Last week, in an attempt to appear relevant, House Republicans banded together to vote down Barack Obama’s $819 billion stimulus package. After four straight years of heavy losses, however, the move became nothing more than a symbol of the GOP’s imminent collapse. The bill they opposed passed 244-188. Plagued by dwindling numbers, outdated ideology, and a homogenous “rich whites only” image, the Republican Party is now being forced to make a choice. Change or die.
The success of the Republican Party since the Reagan Revolution was made possible by the coalition of fiscally conservative bankers and socially conservative southerners. This unlikely team put Ronald Reagan in the White House in 1980 and 1984, took over the House and Senate in 1994 to combat Bill Clinton, and narrowly won George W. Bush the presidency twice, in 2000 and 2004. Partially in response to the failures of the Bush presidency, and partially due to the lackluster campaigning of John McCain and Sarah Palin, the coalition collapsed in 2008, forcing fiscal conservatives to jump ship as Republican rhetoric swung into the realm of racism and fear. The result was a Democratic sweep, putting Barack Obama in the White House with a near filibuster proof Congress.
The scramble since November 5th has been as entertaining as it is pathetic. Lacking the ability to block liberal legislation, the Republican Party has transformed into a party of socially conservative whiners led by Rush Limbaugh, a controversial conservative pundit. In a short article published just before inauguration day, Limbaugh wrote, “…I’ve been listening to Barack Obama for a year-and-a-half. I know what his politics are…I hope he fails.”
After a week of dodging questions related to Limbaugh’s treasonous remarks and his newfound central role in Republican policy, President Obama issued a statement. He said to Republican leaders in Congress, “You can’t just listen to Rush Limbaugh and get things done.” This was said soon after John Boehner, House Minority Leader, cited the funding of bike paths, Planned Parenthood and a cleanup of Washington DC’s National Mall as the reasons why Republicans refused to support Obama’s massive stimulus package. And, despite Boehner calling Republicans “the party of better ideas, better solutions,” recently on Meet the Press, their only contribution to the political process as of late has been the enigmatic SarahPAC, Governor Sarah Palin’s pompous tribute to herself.
The collapse of the Republican Party, as wonderful as that sounds, is dangerous for democracy. Since the bitter Republican/Federalist rivalries of the 1790s, America has maintained a balanced government with two viable parties keeping each other in check. As the Republican Party implodes and the Democrats enjoy their unbridled chance to lead, a strong opposition party with fresh ideas must rise from the ashes of neo-conservatism and provide Americans with their most important right. Choice.