I'm aware that this is not the proper season for a predictions column. I've done enough of them in my day to know that, normally, they are supposed to come out either at the end of one year or the beginning of the next.
But this one has a more limited scope than your typical predictions column. It's strictly about what I predict for the future of the Republican Party, and I'm worried that if I wait too long, there won't be enough Republicans around to bother doing it.
Don't misunderstand. I certainly don't mean to promise that we will soon run short of conservative knotheads, neo-conservative knotheads, religious right knotheads or hysterical little drama-queen knotheads (e.g.: Karl Rove and Jonah Goldberg). All I'm saying is that the quasi-philosophical glue which binds these disparate people together into what has been, until now, one big ball of knotheads has deteriorated so profoundly that I cannot imagine them all continuing to huddle under the same umbrella organization for long.
It is upon this assumption—that since their crushing, indisputable, well-earned and much-deserved defeat on November 4, the Republican Party, as a unified or unifying force, is as useless as mittens on a monkey—that I base the following predictions.
• Thanksgiving-Xmas, 2008: Throughout the first weeks of the transition, it appears as though the GOP is splitting into two factions. The smallest by far will be those relatively sensible moderates who understand they lost the election as much on their party's endemic repulsiveness as on the strength of President-elect Obama. Those who still hold elective office will know that it is now their dual duty to cooperate with the Democrat majority to whatever extent their consciences allow them to, and to scrupulously examine those defects in their consciences that allowed them to be Republicans in the first place.
However, the great majority of Republicans—be they in office, recently tossed from office or just regular Joe Six-Packers—refuse to accept the premise that their party suffered such a stupendous rout based on anything wrong with their party. The cry goes up, "But it's still a center-right country!" which, even if that were true, begs the question as to where they stand in the political spectrum. These unrepentant Republicans will temporarily rally around Gov. Sarah Palin as they have no one else to rally around, but by Inauguration Day, ominous cracks begin to appear in this bloc.
• Spring/Summer, '09: In the months following Barack Obama's inspiring and history-making Inauguration speech, Congressional Republicans scramble to come up with a coherent opposition to the policies the president has proposed, but their efforts will resemble nothing else so much as a tequila-fueled Chinese fire drill. At every juncture, President Obama out-maneuvers them. They are increasingly caught on film with a perplexed, "Wha' just happened?" expression on their sweaty faces. In short order, moderates (e.g.: Arlen Specter and Olympia Snow) will give up and either switch parties or turn independent, caucusing with the Democrats. By the Labor Day break, Senate Democrats can rely on a 68-vote super-majority, more than enough to quash any filibuster the remaining conservatives have planned. Whatever Obama wants, Obama gets.
• January, 2010 (one year into what historians will eventually refer to as "The Golden Age of Obama"): By their very nature, America's right wing cannot stop bitching about everything the president says, thinks or does any more than a Pope can stop being Catholic or a bear can stop shitting in the woods.
But their incessant carping has increasingly less influence on the body politic. Even hockey moms will get bored with Gov. Palin, and even hardened racists and firm free-market enthusiasts are so pleased with what the president is achieving, they abandon talk radio and loony blogs, en masse. There is so little interest in what GOP leaders have to say, MSNBC establishes a new guideline that no Republican shall be interviewed on air unless he has been 1) caught in an undercover sex sting, 2) secretly taped accepting bribes from Alaskan developers, or 3) indicted for murder. Which is to say, there will still be plenty of Republicans interviewed on MSNBC, but it's their lawyers who will do most of the talking.
• July 4, 2010: As so many lunatic-fringe Republicans are switching to the Libertarian Party, Ron Paul decides they need a bigger name. On Independence Day, he announces the birth of the "United Libertarian-Republican Confederation of Constitutional Fundamentalists," or the ULRCCF. That fall, of the ULRCCF candidates running for various offices nationwide, only one will win—a school board member in Topeka, Kan. But he is recalled within six months for continually forgetting which night the school board meets.
• 2011 (the year President Obama establishes a permanent peace in the Middle East): Because so few Americans are still listening to Rush Limbaugh, his fat contract is sold to a European consortium of Italian neo-fascists, Bavarian ultra-nationalists and Serbian war criminals who have yet to be caught. He is told he must move his broadcast operation to Romania, but he refuses to leave Florida, insisting his ditto-head audience will support him directly from their pockets. He is last seen selling discount Korean hot tubs in an Orlando strip mall.
• 2012 (the year Barack Obama is elected for a second term, winning easily in all 50 states): What is left of the Republican Party splinters into small pieces. Of those deserving any attention whatsoever: the "Reformed Republican Party," which nominates Jeb Bush as their presidential candidate; the "Palinette Republicans," who at the last minute are forced to run a manicurist from Tennessee after Sarah Palin decides to dedicate her life to scrapbooking; and the "Bahia de Cochinos Republicanos," a small but vociferous group of Cubans who don't nominate anyone, insisting that the only change that matters must come from bullets, not ballots.
• 2028 (the year Chelsea Clinton thumps Jenna Bush for the presidency and Barack Obama's likeness is put on the new five-dollar coin): In spite of what 92-year-old John McCain shrieks as he runs through the streets of Lake Havasu City in his underwear, the GOP is but a distant, sour memory.
And there you have it, my vision of the future for the Republican Party. It may not all come to pass as foreseen, but may we all have the audacity to hope so.