The Elephant’s Graveyard

Venerable, or doomed?

Venerable, or doomed?

The old elephant hasn’t been looking too healthy lately. It’s pale, clammy – a shocking reversal of its brutish vitality from only a year previous, when its alpha male status still meant something. But it’s been hounded at for too long now – its legs torn at, its slow and lumbering form, though still massive, unable to outmaneuver its lesser, but faster, rival. The stench of blood is in the air now – if it doesn’t break free of this predicament now, it may never get another chance.

It may already be too late.

There are few people in the world willing to trade places with Michael Steele right now. The still relatively new chairman of the Republican National Committee has the unenviable responsibility of making the Grand Old Party, with emphasis on Old, relevant again in the face of losing both the executive office, and control of the legislative branch of the United States of America. Worse, the losses in the latter were so severe, it took all of six defectors, three in both the Senate and Congress, to lose what is easily the most defining political battle of the year – and we’re not even in April yet.

So far, he isn’t doing too great a job of it.

To be fair to the man, it’s too early to truly cast judgment on his stewardship of the Republican Party – but to be even more fair, the indicators of his inability to come to grips with the challenge the party faces is clear as day. Just from language use alone, a man of his age and social status calling the stimulus package “bling bling,” and the attempts to modernize the party in the face of staggering evidence of its growing obsolescence as going “beyond cutting edge” cannot help but look ridiculous – and slightly desperate.

The comedians have been lapping his one-liners up like ambrosia from the heavens themselves, of course, but remember that politicians rarely make speeches these days without a full platoon of public relation specialists to back them up. His antics, and the more recent verbal spar with conservative media darling Rush Limbaugh, underlines heavily the killing stress the entire party is facing. Blood is in the air, a thick, lingering miasma that they cannot ignore in the slightest – it is, after all their’s.

Steele is, of course, fighting a losing battle. Conservatism is, by very definition, unable to change swiftly. While the Republicans’ historical solidarity has proven to be a overwhelmingly effective weapon at times, as proven in the 2000 and 2004 elections, as well as the overwhelming effort it took to get the stimulus bill passed in the first place, it does leave them with a particular blind spot that the infamously fractured Democratic Party, more accurately described as a coalition of related interests, lacks: once the GOP does succeed with an idea, it finds it very, very hard to let go of it.

Case in point: social conservatism, the uncontested driving force behind the ’00 and ’04 presidential elections. The idea that society’s values ought not to change is ingrained into its very existence – despite, of course, overwhelming evidence that change is an inevitability. But because of the sheer power of the social conservative lobby, even Steele, who was accused of not being conservative enough by his detractors during his bid for the chairmanship, cannot afford to lose their support. “Don’t fix what isn’t broken” is the core mantra of the Conservative movement, after all, and if social conservatives won them two elections in a row, surely this isn’t something that can be considered broken. Right?

Wrong. Do not ever forget: even in America’s inherently bipolar political system, we’ve seen parties die. We’ve seen even the biggest, richest, most influential parties succumb under a hubris more traditionally assigned to teenagers: the sin of thinking that just because they exist, they deserve to exist – that they’re somehow immortal. But a party that no longer represents the American people is a dead party. And if the GOP only represents the social conservative facet of the American people to the exclusion of all others, it is a dead party.

The vultures are circling, Michael Steele.

Elephant Grave

Elephant Grave

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~ by Gonzo Mehum on March 10, 2009.

5 Responses to “The Elephant’s Graveyard”

  1. Grammarpedant: “theirs” not “their’s” as plural-possessive.

    Content: The GOP has been a successful coalition for the last couple decades because they (mostly) held the social conservative aspect of the party in check compared to the capitalist robber-baron types and the “government can do no right” wing. Problem is, they were self-fulfilling about the government and we hit some big faultlines in Republican-style free-market nepotistic capitalism. Having been whipped by reality on both of those aspects, the only one left was social conservatism, which meant letting out the wingnuts to accuse their opposition of being baby-killers and closet Muslims.

    Steele’s best bet is to jettison much of the social conservative wing from his party and refocus on being greedy robbers that scratch each other’s backs and ensuring the government never hears about it or can punish them for it.

  2. “Don’t fix what isn’t broken” – A reasonable strategy at times. Of little import when everything’s broken though.

  3. Good riddance. Let the LP replace them.

  4. Can I just point out that the top elephant image can be found at this link http://www.fotoviva.co.uk/Wildlife-Canvas-Art/The-Old-Elephant
    Thanks

  5. You Sir/Madam are the enemy of confusion evehrwyere!

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