The small smear of red on the otherwise blue electoral map looks more like a minor bloodstain on a dirty Band-Aid than anything resembling a national political party. Who voted for McCain/Palin in bigger numbers than they even voted for Bush/Cheney? Only one shrinking group: uneducated white folks in the deep south and a few folks in Appalachia. Take away the white no-college-backwoods-and/or-southern McCain/Palin vote and the Republicans would have been approaching single digit electoral college oblivion.
Sarah Palin will never hold national office nor will any Republican at the presidential level for a long time to come. Why? Because America has uneducated jerks in it but is not a nation of uneducated jerks. The Republicans are done, hoisted on the petard of their own "southern strategy."
The Republican Party is only a step away from becoming the fringe of the fringe, identified more with cross-burning weirdoes wearing hoods, folks like the Alaska secessionist party, all those gun owners stocking up on assault weapons before the "Socialist/United Nations/Obama/Muslim" conspiracy comes to fruition, than with anything remotely like a serious national political force.
The Republican Party--and I speak as a former lifelong Republican who, up through the 2000 primary campaign supported John McCain and even worked for him by arguing his case on various conservative and religious radio stations--is now the toy of the Rush Limbaugh windbags. These folks include outright crazies (such as Sarah Palin's Assemblies of God pals who are waiting for Spaceship Jesus to rescue them and/or rooting out "witches" from their midst), white racists and a few not-very-bright attention seekers, including Ann Coulter, Sean Hannity etc.
Read their blogs! Listen to their talk radio! You'll be in the twilight zone of front page tabloid fantasy on a par with Bat Boy Attacks! headlines. Bill Buckley roll over.
The Religious Right, the racists, the anti-gay hate-mongers are now not only marginalized but thoroughly out of step with even members of their own former constituency. For instance the Gordon College student newspaper (Gordon is an influential Evangelical College north of Boston) endorsed Obama this year. Many young evangelicals voted for the Democrats. James Dobson, Fox News, Limbaugh et al. were utterly powerless to do more than stir up hate. They are losing the next generation of their "base."
Meanwhile many former Republicans--like me--ran to Obama as fast as our legs could carry us and away from our willfully "we're not an elite" moronic former party. Republican commentators such as David Brooks and George Will mourned the loss of the Republican center. Others noted the Republicans have become anti-intellectual. "Anti-intellectual?" They wish! How about simply anti-literate?
Meanwhile the fringe of the fringe is holding meetings where they'll talk to themselves and look at the "facts" of their alternative universe in order to figure out "what went wrong." These are the same "leaders" (like William Kristal) who think Sarah Palin has a big political future!
Sarah Palin will never be president because the right wing of the Republican Party has perfected the art of believing their own bullshit, starting with the idea that Palin has a future. Palin and her fans don't know it yet, but having reduced itself to a grim angry joke, the Republican Party has also divorced itself from American politics and, along with that dirty used Band-Aid, is destined for the garbage can.
What's the best defense against the rube/Palin voters derailing the Republican Party forever? If the statistics of who voted for whom are correct, the education of white people in the deep South and their economic empowerment is the best answer. Maybe it will take a black Democratic president to figure out some affirmative action program that can get our southern born-again white underclass into colleges and thereby save the Republican party.
Frank Schaeffer is the author of CRAZY FOR GOD-How I Grew Up As One Of The Elect, Helped Found The Religious Right, And Lived To Take All (Or Almost All) Of It Back. Now in paperback