Saturday, December 1, 2012
A Republican Kübler-Ross Moment
Note: This essay appeared in the November 30, edition of Politics in Minnesota. Please consider subscribing to that publication. Also, for comparison, the December 3, 2012 "Talk of the Town" section of the New Yorker references a Kübler-Ross feeling among House of Representatives Republicans. I wrote this piece before seeing the New Yorker essay.
Republicans and conservatives in Minnesota and across the United States are having their Kübler-Ross moment with the 2012 election results and their aftermath. As they confront their political mortality, their reaction to their failures parallels that of the psychological state of individuals facing their own deaths.
Elizabeth Kübler-Ross was a Swiss doctor whose book Death and Dying outlined a seven stage process that patients often go through when confronting death. Her book became famous in the 1979 Bob Fosse movie All that Jazz, featuring Roy Scheider as Joe Gideon. The stages–shock, denial, anger, bargaining, depression, testing and acceptance–represent the psychological states that individuals go through as they confront their demise. Individuals move through these seven stages to acceptance, but often get s truck at a stage and never move on. Politically, Republicans and conservatives across the country are similarly facing their own mortality, psychologically traversing the same path, or worse, getting stuck in one stage and unable to move on.
Shock. Many Republicans have yet to accept the fact that they lost the 2012 elections fair and square. They were out-hustled, out-organized, and most importantly, out-voted. Obama received more votes than Romney, Democrats have more US Senate seats than Republicans, and for only the fourth time in American history, the minority party in the House received more votes than the majority. Democrats also made big gains in the state houses, including Minnesota, and here the two Republican-prized constitutional amendments failed. Romney, as it is now known, was so assured of victory that he did not write a concession speech. Karl Rove, similarly convinced of victory, had a meltdown on Fox news when that state was called Ohio for Obama on his beloved network.
Denial. We could not have loss had it been a fair election. But for the voter fraud we would have won. But for Obama giving gifts to minority voters we would have won. For Kurt Zellers, it was not the two amendments and the social issues, the government shutdown, or bad politics that cost them the control of the legislature. For Mary Kiffmeyer and Jason Lewis, were it not for the lies and distortions by their opponents, the Elections Amendment would have passed. For Dan McGrath of the Minnesota Majority, expect him to yell fraud, contending that were it not for the voter fraud that the Elections Amendment was meant to prevent, it would have passed. Of course, Romney did not lose because he was a bad candidate, with a bad message, appealing to an aging, white, party and demographic that is dying off and which is to the right of mainstream America. Of course Republicans did not lose Senate races in Missouri and Indiana because candidate remarks about rape and abortion turned off female voters. No, the problem is not the candidate, the message, or the messenger, it is simply we did not move far enough to the right or that we need to repackage the same ideas in a new way.
Anger. We just cannot live a country with Obama as president so we need to succeed from the union, so says those folks deep in the heart of Texas. Similarly conservatives and Republicans are lashing out against the biased media, lying liberals, and thuggish unions, all to blame for their losses. But as if anger and blame were not spread around far enough, turn inward. Blame moderates such as Romney, Christ Christie for doing his job in New Jersey, or Clint Eastwood for talking to an empty chair for squandering the chance to win.
Bargaining. The president wins, we lose. Democrats gain seats in Senate and House and Minnesota turns true blue in the legislature. What shall we do? Stand our ground and force Obama and the Democrats to bargain. John Boehner claims a mandate and says maybe we shall compromise, but we refuse to raise income taxes, we refuse to make the wealthy carry their fair share, we refuse to give to avoid the fiscal cliff. Best of all, Mary Kiffmeyer, after refusing to negotiate with the governor and the DFL on voter ID, now generously tells both that she willing to compromise on it.
Depression. Oh to have the Prozac concession for Fox News, AM talk radio, and in most of the south. Depression rings across the red parts of the United States now. The despondence of having lost a presidential race that should have been won, a US Senate ripe for the picking, or realization that Obama gets probably to pick several Supreme Court Justices or that same-sex marriage as a legal reality is near is enough to make any Conservative Republican depressed. How can one live four more years with a president whose middle name is Hussein, who is probably not a US citizen, and no doubt Muslim.
Testing. But just maybe there is a way to go on. Maybe there is a way to let taxes go up without raising taxes. Perhaps it is by letting the Bush era tax cuts expire and then vote for a tax cut for the middle class. That’s not raising taxes is it? Or perhaps eliminate tax loopholes or raise the rates on capital gains. That’s not raising taxes is it?
Acceptance. Ok, so Obama did win and the Democrats did take control of the Minnesota legislature. But the midterm elections are less than two years away and the next presidential race barely four. Maybe there is a way to survive, maybe we can obstruct some more, hold on to some old outdated ideas on gay rights and immigration, or maybe Obama and the Democrats will overreach. Yes we lost, but perhaps there is a silver lining. It will be purity of message and candidate in 2014 and 2016.