The state of the Republican Party right now reminds me of the 49ers in the Super Bowl: a great team victimized by their own choices. I’m sure most of you (except Alice) suffered agony as I did, particularly during the last two minutes of the game. The Niners had the ball first and goal on Baltimore’s seven-yard line. In the 49er backfield were two of the best ball carriers in the National Football League, Frank Gore and Colin Kaepernick, facing the mediocre Baltimore run defense (ranked 19th of 32 teams). The 49ers were 4th in the NFL running the ball, 23rd in passing. Gore had already run the ball 19 times for 110 yards, an average of almost six yards per carry, and Kaepernick had seven carries for 62 yards, almost nine yards per carry. The first 49er play was a run by LaMichael James, who is fast but not a power runner, which gained two yards to the five-yard line. Simple math shows us that if you run three more times, and only gain two yards per run, on the fourth down you score the Super Bowl winning touchdown.
That’s not what the 49ers did. They tried three short passes to the right, each time to Michael Crabtree, the receiver the Ravens knew would be the target for over half of 49er short-yardage passes near the goal line. This neatly fit Einstein’s definition of insanity: keep doing the same thing and expect a different outcome each time. When the fourth-down pass fell incomplete, the camera switched to Jim Harbaugh on the sideline, screaming for a holding call or pass interference.
Jim, never let someone else decide your fate.
What has this to do with the Republican Party? A lot.
The strength of Republicanism is our opposition to wasteful government. In the recent past that has gained us the support of a majority of American voters and given us the political power we need to change things. Unfortunately, instead of change in keeping with our conservative ideals, power went to our leaders’ heads and Republicans became almost as bad as Democrats. Like the 49ers, we “stopped dancing with who brung us.” This led many voters to ponder the reason for voting for a Republican who was just like the Democrat. You might as well vote for the real thing instead of a pseudo-Republican. This created a conservative backlash against Republican leadership, spawning the Tea Party more as a threat to Republicans than Democrats. As a result, several candidates won Republican primaries who had no chance of winning the general election. It didn’t help that several of these candidates seemed to go out of their way to make really stupid remarks about issues that were certain to alienate women, minorities, and moderates.
“Well, if they don’t like it, they don’t have to vote for me.” And they didn’t. We lost four or five Senate seats that should have been easy wins. And good Republican that I have been from my first vote in 1964, I would have had a hard time holding my nose and voting for Republicans who were prone to making really dumb remarks. “Let them think you’re a fool; don’t open your mouth and prove it.”
Instead of taking charge, Republicans have been like Harbaugh, desperate for the officials to throw a flag. Or in Obamacare, for a Supreme Court “Hail Mary”. If Republicans had taken care of business, growing and strengthening the economy, we would not have fallen into such dire circumstances. We would have come off a strong George Bush presidency resembling his first six years, not his last two. We would have had a strong, principled candidate instead of John McCain’s wishy, washy positions, too conservative for some, not conservative enough for others, not understandable by anyone. An incumbent Republican who took on the tough issues in immigration, Social Security, health care, and income taxation instead of avoiding them would have won reelection in a landslide, and brought even more Republicans into the House and Senate, and eventually have more conservatives in the Supreme Court.
Republicans have won solidly at the state level, with 30 Republican governors and 23 states where Republicans also control the legislatures. Republicans have a sound foundation for future success. They just have to learn to call better plays when it counts.