The GOP’s Big Bet on Big Bucks

The Republican Party is dying.  The GOP is on the wrong side of irreversible demographic trends and quickly changing social perceptions. And yet, the party continues to promote policies that push away minorities, young people, women, and the ever-expanding group of people on the losing end of increasing wealth disparity. It seems that without some quick adjustments, the party will fade into insignificance within a decade in all but a few southern states.  But Party leaders aren’t stupid.  They see the cliff coming. So, what’s the plan?

There are three steps: The first step (a short-range measure) is to wait for the Democrats to screw things up, which they will surely do.  The presidency has been with one party more than eight years only once since Truman—that will be once in 64 years by 2016.  So it’s quite likely, statistically, that the nation will be looking for an alternative to a Democrat in the White House in the next presidential race.  The Senate under Democratic leadership has certainly been ineffective, but that argument can also be made against the Republican-run House.

But the drawing of district lines in the House allows for greater gerrymandering, entrenching a party in a district for ten years until a census demands a new gerrymandering—er . . . redistricting (great article on this).  This is the second step (mid-range measure): continuing to 1) ensure that the power to draw new districts in GOP-run states (Texas is the most relevant example as the second-most-populous state in the country) remains in the hands of GOP-run state legislatures rather than independent commissions; and 2) use that power to isolate minority communities, isolate progressive areas, and pit successful Democrats against each other (the Democrats do the same thing in states like Maryland and Illinois). The hope is that these enclaves of extremes will keep the party alive longer and dampen the influence of the opposition.

The third step—and the long term “solution”—is to throw a lot of money at the problem, to try to buy relevance.  The hope is that statistics that affirm that the candidate who spends the most money wins most of the time will hold true.  And since the Citizens United Supreme Court decision allowing virtually unlimited spending on political campaigns, the GOP and groups backing GOP causes have excelled at raising and spending money.  Although President Obama seriously outraised Governor Romney, “outside spending” (not the candidate and not the party) in the 2012 presidential race was 76% for the GOP and 24% for the Dems.  Individual contributions to the Romney campaign came 18% in small denominations compared to 32.6% to the Obama campaign.  In other words, the GOP has some deep pockets supporting it—and that is the plan for the future, to count on those deep pockets who think that keeping the GOP in power will make their pockets deeper.  In other words, it’s to create and prop up an oligarchy that will in turn prop up the GOP.

It’s a flawed plan, though.  In the past, because the sources of information were held by so few hands, this plan may have worked. But today when people connect personally through social media, the opinion and recommendation of a friend (three times more trusted than any kind of mass media) will carry the vote.  The GOP will continue to get out the vote on issues that are triggers to gun owners (see what I did there?), anti-abortion folk, anti-gay rights folks, defense hawks, etc., but each of these groups is dwindling.  The GOP will outspend the Dems, and it will work for some people.  But it won’t be enough, in today’s flat world, to win over enough voters to keep the party alive.  In its place will rise a libertarian party that doesn’t care what people do in their own bodies and bedrooms, and that embraces people crossing borders for a better life.  It won’t tie itself to religion, and it will eschew military entanglements.  In other words, it will be a party that is a lot more appealing to everyone the GOP is ticking off right now.

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