This was a bad year for the Republican Party. What started out as a year of hope that they would return to power ended in a series of profound disappointments that left party strategists debating whether the GOP would become a permanent minority unless they change course.
Here are the party’s five most disappointing moments.1. Payroll Tax Cut Defeat
The year began with a standoff between President Obama and House Republicans that split the GOP and ended in a clear defeat for the party. Worse, it placed the mantle of working class tax breaks in the hands of a Democrat.
Obama demanded a one-year extension of the payroll tax cut; House GOP leaders made a public showing of their resistance, insisting on offsets but resisting ideological compromise until the bitter end. Obama stood firm, as did House Republicans — until Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell publicly called on them to give up the game.
On Feb. 13, they did, and agreed to extend the tax break without paying for it. It would prove to be a turning point in how Obama dealt with the GOP.
2. Nominating A Presidential Candidate They Disliked
The GOP’s presidential field was widely seen as weak. The race came down to two unpopular relics of the past (Newt Gingrich and Rick Santorum) and a former blue stater who once embraced abortion rights, gun control and planted the seeds for Obamacare (Mitt Romney).
After a series of embarrassing moments from the other candidates involving moon colonies, anti-porn crusades and the like, Republicans finally decided they had nowhere to go but Romney, crowning him their nominee on May 30. Conservatives never really warmed up to the former Massachusetts governor, and many lamented the selection. But, they consoled themselves, at least he had what it took to throw Barack Obama out of office.
3. Obamacare Upheld
On June 28, the Supreme Court broke Republicans’ hearts when it refused to strike down Obama’s signature legislative achievement.
It came at a time when Republican leaders were openly preparing for victory in quashing the Affordable Care Act. Even more depressing: the deciding vote in the 5-4 ruling came from one-time conservative hero, Chief Justice John Roberts, whose vote the right had mostly taken for granted. It left conservatives flummoxed and eager to understand his betrayal.
Now their only hope for repealing Obamacare was to defeat Obama.
4. Obama Reelected
On Nov. 6, Barack Obama was re-elected in a swift and brutal victory, sending shock waves through conservatives who were convinced they had the election in the bag. Mitt Romney was among those convinced he’d win, his campaign aides said, until well into election night.
Also distressing: Senate Democrats gained two seats against all odds. And while a redistricting advantage helped Republicans keep the House majority, Democratic candidates for the lower chamber picked up more votes overall than GOP candidates.
It was a crushing blow for many reasons. The America that much of the Republican base knew and loved seemed to be gone, replaced by a new America more diverse, young and liberal. The day of reckoning had arrived.
5. Taxes Are Going Up
The fix came in with the election results, and Republicans were immediately forced to come to grips with the fact that taxes are about to go up. And, because they control the House, there would be no easy way to dodge accountability.
The path toward acceptance has been ugly and painful, and the dilemma on their defining issue unenviable. If Republican strike a deficit-reduction deal with Obama, they’ll devastate and demoralize their base. If they scuttle a deal, they’ll face the wrath of a public that intends to blame them for driving the country off the proverbial fiscal cliff.