Since November 7th - or at the latest, November 8th - it's looked almost like a rush for the exits by the under-50 GOP crowd. The appearance, at least, is that moderate conservatism is tentatively poking its head back out from the shadows where it's been hiding since sometime during the second Bush administration. Voices of inclusion in the form of Bobby Jindal, Marco Rubio, and Kelly Ayotte are moving hard and fast to distance their party from the ultra-divisive 2012 campaign, as George P. Bush, who by all accounts will not be one to pander exclusively to the angry, white Right, begins stretching out for his first run for public office.
Could this be a younger, ethnically-diverse faction of Republicans vying to wrest control of the party from the sneering, Randian plutocrats who just crashed and burned so spectacularly with the entire world looking on? One can certainly hope so, and that they mean business. If it is true, and they have their way, the GOP could be on the verge of a major makeover, and it's one that the Left can give itself a share of credit for by virtue of the swift kick in the ass it delivered a little over a week ago.
If only as a thought experiment, let's go with this for a minute. Let's assume that Karl Rove will now be put out to pasture, and the hard, Tea Party Right will become marginalized (stop laughing, I said this was a thought experiment). No matter what happens, Republicans will still be Republicans. We’re still going to fight over things like marginal tax rates, government regulation, and the ongoing fight against terrorism, and you can count on it getting nasty at times. But as we put pen to paper and list the changes we might be looking at, it becomes clear that the Left will have won a great deal more just than the White House. It will have conquered wide swaths of territory in the war of ideas.
By their own comments, these newly-minted moderates sound willing to let up on the DREAM Act (or some approximation of it) and marriage equality; mend fences with African-Americans; turn down the volume on its assault on women’s reproductive rights and opposition to equal pay for equal work, and mute its opposition to affordable healthcare and higher education.
If all of that is true, then the electorate will have succeeded in pulling the Republican Party back into the mainstream - where both parties belong if all we get is two to choose from - and the Democrats can rightly claim that as their victory, since the message they ran against in this cycle was one of such vitriolic opposition to their own. Of course, if this emergent, moderate branch of the GOP is crushed or silenced by the recalcitrant elements of the party, and the status quo as personified by Mitt Romney, Paul Ryan, Mitch McConnell, and Eric Cantor is maintained, then the Democrats can likely look forward to further victories at the polls. In other words, they win either way.
So much for thought experiments. Whatever is or is not going to happen, it's going to take time, and we have more immediate distractions to keep us entertained. How long will the secessionist Texas Tantrum go on before it cries itself out and falls asleep? Which will it be, Mr. Nugent, jail or death? And Mr. Obama, now that the other guys are out of the way, we'd like to have a chat with you about Afghanistan, Guantanamo Bay, and the Drug War. But in the end, if the end result of the 2012 election is a return to sanity by the Republican Party, then that will be a victory for us all.