The Republicans aren’t the party in crisis: the Democrats are.

As the media and pundits begin to process the results of last night’s election, the consensus is that the Republican Party is in crisis. It pandered too far to white people and religious conservatives. It alienated Hispanics with it’s hardline anti-immigration stance. It failed to connect with African-American voters and a rapidly diversifying electorate.

But despite those failures, the Republican Party presented a fairly coherent ideological platform – free market economic policies coupled with social conservatism. The same ideas it’s presented since Reagan. And while it’s true, as Corey Robin noted, that “it’s safe to say that The Real America, The Heartland, The Silent Majority…no longer governs the land,” the Republican Party remains a distinct, ideological entity. The Republicans aren’t the party in crisis, the Democrats are.

The Democrats, it seems, won mainly by not being Republicans. They avoided making insensitive comments about rape and catered to the electorate’s increasingly liberal views on gay marriage, marijuana, and reproductive rights. But this is a challenge to the continuity of Democratic Party: the time will come when the issues of gay marriage, marijuana, and reproductive rights are no longer election-defining issues. In a more progressive and ethnically diverse country, and in the near future, the current disagreements regarding the above-mentioned issues will be resolved.

Until now, the Democratic Party distinguished itself from the Republican Party as the party of minorities and social progress. But when the minorities become the majority, as they will soon, and the increasingly progressive attitudes of Americans translate into legislative changes, the Democratic Party will no longer be different from its previously more sinister counterpart. I say this partially in jest but also to make a serious point: how will the Democratic Party continue to justify its existence? Instead of being presented with a choice between two ostensibly different political parties (as we have up until now), we will be presented with the choice between two parties that clearly agree on fundamental ideological issues. It will no longer be possible to pretend that voting for the Democrats is progressive and voting for the Republican is regressive while both parties promote austerity measures, sustain economic inequality, receive support from the same millionaires and billionaires, and continue US military intervention abroad. We’ve lived for so long with the illusion that we make a choice when we vote. What will happen when there obviously is no alternative to the parties that sustain the status quo?

For the next couple of days, weeks, and even months, liberals will celebrate the results of last night’s elections and the future they foretell – a future of a more diverse and socially progressive country. But from an economic perspective, the future remains grim. Obama will likely implement austerity measures in order to stave off a major crisis as the fiscal cliff approaches. Severe economic inequality will persist as policies that favor the very wealthy go unchallenged. Drone warfare and military adventurism will continue to take the lives of innocent people.

For those of us on the left, the crisis of the Democratic party is an opportunity to build viable alternatives to the current political monolith – to fight corporate interests and the wealthy’s stranglehold on the political system. The time may come when the Progressive caucus and Democrats concerned with economic justice, like Elizabeth Warren, abandon the failing organs of the Democratic party to create a new, ideologically distinct political body. But that would require widespread disillusionment and frustration with the lack of a real choice at the polling booth. Until then, we must agitate, organize, and wait.

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2 Responses to The Republicans aren’t the party in crisis: the Democrats are.

  1. Pragmaticus says:

    Why do you conclude that simply because the Republicans have a coherent ideology that they are not in crisis? Particularly in the Midwest where memories of the GOP opposition to the auto bailout persisted, a great deal of America was alienated precisely by their free market evangelism. The Democrats are now in a position now to define a stronger ideological identity in the Senate through their deeds and, now that the President has secured a second term, to pressure the Republican House to abandon their obstructionism, whereas the Republicans must either peddle backwards and erase the image of them as racist, sexist, elitist lumps that has been built up over decades (pretty much since Nixon) or accept irrelevance as demographics march on. It is easier to create than destroy when the medium is the hearts and minds of millions.

  2. Josh Leifer says:

    The Republicans have problems, there’s no doubt about it. But they aren’t in crisis. If anything, free market economics won resoundingly in this past election. The debate about social issues have settled, or will be setted in the near future – the issues that defined the Democratic Party. Stripped of it’s socially progressive facade, the Democratic Party does not differ ideologically from the Republican Party. Both support austerity and free trade, and both are sponsored largely by the wealthy. Therefore, the Democratic Party is in crisis because it can no justify it’s existence. If it isn’t going to challenge Republican economic reasoning, what purpose does it serve?

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