Are conservatives winning the battle but losing the war?
Last week, the Supreme Court struck down DOMA and dismissed California's Proposition 8, and also disemboweled nearly 50 years of Voting Rights Act protections for minorities. The Washington Post's E.J. Dionne gloomily saw this latter development as a symbol of conservatives' inexorable progress in scoring long-game victories in cases such as the court's Citizens United decision, which wiped out 100 years of campaign-finance law precedent.
Recall that when conservatives did not have a clear court majority, they railed against '"judicial activism." Now that they have the capacity to impose their will, many of the same conservatives defend extreme acts of judicial activism by claiming they involve legitimate interpretations of the true meaning of the Constitution. It is an inconsistency that tells us all we need to know. This is not an argument about what the Constitution says. It is a battle for power. And, despite scattered liberal triumphs, it is a battle that conservatives are winning. [Washington Post]
Conservatives are also winning their battle to squelch the RNC's highly touted post election autopsy and the party's supposedly aggressive rebranding effort. If Republican rebranding is not totally dead, you can now hear its death rattle.
Immediately after the Supreme Court's Voting Rights Act ruling, six southern states moved with breathtaking speed to put in place measures effectively aimed at suppressing voters who favor Democrats. But it's a double-edged sword. As The New York Times' Ross Douthat notes, the ruling is a "gift from the Roberts court for Democrats" because it will help them mobilize the party base, provide a rallying point, and be a potent fundraising tool.
So a lengthy battle over voting rules and voting rights seems almost precision-designed to help the Obama-era Democratic majority endure once President Obama has left the Oval Office... Liberal demagogy notwithstanding, voter ID laws aren't a way for Republicans to turn the clock back and make sure that it's always 1965. But they are a good way for Republicans to ensure that African-Americans keep voting like it's always 2008. [New York Times]
In Texas, Democratic state Sen. Wendy Davis, armed with a catheter, blocked anti-abortion regulations considered among the toughest in the nation in her epic-11 hour filibuster, though Republicans are still expected to pass the measure. In Wisconsin, the Republican-dominated assembly passed a law requiring women who want abortions to take ultrasounds.
Meanwhile, although the Republican Party could be politically doomed if it's responsible for axing immigration reform, the Republican chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, Rep. Robert W. Goodlatte, declared that "any attempt at comprehensive immigration legislation cannot offer a special pathway to citizenship." If most House GOPers reject pleas to pass immigration reform, it's game over. Latino hopes would be dashed, and voters would only see their sense of the GOP's rightward shift reinforced. But that's the pickle: Shift right, and lose independent voters. Swing to the center, and risk losing your base. Indeed, former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin now warns that if the party strays from conservatives she and others might consider leaving it for a new third party.
The stage seems set for the party's nearly-complete takeover by the hard-right. Conservative court victories will likely continue dismantling key pieces of New Deal-New Frontier-Great Society programs — and traditional political assumptions. Republicans will cement their hold on conservative, southern, and mostly white districts with continued hyper-partisan rhetoric and gerrymandering that pushes the party further right — and will continue to hold the House.
But unless there is some quick course correction, Republicans are poised to face obstacles in winning future national elections due to the party's tone, refusal to create new coalitions, and tactics and policies that will spark get-out-and-vote-backlash among rising demographic groups. And if Republicans win the White House without changing course? They would then face an opposition angered by the party's no-compromise stance and the alienation of up-and-coming blocks of voters. And the trend towards angry political polarization would sadly — and dangerously — continue.