The NYTimes has a story today that Barack Obama has finally been declared the winner in North Carolina. It hardly seems to matter since Obama already has well over the needed 270 electoral votes as well as an 8 million popular vote plurality. But there is something satisfying about Obama winning in North Carolina – long thought to be safe country for Republicans and John McCain.
There is a rising crescendo of stories emanating from Republican insiders lamenting now the “sorry state of the McCain campaign” or the “Palin Hillbillies doing in the the GOP election strategy”. To be a Republican is to have to experience the Housing -Mortage bubble again. The Republican Bubble and Brand with its Politics of Fear, Partisan Discipline, Trashing Liberals and KneeJerk Populist Constituents has been exploded by the Obama victory. And the North Carolina victory marks that so well.
As a thinking person, I have had to cringe when President Bush or Vice President Cheney unleashed yet another attack on Socialist Liberals or Environmental Dandies. They delivered to their key constituents by stalling regulations, helping global warming deniers and let the markets hold unfettered sway. By agreeing with their self serving constituents that markets were efficient and did not need controls and regulations, they allowed more than one bubble to blow up in the faces of the USA Commons. Yet they themselves are not effected; their handlers and backers will see to that. Just watch how much is invested in the Bush Presidential Library and what posh corporate Board positions they manage to pull down. Its almost a repeat of their VietNam draft dodging ways. Meanwhile the USA and the world suffers a debilitating recession and the financial system continues to sputter for years to come and all those innovation and financial services jobs are endangered because American Financial institutions are at the Heart of the Over-leveraged and Derivative-based Darkness that is enveloping the World’s Financial markets.
So I would like to think that at least Bush and Cheney in ruining the Republican Brand as evidenced in 8 years of ever worse Executive administration and their electoral demise as shown in the the North Carolina win, put the GOP’s Politics of Fear and Republican-lead Smear Mongering permanently out of political fashion.
But the 30 years of Republican-articulated and Republican-perfected fear politics sharpened to corrosive effects by the likes of Lee Atwater and Karl Rove are not gone by any means. It as if the lessons of end-means corruption by President Richard Nixon were lost. Just right shift political shenanigans and corrupt end-means methods to the electoral process where the electorate are so frazzled, disconnected and/or dumb, you can pull anything over on them. But now there may be an effective antidote. Barack Obama’s true first contribution to US politics is how to run a campaign that can neutralize many of the Fear+Smear tactics employed by Republican political “strategists”.
Now what the Republican elites will have to decide is whether to move to more inclusive and less abusive politics. This will mean less corrosive partisanship and a broader “base” which allows them to bring in Latinos, Youth, and broader female support. Or will the Republicans simply re-arm with even greater and more powerful Politics of Lies, Fear and Smear as heard in the last days of the Presidential campaign (Obama-Biden are socialists, fear a liberal-dominated Democratic majority in Congress and the White House, and the onslaught of 527-sponsored Reverend Wright “videos ads” is just a sampler). The Republican Party must decide to be either continually “cleverly divisive” or take another path. Given the lack of action by such GOP intellectuals W.F. Buckley, D. Brooks, W. Kristol, C. Powell, and A. Sullivan among others to reign in the Bush/Cheney excesses, I am not sanguine.But Obama at 364 electoral votes says more of the same old, same old GOP is not viable.
Look at the record. The Financial Debacle started in the US and now enveloping the World is the classic result of Financiers gaming themselves – playing a Ponzi scheme on their own colleagues to their own and the Commons detriment. In a like fashion, Republicans have been Gaming the Electorate. The GOP is playing Chicken with the Truth, relying on a lazy electorate to snap to Republican favor and attention on a small subset of kneejerk issues. What remains to be seen is how these parties: the Rabid Evangelicals; the Financial Elites; the Guns-at-any-Pricers; the Dwindling Intolerants of Latinos, Gays and “Foreign Immigrants”; and their Republican Bagmen adapt to the future given their own great missteps. It is not certain they will be rational . Rather I suspect each group will be striving again for new model, a new way to “game the system”. But if they do so, then the USA as a World Power will be gone before the Arctic Ice disappears – currently estimated to be 2050. And some estimate it will only take a fifth of that time.