The Elephant Graveyard

The People have spoken. They have said that hope is stronger than fear, that love is stronger than hate, and that big money and voter suppression will never overcome the will of America. As such, President Barack Obama will retain that title for a second term. His victory was decisive to say the least—claiming a near 100-vote lead in the Electoral College and a slim majority of the popular vote. This election may not seem special to some. At the national level, not much appears to have changed. The Republicans still control the House of Representatives, and so will likely still block Obama’s agenda even though their previously stated goal of making Obama a one-term president has been left unfulfilled. Yet this election signals a shift in American politics—a shift that has grave implications for the future of the Grand Old Party.

Leading up the election, the GOP was convinced it would take the nation by storm. The economic recovery was not nearly as fast as many Americans had expected—and few understood whose fault that actually was. They characterized Obama’s campaign as the death throes of a desperate man who knew he had been beaten. Yet they lost. They lost ground in both houses of Congress and Obama still sits in the Oval Office (after winning every battleground state but North Carolina). You could say that their candidates were weak—Mitt Romney has certainly had trouble appealing to the most hardcore members of the party. Yet I see the cause as something different, more dramatic, and less restricted to just this election. The times are changing, and more importantly, the people are changing. We’re nearly 13 years into the 21st century, and we’re finally starting to act like it.

Obama’s victory marked a change in American politics and a split in the electorate. Obama enjoyed overwhelming support from black and Hispanic voters (whose presence in the electorate has been steadily increasing year by year), women, and the LGBT community. Same-sex marriage was legalized in Maryland, Maine, and Washington, and the amendment that would have banned it here in Minnesota was defeated. Wisconsin elected Tammy Baldwin, the state’s first female senator and the nation’s first openly lesbian senator. For the first time in history, women will hold a full one-fifth of the U.S. Senate. The rest of America has made it clear where their allegiance lies.

Dick Morris, a political commentator who had originally called the election for Romney, said on Fox News the day after the election, “The percentage of single women, minorities and voters under 30 is so large at this point that unless the Republican Party fundamentally changes its appeal to those voters, it can never win an election.” This has long been known among Republicans. South Carolina Congressman Lindsey Graham, former George W. Bush campaign adviser Mark McKinnon, and others within the GOP have said that they cannot continue to win on the backs of angry white men alone. They will have to evolve if they want to retain credibility. When women, minorities, and young people went into the voting booth, they saw in the name labeled “Republican” someone who at best did not represent their interests, or who at worst actively opposed them. Whether the person was calling pregnancy from rape a gift from God, calling for the elimination of Pell Grants or the privatization of Medicare, or fighting to cut the social safety net that so many depend on all so that millionaires can enjoy even lower tax rates, it’s safe to say that the GOP does not appeal to these voters. Which of course made Obama and the Democrats the natural selection.

If the GOP ever wants to be a powerful party again, they will have to change their outdated and extremist views to appeal more to the whole of America. Politics is no longer just a game for old white men to play. And in this new America, the Grand Old Party is no longer grand. It’s just old.


photo credit to Pat Willams (cletch on flickr)

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