Posted Online: Nov. 18, 2012, 6:00 am

GOP not dying, but it is going through the stages

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By Don Wooten

Checking the news last week took me back almost 50 years to a conversation I had with Dr. Elizabeth Kubler-Ross on a pleasant afternoon at her home in suburban Chicago.

It was her first lengthy news interview. I think she believed that I was from CBS rather than from a network affiliate in Rock Island.

I had heard of her pioneering work on death and dying from Dr. Thomas Tourlentes of the Galesburg State Research Hospital, who graciously paved the way for my visit.

Tom Spaight focused the sound camera solely on her as we talked long and earnestly about her unflinching study of how people react to the approach of death; what goes through their minds; and what medical professionals can do to help them deal with its inevitability. It was a riveting documentary which won a state award.

The kinescope of that conversation was shown in classes at Augustana until it was became too worn to be used.

In those days, death was a forbidden subject for doctors trained to do everything possible to prolong life. Kubler-Ross showed them -- and us -- that's it's better, at some point, to stop the denials and treat the terminally ill as human beings in the momentous transition from life to death.

What brought this to mind was the five steps Kubler-Ross observed as the dying come to terms with their fate: denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and -- finally -- acceptance. I don't mean to trivialize her work, but, as I read the news, I sense that the Republican Party is going through the same process.

This is not to imply that the GOP is nearing extinction. We get that kind of mindless prediction after each national election. We have heard both Democrats and Republicans written off after a loss; yet each is somehow resurrected to compete again.

But this loss was truly traumatic. There is still a lot of denial in conservative quarters. Tea Party firebrand Allen West seems unable to accept losing his Florida house seat to Democrat Patrick Murphy. Murphy's 2,429-vote win has been certified, but West is still considering a legal challenge. He has a $3 million campaign surplus to spend.

Party faithful were assured of a smashing victory for Mitt Romney and almost every other candidate down the ballot. This, in spite of the polls -- excepting some doctrinaire right-wing operations =-- which clearly indicated a growing edge for President Obama. Small wonder that so many remain in denial.

Most moved immediately to anger; a natural reaction. You find a lot of it in statements from prominent leaders. They find the loss incomprehensible. Pollsters had run the numbers; pundits had analyzed the 2010 returns and public sentiment.

Fox News and right-wing radio had pounded Obama since his inauguration. How could he have won?

Sen. John McCain has been angry since his loss in 2008 and he has turned it up a notch. He and a few colleagues are determined to make something ominous out of the Benghazi attack and subsequent confusion over exactly what occurred. In particular, they are set to stonewall U.N. Ambassador Susan Rice's elevation to secretary of state.

Her crime is that she delivered an interpretation of the event given her by an ill-informed CIA. There is also a subtext here: McCain would prefer to see his old friend, Sen. John Kerry, appointed as Hillary Clinton's replacement.
I imagine the Koch Brothers can't be too happy with Karl Rove just now. They put a considerable amount of money into the Romney campaign, Rove's American Crossroads PAC, and an assortment of conservative initiatives over the past four years.

It was an investment which they expected to pay off in reduced tax and regulation.

No one likes to lose a sure bet.

I'm not sure how bargaining works into the scheme of things just now. Relentless partisans such as Charles Krauthammer seem unwilling to yield on any of the themes to which a majority of voters objected.
Yet he and others appear ready to make gestures toward Latino voters, believing them to be natural conservatives who would join the party if only they were welcomed in some fashion.

Further changes are nonnegotiable.

A few have reached the stage of acceptance. There are some voices from the right advocating real compromise. Bill Kristol of the Weekly Standard suggested that the GOP simply bite the bullet and agree to higher taxes for the wealthy. That's a minority view in the minority party, but one which might suggest that it's time for Congressional Republicans to abandon stonewalling and make a real deal.

Then the party can regroup and aim for success in 2014 when vote totals will lower and the passionate may once again prevail.
Don Wooten of Rock Island is a former state senator and veteran broadcaster;