GOP Struggling for Understanding

Donald Trump
Donald Trump (Photo credit: Gage Skidmore)

Is it my imagination, or are we hearing about the GOP wrestling with why they lost the 2012 presidential election a little longer than they did in 2008? It’s four months past Election Day, but still, the conversation on all the news outlets seems to always include just one more story about why the Republicans lost.

The angst the Republicans feel is certainly palpable. They cannot believe they lost; they cannot believe that the Hispanic community went in such large numbers for President Obama; they cannot believe that 21st conservatism …lost.

So deep is their misery about their loss that they’ve been talking ad nauseum on how they must change. It’s a new day, they’re saying. “We get it now,” they say, and they’re looking at themselves and their policies …and the way they relate to the masses of Americans. Some of them are realizing, as Jeb Bush said, that people think they are against everything – gay marriage, abortion, Medicare, Medicaid, the poor …They realize that now.

But what they are saying they want to do is change their image, not their policies.

Donald Trump, one of the speakers at CPAC (Conservative Political Action Conference), voiced concern that 11 million immigrants, if allowed to become American citizens, will vote Democratic. Trump said to allow that is suicide. It’s okay to let them vote, he said, but think of what we are doing! He wants America to remain “the way it was,” dominated by white men; “why don’t we let people from Europe in?” he asked.

“Tremendous people, hard-working people,” he said. “They can’t come in. I know people whose sons went to Harvard, top of their class, went to the Wharton School of finance, great, great students. They happen to be a citizen of a foreign country. They learn, they take all of our knowledge, and they can’t work in this country. We throw them out. We educate them, we make them really good, they go home — they can’t stay here — so they work from their country and they work very effectively against this. how stupid is that?” (http://tpmdc.talkingpointsmemo.com/2013/03/trump-white-immigrants-cpac.php).

Very little of what I’ve heard GOP leaders say indicates that the vast numbers of them understand the way the world is changing and how the GOP needs to be sensitive to those needs in order to build their base.  Most of them seem to want to find a way to stay the way they are, while doing what they most to get more brown voters. They still don’t seem to care about increasing the number of black people.

It’s not just the GOP leaders, either. Conservative followers are helping to remind people of why the GOP is suffering a bit now. Footage of CPAC showed a clip where a black guy was conducting a workshop on racism and how people are tired of being called racists. He mentioned Frederick Douglass, who hated slavery…and a white guy gets up and said that blacks, under slavery, had free room and board. Why, he wondered, would anyone want not to be in such a cushy situation?

No doubt, that man would violently disagree with anyone who called him a racist …but he and so many GOP leaders do not seem to understand that the smug attitudes of racism will not be tolerated much more. Discrimination against blacks, Hispanics, women, gays and lesbians…is going to be tolerated less and less.

It would be refreshing if the GOP really understood that it has had a snooty attitude toward way too much of the American electorate. Some of its leaders are understanding, but it seems far too many still cannot.

The GOP lost because people need to know they matter, and the GOP simply did not reach out to and respond to the cries and needs of a growing number of non-white Americans and would-be Americans. People do not trust a political party which seems intent on letting the poor and the elderly, for all intents and purposes, fend for themselves. And nothing of what I’ve heard thus far indicates that they understand …or care …that it is their policies which have turned so many people off.

President Obama, in spite of his flaws and shortcomings, was and is effective of letting a wider swath of Americans know that they matter. The GOP did not do that, and they are now seeing the consequences of their actions.

That’s why they lost. So, can we note that and stop talking, every day, about why the Republicans lost in 2012? If the GOP cannot move itself into a different mold after seeing what happened in 2012, they deserve to lose…

A candid observation

 

Change

Cover of "Scarred by Struggle, Transforme...
Cover via Amazon

 

Here we are on Election Day, with one candidate talking about going forward …changing the way things have been done in the past, and the other candidate talking about change …going from big government to smaller government and a balanced budget.

 

President Barack Obama says going forward will help his policies take hold. There will be health care for more people, young people will find college more affordable, federal regulations on banks and financial institutions should help consumers. Change…that’s all change…

 

And Governor Mitt Romney says he will balance the budget. That sounds good, except that with a balanced budget and less spending,  somebody is going to suffer. Less spending usually means less spending on programs that help the masses. Although economists say that less spending should be accompanied by more taxes, it feels like the emphasis will be on less spending, which means …change.

 

Change, no matter which way it comes, hurts. Joan Chittister, in her book Scarred by Struggle, Transformed by Hope,” writes that “change means movement. Movement means friction.”  But, she says, change is necessary because it is in change that we grow. If we cling to the present, she writes, we “cut off the wings to the soul.” Every day we should be “growing into more” or else we “retreat into less,” says Norman Mailer.

 

So this change in our country …whether it’s from President Obama or Gov. Romney…is a sign of life.

 

Thing is, we resist change.  Collectively and individually, we resist it. We grow comfortable in our spaces, even if those spaces are not good for us, even if those spaces are toxic. To change means we willingly engage in struggle, and struggle is wearying. We would rather vegetate, even though we wail about things not being right. We wail, but we do not want to do the work of change. Too much friction. We don’t want scarred knees.

 

If the truth be told, President Obama has brought about a lot of change. Many have not like it; there was movement and therefore, friction, lots of it. There wasn’t as much change as he wanted, but there has been change. And if Gov. Romney wins, there will be change that will rub lots of us the wrong way. There will be friction and struggle; there will be scarred knees.

 

But that means that there’s life. Where there is no movement, there is no life. Where there is no change, there is no life, either. Change comes unannounced and uninvited too often; in fact, because we resist change so much, the only way change can really happen oftentimes is if it DOES come uninvited. The good thing about presidential politics is that we know that with whomever is in the White House, there will ALWAYS be some kind of change that’s going to rub someone the wrong way. Sometimes, the change, like FDR’s New Deal, helps the masses, and sometimes, the change helps far fewer people. But we know change will come, whomever wins.

 

In our personal lives, change has to crash through our protective doors, invade our spaces of familiarity in order to get our attention. Change has to force us out of saucers and onto the ground; it has to make the scales fall from our eyes so that we can see what we have been trying hard not to see, and make us break into a jog instead of shuffling along where we’ve always been, satisfied.

 

In the case of politics, our country doesn’t decide to become new; the election of a new president forces newness upon us. But in our own lives, change, if we embrace it, means that we decide to become new, that we “do the work,” as Iyanla Vanzant says. The essence of struggle, says Chittister, “is neither endurance nor denial. The essence of struggle is the decision to become new rather than to simply become older.”

 

Well, if that’s the case, and if more people could and would understand change as an opportunity and not a curse, then perhaps we wouldn’t avoid the struggle so much…and just get into the process.

 

And even in the case of the changes thrust upon us by each president, perhaps it might help us and our country if we would accept some of the changes with a little less resistance. We might benefit from that.

 

A candid observation…