Anti-tax, anti-reality zealotry smacked down in San Diego, statewide, and nationally, but a more moderate and modern Republican Party is needed for good governance long term.
Last week, Republicans across America—and especially in California—were dealt a pretty crushing defeat. Despite confident predictions to the contrary and despite a pre-election victory dance being done by Republicans and their talking heads on Fox News, Barack Obama thrashed Republican standard bearer Mitt Romney to win a second term as President of the United States.
But to hear Republicans tell it—particularly from the friendly confines of the conservative media cocoon—not only did Mitt Romney have this one wrapped up as early as last July, but the Senate was going to join the House of Representatives solidly in Republican rule. It was only logical. After the Republican wave of 2010, where Democrats saw huge majorities in both chambers of Congress wiped out and state houses from coast to coast turn from blue to red in protest of a languishing economic recovery, one could easily make the argument that Republicans would continue the trend.
Even here in California, and especially locally in San Diego, Republican puffery ruled the day. Our own (and only major) local newspaper boldly declared that Mitt Romney would win “in a landslide.”
Nationally, Republicans declared that the momentum was clearly on Romney’s side, and that he was going to cruise to victory on Election Day because of it. This despite nearly all of the national polls showing a small but steady lead for Obama. Republicans even went so far as to create their own polling site, called ”UnskewedPolls.com” purporting to take the “liberal media bias” out of the major polling data. This “unskewed” polling data had Mitt Romney in the lead electorally, predicting a Romney victory with 317 electoral votes (Obama ended up with 332 once the votes in Florida were finally tallied, a landslide by any measure). On election night, Karl Rove had an absolute conniption when the Fox News crew declared Ohio for President Obama, denying the reality of what the math plainly declared.
It turns out that most of the reputable national polls had it pretty much right. In fact, most of them held a slight bias in favor of Romney—even the Democratic leaning ones. And the most accurate ones turned out to be those Democratic leaning ones, while Republican leaning polls were wildly off the mark.
Republicans predicted a Romney victory in most of the battleground states that Obama won in 2008. They insisted that they were ahead in Ohio and Florida and Virginia; they predicted victory in Michigan, the heart of the auto industry that Obama is credited with rescuing; in the final week of the election, they even had Pennsylvania leaning in Romney’s direction. Romney lost every single one of them.
Locally in San Diego, Doug Manchester’s UT-San Diego commissioned its own poll that showed Republican mayoral candidate Carl DeMaio—whose candidacy the newspaper unabashedly and vociferously promoted—leading Democratic candidate Bob Filner by 10 points. This despite an independent poll conducted by Survey USA and commissioned by KGTV Channel 10 that showed Filner in the lead by seven points. Filner, of course, won the election outright by more than 10,000 votes.
Statewide, even after getting absolutely shellacked in 2010 in the California midterm elections, Golden State Republicans failed to learn their lesson and came back to get further embarrassed in the 2012 statewide elections. After blocking any and all tax increases in the State Legislature (as they were able to do since Democrats were just barely shy of the two-thirds majorities in both houses that would have been required to overcome Republican opposition), California voters overwhelmingly approved two ballot measures, 30 and 39, that actually raise taxes. What else did Republicans get for their intransigence? Democrats further cemented their advantage in Sacramento, zipping past that two-thirds majority in both the Assembly and the State Senate. Republicans are now literally powerless in statewide politics.
To make matters worse, Republicans are now poised to lose three more seats representing California in Congress, as Mary Bono-Mack has already lost the Palm Springs area seat she held since 1998 to Raul Ruiz; Dan Lungren is about to lose his Sacramento area district to Ami Bera; and here in San Diego Brian Bilbray is falling further and further behind Scott Peters as the mail-in and absentee ballots continue to be counted.
The point is, Republicans locally, statewide, and nationally, repeatedly and systematically denied the basic and simple facts that were laid out right under their noses. Facts and reality simply didn’t matter. They were fed a narrative within their media cocoon and refused to believe any information emanating from anywhere else. Republicans are now being forced to admit that they were lied to by what former George W. Bush speechwriter David Frum calls “the conservative entertainment complex.”
For example, Frum elaborates, “The problem is the steady stream of misinformation they (conservative media, i.e. Fox News) feed about basic matters of government, such as that the United States spends $1 trillion a year on “welfare”; or that taxes went up in President Obama’s first term; or that the economy did not grow over the past two years. All false, all frequently reported; all widely believed.”
Republicans were caught entirely off guard at the resounding rejection of their policies and their candidates. They somehow couldn’t predict that poo-pooing the rape of a woman, the rejection of science, and the desire to cut taxes by an additional 20% on the wealthiest Americans despite overwhelming evidence that voters wanted to see taxes go up on the richest among us would not sit well with the majority. They somehow couldn’t understand that villainizing average workers who work hard and simply want to earn a livable wage was not a successful strategy for victory.
The Republican Party has increasingly become the embodiment of the lunatic fringe where conspiracy theories are proven and accepted facts and actual facts are dismissed as evil, socialist nonsense.
Despite the continued celebrations and unrestrained glee of Democrats nationally and locally, this is not a good thing.
In the short term, California will be far better off for being under complete Democratic control. The Legislature will finally be able to deal with some serious problems in a meaningful manner without being blocked at every turn and offered no viable alternatives and absolutely no compromises. Nationally, Barack Obama has been given a mandate to be more aggressive in dealing with “The Party of No.” And while Republicans still control a decisive majority in the House of Representatives, the Senate is even more solidly in Dem hands, and the ability for Republicans to filibuster absolutely EVERYTHING is likely to be seriously curtailed.
Still, it is not healthy in the long term for our political system to remain so completely polarized to the point where one side sees the sky as blue and the other side insisting against all evidence it is red. Ours is a two party political system (with the ability to accommodate more, if others become viable), but it does far more harm than good for one of those parties to operate in a vacuum in complete denial of facts—indeed of science itself (see: Global Warming, or that “legitimate rape” causes a woman’s body to shut down in order to prevent pregnancy to name just a couple of examples). It does our system of governance no good for one side to so despise the very concept of government as to actively seek to undermine it at every turn; to express an explicit desire to dismantle protections designed to guarantee equal access and equal opportunity to all Americans, not just those with extraordinary financial resources or religious zealotry on their side.
In the long run, we need viable ideas and arguments to come from both sides of the aisle. The late John Butler, the former General Manager of the San Diego Chargers, used to say that having more than one opinion—sometimes several opinions—on a draft eligible player was necessary in the evaluation process because no one was always right, and no one was always wrong. And when there were differing opinions on a player, the truth and most accurate assessment could be found somewhere in the middle. The same way of thinking can be applied to our political system.
But when one side is so repeatedly, radically, demonstrably wrong, it’s damn near impossible to take anything they have to say seriously. Absolute power corrupts absolutely, and in the long run Democrats are sure to screw things up when left completely to their own devices just as Republicans did when they reigned in totality over the federal government during the George W. Bush administration. America and California needs a viable and reasonable Republican Party, at least or until a viable third option emerges; one that is willing to accept what basic mathematics tells them. But that will not happen until they abandon the politics and policies of the 1950’s and join the rest of us in the 21st Century.
Republicans need to step out of the Fox News/conservative media complex cocoon and start listening to the voice of reason. Maybe then they’ll begin to have something constructive to contribute to the conversation. But that will require intelligence and logic and an ability to listen to opposing points of view, not staunch ideology based on fantasy.
Follow Andy on Twitter at @AndyCohenSD