on November 22, 2012 at 10:30 AM, updated November 23, 2012 at 12:37 PM
The Republican Party doesn't need to moderate. It needs to modernize. That seems to be the lesson most GOPers have learned after their thrashing in the Nov. 6 election.
And I think they could be absolutely right.
So do Republicans in Michigan, who are making noises about shoving through in the coming weeks retrograde legislation like Right to Work, school vouchers and tax credits for fetuses (after they axed said tax breaks for children living and breathing outside the womb, like my beautiful, 10-year-old daughter).
Can't make this stuff up.
Yes, I know, the idea that Republicans should hold fast to unpopular ideas but simply sell them better doesn't seem rational after Mitt Romney lost by more than 4 million votes to a very beatable incumbent due to adopting a hard-right, deport-'em'all immigration stance and a plan to voucherize Medicare.
And it doesn't seem reflective after the GOP blew its second shot in a row to flip the U.S. Senate, after nominating Tea Party candidates who declared "legitimate" rape victims can't get pregnant (Todd Akin in Missouri) or if they do, that's a blessing and God's will (Richard Mourdock in Indiana) or what America really needs is a Birther Office to validate candidates' citizenship (Pete Hoekstra in Michigan).
And it doesn't seem strategic after both the Romney and GOP congressional campaigns based their polls and electoral projections on completely false assumptions and data.
I mean, if there's ever a time for soul-searching, it's after you lose winnable elections. But questioning the Republican Party's sharp right turn seems to be verboten for many so-called conservatives in good times and bad.
It's kind of like the right-wing economic theory (which is as sound as creationism, GOP '16 savior Marco Rubio) that taxes can never be raised in good times or bad. Either way, we'll kill the economy. It's a neat party trick -- and sounds eerily as though a smart-ass adolescent had dreamt it up.
But that's why even though we're hurtling toward the fiscal cliff, Grover Norquist is still yanking on Republicans' chains, ordering them not to hike taxes to reduce the deficit -- even though the 2001 and 2003 Bush tax cuts are a big reason why we have said deficit.
But as an increasingly cranky Nolan Finley, who only clings to his statesman image only because he's surrounded by Michigan View blowhards like crayon jockey Henry Payne, writes, there's "no need for the GOP to panic."
Nolan also sniffs right off the bat that Republicans are "getting a lot of advice from those who would never vote for them," which, I guess, is his way of telling us independents that we're not wanted here (which has worked out brilliantly in the last two presidential elections).
So what's Nolan's prescription?
"Republicans do need a tune-up. They have to communicate better with Hispanic voters and other ethnic groups ..."
Ah, yes. Let's just communicate our message better and folks will come around (even though Nolan has already dismissed any input from them in his lead).
Sure, it's selling the same moldy wine in a different bottle. But Republicans are counting on the fact that voters don't have the sophisticated palette to notice.
The problem is, as NBC First Read points out, is Republicans didn't just lose on demographics, but "got crushed on the issues, too." A majority of 60 percent said they support tax increases, whether it's on those making $250,000 or more or on everyone, according to national exit polls. And 59 percent support abortion being legal, while voters by 3 points back gay marriage.
Anyone who's been paying attention in Michigan knows that the agenda of Gov. Rick Snyder and the GOP Legislature has been, well, the exact opposite of that.
Remember Vaginagate, when the GOP House leadership silenced Rep. Lisa Brown for protesting draconian anti-abortion legislation that could result in mothers who miscarried not being able to get a basic D & C procedure? Snyder also signed legislation barring gay partners of state employees from being able to get health insurance. And his tax plan cuts business taxes by $2 billion.
What can we expect in the coming Michigan lame duck session and the next two years? More of the same -- and maybe even further lurches to the right. Republicans still control both chambers and Snyder has two years left on his contract. They're under no obligation to listen to what people want.
I'm sure many Republicans believe the exit polls are skewed, too, and are happy to ignore the fact that President Obama took Michigan by about 10 points.
So won't voters toss them out in two years for not listening? Maybe, maybe not.
Democrats have pointed out that their party actually won the popular vote on Nov. 6 for both the U.S. House and the Michigan House. But thanks to gerrymandering -- in this case, the unfair way Republican legislatures drew districts -- the GOP still controls both.
There's something to be said for that -- although parties do overcome gerrymanders. But Democrats tend to be clustered in big cities (like Detroit), which gives them a disadvantage even in blue states like New York and California.
But there's a bigger advantage for Republicans. The dirty little secret is that Democrats don't vote in off-year elections like in 2014, when the president isn't on the ballot. Republican pollster Steve Mitchell estimates that more than 500,000 Michigan Dems sit at home.
President Obama also built the most high-tech, grassroots get out the vote operation in history. This is not an exaggeration, as Sasha Issenberg writes in The Victory Lab. Anyone who tells you the Republicans have anything close to that, especially in Michigan, should be forced to submit to drug testing.
But that machine wasn't around in 2010. All of this helps explain why the GOP wave was so crushing. They would have won a lot even if Obama was engaged and Democrats woke up, but there's no way Republicans would have taken a supermajority in the Senate or Snyder's margin would have approached 20 points.
Republicans have another midterm election to look forward to in '14. Obama's team is apparently looking to keep its machine alive this time and Michigan Dems will likely rally around a ballot initiative to get their faithful to the polls.
But GOP strategists and lobbyists are already whispering to nervous lawmakers that they don't have to worry. Go ahead, pass Right to Work. The numbers still work in your favor for '14. There won't be consequences.
And you know what? They could be right.
Susan J. Demas is a political analyst for Michigan Information & Research Service (MIRS). She can be reached at email@example.com.