After Mitt Romney’s loss to Barack Obama, there has been much speculation about the future of the Republican Party. The question “Can the GOP evolve and thrive again?” is being asked by many – but, notably, seldom by Republicans. Judging by their choices in recent years, they appear to have taken a different approach to their party’s survival.
Even faced with massive changes to their environment, Republicans have, quite characteristically, chosen to avoid the subject of evolution. After all, it’s a topic many of them want given only cursory attention even in the school curriculum.
This is hardly pragmatic, given that for some years now their party has survived and sometimes prospered primarily by subsisting on a steady diet of angry, middle-aged, Christian, white men. When Ronald Reagan won his seat, 89 per cent of the voters in America were white; their numbers now are at 72 per cent and declining.
Once, great herds of angry, middle-aged, Christian, white men roamed the electoral plains of America. Now, these plains are thick with Latino voters – 50,000 new Hispanic Americans reach voting age every month.
As well, godless – or at least differently godded – voters gallop majestically there, alongside prancing herds of men who finally said, “Actually, I’m not so much angry as I am gay. I’m thinking about getting married.”
Today, single women roam free on the political Serengeti, making up a quarter of the voting-age population. Flocks of young people without health insurance fly overhead.
But the increasingly emaciated Republican Party remains maladapted to this new environment. Not all that enthusiastic about sex, able to dine on only a single and declining resource, the GOP faithful basically just amble about in this changed ecosystem, like so many political pandas cursed to live in an era of not very much bamboo.
The response from Republican supporters to their party’s plight is almost heartwarming. Many of the GOP have spent hours painstakingly bottle-feeding abandoned Republicans until they’re ready to restate their skepticism about climate change – sometimes washing oil into the feathers of conservative congressmen, in the hopes of making them more appealing to voters.
Fox News works tirelessly to gather white, Christian men together and make them angrier. Fox is like a hothouse dedicated to cultivating Republican-voter bamboo, but still there’s not enough.
Politically expensive attempts at forced-breeding programs have achieved nothing – the migratory single women voters cannot migrate fast enough when they hear about that sort of thing – but still the GOP persists in these efforts.
Millions of dollars, much of it coming from a small group of extremely wealthy private donors (casino billionaire Sheldon Adelson alone splurged $60-million), were spent on GOP advertising in this past election. Most of these ads were designed to remind Americans that, with just one vote every four years, they could give hope to a threatened species.
Sure, the GOP platform suggests, the Republican Party exists, bald-eagle-like, miles above the average American family, and, like that bird, it is not remotely interested in helping you put your children through college.
Still, the advertising plea to voters goes, the party is symbolically, sentimentally important to America. It’s not in touch; it’s emblematic. Just as God created it, they say.
Some days, it’s hard not to feel for Charles and David Koch. The Koch brothers are the Diane Fossey and Jane Goodall of endangered conservatives. But by attempting to turn America into a giant Republican Party preservation park, they may be standing in the way of actual evolution – a process that involves natural selection, change compatible with reality, and letting go.
(Right now, the Republican Party has vestigial birthers, for example, and that is a problem for them.)
Okay, forget about the pandas and the bald eagles. Try instead – you may not break a sweat – to think of today’s Republicans as dinosaurs, predominantly.
Naturally, only a dinosaur will get the nomination. Anyone hoping for a shot at that ticket better at least pretend to be clawed, scaly and nostalgic for the Jurassic era.
That is what the formerly centrist, pro-choice, pro-health-care Mitt Romney did. He faked dinosaur during the primaries because that was the only way to win.
The problem is that when the primaries were over, the GOP had to run that fake dinosaur – and his actual, throw-a-bone-to-the-base, allosaurus running mate before an increasingly mammalian electorate.
Not surprisingly, the response to that ticket was frequently a confused and frightened, “Oh, dear God, this is terrifying! Look! It’s a dinosaur!” And also, “What’s with the guy with the big teeth and the plastic tail?”
The rest, thank god, is natural history.