House Republican Leader John Boehner (R-Ohio). (Photo: Getty Images)
Some weeks ago, I penned an article titled "Dump the GOP," which argued in part, "President Obama can work with the Democratic congressional majorities to pass future legislation, perhaps making sure to get one GOP vote in the Senate to thwart a filibuster. If no such vote is forthcoming, he can dump any quixotic quest for one or any GOP votes and dare the GOP to filibuster widely popular bills. He's not going to get GOP support for anything, so why bother trying? Let them keep it up and lose every time, and let them try to stand on that record for the 2010 midterms."
It appears my advice in this matter was a tad premature. President Obama does not have to dump the GOP, for it appears quite evident they are doing just fine dumping themselves without any help from the administration. As it turns out, this has not been a sudden thing, but a long and drawn-out event now entering its third year. The Republican Party's descent from total domination of the entire federal government to a state of utter disorder has come to pass after a clearly identifiable arc of events we will call, for the purposes of explanation and with tongue firmly in cheek, "The Laugher Curve."
On Monday, November 6, 2006, the Republican Party was enjoying the fruits it had gained after three victorious election cycles in a row, two presidential and one congressional. Republicans had been in control of the White House for six years, and barring a slight hiccup when James Jeffords woke up on the left side of the bed, they had also held sway over Congress for twelve years. The Executive Branch under Bush so thoroughly dominated the agenda of the Legislative Branch that the two were essentially transformed into that Unitary entity long desired by the likes of Vice President Cheney.
That Monday, as it turns out, was the GOP's high-water mark. On Tuesday, November 7, 2006, the Democratic Party took back the House and Senate, and for all practical purposes, the presidential administration of George W. Bush was politically finished, and the power of the Republican Party began to collapse. The writing had been on the wall all year; a multitude of congressional sex-and-bribery scandals had riddled the GOP, a mudfight over immigration had split their coalition, and party leader George W. Bush was garnering the lowest presidential approval ratings in recorded history. The Democrats did not run a particularly sharp or effective campaign to retake Congress in 2006, but the GOP did so good a job at damaging itself that such a campaign was not actually needed.
Flash forward to the presidential campaign of 2008, when the chaos that has so overtaken the Republican Party truly began to sink in. Candidates Romney and Giuliani found themselves crippled by the Huckabee campaign's overwhelming popularity with the GOP base. In primary after primary, neither was able earn enough base votes to survive, but Huckabee could not gain enough non-base votes to prevail, either. In the end, all three campaigns annihilated each other, and only John McCain remained.
The GOP base, however, reviled McCain's positions on immigration, campaign finance reform, the environment and Bush's tax cuts. McCain had no hope of winning without those base voters, so his campaign spent the entire general election season trying to back its way into the good graces of the GOP base, going so far as to tap Alaska governor and base darling Sarah Palin to join McCain on the ticket. Already burdened by so much bad GOP baggage, the disastrous Palin nomination struck the McCain campaign - and indeed the entire Republican party - like an Exocet missile below the waterline. The whole lot of them have been sinking ever since.
Today, the Democratic Party controls both the Legislative and Executive Branches. President Obama, through masterfully delivered public addresses and carefully articulated policy initiatives, now dominates the high ground of American politics. Meanwhile, the GOP has been defending policies only popular within its base to hold what it still has, which marginalizes the party even further. The entire Republican Party, it seems, has spent the last week bending a knee to Rush Limbaugh, whose far-right grandstanding is leading the GOP even further into darkness.
Sooner or later the party will re-emerge, for that is the way of things in American politics. In the meantime, however ... hoo, boy, what a glorious mess this is.
Dump the GOP? No need; the GOP is doing just fine dumping itself, and neither the Obama administration nor the Democrats need to lift a finger. They are obeying a very old maxim of Chicago politics: never get in the way of a perfectly good train wreck.