Well, we’re here again. Four years ago after the 2008 debacle I wrote my piece The Party’s Over: A Post-Election Reflection, and that’s as good of a point as any to start from.
It’s fair to say that the Republican Party is history as a national party in the U.S.
Oh, it’s true that it will continue to be an important regional party, and certainly the party of choice for Caucasian Evangelicals. But as a national party, its continuance is impossible. Although American history buffs may look to the Whig split over slavery before the Civil War as a fitting historical precedent, a more relevant analogy is the transition from Liberal to Labour Party in the UK as the predominant left wing party, a transition driven by social changes.
That’s more in evidence now than it was four years ago. After the beating our economy has taken and the nearly universal belief that it’s the government’s duty to unilaterally fix the problem, getting Barack Obama out of the White House should have been as easy as shooting fish in a barrel. It wasn’t.
A great deal of the problem is that Americans, in spite of soaring rhetoric, are not as aspirational as they used to be. They have accepted the “zombie” economy we have which features massive, debt-financed patronage in many forms, (it was the UAW bailout which won him Ohio), misallocation of capital from productive uses to non-productive ones, and regulations to insure that certain segments of the economy–usually containing political opponents–will never be in the ascendancy again. That acceptance, part necessity for some and part ignorance for most, is hard to buck.
It’s tempting to say that, had Romney run a different campaign, he would have gotten a different result. Political pundits will debate this ad nauseam, but the truth is that both candidates made serious mistakes along the way and both probably ran the best campaign they could–best to get them elected–under the circumstances. The Republicans’ problem is that the American people are no longer receptive to a message which features self-reliant economics and self-disciplined morality, and pushing either too hard gets a blowback.
And as for Evangelicals…
One thing that American Christians need to adopt in a hurry is a more transnational attitude. If the Democrats can have a transnational group at its core and still win in this society, why not us? If our real citizenship is in heaven, why can’t we act like it? It won’t be easy, but, as the Anglicans have found it, it’s worth it. In addition to forging needed foreign ties, it would also be a gateway to rectifying one of the more shameful acts of the Republican Party: it’s total failure to come up with a realistic solution for illegal immigrants. The abandonment by Hispanic Protestants of John McCain was an unnecessary blow to both the unity of the Body of Christ and the expansion of the Republican Party. At this point the party may be unfixable, but the Body of Christ is another matter altogether.
We obviously haven’t done this; we’re still victims of our own triumphalistic rhetoric and unrealistic expectations. We’ve taken some blows the last four years, but had Barack Obama taken my “advice” and launched a more administrative “kulturkampf” and not wasted political capital first on healthcare, it would have been worse for everyone and this election would not have been the “horse race” it was.
The best thing that could happen to Evangelicals would be for all of us to wake up later this week speaking a different language and sporting a different skin colour. That way we could engage in the horse trading for patronage while our “politically incorrect” views on life would go unnoticed.
As far as the idiotic chatter about the Republicans in Congress “working with Obama”, the blunt truth is that Obama doesn’t need the Congress of the United States any more. He can ride through the next four years on executive fiat and get away with it, irrespective on who controls the institution. Obama’s biggest problem is that there are too many unexploded grenades out there in the world economy; if one or more of them go off, he may wish that Mitt Romney had beaten him and he was out playing golf.
Then again, that’s where he’ll be anyway…