Political Fan Fiction That Will Age Like Milk
It was a long and frankly unbearable four years. I really wanted to take a couple of months off from writing about politics, but alas, a particularly terrible hot take courtesy of The Atlantic had dragged me off the bench to proclaim the following:
This article- the one with the headline entitled The Republican Party Is Now It's Its End Stages. Yeah, it's going to age like milk and I'll tell you why.
I'm slightly going out on a limb here, because although we're sort of emerging from COVID right now- at least we're in the early stages of doing that- we're not all the way out, so it's hard to really say how plugged in people are to politics at the moment. I honestly think that for a lot of people, securing aid, housing, keeping a job, putting food on the table, getting themselves or the loved ones vaccinated are far more pressing matters than indulging the primal scream of our intelligentsia. We don't know what our post-COVID politics are going to look like yet.
I'm not a fan of either of the two parties. They're flaming hot garbage on a good day and lately, there haven't been that many good days- but if I had to pick between these two flaming piles of dog shit that are the Democratic and Republican Parties- if I had to pick one of them to fumblefuck their way into a semi-permanent governing coalition largely in spite of themselves, right now it would be the Republican Party and not the Democratic Party.
The Blue Tsunami of 2020 did not materialize. At all. Biden won the Presidency, sure- but Democrats did nothing to reverse their losses at the State Level* (a legacy of the Obama-era that we don't talk about, but should because it's a real problem) and came perilously close to losing the House. The GOP, had President Trump had, I don't know, I'm just spit-balling here, pulling wild ideas out of my ass- actually stayed on message and not gone off on a tangent and a half of bullshit- could have kept the Senate.
The Fracking Thing: Sure, you could think global warming is real and fracking is bad (in general, I do) but the fact of the matter is that a lot of jobs just got lost and rich technocrats flying around on private planes and being like, "Well, they can just go make other, greener do-dads and widgets, how hard could it be?" Is always a look that goes over so well with that portion of the electorate. Maybe the Marie Antoinette thing will turn out okay and there will actually be cake this time, but voters have been hearing variations on this since I've been alive** and I don't think they're buying this shit anymore.
Advantage: GOP (maybe, if they're smart.)
The School Thing: This is a vastly underreported story and it might not end up amounting to anything by 2022, but there is a lot of real anger out there, especially in the Blue States and especially in suburbs- though not exclusively- about school closures continuing. Whether that leads to more demands for school choice/charter schools in those states or whether it just amounts to voter indifference in key areas Democrats can't afford to lose in 2022 and 2024 I don't yet know. But dig around a little and you'll find that there is an increasing number of vocal and pissed-off parents in states that Democrats cannot afford to lose. The recall effort for Governor Newsom in California? At least partially driven by this- whether it'll succeed or not, I don't know- but the fact that they're taking the threat seriously should tell you something.
Advantage: Well, it should be the GOP, but who knows.
The CPAC Thing: Right now, to me, the real danger the GOP is facing is blowing another cycle on primary challenges and ridiculous candidates like MTG when they should be unifying behind a message and policies to put together a new coalition. (Remember, the "I'm not a witch" lady? That was a wasted cycle for them.) Ted Cruz was roundly mocked on Twitter for proclaiming the Republican Party was no longer the party of country clubs, it's the party of hardworking, blue-collar men and women- but here's the thing- he's not wrong. That's the potential new coalition that's lurking out there and up for grabs and the Republicans are closer to figuring out how to put it together than the Democrats are. If you add the words "multi-racial working-class coalition" and suddenly, Democrats start sweating a bit. If you look at the improvement in vote share that President Trump saw among key minority groups and, surprisingly in urban cores, I would be worried if I was the Democrats. Because the outline of something is there. The GOP just has to figure it out-and they're the GOP so there's a decent chance they blow the opportunity on something idiotic.
And speaking of idiotic? Missouri Senator Josh Hawley steps up to the plate with his proclamation that America is "A country that liberated slaves." If you put a period at the end of that sentence, you're missing the point- and going down this particular rabbit hole is going to go nowhere good for the GOP- but Hawley going down rabbit holes that lead absolutely nowhere seems to be his brand these days. There is a risk and a real-ish one that the GOP tips in the wrong direction and becomes the party of angrier whiter people. And if that happens, pretty much everything I've just written above the sentence goes out the window. (So, of course, it'll probably happen exactly like that.)
The Policy Thing: While I still think Senator Hawley was doing interesting things in December, he really pissed everything away in January and doesn't look to be doing much better in February, but oh wait, some policy? Hmmmmm.... Hey, what if the GOP tried putting money in the hands of the people who really need it? An idea so crazy, it just might work! Also, go read this Twitter thread about Mittens and his child allowance plan and tell me that's not some tasty good policy voters would love? (Also tell me that a Mittens Redux in 2024 isn't possible... go on, tell me that. Because you can't.)
Advantage: If they do it right- a big IF, granted- GOP. But it means organization and outreach into places they haven't normally given a shit about and rhetoric has to be backed up by policy that can directly benefit the voters they're targeting.
In conclusion, all of this could be entirely wrong. I freely admit that and I have absolutely breathtaking levels of cynicism about politics in this country to lean on as well as absolutely zero faith in either party to do anything remotely resembling the right thing. If a week is a long time in politics, a year is an eternity and three years is an epoch. A lot can change- but right now, I remain convinced: that Atlantic article, the delightful piece of fan-fiction that always seems to get written and re-written whenever the Democrats have the White House? It's going to age like milk.
*State Level is where you build your bench as it were-- look at the GOP and Democratic fields in 2016. You may have hated every GOP candidate up there, but they were all serious contenders. The Democrats had Hillary, Lincoln Chafee and Martin O'Malley. and the problem was compounded in 2020 because the majority of their major players are well north of 65. That might change over the course of the next few cycles, but I doubt it.
**Remember the whole, "well, we'll send those jobs to Mexico and y'all can learn how to make computer widgets or something" the Rust Belt got told after NAFTA. It's a variation on that and it's never been true.