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It seems like every time the Republicans lose big, two things happen: The rightward fringe go into paroxysms trying to pin the blame anywhere but on their own extreme and alienating ideology, and everyone else starts fretting that the GOP is circling the drain.

Except for Democrats, of course, who take their victories where they can find them.

Still, 2012 was a remarkable election, and not just because Obama carried the day despite the economy’s slow recovery, the remarkably effective smear campaign that the radical right (and cynical plutocrats) waged against him for being a "socialist," and the truckloads of money that billionaires shoveled into the GOP’s race for the White House.

This election, more than any other, showed the Republican party as the party of old white guys, and its aftermath has cast a light on just how deep into the River ’o’ De Nile the GOP have slipped -- so deeply, in fact, that they are simply treading water.

The reasons for this are many and varied, but one telling barometer is how the GOP attempted, yet again, to make a presidential election a referendum on social questions. How bemused and horrified were smart conservatives to see the early field of Republican hopefuls tripping themselves to come down hardest on gay families, women, and immigrants? It was a Tea Party orgy of blame and paranoia, and it turned off the very people the GOP should have been courting for their votes. (Not just women and minorities, but also the white hat hackers who reportedly prevented the election from being electronically stolen.)

What’s equally telling is how Mitt and company just don’t learn. Not only did he show his hubristic stripes by not even bothering to prepare a concession speech in advance, but also Romney once again proved his clueless plutocrat bona fides by complaining that Obama only won because he "gifted" his way into a second term by, well, by giving people things they really need... affordable options for secondary education for young people, for instance.

But it’s not just Romney who’s acting dazed and stupid. The hue and cry from the fringe right has been one long, angry wail of accusation. You’d think someone had snatched a lollypop from a child’s hand, and in a way that’s exactly what happened. The voters took a look at what a Romney-Ryan administration would mean for them and said, ’No way.’ The angry, aging white power bloc, which is facing the growth of numerous other demographics such that their hold on power is rapidly slipping, threw a hissy fit.

Denial is a powerful force, and its currents are carrying a too-large segment of the Republican party rapidly downstream, quite possibly past the point of no return.

Meanwhile, cooler heads are seriously rethinking what a successful GOP of the future will look like. It won’t be lily-white; indeed, one of the saner voices in the wake of the election has turned out to be Gov. Bobby Jindal, the Indian-American governor of Louisiana, who broke it to Fox News viewers that, "If we want people to like us, we have to like them first. And you don’t start to like people by insulting them and saying their votes were bought."

Who’d have thought we’d hear this from a GOP governor like Jindal? Or that he’d come out with a gem like this: "We don’t need to demonize -- and we also don’t need to be saying stupid things."

"Don’t need to demonize?" Is it really a bright new dawn for the party that likes to talk about big tents, but then seeks to fill them solely with white heterosexual men while spouting off racist, sexist, and homophobic epithets, some in code and some not?

But given how voters upheld marriage equality in three states and fended off an anti-gay constitutional amendment in a fourth, the message seems crystal clear to anyone with eyes to see it: The successful Republican party of the future will not build its tactics on the backs of hard-working American families that happen to be headed by two moms or two dads. And it won’t be a religious monolith of cherry-picked evangelical values that cull and choose the six Biblical verses that condemn gay unions while ignoring the multitudes of Biblical injunctions against divorce.

Perhaps hardest of all for its fringe elements to swallow, the GOP, if it is to thrive in the contemporary nation, won’t be a male preserve as in days of yore. Guys, guess what? Women have the vote. Since, like, 1920. Fact-based news travels slow in certain circles, but there’s no longer any way to duck and hide from the simple math of the situation. America is a diverse nation and its government needs to answer to more than one slice of its citizenry, even if most of our wealth is still flowing into the hands of a very few privileged people. That is, after all, the nature of a democracy, such as our republic claims to be.

But will the message sink in before the GOP endures another disastrous election cycle? Maybe not; denial is a powerful force, and its currents are carrying a too-large segment of the Republican party rapidly downstream, quite possibly past the point of no return. As the Wall Street Journal noted in a Nov. 15 article, "Some top GOP officials worry their message is wrong for a rapidly diversifying population, and that fundamental shifts in policy may be required. But the more dominant voice, and the one gaining currency within the center of the party, says such drama isn’t necessary."

It is necessary, though, and it needn’t be a drama. But for those determined to sink their claws in and cling to the status quo, graceful and pragmatic adaptation is anathema; ideological "purity" is all, and damn the cost. Looks like we’re in for some drama after all, and this time it won’t be from the "queens" the fringe right like so much to denigrate.

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