Dark Days for the GOP

We’ve reached a turning point in American politics.  Many of the standard arguments which once worked so effectively for the conservatives have lost their impact, and the re-election of President Obama is our sign.  Social Security is a case in point.  Conservatives could once scare seniors by making them think Social Security and Medicare would go broke at any moment, but they’ve shown their hand a few too many times in the last few years, and in the process reminded senior voters that they don’t care about the solvency of Social Security and Medicare because they want to eliminate Social Security and Medicare.    Voters know circular logic when they see it.

Since it’s inception, conservatives have been referring to Social Security as Socialism.  President George W. Bush campaigned for privatizing it — a scheme which would have resulted in Americans losing their entire retirement in the market crash that came later.  Rick Perry insisted Social Security is a Ponzi scheme.  Paul Ryan proposed voucherizing so-called “entitlement” programs.  It’s clear, Republicans are not fans of social welfare and retirement programs.  So why do they expect voters to believe they care about those same programs?

I have paid into Social Security for my entire working life, the same way you would pay into a private retirement plan or insurance policy.  Why should I give my support to a party that wants to privatize the fund and give some CEO control of my money?

The argument usually goes like this.

The liberal says, “I’ve paid into Social Security and I deserve to get my money back.

Then the conservative says, “but that money is already spent, you’re not gonna get it back.  We need to reform the system.

To translate that, what the conservatives are really saying is, “Look, I know I just said I want to eliminate Social Security, but what I’m really trying to do is save Social Security.  Eliminate Social Security to save Social Security.

Republican Congressman Rick Berg tried to run this logic on North Dakota voters.  Berg even added a gimmick — his mom.  She told North Dakota voters Berg would never do anything to harm Social Security and Medicare because she relies on the programs.  Really?  One of the richest members of the House of Representatives left his Mom to fend for herself on Social Security and Medicare?  Pardon me if I don’t buy it.  The voters didn’t buy it either.  Berg lost.

When it became clear the voters weren’t buying it, the conservatives took it one step further by insulting the people who relied on Social Security and Medicare.  Mitt Romney called them members of the 47% who would automatically vote for President Obama.  Paul Ryan classified them as takers who benefit at the expense of the makers.  I’m shocked that strategy failed.

Moving beyond Social Security and Medicare, conservatives encountered the same problem with other big campaign issues.  Their arguments about the debt and deficit failed, so they began insulting the opposition on a regular basis by starting conversations with statements like “I guess you don’t understand basic math.”  Their arguments on abortion and women’s issues failed, so they moved into insults and condescension with comments about rape and promiscuity.  Their arguments about immigration failed, so they started stereotyping Latinos as illegal immigrants.

In hindsight, there’s no big mystery on why the Republicans lost this election.  They were angry, their candidate was terrible, and their strategy was worse.  These are dark days for the GOP.