The Less Things Change

Since their “thumping” in last week’s election, the Republican Party has had the opportunity to take stock and learn some lessons.  The most logical lesson would be that the American public rejected the GOP’s increasingly hard-line right-wing ideology and style of governance.  Unfortunately, they seem uninterested in listening to the American electorate and have instead opted to heed the complaints of their right-wing base – namely, the idea that the Republicans lost because they were insufficiently committed to the Right’s agenda.

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That idea is bogus, of course, but the elevation of Sen. Trent Lott to the position of minority whip suggests that the GOP’s strategy going forward is to continue its push ever-rightward.  Or ever-backward, considering that Lott lost his position as Senate Majority Leader in 2002 after saying that the country “wouldn’t have had all these problems over the years” had voters elected ardent segregationist Strom Thurmond as president in 1948. Following the outcry over his remarks, Lott was replaced by Sen. Bill Frist as Majority Leader. 

But just four years after the GOP made a conscious effort to sideline Lott and at least pretended to reject Lott’s extremist views, Republicans in the Senate apparently believe that what they need now is a right-wing partisan warrior like Lott to serve as second in command behind Sen. Mitch McConnell, the new Minority Leader.  

Republicans seemingly are responding to the loss of both houses of Congress not by attempting to moderate their agenda and leadership but by elevating members with shamefully partisan pasts to positions of power throughout the party. Sen. Mel Martinez has been tapped to become chairmanship of the Republican National Committee despite the fact that during the Terri Schiavo debacle, Martinez’s office was responsible for a memo that urged other Republicans to take advantage of this “great political issue” that would get “the pro-life base … excited.”  Earlier, in a bruising primary, his campaign put out flyers saying that his Republican opponent’s support for hate-crimes legislation made him a tool of the “radical homosexual lobby.”

In his post election press conference, President Bush said he told his “party's leaders that it is now our duty to put the elections behind us and work together with the Democrats and independents on the great issues facing this country.”  But in the week since, his party has placed Lott and Martinez in positions of leadership and the President himself has chosen to continue waging fights with Democrats over everything from the John Bolton to Kenneth Tomlinson to judges.  

After an election in which the voters widely rejected the Republican’s right-wing ideology and naked partisanship, the GOP’s post-election response seems to boil down to “you ain’t seen nothing yet.”