Since the election, the meme has been that a defeated Republican Party must change or face becoming a permanent minority, a regional party in a changed America. But that's not how it looks in real life. The most substantive legislative victory since November has been the passage of legislation making Michigan a "right to work" state, a staggering Republican victory in a state where the modern labor movement was born.
Meanwhile, the "fiscal cliff" negotiations go on without end, with President Obama almost pleading that he has gone "at least halfway" to give House Republicans "a fair deal." That doesn't sound like the victorious leader of a party of the future. If the election was about anything substantive, it repudiated efforts to roll back Social Security and Medicare, endorsed "nation building at home" and affirmed that taxes on the rich must go up. Why should Mr. Obama go anywhere near halfway, for in doing so he once again betrays the values of those who elected him.
The Republican position on maintaining the Military-Industrial Complex at all costs perseveres unless we are fortunate enough to go off the fiscal cliff. Meanwhile, the president left Susan Rice twisting in the wind amid the despicable character assassination by wealthy Republican Sen. John Sidney McCain III, R-Fox News. McCain, who lost the 2008 presidential election badly, will apparently determine who serves in Mr. Obama's cabinet.
If there's a decided lack of real soul searching by Republicans, it's that they continue to win victories. The GOP controls the legislatures in 27 states; Democrats control only 17. Twenty-nine Republican governors are in state houses, vs. 20 Democrats (and one independent). The result: Republicans enjoy total control over 24 states, Democrats 12. In most cases, Democrats merely try to hang on to the gains of the past while Republicans pass radical measures undermining workers and reproductive choice, cutting funding for the poor and giving even more advantages to corporations and the rich. In many cases, these are nearly identical measures drafted by such oligarchy front groups as ALEC.
The alliance between the oligarchs and theocrats remains solid. The GOP grass roots is as extreme as ever, growing more so. The blindsiding of Democrats in 2010 allowed Republican legislatures in most states to redistrict in their favor — this achievement will ensure their dominance for the rest of the decade. North Carolina as solid red is one example of the consequences.
The New York Times published an interesting story about how rich conservative donors are succeeding at the state level even if they flushed hundreds of millions down the toilet on the presidential campaign of wealthy Republican, er, I forget his name. What's at work is the superior ground game that allowed the Republicans to take unprecedented control of Arizona politics. They started at the precinct level, in school-board contests, working up — not just defeating Democrats but purging all but the most radical right-wingers.
Progressives can take some comfort that the federal judiciary will not be further radicalized over the next four years. There is much righteous fury over the Newtown massacre and a certainty that serious gun control legislation will surely follow. We shall see. It was telling that Mr. Obama didn't have the guts to call out the NRA, ALEC and others behind extreme gun-proliferation laws by name. If Newtown does bring fundamental change, two questions arise. Will it cause Mr. Obama and the Democrats to finally fight? And what will be our climate-change equivalent of Newtown?
[UPDATE] Joan Walsh at Salon has a very different take. But does the right's meltdown undo the ongoing damage at the state level and the willingness of the Tea Party House to bring down the country to further their extremist agenda?