The GOP became the removed-from-power party when Barack Obama won the 2008 election. The Republican Party ran a Senate veteran with a relatively novice politician to follow its flawed Presidential incumbency. They lost the election. The GOP squandered time for the necessity of rebuilding in favor of expedience. By the midterm elections it embraced a faction called the Tea Party. In so doing, the GOP became fractious, forgetting that it took six years for candidate Richard Nixon to successfully reinvent the Nixon brand: Nixon’s the One. Nixon had a plan. The Republican debates demonstrate no such plans from its cast of candidates and puts the brand in jeapordy.
To its credit the Republican National Committee replaced Michael Steele at its helm. However, the RNC retained the same elite hypocrisy as the John Boehner House speakership demonstrates. Being the party of business became the party owned by business. The recent debt ceiling crisis and deficit debate debacle that Speaker Boehner allowed makes matter worse. It difficult to argue that such GOP stewardship has been looking after the best interest of its stock holders, Republican and Independent voters. Some observers allege that the disparities in the Republican Party stem from ideological differences. However, those allegations are phony.
One might think that it must be hard to be both phony and shallow. Failure to distance the Republican brand from its Tea Party faction as well as from self-appointed spokespeople like Rush Limbaugh and Sarah Palin has corralled the GOP into a political pen. Bigots have come to roost. The Republican debates may have demonstrated reach and audience, but the star candidates lack substance. They are becoming highly paid political celebrities who are famous for being famous. Unfortunately, that is all there is to them. They don’t stand for anything; they stand against things, President Obama foremost among all. They don’t represent anyone other than themselves. A television audience is a poor substitute for a constituency.
The concept of “take the country back” deserves derision, not applause. It is an expression of rube rhetoric that may sound good but does not mean anything. Does it mean taking the country back to another time in history, like before the Civil Rights Act of 1964 -- an idea floated by Rand Paul? Does it mean taking the country away from a person or from a group? I ask because neither the President nor the Congress is a foreign occupier of our government. Even so, the Tea Party faction likes the “take back” slogan fragment because it is an identifier, like a verbal secret handshake.
Although they won’t admit it, the Tea Party folks are pissed off because they lost the most important election of our time in 2008. They have hated the loss now for three years. They will continue to hate it for another five years if the secret handshakers in Congress continue to make the O in GOP stand for obstruction.
There is a limit to just how much empty-hat policy the country will tolerate. Griping about everything the president does or doesn’t do is no substitute for policies on issues such as civil rights, ending the wars, and immigration reform. Karl Rove’s acolytes drove Hispanics and Blacks from the GOP to appeal to the white Christian right. That was their master plan, their conservative agenda. Gallup reports, “The Republican Party in 2011 remains demographically and ideologically similar to the way it looked in 2008. The only change is that “Republicans are now slightly less likely than they were in 2008 to be male and to be highly religious.”
The Tea Party rejuvenated the GOP sufficiently in the midterm elections to keep it out of any meaningful rehabilitation. Had it undergone rehab, the Republican Party would have admitted it is powerless over the greed that subsidizes it and that subsequently tarnished America’s reputation and finances. It would have made amends to everyone it hurt, like the American people. Seeking some forgiveness is no longer an option. Repudiation is in order, such as bringing criminal charges against Bush, Cheney and Rove -- indicting them with high crimes and misdemeanors.
Instead, the GOP has served up a meaningless series of television debates among candidates who are incompetent for the presidency. The debates offered lots of talking points but no policy, just empty-hat ritual and rube rhetoric. The debates showed that the party lacks the courage for the conciliation required to rebuild the Republican constituency. It will require those attributes for the Republican brand to become inclusionary, to end obstructionism and to become a smart, loyal opposition.
The “O” in GOP stands for “Old.” The elephant logo dates from 1874. It looks like something one would expect to find hanging on the wall at Applebee’s. I can venerate the GOP for what it once was in my father’s lifetime. “I like Ike” was then. Today, the GOP brand is like old-time religion -- significant to a former time, just not to this time. The once venerable Republican Party has become more about political celebrities, who vie for money by denigrating the incumbent president than it is about conservative policies articulated by credible candidates. Deep down inside, it is shallow.
Originally published as Republican Brand: An Empty Hat on Blogcritics.