Such is the power of denial that we simply refuse to concede that, by the metric of intractability, at least, conservatives are the cockroaches of the American body politic, poised to outlast us all. And so, after Obama’s victory in 2008, the Democratic pollster Stan Greenberg spoke for sentimental liberal triumphalists everywhere when he concluded that America is now “in a progressive period” and that “the conservative movement brought about by the Gingrich revolution has been crushed.” That progressive period lasted all of a year, giving way to the 2009 gubernatorial victories of the conservatives Bob McDonnell (in the purple state of Virginia) and Chris Christie (in blue New Jersey), as well as that summer’s raucous Obamacare protests. Few Democrats had imagined that the new African-American president would be besieged so quickly by a conservative populist movement whose adherents dressed in 1776 drag and worshipped the frothing-at-the-blackboard Glenn Beck. Or that such a movement would administer a “shellacking” in the midterms.
Should Romney lead another shellacking of the Democrats this year, some liberals may squeeze out a modicum of solace by viewing it as the lesser of two evils: The man from Bain is no radical but a product of the traditional Republican conservative Establishment bankrolled by Wall Street. We are already being sold that story line by “centrist” GOP grandees on the Sunday talk shows and mainstream op-ed pages who repeatedly tell us that Romney is only pretending to be a hard-line ideologue to temporarily placate his party’s unruly base and that the “real” Romney is the center-right pragmatist who suddenly materialized out of nowhere at the first debate.
Should Romney lose in November, a far happier liberal scenario can be entertained: For all their qualms about stimulus spending and Obamacare, perhaps voters still prefer the party of modest government activism to the party of no government. Polls provide support for this view. In the latest Pew survey, the GOP as a whole is almost as unpopular as the tea party: Only 27 percent of Americans describe themselves as Republican (as opposed to 31 percent Democratic and 36 percent Independent).
One can almost write the obituaries for the right that would appear after a Romney defeat right now. Even the millions spent by Karl Rove’s sugar daddies in the post–Citizens United era had failed to sell a far-right GOP to American voters. Once again the republic has been saved from the crazies by good old bipartisan centrist common sense.
Sadly, he's mostly right. If Romney wins, we get a Tea Party nation. If Romney loses, the backlash against President Obama will make 2010 look like, well, a child's tea party. Either America gets fed up with the know-nothing stupidity of the right, or good people will simply give up and stop fighting, eager to simply protect what they have left and slink away into the twilight of giving a damn.
Since the former has basically never happened in American history, Rich has a point. At some point we will have a Republican president again. When that happens, it's pretty much over for America. The GOP is lost to reason. If it gets in power again -- when, rather -- on that day we'll learn just how much America has left in it.
My guess is after 2012, the country will just be too ravaged to rally. Such begins the decline.