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The Guilfordian

The student news site of Guilford College

The Guilfordian

The student news site of Guilford College

The Guilfordian

Midlife crisis: The GOP’s existential meltdown and the future of American conservatism

On Nov. 6, as the Fox News correspondents witnessed President Obama gaining momentum in the election, conservative poster-boy Bill O’Reilly made a pertinent comment: “It’s not a traditional America anymore.”

I will not continue with his offensive rhetoric about how Obama voters want “stuff” and “things.” Instead, I’d like to focus on his “epiphany,” which came off more as a lamentation. O’Reilly indicated a conservative anxiety: “What are we going to do now?”

I’m no political scientist, but I do know of a phenomenon called realignment, wherein the landscape of the political system undergoes a shift in power and policy. Notable examples include the elections of Jefferson, Jackson, Lincoln, FDR and Reagan. Arguably, the most recent was in 2000 with the ascendance of George W. Bush and a focus on aggressive foreign policy, evangelical values and bleeding the country dry.

At least, until now.

Barack Obama’s election in 2008 was certainly monumental: we elected our first non-white president. However, his re-election further indicates a sea change — a realignment — in response to Bush’s policies. Americans witnessed the fallout from W’s regime over the past decade, and America wants no more of it. This election proved that, for every race and walk of life, Barack Obama represents a guiding light leading the country out of the dark cavern of neoconservatism and into the 21st century.

So, how will the Grand Old Party react?

Obviously, the Republicans will not run Mitt Romney again. They’ve thrown him under the bus after he made comments similar to O’Reilly’s election night musings, stating that Obama bought the election by promising “gifts” to minorities and the young. He’s a political has-been and now looks like Bruce Campbell on a bender.

Likewise, there’s no way the Republicans will flirt with the Tea Party. Candidates from that pool proved themselves unelectable or insane, whether commenting on “legitimate rape” or their college Wicca phase.

Additionally, the GOP can’t rely on their base: Southern whites. Though Romney nearly swept Dixie, it was not enough for him to clinch the election, even if he had won Florida and Virginia. Thus, relying on the Southern evangelical vote will not get a Republican into the White House. Reagan’s Southern strategy has run its course.

So, what will the Republicans do?

I believe they’ll follow the old adage: if you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em.

I’m not saying they’ll swing all the way left. That would be more suicidal than the track they’re on now. However, I do think they’ll become more centrist and less divisive.

Basically, Republicans should stop bashing progressives — as if progress is a bad thing — and accept that America should join the rest of the free world and provide for all of its citizens.

As Visiting Assistant Professor of Political Science Robert Duncan stated in a Nov. 7 interview, “You want to do the max good for the max people, and if that means the wealthy don’t get to be so wealthy, then so be it.”

That’s what progressives want to do: good. It’s not “gifts.” It’s not “stuff” and “things.” It’s helping your fellow citizen. And it doesn’t come free; we all pay into it.

Where O’Reilly gets it wrong is that, in my view, American has never been “traditional.” Traditionally, America moves forward. The Republicans need to move forward with America, and their message and policy should reflect social and economic progress in some way.

After all, can’t there be progressive Republicans?

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