difference in tone but not so much in policy.

By Lee Cole–

My last article explored the possibility of Mitt Romney becoming president, a possibility that is becoming less feasible by the day.  It was written during a time when polls seemed to suggest, as well as the general mood of the campaign, that Romney was picking up momentum.  Nate Silver of FiveThirtyEight pointed out in an article released on Thursday, Oct. 25 that any gains Romney may have squeezed out of his first debate performance were losing steam and that President Obama had regained lost ground.  The third debate was largely unremarkable; most counted it as a victory for Obama, but foreign policy issues are not at the forefront of this election.  The one moment that will be played again and again, however, and is perhaps a perfect microcosm for the Romney campaign and the Republican strategy in general, was the now infamous “horses and bayonets” zinger.

While President Obama was only trying to underscore the ridiculousness of Romney’s criticism that our navy is the smallest it’s been since 1917 (battleships are basically obsolete now, as we don’t have naval battles like we did in World War I), his point raised a number of issues about the state of the Republican Party, namely that they are out of touch old fogeys who long for the “good old days” when minorities knew their place, women’s bodies were strictly vessels for childbearing and sandwich making and only rich White men with rich White names like George, Dick and Taggart could ever reasonably expect to be elected to higher office.  In short, the Republican Party is on the wrong side of history, and if they continue their current strategy, I don’t know if they can reasonably expect to win any elections in the near future.

First of all, Latino and African American populations are growing, and white Americans will not constitute a majority in 50 years, perhaps within 30.  Republicans have used some variation on the southern strategy for the last 30 years to win elections.  This is going to become increasingly more difficult, as older southern whites die off or lose influence and their children attend universities and are exposed to increasing levels of diversity.  The Republicans will no longer be able to count on racism and bigotry to fuel their base, even though it’s taken them pretty far this year.  But to illustrate the point, consider that Obama is probably the most hated president in history, often for racial reasons, and this still probably won’t be enough for Mitt Romney to win.  Unless Republicans radically change their strategy, the math just won’t add up.  They would have to actually make themselves appealing to minorities and the impoverished, a Sisyphean task, to be sure.

President Obama’s slogan, “Forward,” sums up the Democratic Party’s position.  They believe, like many Americans, that discrimination, whether it is to gays, African Americans, Latinos or women, is always unacceptable.  Polling suggests that my generation expresses unprecedented support for gay rights and women’s reproductive rights.  Republicans have made almost no attempt to court the under 35 vote, either now or in 2008.  This will inevitably come back to haunt them.  Furthermore, younger Americans are becoming increasingly concerned about environmental issues, which Republicans have either repudiated or ignored.

One of the many memes created after the debate featuring Romney on horseback.

The Republican Party’s alliance with Conservative Christians is also troublesome.  I recently saw a bumper sticker that read “Pro-choice and Catholic: You can’t be both.”  What Republicans have done is to make certain religious issues the main points in their platform.  Suddenly voting is no longer a choice based only on economics or foreign policy, but is also based on fear of eternal damnation.  Republicans have managed to convince Christians that God is a neocon and that Jesus was a free market, greedy, Wall Street-type who hated gays.  The central thesis of Republican campaigns across the country this election cycle has been centered around fundamentalist Christian dogma and biblical literalism, made all the more ironic considering that the man who commissioned the Bible’s translation into English, thus allowing for them to quote it in speeches and on anti-gay signs, was King James, who was by all accounts very gay.

There are other reasons why a Romney victory looks to be increasingly unlikely.  There are very few paths to 270 electoral votes for him.  While few polling or news agencies, besides the FiveThirtyEight, have been willing to place Ohio, Michigan, Wisconsin, Iowa and Nevada in the president’s column, all the numbers indicate that they should.  It seems as though most outlets want the race to appear closer than it actually is, so they can boost ratings.  But if Obama wins the aforementioned states, Romney’s chances are all but quelled.

So while Obama takes advantage of social media and pushes the country forward with progressive, tolerant ideas, the Republican Party will continue to be the party of old, crotchety white dudes.  The only question that remains is how long before the horses and bayonets are retired for good.

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Photo courtesy 1btimes.com

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