A pink slip from red states?

During the 2012 presidential campaign, GOP candidate Mitt Romney took flak for having suggested that he “liked to fire people” who provided services for him.

What he said reinforced the image of the former Massachussets governor as a heartless plutocrat, but that was probably unfair. Which of us hasn’t been fed up with the ineptness of a hair-dresser, car mechanic or gardener at one time or another? Isn’t there some emotional satisfaction in taking your business elsewhere?

If that’s true, then the biggest layoff in recent history should probably involve the Republican Party. The conservative portion of the American electorate has, for the last 40 years or more, essentially “hired” the GOP and it candidates to roll back or head off various (as they seem) hare-brained policies of the Democrats.

Donors big and small had poured hundreds of millions of dollars into the campaign coffers of Republican candidates for president and have had some success at getting their man into office. But on the matter of actually installing the conservative agenda, not so much.

When I think of the hot-button issues of red-blooded right-wingers, my list looks something like this:

• overturning Roe vs. Wade and severely limiting abortion.

• balancing the federal budget and retiring the national debt.

• reducing the role of government, especially the national government, in people’s lives.

• battling environmental laws and regulations which they feel are anti-business.

• resisting the creep of “immorality” (i.e., homosexuality, sex outside of marriage, single parentage, etc.).

• “returning” Christianity to a more central role in American society.

Glance over that list again. Any solid progress toward any of those goals? None at all.

Roe vs. Wade remains the law of the land after nearly 40 years. Some red states are trying to pass laws which are end-runs around the ruling, but they are challenged (and usually overturned) in federal courts.

The national debt ballooned under Reagan and both Bushes; it shrunk under Clinton and is declining under Obama.

Government’s role is more intrusive than ever, from the Patriot Act to NSA snooping to Obamacare.

Environmentalism is advancing on all fronts; plastic bags are facing bans, electric cars are the Next Big Thing and “sustainability” is rolling across the land.

Gay rights have expanded dramatically as marriage and military service are now widely open to homosexuality. There’s little evidence that people are waiting until marriage to have sex and the rate of births outside of marriage is at all-time high.

Finally, the percentage of Americans who self-identify as “no church or “no religion” is spiking.

If you giving the Republican Party a performance evaluation, you’d have to conclude it has been a complete failure to achieve any of these conservative goals. If he was your dry cleaner, he would have shrunk all your clothes.

Now, to be fair, a political party is an imperfect instrument to achieve social goals. Fighting “immorality” with politicians is like battling forest fires with gasoline.

But under the most narrow of definitions, this marriage between the GOP and the cultural right is a rocky joining at best.  The Republicans have lost the popular vote in five of the last six presidential elections, and demographic changes (rising number of Hispanic and Asian voters, especially) don’t augur well for the future, as well as the party’s generally low standing with women.

For those red state stalwarts, though, the alternatives look sparse. They know that their “employee” can’t deliver the goods, and that indeed the goods may soon be off the market because of a lack of appeal to the wider public.

But until the Grand Old Party changes into something else, or its supporters abandon a laundry list of largely lost causes, the gaps between goals and gratification will just get bigger and bigger.  Time to consider a pink slip for the red state party.


Jim Tortolano is the managing editor of E Pluribus Unum. He is a professor of journalism and has been a newspaper owner and military reservist. His first novel, “No Justice,” is available through Amazon’s Kindle e-book service.

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