Mr. Kristof has a question: “Can Republicans Adapt?” He elucidates how demography factored into the Republicans’ drubbing and is something the party can no longer ignore. As for me, I fear they’ll get more and more intransigent and desperate. It ain’t gonna be pretty… Ms. Collins, in “Happy Days, Even With the Cliff,” says the “fiscal cliff” doesn’t get here till the end of the year, so let’s just enjoy the election coming to an end for now. Here’s Mr. Kristof:
This was one that the Republicans really should have won.
Given the weak economy, American voters were open to firing President Obama. In Europe, in similar circumstances, one government after another lost re-election. And, at the beginning of this year, it looked as if the Republicans might win control of the United States Senate as well.
Yet it wasn’t the Democrats who won so much as the Republicans who lost — at a most basic level, because of demography. A coalition of aging white men is a recipe for failure in a nation that increasingly looks like a rainbow.
Schadenfreude may excuse Democrats’ smiles for a few days, but these trends portend a potential disaster not just for the Republican Party but for the health of our political system. America needs a plausible center-right opposition party to hold Obama’s feet to the fire, not just a collection of Tea Party cranks.
So liberals as well as conservatives should be rooting for the Republican Party to feel sufficiently shaken that it shifts to the center. One hopeful sign is that political parties usually care more about winning than about purism. Thus the Democratic Party embraced the pragmatic center-left Bill Clinton in 1992 after three consecutive losses in presidential elections.
That was painful for many liberals, who cringed when Clinton interrupted campaigning in the 1992 primary to burnish his law-and-order credentials by overseeing the execution of a mentally impaired murderer. But it was, on balance, less painful than losing again.
You would expect the Republican Party to make a similar lurch to the center. But many Republican leaders still inhabit a bubble. It was stunning how many, from Karl Rove to Newt Gingrich, seemed to expect a Mitt Romney victory. And some of the right-wing postmortems are suggesting that Romney lost because he was too liberal — which constitutes a definition of delusional.
Imagine what would have happened if the Republican nominee had been Gingrich or Rick Santorum. We surely would have seen a Democratic landslide.
On the other hand, if the Republicans had nominated Jon Huntsman Jr., they might have been the ones celebrating right now. But he had no chance in Republican primaries because primary voters are their party’s worst enemy.
Part of the problem, I think, is the profusion of right-wing radio and television programs. Democrats complain furiously that Rush Limbaugh, Glenn Beck or Sean Hannity smear the left, but I wonder if the bigger loser isn’t the Republican Party itself. Those shows whip up a frenzy in their audience, torpedoing Republican moderates and instilling paranoia on issues like immigration.
All this sound and fury enmeshes the Republican Party in an ideological cocoon and impedes it from reaching out to swing-state centrists, or even understanding them. The vortex spins ever faster and risks becoming an ideological black hole.
In 2002, a book was published called “The Emerging Democratic Majority.” It argued that Democrats would gain because of their strength in expanding demographics such as Hispanics, Asian-Americans and working women. It seemed persuasive until Republicans clobbered Democrats in the next couple of elections.
But perhaps that book was ahead of its time. This was the first election in which Hispanic voters made up a double-digit share of the electorate, according to CNN exit polls — 10 percent, doubled from 1996 — and more than 7 out of 10 Hispanic voters supported Obama.
That wasn’t inevitable. In 2004, exit polls suggested that President George W. Bush received 44 percent of the Hispanic vote. But Republicans became obstructionist on immigration and then veered into offensive demagogy in opposing the nomination of Sonia Sotomayor to the Supreme Court. The Hispanic vote tumbled by increasing numbers into the Democrats’ laps.
Then there are women. The paternalistic comments about rape by a few male Republican candidates resonated so broadly because they reflected the perception of the G.O.P. as a conclave of out-of-touch men. As Representative Todd Akin of Missouri might put it, when a candidate emerges with offensive views about rape, “the female body has ways to try to shut that whole thing down.” Namely, they vote Democratic.
America is changing. After this election, a record 20 senators will be women, almost all of them Democrats. Opposition to same-sex marriage used to be a way for Republicans to trumpet their morality; now it’s seen as highlighting their bigotry.
An astonishing 45 percent of Obama voters were members of minority groups, according to The Times’s Nate Silver. Many others were women or young people. That’s the future of America, and if the Republican Party remains a purist cohort built around grumpy old white men, it is committing suicide. That’s bad not just for conservatives, but for our entire country.
And now here’s Ms. Collins:
La Di Dah Di Dah …
We have been through a lot, people. But now the presidential race is settled. Barack Obama won. People on both sides worked heroically, and, on Tuesday, their candidates behaved well. This should be a happy time.
Oh, my God! There’s a fiscal cliff! We’re all going to fall over and go bankrupt!
Did you just hear the cheerful rule? The fiscal cliff doesn’t happen until the end of the year when the Bush tax cuts expire and monster budget cuts automatically kick in. Now that the election’s over, everybody will certainly be ready to move forward and work something out.
Except possibly Gov. Rick Perry, who celebrated the president’s re-election by demanding the repeal of Obamacare.
And then there was Donald Trump, who tweeted during the vote count: “Lets fight like hell and stop this great and disgusting injustice! The world is laughing at us.” Actually Trump has no conceivable impact on anything. I just wanted to take this opportunity to reminisce about the time he sent me an irate, handwritten message in which he misspelled the word “too.”
But look at Representative John Boehner. On Wednesday, the House speaker gave a speech in which he vowed to be cooperative. “Mister President, this is your moment. We’re ready to be led,” he said.
Except for a few no-go areas, such as any tax increases on “small business.” You may remember from previous crises that the House Republicans oppose raising income taxes on the wealthy because it would impact struggling small businesses such as a hedge fund manager with an eight-figure annual income.
Boehner also raised a whole new specter of political peril: “going over part of the fiscal cliff.” That sounded less dire, as long as we all stay inside our dangling cars and refrain from making any moves until help arrives.
But, by the end, it sounded as if the only cliff-avoidance Boehner was really interested in was one that raised new revenue through “fewer loopholes, and lower rates for all.”
We have already seen that plan. It was proposed by a man who, on Tuesday, lost the state in which he was born, the state in which he was governor, and the three states in which he owns houses. Thanks to a blog by Eric Ostermeier in Smart Politics, I am able to point out that the only candidate for president who lost his home state by a larger margin than Mitt Romney was John Frémont in 1856. And Frémont was coming out of a campaign in which the opposition accused him of being a cannibal.
While Boehner was explaining the importance of not going halfway over a cliff, or raising income taxes on the rich, he looked somber, and somewhat unhappy. This may have been because his Republican colleagues just lost the White House and the Senate. Or perhaps, it was simply because he’s an older white guy, and, therefore, part of the biggest loser demographic of the election, the flip-side of the insurgent Latino vote.
On election night, people were talking about the not-young male population as if they were a dwindling tribe of graybeards sitting around a sputtering stove in Oklahoma. The Republican strategist John Weaver worried about becoming “a shrinking regional party of middle-aged and older white men.” On Fox News, Bill O’Reilly moaned that “the white establishment is now the minority.”
O’Reilly, 63, added that the new majority was composed of people who “want stuff.” As opposed to older white men, all of whom have signed a pledge never to accept veteran benefits, Social Security or Medicare.
“It’s not a traditional America anymore,” O’Reilly sadly concluded.
Almost everybody thinks of the world of their youth as the traditional world. In the future, today’s teenagers will be looking back and mournfully declaring that traditional America was a place where folks really knew how to Twitter. Still, it’s unseemly to identify the true America as the one where your group ran everything.
Cheer up, white men! You seem to be doing O.K. Next year women will have 20 percent of the seats in the U.S. Senate, and we’re celebrating.
And since it looks as if we’re not getting any downtime, we’ll have to get cracking on this latest Congressional crisis. Root for a bipartisan solution that does not involve the White House being hijacked by a guy who keeps babbling about going halfway over a cliff.
In the past, when these things came up, the president’s big failing was his inability to hide his contempt for many of the people who occupy Capitol Hill. Now it’s a new day, and he needs to be so perpetually and visibly available that the negotiators beg to be left alone.
If all else fails, strap John Boehner to the roof of a car.
And stuff Miss McConnell into the trunk. Then drive very slowly across the country, without opening the trunk.