I used to think Republicans were a monochromatic monolith specializing in Group Think, though without the Think part. The Republicans’ reaction to the reelection of Barack Obama, however, has shown a surprising diversity in GOP thought. At least five distinct -approaches have emerged.
The Vince Lombardi Republicans. Political parties exist to win, this group says. If you don’t win, you can’t enact your agenda, can’t protect your values, can’t advance your cause. The Lombardi Republicans are pragmatic. They saw President Obama win 72 percent of the Latino vote—the fastest-growing segment of the -electorate—and they had a “Ven a Jesús” moment. Right-wing radio and TV personality Sean Hannity, who used to assail even the modest DREAM Act as “amnesty,” now supports a more comprehensive—and dare I say, -liberal—immigration policy. Since the election, Speaker John Boehner has looked with favor on passing immigration reform, and GOP Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina is reportedly working with N.Y. Democratic Sen. Chuck Schumer to fashion an immigration compromise.
Same with taxes. Bill Kristol, the influential conservative intellectual who served in the Bush 41 White House and runs The Weekly Standard, took to the airwaves days after the Obama victory and said, “It won’t kill the country if Republicans raise taxes a little bit on millionaires.”
This pragmatic strain is in keeping with the finest traditions of Republicanism. As you can see in Steven Spielberg’s masterful Lincoln, the Great Emancipator was also a great pragmatist. And none other than Ronald Reagan, the alpha and the omega of modern conservatism, signed both a progressive immigration-reform law and numerous tax increases.
Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal seems to be a Vince Lombardi type. He has bluntly said the GOP must “stop being the stupid party” and went on to decry the current Republicans’ fetishistic worship of big money, telling Politico, “We cannot be, we must not be, the party that simply protects the rich so they get to keep their toys.”
I happen to think the Vince Lombardi types are right. But, let’s face it, they’re outnumbered by less admirable Republicans.
The Sour Grapes Republicans. For a movement that aspires to macho stoicism, there sure are a lot of whiny wusses in the GOP these days. I hate whiners. I coach my kids in baseball and basketball, and I have two inviolable rules when they lose: don’t blame the other team and don’t complain about the officials. Sour Grapes Republicans do both. Donald Trump, the village idiot of a city of 8 million, took to Twitter to call President Obama’s reelection “a total sham and a travesty,” to propose a “revolution in this country,” and to allege (falsely) that Obama had lost the popular vote. Clearly, Trump is living proof that hair spray causes brain damage.
Conservative media critic Brent Bozell is another Sour Grapes Republican, but his focus is on the press. “The media,” he writes, “lauded Obama no matter how horrendous his record, and they savaged Obama’s Republican contenders as ridiculous pretenders.” Umm, Brett, Herman Cain. Michele Bachmann. Rick “Oops” Perry. They actually are ridiculous pretenders.
The Flat-Earthers. When you listen to Flat Earth Republicans, you’d think they actually won. Karl Rove, the legendary Republican bogeyman, led groups that spent $300 million in opposition to the president and congressional Democrats. Ninety-four percent of that money was spent supporting candidates who lost. Rove’s analysis after the election: “We did good things this year.” Really? It’s not like they spent the money trying to do something truly good, like artificially inseminating zoo pandas or inventing untraceable email so Army generals can make love as well as war. No, Rove spent hundreds of millions and lost bad. That’s an abysmal year. But you wouldn’t know it listening to Flat Earth Karl.
Paul Ryan is another denialist. The president’s victory, he said, surprised him because the Democrats -really turned out their vote in the urban areas. Really? Of course the Obama-Biden campaign ran up the score in the cities—that’s a century-old pattern for the Democrats and could not have been a surprise. What Ryan ignores is that President Obama carried plenty of rural and suburban counties—and that he even won Rock County, Wis., whose biggest town, Janesville, is the home of one Paul Ryan. Won it big, too: 61-39 percent. If Paul Ryan wants to see a person responsible for Mitt Romney’s defeat, he needn’t travel to America’s urban areas; he just needs to look at the cocky, callous Ayn Rand disciple posing in those embarrassing workout photos.
The Crazies. An Arizona woman allegedly ran over her husband with her SUV when she learned he hadn’t -voted. She was apparently upset that Obamacare wouldn’t be repealed. Let’s hope her poor husband gets all the health care he needs. Lord knows he’s suffered enough.
Sadly, she’s not the only ideologically inspired wackjob. The treasurer of the GOP in Hardin County, Texas, has called Democrats “baby-murdering, tax-raising socialists” and proposed that Texas have an “amicable divorce” from the United States of America.
Don’t laugh. An online petition calling for Texas to secede has garnered more than a hundred thousand signatures, despite the fact that it says secession “would protect it’s citizens’ standard of living.” “It’s”? -Really, my fellow Texans? If you’re going to secede, you ought to at least do it grammatically. Imagine how embarrassed we’d be if Thomas Jefferson had started the Declaration of Independence, “When in the coarse of human events ...”
The Blame America Firsters. On a conference call with his major donors a week after the election, Mitt Romney blamed his loss not on his painfully lame campaign style, his unfocused advertising strategy, or his multiple gaffes and insults. No, he blamed the American people. President Obama, he told his fellow millionaires, followed “the old playbook” of giving “gifts” to special-interest groups, “especially the -African--American community, the Hispanic community, and young people.” First, Mitt, if it was an old playbook, why weren’t you ready for the plays? And more important, what were those gifts? Romney was specific: “With regards to the young people, for instance, a forgiveness of college-loan interest was a big gift,” he said. “Free contraceptives were very big with young college-aged women. And then, finally, Obama-care also made a difference for them, because as you know, anybody now 26 years of age and younger was now going to be part of their parents’ plan, and that was a big gift to young people.”
He still doesn’t get it. A man who went to the finest universities on his daddy’s dime thinks helping poor and middle-class kids get a degree is a “gift.” A man who made millions while canceling the health benefits of factory workers thinks being able to keep your health care is a gift. And contraceptives? Doesn’t Romney know that subsidized contraception for poor women was written into the law by then-congressman George H.W. Bush and signed by President Richard Nixon? That’s not some newfangled “gift” from President Obama.
The real “gift” of 2012 is that, in the toughest econ-omy of our lifetime, the American people had the good sense to turn away from a party that holds them in such contempt.