The Republicans’ Existential Crisis

30 January 2009


The Republican leadership seems to be catching on to the fact that their party has began the subtle shift from national to regional power. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, speaking to the RNC, openly and explicitly acknowledged (in so far as any politician can openly and explicitly acknowledge anything), that the Republican stumble in the last election is a serious problem, not a temporary setback.

In a series of posts in this forum, The Strategic Consequences of Republican Meltdown, More on Republican Disarray, and Of Weeds and Flowers, I gave my own analysis of the trouble in which the Republicans find themselves. What I wrote was surprising close to what Mitch McConnell said in his speech to the RNC. Here’s the rub: while such an admission seems politically courageous, once a problem of this magnitude is openly and explicitly acknowledged, something must be done or the acknowledgment is one of forfeiture. An entity that knows it must change in order to survive but resolutely refuses to do so is making a choice not to survive (in its present condition), whether or not it realizes that it is making such a choice.

What is happening to the Republicans now offers a contemporary illustration of a larger pattern of historical non-viability. One can imagine such a pattern played out in miniature, say within the life of a single individual, or extrapolated to the largest structures in history with which we are familiar. The same historical and ontological principles that are relevant to the Republicans now at the present juncture in their history are relevant to our species on the whole.

If we fail to do what is necessary to perpetuate the human species and thus precipitate the end of the world indirectly by failing to do what was necessary to prevent the event, and if some alien species should examine the remains of our ill-fated species and their archaeologists reconstruct our history, they will no doubt focus on the problem of when we turned the corner from viability to non-viability. That is to say, they would want to try to understand the moment, and hence possibly also the nature, of the suicide of our species. Perhaps we have already turned that corner and do not recognize the fact; indeed, it is likely impossible that we could recognize the fact from within our history that might be obvious to an observer outside our history.

And so it is with the Republicans. Like the economy, they are in a position of “do something, do anything.” But they would be well-advised that the one thing they cannot do is panic. What is needed now is clear-headed, calculating rationality; panic would only hasten the end.

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