The Party That Can't Shoot Straight

By all accounts, this was the Republicans’ election to win: an economy stuck at a level insufficient to generate enough jobs or income gains; a somewhat disillusioned Democratic base; and a stunted generation of young adults who supported Barack Obama last time by a margin of 71-29 and are unlikely to do it again.

Yet Obama’s lead keeps widening. It’s worth unpacking why.

The most obvious reason, of course, is the sheer clumsiness of Mitt Romney, God’s gift to the Democrats. If a computer had been asked to generate a candidate guaranteed to alienate independents and divide his own base, it could not have done better.

The far right’s effort to “let Ryan be Ryan” only shines a spotlight on the unpopularity of the GOP’s designs for Medicare and Social Security, while Romney’s serial gaffes lead Senate candidates in swing states to disparage their party’s nominee and right-wing commentators to weep.

Another reason is that demographic trends are relentlessly moving in the Democrats’ direction, as long predicted in the Prospect’s pages by John Judis, Ruy Texeira, and others, and recently confirmed in new studies. As Tom Edsall recently wrote in The New York Times, these trends have moved Pennsylvania solidly into the Democratic camp, to the point where the Romney campaign has pulled ads, essentially writing off the state (voter suppression and all).

Republican Senator Lindsey Graham, in a remarkably candid impromptu chat with a few reporters, bitterly blamed the GOP ticket’s woes on shifting demographics.

"If we lose this election, performance as president doesn't matter like it used to," Graham said in a discussion with The Huffington Post and several other reporters outside the Senate chamber last week.

"There's a reason no president has ever been reelected with an economy like this," Graham said. "It would tell me that it's more of a demographic race for president than it is a performance-based race. And that may be where we're at as a nation, and maybe where we are as a party, and we just don't know it."

Graham, who said earlier that the country wasn't "generating enough angry, white guys" to keep the GOP in business, was referring to the growing trend of Republicans depending on white voters to win elections.

Even so, a decent candidate might have done far better against Obama. What’s remarkable is that a large Republican field was incapable of generating such a candidate. It’s instructive to ask: Was this outcome more random luck for the Democrats, or does it say something deeply structural about the Republicans? Is a true conservative, by definition, a hapless candidate because reality is on the progressive side and the far right just attracts goofballs?

That’s comforting to believe, but too facile. Surely a candidate like Jeb Bush—conservative enough for the Tea Party base, able to masquerade as a moderate, and competent at politics—could have done much better against Obama and even might have defeated him. Fortunately for Democrats, his name was Bush (third time is no charm), and Jeb sat this one out.

But something deeper is at work. If Romney does lose, it’s inconceivable that Republicans will decide they were too right-wing for the country. Rather, they will conclude that their standard-bearer was both too moderate and too incompetent. The Republicans will be even further in the grip of the far right for a generation to come—because there are no old-fashioned moderate Republicans left to take their party back, and at the base, right-wing populism is stronger than ever among maybe 40 percent of the voters.

Electorally, that should bode well for the Democrats. But what kind of Democrats? At the presidential level, the party keeps drifting center-right. That’s annoying at the level of principle; as a matter of sheer pragmatism, center-right isn’t solving dire national problems such as an eroding middle class, a parasitic financial system, and a ruined generation of young adults, not to mention global climate change.

Going forward, it will be a war between a far-right Republican Party that has partly succeeded in so wrecking government that voters are not sure whether to trust it and a Democratic presidential party that seems incapable of seizing transforming moments and solving deep-seated ills. This will change for the better only when Democrats manage to nominate a compelling progressive.


Democratic presidential party that seems incapable of seizing transforming moments and solving deep-seated ills.

Doesn't Obamacare qualify?

That's a close question. Obamacare doesn't stop the spiral of increasing healthcare costs because it keeps the same private players, insurance of healthcare industries in the driver's seat. The crisis is still mounting. On the other hand Obama recognized the issue and addressed it. A "D" for results a "C" for effort

There's a rumor circulating on the web that obama is the best moderate Republican president we've ever had. But don't tell that to the Limbaugh crowd.

That's why we need a more conservative President. The $16 trillion & rising national deep & deepening economic troubles are unacceptable to rational, prudent people .

An intriguing article, and I agree with you argument that a progressive candidate is needed to fix the problems you've listed. But let's be honest, given the type of government the US has, we need more than just a progressive candidate. We need a progressive with 60+ Democrat senators and 220+ Democrat representatives. How is that going to happen?

One way it could happen is if the Republicans continue to tilt right until they are finally repudiated by the voting public. That could happen either after they take the country down in a horrible recession (like 2008, but there would have to be a Republican president). Or it could happen if the public decides that the Republican congress members are obstructing needed government. This is a tougher case to prove, but Obama is starting to already lay the groundwork for this charge (as he argues changing government from the outside).

Right now I like the prospects of the Republicans turning right, if only in the outside chance of seeing the right finally repudiated.

The republicans are finding it impossible to defend their selfish positions. Here are the headliners. Vote Straight Democrat please. Thank you.

Conservatives believe in rights of the Constitution. But corruption is big issue now days. So think twice before choosing voting.

If the GOP were what the liberal media says they are they wouldn't be a threat to Obama. Everything I see these days seems to be anti-Romney. So much for fair and balanced coverage.

The 47% remark was taken out of context. Mother Jones has admitted that they left out a couple minutes of tape right after the 47% part and they won't post the whole thing even though Romney has called on them to do so. Unreported by our liberal media, surprise, surprise. Don't trust the media alone, folks. How many anti-Obama headlines have you seen compared to anti-Romney ones? The answer doesn't say as much about the two men as it does about the bias of those who write about them.

Read both sides for balanced coverage because it doesn't exist in one place and both sides leave stuff out. How can you make an informed opinion if you consider only one point of view? You can't. Thanks for listening.

A two minute gap when the video camera cut out of a recording of an hour or so is not "taken out of context". What do you think Romney said in the gap? "If I wanted to destroy my campaign I would say-", or " Everything I have said in the past half an hour and everything in the next half an hour is nonsense, so eat your $50,000 with of dinner and I will give you two minuted on what I really think, really compassionate, thoughtful, Presidential material. Ignore before and after, eh?"

If you want pro-Romney coverage, try reading some right-wing websites; Fox News. Taken out of context? You are deluded. If they were taken out of context why did he admit that they were "inelegant." Taken out of context, what a joke. As much as you would have it the other way, he said exactly what he said. Nothing was left out of the video, it was 100% pure Mitt Romney, an arrogant and incompetent fool.

"'There's a reason no president has ever been reelected with an economy like this,' Graham said." Aside from demographics, this is the Republicans' second problem. They believe the MSM, which keeps up a steady drumbeat of "terrible economy." But the economy is NOT terrible. Yes, the unemployment numbers are terrible. And the monthly job creation numbers are not great. But the rest of the economy is and has been recovering since July, 2009. Those without jobs are suffering. But those with jobs are experiencing a static or up-treading economy. The stock markets are approaching record territory (thus, 401(k)s--into which many workers have been forced--are growing), corporations have lots of cash on hand, manufacturing is slowly increasing, interest and mortgage rates are low, and inflation is low. Only the job indicators are doing poorly, and as we all know, they are lagging indicators. Demand remains strong, and sooner or later, the job indicators are going to catch up. Bottom line: the terrible economy just isn't quite that terrible.

Except for unemployment increasing in 26 states, millions of people giving up looking for work which is artificially lowering the unemployment rate, the median household income going down, record numbers of people on disability and food stamps, a record 15% of Americans in poverty, another trillion added to the debt, gas prices at $4 a gallon, and GDP decreasing when adjusted for inflation.

Definitely some bright spots there.

As for the stock market, when you give bankers interest free money to play with thanks to QE 2 and 3, stock prices are going to go up. A high DJIA does not indicate a healthy economy.

Jobs may be a lagging indicator, but isn't three years a long lag. I notice you didn't mention the equity loss in housing, and although it may have bottomed out, it shows no signs of improving. Banks won't lend and business is hanging on to cash reserves because they are afraid of the economies future. At the current rate we will have a $24T in debt by 2016. Also by 2016 92% of our GDP will go to entitlements and paying interest on our debt. Between 2014 and 2106 most of Obamacare taxes will kick in. Our credit rating will probably drop two times, particularly if we continue with no budget. An unending QE means our money will be worth less and less resulting in high inflation. Government will get bigger, further draining the economy. Taxes will increase on job creators. So while you can make a superficial case the economy is ok now, how does it project over the next four years?

An alternate perspective:
I'm enjoying these skewed polls. So long as it looks like Obama is going to win, the economy will stay in the dumpster. Romney will pick up more donations and increase the GOP voter pool. What's not to like?

Not to like for you is that Mr Obama is going to win by a street, since the polls aren't skewed. And you actually want to see the economy in a bad state. to improve your chances next time? Typical Republican?

If the Democrats do regain a super-majority I hope they go nuclear on the Republicans. Repeal Obamacare and do the right thing: Create single-payer government option which would force private insurers to be honest or go out of business. Liberalise immigration to a great degree, open up ESL schools and cooperative farms for immigrants. Forge close ties with the Southern hemisphere so that we stand as equals. Become the cornucopia of the planet!

We were the cornucopia of the planet. The democrats started messing that up under Clinton. The whole idea of the U.S. being the world leader, our children having a better future,etc. etc. will be forever gone if Obama is re-elected.

It is incomprehensible to me someone thinks "dire national problems such as an eroding middle class, a parasitic financial system, and a ruined generation of young adults, not to mention global climate change", could be solved by moving so far to the left that government controls everything. Is there historically or currently anywhere in the world that concept is working very well. Quite the opposite, these problems are the direct result of us moving to far to the left. It started with Wilson then FDR, LBJ, Nixon, then Clinton, and now Obama made it worse. Who we elect won't make it immediately better, but it will determine how bad this mess gets and how long we stay in it.

I suppose that you could start by examining China' s rise over the past fifteen years ... granted that they are about where we were in the late 1940's in a lot of areas of development, but their rise is meteoric, it will be interesting to say the least in watching their development over the next years as they sort out (financial systems function, individual freedoms, etc.) The fact is - they are growing their middle class, our rightward policies have been destroying ours for thirty years with devastating effect. This does not seem to be a trend to continue to emulate. So, I cannot sign on to your continuation of your move to the right as an answer. Historically.

Kuttner: Not to pick on you specifically, but why don't you liberals EVER write articles describing why America should elect your man o'bama? What has he done that is actually good for America? Why should we believe this year's promises when he broke ALL of the ones he made last time around? That sort of thing. Is it just too easy to stick with the old class-race warfare model? To keep making up these "widening" polls showing 2 or 3 point leads (when o'bama if he were even half a president should be 20 points ahead)? Much easier to destroy the opponent than to deserve re-election. Let me tell you this... all of us may not love Romney I, for one, will vote for whoever is running against o'bama because I - LITERALLY - do not think America will ever recover from four more years of thug rule.

"Yet Obama’s lead keeps widening. It’s worth unpacking why"

Where to begin?

1: Because the economy fell apart under a Republican president and after a decade which saw Republicans in control of congress far more often than Democrats?

2: Because historically, Republicans have presided over worse economies and ballooning deficits, while Democratic presidents have presided over strong economies and shrinking deficits?

3: Perhaps it is because Republicans start wars, fail to finish them, and put the cost on the credit card, while Democrats finish the wars and get stuck cleaning up the mess. Or perhaps people LIKE to be somewhat respected by foreign nations, rather than loathed?

4: Perhaps it is because the Republican party has moved far to the right, has completely re-defined the term obstructionism, and is now chock full of crazies, liars, cheats, and bigots?

5: Perhaps it is because Republicans refuse to compromise, even when the deals are obviously in the favor, simply because they would rather spite the president than have him look bi-partisan?

6: Perhaps it is because the Republican agenda is anti-science and full of lies, distortions, and proud ignorance?

I don't know how anyone could vote for the modern Republican party nowadays. Whatever sanity they had back in the Reagan era was long ago ceded to centrist Democrats.

Ogemaniac has been on a steady diet of what ever the dems are serving up I'm concerned for his or her mental health. Romney will make a great president and Obama clearly has done a poor job. This election is not complicated people. Clint is right, we've got to let him go.

As long as Republicans are able to filibuster in the Senate, then Democrats will not be able to deal with "dire" problems, whether they control the House or not.

As long as Democrats are able to filibuster in the Senate, then Republicans will not be able to deal with "dire" problems, whether they control the House or not.

I respectfully disagree. The repubs winning the majority constitutes a mandate.

There are a bazillion examples of Obama's real failures & incompetence. Yet, apparatchiks hope they can paint Romney with a description that aptly fits Obama by just saying it & giving a few lame examples.

But Romney is just a few points behind in the (Dem manipulated?) polls, & he's poised to win the Presidency of the United States. That coupled with his life's history paints a portrait of an amazingly competent man of extraordinary accomplishment.

So, don't let the MSM fool you again.

The truth about lies,

Listen up all ye who think Robert is a person that will tell you the truth.

There are two groups of journalists, those that tell you what they think and believe, and those that tell what they want you to believe. Generally, the first group describes conservatives, and the second group describes liberal progressives.

The fundamental difference is philosophical. A natural fit for Liberals is a Machiavellian world view - that is, since they are certain that they are smarter than you, it is moral to say and do anything to manipulate you to vote the way they want you to vote. Conservatives adhere to the belief that all men are created equal - seeing you as equals and respecting your liberty to think for yourself.

I believe Kuttner can be whatever he wants to be. I just want everybody to understand each other.

This election is huge, let's get it right.
no pun intended.

So liberals are liars? Was Cheney a liberal when he told us that beyond doubt Saddam had WMDs? If liberals do not believe all men are created equal why did they work so hard to pass the various civil rights acts in the '60s? And why are they working for gay rights now? Is it liberals or conservatives that support the ACLU and its work to protect the First Amendment and free speech?

Just because liberals understand basic science and things like evolution and global warming does not necessarily make us smarter. But, at least, it does make conservatives more ignorant.

What has worked best for this country in the past is a combination of relatively fiscal conservatism combined with reasonable social progressivism. When the 2 are at odds the best attempt possible should be made to implement the social program.

Now, to be clear, I am talking about real fiscal conservatism where the the budget deficit is the the primary concern--not low taxes bringing low unsustainable revenue. Controlling the deficit is done through judicious spending and tax policies that provide sufficient tax revenue without hindering real investment---not just in the stock market but in building and growing of small businesses This is what it was like under Bill Clinton. Even Ronald Reagan was aware of the connection between the deficit and growth and therefore raised taxes over and over once the deficit was getting out of hand.

Unfortunately, what followed Clinton was the bizarro world of republican free spending on everything but the country's social well being without thought for the deficit while taking steps to reduce tax revenue at the same time.

These were the exact opposite of the policies that brought our country relatively consistent growth since the end of WW 2.

"At the presidential level, the (Democratic) party keeps drifting center-right"? My Lord, man, what are you smoking? Obama is the most left-wing inhabitant of the Oval Office in American history.

Both parties are self-serving (or bank-serving) disasters.

People who want a resurrection of civil rights do not have to vote for either Too-Big party.

It would be great to have a debate with non-bank-owned candidates, say Gary Johnson and Jill Stein.

I assume these new two would not ask for all the special clauses that the opera stars on transmit-only want, so we could hear some substantive issues aired. Besides, I want to see a woman in a debate. I would also like to see a moderator with moxie.

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(If there's one thing we know about comment trolls, it's that they're lazy)