Commentary: Republicans are the Gone Ole Party
Whenever I hear a Republican tell me “We need to get behind the nominee even if it’s Bush or Christie,” I cringe. I registered as a Republican only in my early 40s after decades of considering myself a libertarian. The change gave me an opportunity to vote in some important primaries while I also became more conservative than libertarian on a variety of issues. Truth be told I still don’t trust the Republican establishment. Charlie Cook writes today at National Journal I may not be alone. You can reference his work here. While the Grand Ole Party can pick up some seats in the provinces during midterm elections when it comes around to the general elections every four years there is a potential crisis brewing.
Clearly Republican numbers are shrinking. Registration among Democrats isn’t setting any records but the party has an advantage in attracting more independent voters. Many Republicans blame it on “messaging” issues. Let me tell you, I’m in the messaging industry. This isn’t a messaging problem. You can show people charts and talk about debt and warn of calamity but the fellow you’re talking with plainly doesn’t care. It’s not about patriotic enthusiasm and saving the country from bankruptcy for rank-and-file Democrats and the party’s affiliates. Liberalism addresses a metastasizing trend. People are more self-absorbed and self-interested. They don’t spend nearly as much time thinking about the neighborhood as they do the food on their tables, the shows on their TVs and the bling on their fingers.
Remember the label applied in the 1980s? The Me Generation. Thirty years later the wider culture has been subsumed. In 1996 I was working as a television news reporter and did a story about the decline in bowling leagues. In a period of a few decades interest in bowling fell by 50 percent. Now twenty years later it must be far worse. People don’t play in nearly as many softball leagues. They eschew service in clubs. Church attendance has been flagging since the early 1900s and while the decline may have leveled off there appears no next Great Awakening on the horizon. People can stay home and entertain themselves with gadgets. I’m not inventing this from thin-air. The op/ed pages in Sunday papers are filled with the sociological warnings.
Thirty years ago I considered writing a thesis about housing construction in post-war America. I postulated you would find a correlation between the rise of television and vanishing front porches. I would be pleased if some ambitious researcher would today test my hypothesis. Backyard decks are now much more in vogue. A townhouse I own near the Delaware and Maryland beaches has no porch but 3 TVs and two computer stations. When I was living there full time the delivery trucks were constantly roving the neighborhood. People were getting goods they purchased online. The nature of shopping has changed. The social aspect is gone.
Liberal politics is tailored for these cultural changes. The left argues man is a creature needing regulation and the world outside is dangerous. Witness the leftist editorial board of the Washington Post here warning “free range parenting” is dangerous. Meanwhile our founders believed people were basically good. These two philosophies are lodged in a battle and the former is supported by news media. Need proof? For 40 years mass shootings have in the United States mostly been in decline. Four decades ago we didn’t have Internet and 24 hour television news. The rise of new media reinforces the view the world is a dangerous place. It tells us nuclear war could break out any day now in the Middle East and the evil ISIS is coming for our heads and, yet. The planet is currently in a peaceful phase in historical context. The number of wars has been in steady decline for 70 years.
Once more I don’t believe any of this matters to a Democrat lusting over the fence at a new car in an adjacent driveway. Advertising media reminds us we’re also entitled to new wheels.
Republicans, I suppose, would have a slight chance of breaking through the clutter but for another issue. Party leaders telling us Jeb Bush is the answer are just as self-absorbed as voters on the left. Bush and Christie are tools of Wall Street and other narrow interests looking at profit more than patriotism (I can’t say the leading Democrats are innocent on this charge but win on perception and an after image of a long dead reality). The Wall Street types want the playing field tilted in their favor and Bush is a tilter. The GOP establishment too often conflates personal interest with national interest. It became blatantly obvious in 2008 and now is etched indelibly in the minds of many voters. The answer I would offer is creation of something new. If the movement known as Tea Party can keep its collective heads together it may solve the riddle. There is a historical pretext. England’s Liberal Party went off the rails early in the last century. A group of disgruntled members formed a labor coalition. Eventually and after outgrowing the liberal wing the Labor Party sprouted. The liberals were left table scraps. Republicans need a similar diet.