By Ekerete Udoh
After a bruising electioneering campaign where ideological poisonous verbal fisticuffs were recklessly thrown at each other’s camp; where reason and logic took flight and got replaced with crass, asinine and obtuse 30 second ad buys that signified nothing, but familiar songs to the choir and the congregation that moved no new hearts and minds; where the Republican machine mounted a campaign of lies and obfuscation, of fear and subterfuge and where there was a determined effort to inflame the tenuous race relations that America has been working hard to bury and consign to the scrap heap of history; where two competing visions were presented and Americans called to bear witness and affirm which of the two better speak to their issues and concerns, Americans finally made their verdict known and loudly too: She lined up and behind the Platform put forward by the Democrats and in a move that was heard all over the world, fairly and squarely rewarded the Democrats led by its standard- bearer-President Barack Obama with a resounding re-election and repudiated in a rather humiliating manner the vision that was marketed and prompted by the Republican Party and its vanquished flag bearer- Mitt Romney.
Americans by this act, made it clear that the Republican brand has lost its luster and relevance and until it recovers its true ideological moorings may never be able to compete and win national elections again. To put it starkly, the party may go the way of the 19th Century Whig Party which after decades of being a dominant party that had produced four presidents( William Henry Harrison -1841, later died and was succeeded by John Taylor-1841, Zachary Taylor-1849 and Millard Filmore-1850) and had as members such historic figures as the Great Emancipator -Abraham Lincoln, but which due to disparate currents within its ranks finally flamed out of existence in the 1850s or as historians would say “went the Whig way”. The Republican Party runs the risk of going the Whig way and the signs are all too clear and apparent. The drubbing it got from the American people last Tuesday should bring some sobering reflection on the part of the party’s establishment and its grassroots. It should begin a soul-searching process and seek answers as to why its brand that was once so attractive and dominant in the market place of political ideas suddenly became toxic; why the American people have soured on its juice while getting giddy with the Democratic’s.
The answer in my opinion is simple: America has moved majestically beyond the world that had always defined the Republican Platform: a world of inflexible ideology where it is either my way or the highway, a world where zero-sum machinations is frowned upon and detested, a world and a society that is evolving into a more culturally mosaic path- call it the’browining’ of America, a world where morality should be left to be defined by the individual as opposed to the prying eyes of government, a world where tolerance of each other’s peculiar idiosyncratic predispositions and tendencies is applauded and not condemned or regarded as the ‘other’; a world where immigration is not seen a n hydra-headed monster but a value-added mechanism, a world where saber-rattling and in your-face flexing of hegemonic muscle in international politics is no longer seen as strength but a weakness, since there are other power-blocs in an increasingly globalised world-where you stand to get a lot done when you respect other nation’s unique needs even when their needs may not be met.
To put it simply, the Republican Party must rescue itself from a narrow fringe that thrives in conjuring numerous conspiracy theories about imaginary Armageddon descending upon America if things are not done their way. It must wean itself off of the Talk Radio circuit whose main purveyors are motivated more by profit and how many intellectually vulnerable people it can conscript and render logically moronic in order to continue to have their ratings up and sell more books. The party must stand up to the gods of this medium- the Rush Limbaugh’s , the Sean Hannitys , the Mark Levins and begin to distance itself from the messaging board that these people orchestrate and produce as its talking points.
The Republican Party must realize that with its current stance on issues, it is beginning an electoral fight already 40percent at a disadvantage. With its current Platform that offers nothing endearing ideologically to the Latinos, the African Americans, the single unmarried women and the gays and lesbian community, it is left to compete with just 60 percent of the electorate, which comprises a shrinking and aging white male population, the evangelicals, the married women and the independents. Of this, the Democratic Party, already at an advantage with the 40 percent that the Republican Party had lost due to its stance on issues that concern that electorate, will still garner at least 25 percent of the 60 percent the Republican Party hinged its electoral fortunes upon. As the Big Dog-Bill Clinton once said “the maths don’t add up”. The Republican Party cannot win national elections with 35 percent of the electorate as last Tuesday’s elections so poignantly illustrated.
The Republicans hard-line stance on immigration will permanently alienate it from the nation’s largest minority group-the Latinos (the Latinos edged out African Americans as the largest minority group about five years ago.) The hard-line position of the party on deporting all the 12 million illegal immigrants in the U.S-over 75 percent of which are the Latinos and the definition of this proud immigrant group as criminals, drug dealers and gangsters by most of the leading voices of the Republican Party and the constant haranguing of the Southern border which links the U.S with Mexico as the main conduit for drugs and terrorist to the U.S, while its northern border with Canada suffers no similar stereotype can only do one thing: distance the party from this important constituency.
As long as it continues to negatively stereotype the African Americans as welfare kings and queens and a dependent class even though statistics show that more white Americans are on welfare than the African Americans, as long as the party continues to display overt and covert racist tendencies toward the African Americans, as long as it continues to deploy numerous morally objectionable subterfuge and the employment of government’s apparatus to deny the African Americans the right to vote, as it so sly and openly did in the last elections in such places as Pennsylvania, Ohio and Florida, these Jim Crow era tactics will continue to inflame the passion of the African Americans like it did last Tuesday. I recall an elderly woman in her 90s pushing a walking aid, and standing in front of me at my Queens, New York polling center, advising me- a much younger person not to be discouraged by the long line that snaked past three blocks but to stand firm “because our grandfathers died so we can have the right to vote which they (Republicans) want to take away from us.” Such passions were evident everywhere last Tuesday from Maine to Alaska- all thanks to the subterfuge to steal the election that the Republicans had employed.
The Republican Party inflexible stance on abortion and reproductive rights will forever alienate it from the women vote-especially unmarried single women. Since 2011 when the Republican Party took control of the Congress, it has not advanced any major piece of legislation except those that seek to curtail sharply the woman’s capacity to make informed and logical decisions about her reproductive rights. Important bills like Job Creation Bill, which would have helped create more jobs for Americans unemployed is languishing in the Congress because it was proposed by President Obama. Instead of showing bipartisanship, it has chose to deny Obama major legislative achievements, while such non-mainstream issues as abortion preoccupied its legislative space.
The Republican Party must learn to circulate and send its message from another channel outside of those presented by the Talk Radio circuits. When you preach to the choir you are essentially reaffirming your belief and value system, you are not reaching out to other voting blocs. The Talk Radio circuit is dripped in vitriol, hatred and deep seated anger over what it calls “secular humanism and progressive tendencies” of the Democrats which it had ignorantly dubbed “socialism and redistribution of wealth”- a notion that Mitt Romney trumpeted when he made the infamous claim that 47 percent of Americans arte dependent on government and pays no taxes. That talking point-largely misleading came from the Talk Radio circuit. This medium only tolerates views and perspectives that align with its core ideological platform. These are the people that provide the talking point to the Republican Party and have become so increasingly powerful that even mainstream Republicans must kow-tow and worship at their altar.
As a proud Democrat, I should be happy that the Republican Party has self-imploded; I should be excited that they may be going extinct electorally soon, but I am not. America has always benefited and become better with the two-party system that has defined its politics since the mid 1850s. Between these the two competing visions that these parties have provided, Americans have been able to alternate , hire and fire leaders when it felt they had veered off course. The way it appears now, we may be on our way to having a permanent governing coalition that favors the Democrats, which may breed complacency. I want a resurgent and ideologically flexible Republican Party that Americans can compare and contrast a set of vision and ideas and, afterward make informed decision as to which vision represents their common concerns. The Republican Party of today cannot compete in such an arena and American needs a robust two-party system. But as I stated earlier, I am still in a celebratory mood over my party’s commanding victory and the new coalition that we have built- let the civil war begin within the Republican Party. It will be nice to watch.
For three weeks before the November election, I received tons of e-mails and text messages from Nigerians who wanted my prediction on the outcome of the election. Well…without gloating let me state here that the predictions I offered those gentlemen, especially Yomi from Abuja- a former oil company executive, who once lived in America, Honorable Abdulmumuni Mohammed Kundak- the Bauchi state INEC Chairman who was in New York to observe the elections, Noah Dallaji of the African Children Talents Discovery Foundation, Mr. Anietie from Uyo, Akwa Ibom and numerous others was dead on target. I had told them that Obama was going to win all the swing states except North Carolina, which I stated he will lose not because the electorate there don’t like him personally, but due to the evangelical population, most of them African Americans who voted for him in 2008, but who would be turned off because of the gay marriage issue. And that’s what happened. I had known that the polls with disparate results were mostly tainted by ideological affiliations and that as I wrote here some weeks ago, that American people loved Barack Obama and did not blame him for the economic woes, but George Bush and exit polls affirmed my predictions.
Next week: How Nigerians can fashion a winning coalition based on merit and not on geography