The Republicans still don’t quite seem to get exactly why it is that Romney lost the election. There’s a bunch of reasons, really, but I think they all boil down to the GOP being unwilling to face reality while not realizing that, at least to an extent, the electorate is indeed willing to face it. One would think that after getting trampled last Tuesday, they’d stop and pause and reflect and do something new and different. This appears, at least so far, to not be the case.
For example, I saw Newt Gingrich on The Colbert Report the other night. He was his usual blowhard self and made some comments about how America is the only country that allows immigrants in and turns them into Americans. This is, technically, true, at least by that exact wording. But the implication is that America is the only country that allows in immigrants and turns them into citizens.
Never mind that the GOP has been pretty anti-immigration for the last few years, even of the legal variety. Certainly never mind that other countries that are very similar to us, such as Canada, Australia and New Zealand, not to mention most of the rest of the civilized world, also accept in immigrants and turn them into citizens.
This is part of the nonsense version of American exceptionalism that the GOP likes to peddle these days. It says that America is unique in history, blessed by God, and a nation wholly different from anything before or since. The occasionally not-subtle message here is that America is not only all these things, but it’s also better than any other nation.
It smacks of arrogance and ignorance, and is little more than ugly nationalism. It’s meat and potatoes to the Republican base, but the Democrats and independent voters generally know different. We know that our country is indeed great, and in some ways one of the best nations out there. But we also know that it has flaws and that its strengths are not unique. The GOP’s “rah, rah, go USA!” chant is very distancing to those of us who have a grasp of how the rest of the world functions.
The other lesson that the Republicans failed to learn from the election is that Obama is, by any real measure, a center-right president with a moderate agenda. They spent the entire election fighting against a fictional liberal monster who was out to destroy capitalism, bring us into another recession, sell out to Hugo Chavez and turn us into another version of Greece.
This is best represented to me by a text conversation I had with a Republican friend just last night. I made some comment mocking the current interest in some states leaving the Union and got back a reply saying, “Yeah, because the Democrats don’t have their lunatic fringe.” I pointed out, as I have before, that we do, but we ignore it. This lead to him saying that Obama was, in fact, a part of our lunatic fringe. I cited that as an example of the fictional president and got back. “Yeah, the real one who wanted to close Guantanamo, try war criminals in New York civil court, hearth care ‘my way or the highway’.” All I could do is sigh in response, because what else can one do?
This ignores the fact that, at least at the time Obama was elected, most people seemed fine with closing Gitmo (or at least the prison there), and that it was politicians on both sides who blocked it. It ignores the fact that no one suggested trying “war criminals” in civil court. I’m pretty sure he meant to say criminal court, and, yes, Obama was in favor of taking people who were accused of crimes and giving them trials. What an insanely liberal concept! Then of course there’s health care reform, where he tried to reach out to Republicans, was rebuffed at every move and finally ended up adopting a plan that was an almost exact duplicate of one put forth by a Republican former governor, and one that, by its very nature, is heavily capitalist.
What lessons have the GOP learned? Not many, as near as I can tell. But it’s early yet. With luck they’ll lose the House in 2014 and have decent, sane candidates running in 2016. As I’ve said many times before, I want the Democrats to win, yes, but I do also want a sane, loyal opposition to keep them from running off the rails. But until the Republican party has come back down to Earth, I want them kept far, far away from power.