To the Editor:
The year 2012 is likely to be viewed as a watershed year politically by historians for several reasons.
I say that because not only did President Obama defeat Mitt Romney; the Democrats held on to their majority in the Senate and, in fact, they expanded upon it. Not unexpectedly, the Tea Party/GOP reactionaries maintained control of the House but, even there, Democratic gains reduced the right wingers’ margin of control in the House by a few seats.
One reason historians will likely view 2012 as a watershed political year is that it was in 2012 the Tea Party succeeded in silencing and driving many, if not most, conservative voices of reason out of the once great party of Abraham Lincoln — while, at the same time many voters pushed back, telling the overwhelmingly white, far right, Tea Party that they were sick of its intransigence, obstructionism, and extreme positions on many social issues.
For example, in Indiana, Richard Lugar, a widely respected, conservative stalwart in the Senate, was defeated in that state’s GOP primary by Richard Mourdock. Mourdock was a raging Tea Party type who vowed he would never compromise with Democrats if elected, and stated that a pregnancy borne of rape is part of “God’s plan” and should not be terminated. Yet Mourdock was defeated by his Democratic opponent by a comfortable margin.
In Missouri, the Democratic incumbent, Sen. Claire McCaskill, had been written off as political toast just six months ago. Yet she defeated her Tea Party, Christian extremist opponent Todd Akin in the wake of his bizarre comments that a woman’s body can prevent conception if she has been the victim of a “legitimate rape” by nearly 20 percentage points.
Those are but two examples of the growing trend away from the right-wing extremism we’ve seen across the country.
With the Democrats still in charge of the Executive Branch and the Senate, the focus will be on the House. People need to pay close attention to the Tea Party extremists who still dominate the GOP House majority. If they continue to hold the nation hostage to their angry ideology, they need to hear loud and clear that they will be held accountable at the polls in 2014.
Republicans completely misread the changing political tea leaves — no pun intended — over the last two years.
Several recent national polls have the Tea Party’s approval rating now at an abysmal 21 percent. Republicans have a lot of soul searching to do if they are not going to find themselves marginalized nationally for years to come.
The Tea Party is a minority movement, racially and ideologically. Many Republicans ignored that reality, thinking the Tea Party’s angry energy would serve their political interests long term. That school of thought is haunting the GOP in a big way today.
In the meantime, the “clueless community organizer,” as one regular Times’ online poster likes to call the president, has forged a new, national political coalition comprised of a surprising number of blue collar whites, women, and minorities that has real parallels to the New Deal Coalition FDR forged eight decades ago. With four years to solidify and build on that coalition, President Obama and the Democrats have the Republicans on the defensive in a big way.
The Republicans allowed angry, Tea Party ideologues — some undeniably racist, xenophobic, homophobic, and sexist — to undermine and discredit the once formidable coalition Ronald Reagan forged in the 1980s. For that, they have no one but themselves, the Tea Party, and the likes of Rush Limbaugh, Ann Coulter, and Sean Hannity to blame.
Gloucester and Vieques, Puerto Rico