Republican Party 2013: D.O.A.?

News & Politics

"Permanent" may be overstating it, but it'll be a long freakin' time before Republicans can win an honest majority absent a Democratic implosion.

There's the oft-mentioned electoral data—those vast demographic changes that are seeing the GOP's ability to win grossly compromised. Mitt Romney's strongest age demographic was seniors, his weakest was the youngest voters. The circle of life guarantees that Democrats will come out of that divide looking quite good. And of course, not entirely unrelated, is the rise of the Latino and Asian vote, as those young groups begin entering the voting age population in force. Remember, every month, 67,000 Latinos turn 18, while 100,000 (predominantly white and conservative) seniors die. Do the math.

Their best hope?

On top of that, there's the GOP's escalating civil war between the party's crazy wing and its even crazier wing, none of which are popular with the public. I don't need to go out on a limb to predict that by the time the dust settles on Election Night 2014, that civil war will have cost Republicans at least one, probably more Senate seats. And with Republicans already fretting about a possible Rand Paul independent presidential bid in 2016, don't expect a truce any time in the near future—not when one side is as ideologically rigid and uncompromising as the hardest Al Qaida elements.

For once, Democrats are (mostly) playing it well. Filibuster reform would've been nice, but congressional Democrats and the White House have congressional Republicans on their heels, and at each other's necks—from the debt ceiling and tax increase votes a month ago (which passed with a minority of Republican House votes and pitted Grover Norquist against the Club for Growth), to an immigration debate that is tearing Republicans apart from inside (pitting the likes of Sean Hannity and Marco Rubio against their party base). And how about the battle over Hurricane Sandy aid, pitting Southern Republicans in the House against Northeastern ones (and Gov. Chris Christie)? Or gun control, where Blue-state and suburban Republicans (like Illinois' Sen. Mark Kirk) will end up on the wrong side of their party's absolutist opposition to any regulations?

Republicans spent the last month working on "rebranding" itself, only to decide that their problem wasn't with the message, but with the marketing of that message. As if their billion-dollar message machine had suddenly malfunctioned, and that some additional message massaging would convince people to start mouthing nonsense about "freedom!" and "government dependency!" And for a party suddenly cognizant of their "branding" problems, they couldn't even offer a unified response to the president's State of the Union address. Instead, their two antagonistic factions had to both have their say.

And then, they proved they hadn't learned their lesson anyway by engaging in an unprecedented filibuster of a defense secretary nominee—because rather than be happy that one of their own conservative Republicans from the "heartland" would helm the nation's biggest agency, they decided to be offended instead. Because Obama. Proving that they are neither interested in governing nor getting elected.

That's not the hallmark of a serious party, and few are treating it as such anymore. How can Republicans heal their internal rift while remaking themselves as a palatable national party? They can't. Those two goals are mutually exclusive.

We are now entering an era in which Republicans can only win elections if they rig the system, like gerrymandering, or if Democrats lose. But until the Republican Party reforms itself, there's no way they win on the merits.

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