December 26, 2013
The loss by Mitt Romney in November 2012 can be interpreted in more than one way, but it became clear this past year that the movers and shakers in the Republican Party simply could not come together in drawing any clear lessons. Instead, just as I had feared, the Tea Party faction redoubled its attacks on the GOP "mainstream establishment," including many loyal and stalwart conservatives. It's an ugly situation, and the infighting has virtually crippled the party just when the catastrophe of Obamacare is becoming obvious for nearly everyone to see. Whereas the Republicans should be in a position to build their majority in the House and retake a majority in the Senate next year, that is in doubt because of challenges to GOP incumbents by Tea Party candidates.
In September, it became clear that the right-wing Republicans were determined to push their no-compromise agenda on Capitol Hill, and the result was a partial shutdown of the U.S. Government. Texas Senator Ted Cruz did a 21-hour quasi-filibuster that accomplished absolutely nothing, while two weeks of chaos and confusion in early October failed to defund Obamacare, or even make any serious dent in spending levels. It seems like a waste of time, but from the perspective of a kamikaze pilot, perhaps there is some logic to such hopeless attacks. "Standing up for principle!" How long are the GOP "grassroots" minions going to fall for that kind of garbage? As I wrote on Facebook,
I hate to say it, but I'm going to take a bit of perverse delight in watching the various Republican factions blame each other for this disaster. It was as inevitable as the Titanic sailing toward the iceberg in 1912. How anyone could have thought something good could come out of the government shutdown is beyond me.
And in a slightly different context, referring to an article in the Atlantic (I believe), I wrote:
The article neglects to mention the one clear accomplishment from the shutdown: IT ENERGIZED THE GOP BASE! The true-believing apostles of limited government (since Jan. 20, 2009, that is) are more convinced than ever that Obama keeps winning because of "spineless establishment RINOs." The possibility that Obama came to power precisely because of the fiscal disaster unleashed by the Base's hero, George Dubya Bush never crosses their mind. Many sensible people who consider voting Republican remember when "deficits didn't matter" (Rove), and are rightly skeptical of amnesiac Tea Party rhetoric. That's a big part of why the GOP keeps losing.
The consequences of the GOP hell-bent approach became evident in the November 5 elections, when the Democratic Party swept all three executive branch races for the first time since the 1980s. Ken Cuccinelli did better than most of the polls indicated, but it was still a clear margin of defeat. The Obamacare disaster made that race a lot closer than it would have been otherwise. So now the next governor or Virginia will be a man with little or no experience in state politics and tons of ethnical baggage from his years of being a political-business crony: Terry McAuliffe. Beginning with low expectations, perhaps he'll turn out better than most people think. He can't be much worse than the incumbent governor, Bob McDonnell. His multiple violations of the public trust just boggle the mind, and it's hard to see how he could ever resume a career in elective office.
As for the other two races, Ralph Northam easily beat right-wing preacher E.W. Jackson, who was prone to saying outlandish things about abortion and other hot-button issues. His candidacy was doomed from the moment he was nominated by the Republican convention last summer, and that only happened because he was a compromise candidate after the delegates deadlocked. Finally, Mark Herring barely edged Mark Obenshain, extending his lead from about 150 votes to nearly 900 after the recount was done. Obenshain seems like a pretty good guy, and the family name carries lots of weight in Virginia. (His father was nominated for the U.S. Senate in 1978 but died in a plane crash, forcing the Republicans to pick John Warner instead. The rest is history.) Obenshain had a pretty harsh voting record, however, often siding with the religious right extremists. That might have proved to be the decisive factor in this very close race.
I have updated the Politics in Virginia page with the November election results. I also spent a lot of time compiling the House of Delegates races, trying to find out how many of the races were really competitive. (Answer: not many.) More on that topic to come in January.
NOTE: I haven't blogged at all about politics since last January. In part, that reflects my general pessimistic attitude that Republicans and/or conservatives are ready to face reality and begin making adjustments, but it's also a reflection of how little spare time I have had this past semester. I was teaching simultaneously at Central Virginia Community College and Sweet Briar College (the latter for one semester only), and it proved to be very exhausting. I don't regret it, though. I really enjoyed teaching at Sweet Briar again.