It’s easy to underestimate the election chances of the Republican Party this fall. Its antics in recent months make people wonder if the GOP has a secret death wish.
A recent article in the New Yorker is subtitled, “Can the GOP save itself?” A fair question for a party that seems to be shooting itself in the foot at every opportunity.
Just consider the track record of the Grand Old Party over the last few months:
Its opposition to a working-class payroll tax cut played poorly in Main Street America, so poorly in fact that Republican Party leaders in the Senate and House did an about face.
Its war on the labor movement alienated the GOP from millions of working families.
Its hostility to the use of contraceptives turned off large sections of women irrespective of party affiliation.
Its muted reactions to the misogynistic comments of radio host Rush Limbaugh directed at college student Sandra Fluke left people of various political persuasions upset and anger.
Its unconcealed appeals to racist sentiments among white voters met a chorus of criticism.
Its closing of space between the religious and secular spheres didn’t sit well with many Americans – nor does its eagerness to go to war against Iran.
And, and by no means least, its presidential hopefuls have turned the Republican primary into a political circus, leaving tens of millions – Republican, Independent and Democrat alike – shaking their heads in disbelief.
No candidate, including Mitt Romney, has been able to win anything close to a majority, and with each state primary – and we still have many to go – each candidate seems to grow smaller in stature.
I could go on, but I think that I have made my point: The GOP, through its own doing, has hurts its chances in the November elections.
And yet it would be a mistake to think that a rout of the Republican right is all but guaranteed.
Why do I say this?
First, money can’t necessarily buy an election, but it can make a difference in the outcome. And the Republicans are well endowed. The New York Times reported that Republican super political action committees are out raising Democratic super PACs by a wide margin.
According to the article, American Crossroads, the leading Republican super PAC took in $51 million in 2011 and plans to raise $240 million this year. Charles and David Koch, the billionaire conservative oilmen, the article goes on to say, expect to raise an additional $200 million for other groups opposing President Obama.
Meanwhile the Democratic super PACS, Priorities USA and a related group, raised only $6.1 million through the end of 2011.
Second, it is unclear how voters will react to the fusillade of negative campaigning that will come from the mouths of the Republican candidates and their PACS.
Lacking a positive political message, the GOP will employ large doses of racism, male supremacy and other backward ideas in the hope of winning white workers – the so called Reagan Democrats – to their column in November.
Third, the Republican Party hopes to disenfranchise enough voters, especially youth, people of color and seniors to turn the election in its favor. Its campaign, which must be resisted, is hitting full stride.
Finally, the trajectory of the economy as well the unfolding of events in the Middle East introduces a large element of uncertainty into the elections. If the positive trends in economic growth and employment continue, then President Obama and the Democrats’ election prospects improve considerably; a sweep becomes possible.
If on the other hand, the upward advance peters out then it’s anybody’s election.
As for Iran, the situation remains volatile with considerable pressure on the president from various quarters, including Romney, Rick Santorum and Newt Gingrich, to take military action. So far he has wisely resisted as well as counseled Israel’s Netanyahu government to do the same.
If war breaks out, however, all bets on the outcome of the fall election are off.
So no one who hopes to move the country in a progressive direction should relax until the polls are close on Election Day. The Republican right will not bow out of politics without a struggle.
The American people can win in November, but only if we take nothing for granted.
Photo: A view of the White House from the Washington Monument. (HarshLight/CC)