Remember a year ago, when the circus came to TV?
You know, the circus that was the Republican debates.
A clown car would appear on the stage, and out would tumble the performers -- Michele Bachman, Herman Cain, Rick Perry, Newt Gingrich, and Rick Santorum.
None really serious people, most bombastic and blustering, Fox News caricatures.
And there was Mitt Romney. A guy who actually thought seriously -- though, in my view, wrongly -- about what should be done to help the country.
So in the midst of these clowns, parroting the most far right views, Romney tilted even further right, in a successful attempt to win the nomination.
Which, in doing so, was his downfall.
Romney knew that he could not come close to winning the general election if he remained the self- described “severe conservative” of the primaries.
He knew that if he ran as Tea Party Mitt, he’d be creamed by Obama. He knew that the ideology of the primaries was a loser in the general election.
And that is the problem with the Republican Party. It has been captured by the farthest of the Right, so far right that only Fox News viewers and Rush Limbaugh listeners embrace it. This is a party who actually believes Obama is a Muslim, born in Kenya, hell-bent on recreating America as some kind of “European socialist” entity.
Think I’m wrong? Look at how easily President Obama won. Over 300 electoral votes and the popular vote. And this is a president with an almost 8 percent unemployment rate, a barely moving forward economy, and the ever-present threat of another recession. With a reality like that, he should’ve been easy pickings for defeat.
Except this year.
Now, some Republicans will say, “We ran a flawed candidate.” And they did. Thanks to their insistence on total fealty to the hard right doctrine. But those same Republicans might fool themselves into believing that if they had just run an “authentic Republican” they would’ve won.
But they’re delusional if they think that.
Because it’s not the candidate that’s the fatal flaw -- it’s the party.
This is the culmination of 30 years of the Republican Party gradually shrinking its appeal, going from the Big Tent that included Rockefeller Republicans along with Southern conservatives to what we see today -- the party of older white men.
So will the party make the same mistake Democrats did 40 years ago? After a close loss to Richard Nixon in 1968, the Democrats moved radically left in 1972, with George McGovern as their candidate. And he was swamped by Nixon.
Will the Republicans have their George McGovern moment in 2016, nominating a Real Republican, a hard righter, and watch him or her go to a quick, painful defeat?
Or will the smart Republicans exert some influence, recognize that their party is outside the mainstream of our electorate, and reach out to those beyond their ever shrinking base?
For our country’s sake, I hope it’s the latter. I’m afraid, though, that we might have an even more conservative Republican Party for the foreseeable future.