Thursday, May 7, 2009

Jeff Sessions and the Decline of the GOP

Lately I've been thinking about the rise of Sen. Jefferson Beauregard Sessions III to the position of ranking Republican on the Judiciary Committee, making him the point person for the GOP assault on Pres. Obama's Supreme Court nomination. Frankly, I can't imagine a worse pick for this position, and I have to marvel again at the GOP circular firing squad's wonderful efficiency. How someone with Jeff Sessions' odious history ever got this high in the party is itself a telling indication of how far out of the mainstream the goposaurs have become. Sessions' racist past and his far-right voting record would seem to be ideal.....for the Democrats to use against the GOP. What were they thinking?

I'm not the only one wondering about this. Publius at Obsidian Wings explores the roots of how the GOP lost their way:
In the 1960s, both parties were in flux. The Democrats had traditionally been the racist party, while the Republicans had been far supportive of civil rights. But then both parties made a fateful choice. The Democratic Party – and its base – decided to support and fight for civil rights. It also made a lasting, long-term commitment to equality, and has actively embraced and promoted diversity for the past 40 years.

The Republican Party – institutionally, that is – went a different way. They adopted the Southern Strategy. They demagogued welfare queens. More generally, the party was institutionally hostile to laws and regulations and practices intended to correct centuries of state-sanctioned discrimination. To people like John Roberts, the world apparently began anew in 1964.

For years, the Republicans benefited from this choice. Nixon won. Reagan won. The South shifted to the GOP, giving it nearly 12 years of Congressonal control. Times were good.

But the checks are now coming due. The Democrats are beginning to see the benefits of the choices they made in the 1960s – the choices they remained firmly committed to over the years. Demographically, the country is getting less white. Individually, the most promising young African-American candidates and officials (people like Obama, Artur Davis, and Deval Patrick) are all firmly within the Democratic Party. Indeed, an entire generation of African-Americans have come of political age knowing nothing but hostility from Republicans and loyalty from Democrats.

Admittedly, Obama is an once-in-a-generation political talent. And I’m not taking anything away from him. But his rise must be seen in the larger context of the institutional commitment that the United States (and the Democratic Party specifically) made to diversity.
Jeff Sessions' ascension is another symptom of an isolated, out-of-touch, and rapidly becoming irrelevant political party. Why is anyone surprised that this man will be the face of the GOP in the coming battle for the next Supreme Cuurt justice?

No comments: