Memo to GOP: It’s not just about demographics

Time for an end to magical thinking?

In the first flush of post-election analysis, a lot of pundits are pointing to the massive structural problems within the modern Republican Party.

And it’s true that the GOP has embraced policies and ideas that have steadily alienated the minorities — primarily Hispanics — who make up the fastest-growing slice of the American electorate.

Conservatives have also infuriated many women (who went for Barack Obama by double-digit margins Tuesday) with bitter and divisive talk about rape and abortion and contraceptives.

Women, it happens, are on the rise in our society, taking more positions of power, moving into careers that generate more wealth, and earning more high-level college degrees.

So yes, Republicans are on the wrong side of history when it comes to appealing to the next generation of American voters.

But that’s not the whole story.

The bigger, more painful truth is that conservatives — who once prided themselves on being realistic, grounded pragmatists — have embraced a basket of ideas that range from the fanciful to the frightening.

Global warming is probably the easiest place to start this conversation.  Scientists say it’s real.  Scientists say we’re causing it.  And those same scientists say climate change poses huge dangers to our society.

Yet many conservatives continue to simply pretend it’s not true, exhibiting the same kind of magical thinking they accused hippies of indulging in through the 1960s and ’70s.

The same goes for modern conservative economics.   The Ayn Randian vision of all-powerful and benevolent free markets is idealistic to the point of dreaminess.

Yes, capitalism is a powerful and important tool, one of the pillars of our society.

But without progressive tax policies, common sense regulation, and other modest interventions by a democratically elected civil authority, capitalism produces some really awful things, ranging from huge income inequality to toxic medicines.

That’s not an ideological argument.  It is observed, recorded fact.

It is also long past time for Republicans to finally and utterly abandon a political brand based in large measure on appealing to the racial anxieties of white people.

The GOP — in its common-sense era — was the laboratory for pro-active thinking about civil rights, economic fairness and racial equity.

But too many party leaders have bought into the “southern strategy” delusion that people of color are lazy, or unAmerican, or — I’m not making this up — diseased.

So enough already with the “bell curve” winking and “welfare queen” nudging and the “urban” dog whistling. Enough of Fox News’ fixation with the one pathetic Black Panther activist standing outside the polling station.

Those characterizations of minorities in America aren’t factually true and they’re not helping the conservative movement win elections, not anymore.

The GOP also has a big problem with politicians who are, bluntly and plainly, incompetent or nutty.  When you have top-tier Senate candidates talking about “legitimate” rape, it’s bad — very bad.

When many of your most prominent legislators are people like Michelle Bachmann and Alan West, it’s bad, very bad.  And when your most prominent voices are bigoted oafs or crude parodies like Rush Limbaugh and Donald Trump, it’s even worse.

Finally Republicans have to get over their phobia about cities.  American cities are where most of the wealth and culture are created in our society.  That’s where most of our people live.

That’s not to say that anyone wants to abandon beautiful elements of our small town roots, but it’s time to acknowledge that East LA is just as true to our culture as Mayberry.

The modern conservative claim is that without this kind of looniness, this ginned-up base froth, the GOP just can’t win elections.

But that argument is belied by the long and honorable track record of post-War Republican policy moderates who won handily, from Dwight Eisenhower to Richard Nixon to George H.W. Bush.

And it’s also belied by yesterday’s dismal results, in the presidential race and in Senate contests.

So how does the Republican Party begin to turn the corner, rediscovering its good old fashioned boring sense of responsible political and fiscal duty?

The first step is to acknowledge that Barack Obama is the legitimate president of the United States, a man who despite his skin color, his middle name, his Chicago roots, and his post-modern life story is every bit as “real” and American as any other citizen.

The second step is to confront the reality that he’s not outside the political mainstream in our Republic, and never has been.

That’s not to say Republicans have to agree with his ideas.  But when the president talks about returning taxation levels to those of the Clinton years, it’s not radical communism, or anti-capitalism, or a secret Muslim colonial-hating plot.

It’s just a policy that you oppose.  And that’s enough.

When he creates an oversight board to propose new ways to reduce the costs of Medicare, it’s not a “death” panel.  It’s just a policy you oppose.  And that’s enough.

And when he uses measures like an industry bail-out or a stimulus — which have been standard tools for managing economies for decades — he’s not staging a socialist coup.

In practical terms, this means Republican leaders should fundamentally and publicly reject the idea that anyone should want our elected president to fail.

Top GOP officials should make it clear that they plan to compromise with their President, offering significant concessions on everything from healthcare to taxes to entitlements – and that they fully expect him to compromise in turn.

Then conservatives should pivot to the real task at hand, which is dragging their own movement and party back to the real principles of American conservatism — moderation, civility, pragmatism, fact-based thinking and fiscal responsibility.

When this work is done, our nation will be a little less divided, a little less unhinged.

And in 2016, Republicans might just win back a sizable chunk of Hispanic and perhaps even African American votes, while also healing their dangerous rift with women.

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97 Responses to “Memo to GOP: It’s not just about demographics”

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  1. John Warren says:

    Well said.

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  2. tootightmike says:

    Well said Brian, and I wholeheartedly support your vision. I fear though, that the two parties play by different rule books…Many Democrats would agree with all that you’ve said above…they will extend the olive branch and make plans to work out the differences, and compromise when necessary…just to get the work done. There are a few moderate Republicans that can see the value in progress also, but the main driving force…those with money in the game, those who’s vast wealth causes a powerful lust, and narrow vision….they’re sharpening their sticks. They will gouge the eye and stand on the neck of any who stand in their way, and compromise is out of the question.
    It is important to keep focused on the questions at hand…to move forward, to better the world. It will require constant vigilance to keep the moneyed elite from leading the discussion.

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  3. Kathy says:

    If the Republicans (conservatives) must compromise their convictions, principles, and morality in order to get the vote, I pray it doesn’t happen.

    I happen to figure God in the equation and not giving the people what they want. God gave us a compass for a reason – that it would be well with us. If we don’t use it, we’ll face the consequences.

    Time will tell.

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  4. dbw says:

    Maybe it is time we differentiated between conservatism and being reactionary. Much of what you have described in this post fall into the later category. Today’s Republican Party is not your father’s Republican Party. Traditionally, the Republican party has been dominated by moderates. No so today. Maybe it is time conservatives form a national conservative party and try their ideas in the political marketplace–and see how that works out.

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  5. Kathy says:

    tootightmike, the unity begins with going into the discussion without presumptions (i.e.; those with money in the game, those who’s vast wealth causes a powerful lust, and narrow vision….they’re sharpening their sticks.)

    That will keep things focused on the questions at hand.

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  6. Kathy says:

    dbw, I agree.

    There is no doubt that social issues have driven this election in many ways. Give us what we want.

    Conservatives want to stay true to principles that work. The tell-tale signs of socialism are obvious.

    Not to mention you don’t borrow what you can’t pay back. You balance the budget. Every citizen is required to do such and yet our federal government plays by different rules. I don’t get it.

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  7. knuckleheadedliberal says:

    Kathy, maybe you don’t get it because you refuse to accept the truth. Both sides had a plan to balance the budget. The American people have spoken, they like the Democrat’s plan better.

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  8. knuckleheadedliberal says:

    And if you refuse to leave God out of the discussion then you better be prepared to accept that God didn’t want Romney.

    To paraphrase a friend: God to Romney, “you’re fired. Except that you weren’t hired.”

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  9. Rancid Crabtree says:

    Once again Mann ignores the Democrats part in this game. Typical, only the Republicans are blocking progressive reforms and playing dirty. Right.

    Back to the grindstone to pay for the 47% sitting on their backsides.

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  10. knuckleheadedliberal says:

    And God gave us a North Star (which science tells us moves around over time) not a compass. A compass is a work of man; a work of science. God gave you eyes to perceive his real revelation, the Universe, and he gave you a brain to conceive of the workings of his creation. Don’t close your eyes.

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  11. Kathy says:

    KHL, we shall see how the Democrats plan to balance the budget will go. He had 4 years. Guess he needs more time.

    Also, when people want something bad enough when it’s contrary to God’s guidance, he will give them what they want. We have a free will and we reap what we sow.

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  12. Kathy says:

    God gave you eyes to perceive his real revelation, the Universe, and he gave you a brain to conceive of the workings of his creation. Don’t close your eyes.

    Yeah, and it’s written down, too, but some people don’t accept it.

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  13. knuckleheadedliberal says:

    So here we go again. Not even a full day after the election and Conservatives are digging in.
    Boehner: We have a mandate. So much for a spirit compromise and cooperation.

    And Kathy? You choose to accept the works that Men wrote down and edited and translated over the Creation that God showed you and gave you the tools to understand for yourself.

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  14. Kathy says:

    Brian, your article leaves me with the feeling that there is nothing Republicans can do right. This mindset doesn’t help with working together.

    Your to-do list for Republicans feels arrogant. I say our nation will be less divided and unhinged with humility.

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  15. Kathy says:

    KHL, I think you are a contractor or at least have understanding of construction. There is no compromise when it comes to various aspects of a building. There are standards used and if they are compromised, there will be consequences.

    There are standards for living as well. They are as sure as the law of gravity. Where does the idea of laws come from in any society?

    The Bible has been accepted and recognized as the word of God. Yes, I do accept it. Creation and the scriptures support each other. If God uses the Bible as one way to reveal himself, so be it.

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  16. PNElba says:

    The tell-tale signs of socialism are obvious.

    Please, be a little more specific about these tell-tale signs of socialism. I just don’t see them. Are you talking about Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid? Or is it that gift to the insurance industry, ObamaCare. I really do want to learn.

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  17. Two Cents says:

    All the same people are headed back to Washington. What really do you expext to change?
    We can mix red and blue to make purple, but this isn’t art class. In politics red and blue mix to make mud.

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  18. Larry says:

    Well, I guess winning just wasn’t enough for Brian Mann. How like you to characterize the Democratic agenda as “just a policy you oppose” and Republican ideas as “appealing to the racial anxieties of white people”. Your strident tone is as obnoxious as your presumption to tell Republicans what they ought to do. A narrow victory like this is hardly an occasion to take the “losers” to task for their philosophy, which is embraced by nearly half of the electorate. In fact, Obama polled around 10M votes less than he did in ’08 and also had less votes winning in ’12 than McCain had losing in ’08. Not exactly a mandate. Sounds to me like BOTH parties have some work to do.

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  19. Larry says:

    Wait until you see the insurance industry’s response to Obamacare. It will make the current state of health care look like Utopia.

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  20. Big Burly says:

    Brian,

    I certainly wish for a greater degree of conciliation — if the dogma that prevailed the last 4 years from the Democrat side continues with the same exclusionary approach, I fear for the future of the experiment that is our country.

    I think the country is ready for higher taxes, less regulation of our everyday decisions — the reality foundation for conciliation is everybody shares the pain.

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  21. Two Cents says:

    Let’s all move to colorado and have a smoke and contemplate “The Great Experiment”

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  22. Larry says:

    “I think the country is ready for higher taxes”

    That anyone actually believes this is enough to make my head explode!

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  23. michael coffey says:

    I believe the country is ready for higher taxes, indeed. Obama campaigned on it. I don’t imagine it will happen quickly–the “fiscal cliff” might be avoided by extending some Bush cuts, that may well be the deal for now. I say, for now. What I think is poised to happen is the continuing improvement in the economy, as it emerges in the big picture that the stimulus and bailouts engineered in 2009 and 2010 are what set the US economy apart from their austerity-minded European allies. We are far ahead of most of Europe in getting healed from financial collapse of four years ago. If the tea party thinking (hello, Paul Ryan) remain in charge of GOP policy, they won’t smell the rose garden till around 2024.

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  24. Dave Mason says:

    I recall when GW Bush won his second term. I was just stunned. How could our country make that choice I wondered when it was obvious then that Iraq was a disaster? The economic house of cards collapsed around him in Sept 2008. Then, I felt bad when Obama, having won, was faced with an unfolding economic disaster and a senate leader who declared his highest priority to see Obama fail – stunning words in the face of the immediate economic crisis.

    Obama did better than I thought he could without any cooperation.

    Will the Republicans in DC change? Well, they know they won’t have Obama in four years. Will obstruction be rewarded with votes 2 years or 4 years from now? Can the re-elected congress act differently? Certainly not clear to me.

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  25. J Williams says:

    As my brother-in-law (who by the way runs a small business) says “I didn’t leave the Republican Party, it left me”.

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  26. Kathy says:

    PNElba, I don’t have the energy. Please research socialism and compare it with our president’s policies.

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  27. Larry says:

    Dave Mason,
    GW Bush won a second term in 2008….eight years ago. Get over it. Now, there’s no one left to blame. Obama has twice been elected President so he can’t blame his failures on the previous administration. It will be interesting to see what he comes up with.

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  28. michael coffey says:

    Kathy, i had some time to do some research on socialism. Does this sound like America?

    Socialism is an economic system characterised by social ownership of the means of production and co-operative management of the economy,[1] and a political philosophy advocating such a system. “Social ownership” may refer to cooperative enterprises, common ownership, state ownership, or citizen ownership of equity.[2] There are many varieties of socialism and there is no single definition encapsulating all of them.[3] They differ in the type of social ownership they advocate, the degree to which they rely on markets or planning, how management is to be organised within productive institutions, and the role of the state in constructing socialism.[4]

    A socialist economic system would consist of a system of production and distribution organized to directly satisfy economic demands and human needs, so that goods and services would be produced directly for use instead of for private profit[5] driven by the accumulation of capital. Accounting would be based on physical quantities, a common physical magnitude, or a direct measure of labour-time in place of financial calculation.[6][7] Distribution of output would be based on the principle of individual contribution.[citation needed]

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  29. JDM says:

    Well, well, well. We’re not who I thought we were.

    Ok. You libs get the next four years.

    It will be interesting to note the day or month when it ceases to be Bush’s fault (or do we carry that lame excuse for four more years?).

    Obama can no longer be campaigner-in-chief. It will be interesting to see when, or if, that ever happens.

    Ok, Mr. president. It’s time to fix things. You’ve inherited quite a mess.

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  30. Brian, I second the “well said’.

    Kathy, The Bible is “God’s word” to you because you choose to believe it is, but you fail to recognize that your acceptance of it as being direct truth from God is a choice that is not founded in or supported by its history. It was written in pieces over hundreds, thousands if you count the oral tradition of the Old Testament, of years by humans, each of whom had an agenda. The final selection of what writings to include (which is not uniform among all sects of Christianity) was made by men who had an agenda to select those writings which most nearly conformed to a dogma that was established for political reasons.

    Totally off topic: The portrait of Ayn Rand that Brian included is beyond unflattering. It’s terrible.

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  31. dave says:

    Larry, the tax rates on multi-gajillion dollar corporations and the absurdly wealthy is the lowest its been in almost a century… I don’t know why your head would explode when you learn that the country is ready to remedy that.

    JDM, it has been said that most countries would need a decade to recover from the Bush financial collapse. My money is on Obama beating those predictions and leading this country out of it in the next four years. When he does, will you give him credit?

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  32. myown says:

    “Totally off topic: The portrait of Ayn Rand that Brian included is beyond unflattering. It’s terrible.”

    True, but Alan Greenspan certainly did fancy her!

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  33. BRFVolpe says:

    When the only two common elements among Republicans was a disdain for Obama, and pledge to Grover Norquist, it became hard for the electorate to find true leadership in the person who became their candidate in any issue outside these two. When the GOP loosens it’s grip on these, then we can move forward as a nation.

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  34. myown says:

    Good comments Brian, but unfortunately they will not be heard in Washington. And it didn’t take long.

    “Shortly after multiple networks projected that Republicans would retain control of the House, Speaker John Boehner took to the stage with a message that looked ahead to the battle over the fiscal cliff – the GOP isn’t budging on taxes.”

    http://politicalticker.blogs.cnn.com/2012/11/06/boehner-lays-down-a-marker-on-taxes/?hpt=hp_t2_6

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  35. Larry says:

    OK, dave, if you want to believe it’s only the “absurdly wealthy” and corporations that will pay more, then I hope you’re right. Experience says otherwise. Keep your hand on your wallet.

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  36. It’s obvious that alienating gays, women, Latinos and non-Judeo-Christian is a pretty poor national strategy in these evolving United States. But it also obviously works at lower levels. Republicans still control the US House, almost 60% of the governorships and, if my math is right, almost 65% of the state legislative chambers in the US.

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  37. Zeke says:

    What was wrong with the pre-Bush tax rates? Were they absurd?

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  38. Yvona says:

    Kathy,
    Love trumps hate and fear. The Light of Creation shines in all beings – even beings brimming with hate and fear.

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  39. Walker says:

    Jeeze, Larry, there’s so much more to life than the tax rate!

    Zeke’s right– we’re we suffering so terribly under the Clinton tax rates?

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  40. Two Cents says:

    As to how long it will take to recover from Bush (as well as any attempts made by Obamma to correct things), it is a mute point. Ripples on a distant shore not yet in sight. History will judge both men. In school, my 6th grade teacher had a set of Presidential portraits and under them their “rank” given them by scholars (who knows who?). What rank do you honestly think G.W. will get? Obama?
    Under Herbert Hoover the rank was failure. The Great Depression was blamed on him. Hasn’t history proven that incorrect?
    My prediction is time will prove G.W. put things in motion that were unrecoverable from, no matter who tried what afterwards.Many of us already know this, but it’s a crutch, and i don’t want to hear about it anymore.
    Does it take a paradigm shift? I don’t care, FIX IT

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  41. Two Cents says:

    ps – are there ANY good pictures of Ayn Rand?

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  42. Mervel says:

    But Romney was a moderate in the mold of the moderates you mentioned Brian. I don’t know the answer? I think it could be this, Democratic Moderates such as Bill Clinton and to some degree Obama (many will argue with me on that), but certainly Clinton, are exciting, well rounded, bold, interesting candidates with compelling life stories. Republican Moderates are the definition of boring, come on we put up the son of a wealthy Gov. born with a silver spoon in his mouth who was boring, had nothing interesting or compelling in his life story. We need exciting, in your face, moderate Republicans who have not come from wealthy families.

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  43. Marcus says:

    My take is that Romney lost in part because no one really knew for sure shich Romney would show up to be president. He gave new meaning to the term flip-flopper. He might have had a chance if he had actually stuck to a set of positons from day one instead of saying whatever he felt the need to at any given moment in front of whatever audience appeared before him.

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  44. JDM says:

    dave: “My money is on Obama beating those predictions and leading this country out of it in the next four years.”

    If we return to 4% GDP growth and 4.5% unemployment in the next four years, of course, Obama gets the credit.

    What I would like to come to grips with, now, is what if we go back above 10% unemployment (using the benchmark of the fictitious 7.8% as the recent low water mark), and we go below 1.8% GDP growth (or negative growth), are you still going to insist that it was Bush’s fault?

    If Obama can get the credit, can’t he also take the responsibility?

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  45. Two Cents says:

    A Country gets shot, and is bleeding out. A man comes along and says he can fix it.
    At first he does a little good, then the darn Country craps out anyway.
    Who’s fault is it ?
    Having a crappy Doctor after the fact does not shift blame from who inflicted the mortal wound.

    Enough “who’s fault” (i’m pretty clear on that anyway)
    FIX IT

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  46. Walker says:

    “What I would like to come to grips with, now, is what if we go back above 10% unemployment, and we go below 1.8% GDP growth, are you still going to insist that it was Bush’s fault?”

    Gee, could we wait to see where we’re headed before you start finding fault with who got us there?

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  47. dave says:

    “If Obama can get the credit, can’t he also take the responsibility?”

    Of course.

    If he is able to implement his economic vision, and we are 8 years out from the Bush collapse, and there is still no meaningful recovery, then yes, I think we can say his plan didn’t work. Sure, we’d be able to say he righted the ship and stabilized it, but without a more robust recovery, he’d get blame for not doing more.

    This of course works under the assumption that he gets some of his economic legislation through congress. I guess that is a big assumption at this point, but I’m choosing to be optimistic today.

    More generally to your point… what I, and many others here, have objected to over the past few years is this notion that Obama should have been held responsible for the 2 to 4 years following the collapse. That was a completely unrealistic point of view. We were in a serious, serious situation. Sometime I get the feeling that the same people who lament how bad things are today, have little concept of how truly awful that situation was, and how bad things could have (and honestly, should have) been. That our country was able to avoid the worst of it and are now looking at brighter days ahead is something we should be both proud of, and thankful for.

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  48. Peter Hahn says:

    yes its not just demographics (but thats a lot of it). The republicans need to broaden their appeal. That would be good for everybody. Drop their denial of climate change. Agree to some rational form of immigration reform. Figure out a way to deal with the deficit and the “entitlements” that democrats can live with. etc.

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  49. JDM says:

    dave: “This of course works under the assumption that he gets some of his economic legislation”

    upp upp upp… You’re hedging.

    He had 5 months of filibuster-proof senate, 8 years of senate majority, 2 years (at least) of house majority, he has to be responsible for moving the ball forward.

    If he doesn’t, he fails. A president never has a gravy-train in Congress. Come on. Most presidents have at least one house in the minority all the time.

    No excuses, now. Chin up.

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  50. dave says:

    “He had 5 months of filibuster-proof senate”

    Which is what allowed him to right and stabilize the ship.

    “Come on. Most presidents have at least one house in the minority all the time.”

    This is true. But what is also true is that for the first time in our history (that I know of) a President faced a congress that publicly stated their only goal was to roadblock and get rid of him.

    I know you understand how our government works JDM, which means you realize that a President can not impose his will on people. Every President needs a Congress to work with. Again, I am choosing to be optimistic that this will be the case going forward.

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