Could it be that the Republican Party’s unity against anything President Obama proposes is starting to crumble? 2010 seems like it was a long time ago – especially since the Republican resolve came from Mitch McConnell’s infamous dictum that his top priority was to make Obama a one-term president.
A year ago, it would have been hard to imagine that Republicans could defy Grover Norquist and vote to raise taxes, endorse an immigration reform plan that allows for a path to citizenship and even oppose the NRA by supporting gun control. But that’s exactly what has happened as the party of “No” has seen the shortsightedness of this strategy.
Even though the Senate defeated legislation last week to extend background checks, this vote only reaffirms the perception that they are out of touch with what Americans want. The legislation, co-sponsored by Republican Pat Toomey, has support from prominent Republicans like John McCain and Susan Collins. Many others have expressed support but lacked courage to make the final vote. It will be only a matter of time before such legislation becomes law.
Marco Rubio, of course, came out in support of the immigration plan on seven Sunday morning shows and Illinois Republican Senator Mark Kirk and Rob Portman, who recently became the highest profile Republican to support gay marriag, followed suit.
So what does this mean for the future of the party? Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus issued a sweeping declaration that basically said not to change any issues where the party stands but to voice opposition in a friendlier manner. Although the Republicans are becoming more open to the most common sense legislation after four years of an Obama presidency, as a whole, they have not learned anything from their defeat last November. Instead of regrouping and modernizing, the party establishment has remained ideologically stagnant, while former rank-and-file members have embraced popular, common-sense solutions. In fact, they seem opposed to many issues where there is a strong consensus.
Ninety percent of Americans favor background checks for firearm purchases and 69 percent favor allowing undocumented workers to become legal residents. It shouldn’t be a surprise that, according to a recent Gallup poll, the biggest critique Americans have of the Republican Party is that it is unwilling to compromise.
This is bad news for Republicans – the divide between the moderate and far-right wings of the party continues to grow and the leadership – be it Priebus, McConnell or John Boehner – is on the wrong side.
So where does that leave the Democrats? They shouldn’t become lethargic or too comfortable with their current ideological and demographic advantages, but things are looking better now that some Republicans have begun to see things their way.
When President Obama was revealed to be Time Magazine’s Person of the Year last December, he was noted for championing a host of solutions to change the trajectory of the United States.
Beginning with Franklin D. Roosevelt’s election in 1932, Democrats won the White House in almost every election until 1968. The only exception was Dwight D. Eisenhower, a moderate Republican for his time. Subsequently, from Richard Nixon’s administration all the way until 2008, Republicans have held the presidency for 28 out of 40 years.
Republicans have been fretting the past few months that they have lost the popular vote five of the last six presidential elections – for good reason.
Ideas that have been the foundation of the modern Republican Party, like opposing gay rights, ignoring scientific consensus on the reality of global warming and refusing to invest in new infrastructure and research, among others, have caused the party to fall out of favor. 60 percent of people under the age of 30 voted for Obama this past November and that might be the worst news of all for Republicans.
There could very well be a new long-term consensus beginning with the Obama administration that would propel the Democrats for a generation. It should not take too many more elections to decide if the Republicans will wise up or not.
Online Editor Ross Fogg is a College junior from Fayetteville, Ga.