For a political party, there is nothing good about losing an election. At the same time, there is little utility in the second kick of a mule, so how a party responds to a loss can be as important as how it waged the election in the first place.
In 1980, the Democrats lost the White House and the Senate in a stinging defeat in which an incumbent Democratic President carried only six states, was trounced among independents and nearly lost the union vote. In the period after that defeat, the party's emerging leaders such as Senators Bill Bradley, Gary Hart and Paul Tsongas, stepped forward to attempt to articulate a Democratic approach to a post-Great Society and post-Vietnam America.
This would eventually pave the path towards the election of Bill Clinton in 1992 and the Democrats winning the popular vote in five of the last six elections. The first step on the path towards reclaiming the White House, however, was an acknowledgement of defeat and a recognition that the party had to recast itself towards a new electorate.
Republicans entered the 2012 election season hoping to replicate the 1980 result, with the electorate tossing President Obama and rejecting his economic program amidst similar hard times. Having failed miserably during the election, including handing near certain Senate victories to the Democrats in Indiana and Missouri, the Republicans are faring even worse post-election.
Far from acknowledging the judgment of the electorate, the Republicans instead have rejected it and appear eager for their next date with the mule.
After four years of denying that race was a driving factor as they seethed and babbled about the evil simultaneous fascist and communist dictator occupying the White House, rank and file Republicans responded to President Obama's overwhelming victory by spewing racist rants throughout social media.
The mask had fallen and Republicans were not the least bit embarrassed or apologetic. Their nominee, Mitt Romney, bitterly claimed that his bid for the Presidency for white America had been undermined by the President's hand-outs to minorities.
When former Secretary of State Colin Powell spoke last month of a "dark vein of intolerance" in the GOP, it apparently had little effect on his party as was evident by freshman Congressman Steve Stockman's (R-TX) extending an invitation to the virulently racist and openly seditious Ted Nugent to sit in the House gallery during the President's State of the Union Address.
Did anyone in party leadership or anyone of note even voice a hint of disapproval for Stockman's offensive gesture? Of course, not. In fact, Fox commentator Bill O'Reilly says that Nugent's "straight talk" is "what the Republican party needed."
No Republican is stepping forward to offer a 21st century vision for the party, which seems driven only by its own petulant anti-Obama tantrums and not the interests of the country. As Daniel Larison in the American Conservative notes, whether it is calls for forcing a government shut down to its most recent stunt in filibustering the nomination of fellow-Republican Chuck Hagel for Secretary of Defense, the Republicans are making sure that all of the moderates, independents, and realists that they have alienated over the last ten years will keep running away from them.
That is exactly what is happening, as the Republicans' standing in the polls continues to plummet, with a 72 percent disapproval rating in the most recent poll. This is unlikely to change anytime soon as the Republican leaders in both the House and the Senate are afraid of being challenged by the party's lunatic fringe.