Whatever the outcome, I sense that this year's election cycle is a study in historic milestones. First, I have never before heard and read so much about credibility and fact-checking on the part of investigative journalists, pundits and others no longer able to hide behind the fig leaf of "some would say..." or "critics, on the other hand observe that..." Thanks to the large number of public figures who traffic openly in outright lies we now see published headlines like Paul Ryan Repeats Auto Bailout, Medicare Lies and Obama Campaign Shreds ‘Lies’ in Ryan Speech. The NY Times even has a long list of Articles about Lying.
Second, thanks to the ubiquity of lies, part of the blowback has been a clarifying of issues and positions that is a shocking new development in American politics. On the surface it presents as polarization. But one person's polarization is the next person's clear thinking. The process is not complete, but the two main parties are finally showing their true colors on social issues (although they both remain captive to the big players that still have most of Congress bought and paid for). This year, 2012, will be remembered as the year that Big Money finally figured out that social questions have little or nothing to do with business profits. And if the election of the first black president has done nothing else, Obama's one term has made it clear that everybody's money is the same. Currency, checks and credit card transactions all look the same. Whether they came from gays or straights, women or men, brown or white folks, or even people who cannot speak the mother tongue -- once it gets in the bank it's all the same. And that, my Republican friends, is the New Reality.
Unfortunately, the Republican Party, historically dominated by rich old white guys, finds itself on the wrong side of social issues that now threaten to sink their yachts boats. Women, gays, immigrants both legal and otherwise, and a host of non-Abrahamic faiths are finally reaching a critical mass that is coming to the realization that the shoulders on which they stand will more likely be those of Democrats than Republicans (who don't like footprints on their blazers).
Too late the GOP is trying to reach out to those constituencies that have traditionally been Democrats -- minorities, hourly workers and middle-class arrivals who remember their roots. And in their lame attempts this year, the historic duplicity of their past is bringing the GOP more problems than solutions.
Charles Pierce -- who must have Art Buchwald and Molly Ivins in his veins -- in The Things That Julian Castro Can Say puts his finger on exactly this point when he contrasts two Latino speeches presented this week. Marco Rubio spoke to the RNC and Julian Castro to the DNC. Both could have said the same things, but Rubio had a disadvantage bigger than he could overcome.
...They both have similar stories to tell. Both of their lives can stand for the best this country has to offer. I think, if they sat down together, Julian Castro and Marco Rubio might disagree on tax policy, but, otherwise, they'd have a lot more in common than their respective political parties would have you believe. And therein lies the difference.
What the president did in allowing the children of undocumented immigrants to become citizens was Marco Rubio's idea, but only Julian Castro got to brag about it at a convention. Only Castro got to make the incontrovertible point that, "In the end, the American Dream is not a sprint, or even a marathon, but a relay. Our families don't always cross the finish line in one generation. But each generation passes on to the next generation the fruits of their labors.... My mother fought for civil rights so that instead of a mop, I could hold this microphone."
Marco Rubio could say that, but his party won't let him, because to admit that someone had to "fight for civil rights" is dissonant with the party's message that the simple incantation of "America" is enough to make all the bad things in our history disappear, and because to admit that being an American occasionally means calling bullshit on "America" would give the lie to the entire phony narrative thrust of last week's convention.
Marco Rubio could say, without a shred of hypocrisy or dishonesty, what Julian Castro said on Tuesday night about his grandparents: "They believed that opportunity created today would lead to prosperity tomorrow. That's the country they envisioned, and that's the country they helped build. The roads and the bridges they built, the schools and the universities they created, the rights they fought for and won — these opened the doors to a decent job, a secure retirement, the chance for your children to do better than you did."
But Rubio's party wouldn't let him say that because the party's mythology insists these days that the roads and the bridges, and the public schools and universities, essentially built themselves. (It also apparently is of the opinion that Monsanto or someone runs the armed forces.) The difference is that Julian Castro's party admits the existence of a political commonwealth, that there are some things we own in common, if only a "property in our rights," as Mr. Madison put it. And that was why he could say all those things that Marco Rubio could say, if his political party weren't utterly demented. And as I realized that, I came to the conclusion that, if we can pass through this period in our history, and if our political future turns into simply Julian Castro, a Democrat, and Marco Rubio, a Republican, arguing about, say, tax policy, I feel pretty good about the future.
It is with no disrespect that I point out that Republicans now have a lot more to worry about than temple garments and tax returns. By allowing the party to be captured by the most extreme quarters of their base, the Grand Old Party has painted itself into a corner, trapped by what the Brits call dog whistle politics. In Republican-speak immigrant implies illegal immigrant, welfare is shorthand for welfare queen or moocher, poor often means looking for a handout, entitlement implies undeserving beneficiary and references to birth certificates are appeals to the birther crowd (just jocking. you know).
Ta-Nehisi Coates' Fear of a Black President (which I notice received a Hillman Prize) in a massive tour de force describes a bigger elephant in the room than that of the Republican Party. As I have said elsewhere, when Republicans accuse opponents of "playing the race card" it is a transparent attempt to avoid the content of an argument resting on the Slick New Prejudice, a kind of basic white with a string of [black] pearls, nothing more than the old "some of my best friends" comeback. Cheney's daughter and Reagan's son may signal that the GOP has nothing against gays. But a few black political types, even a Supreme Court Justice, are looking more like tokens as the old Southern Strategy continues to flourish (despite an orchestrated attempt on the part of today's ultra-Conservatives to scrub the term by adding the word "myth," as in Southern Strategy Myth).
Beginning last night and affirmed by the party platform, Democrats are now squarely in favor of gay marriage, the right of women to have abortions as well as wage equality with men, universal health care, a full panoply of energy alternatives and the necessary role of government in the affairs of its citizens. Unless something changes over the next two nights, I expect this election to be the last which turns on social questions. Even if they don't say so out loud, too many smart Republicans have learned the hard way that a full-throated answer to the social questions that have been answered by Obama's first term will be essential to any future electoral success.