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The Republican Party Is, For Now, Fine

[ 62 ] November 12, 2012 |

I think Bouie and Sides are 100% right. I haven’t changed my mind since 2008 — I see no reason to believe that the 2012 elections represent some kind of fundamental realignment in American politics under which the Republican Party is doomed. What the 2012 election does show is that modern Democratic coalition — essentially, the McGovern coalition with the full support of a (diminished) labor movement — is viable and competitive. It can win under circumstances that (unlike 2008) aren’t insanely favorable. But 2012 certainly doesn’t prove that the Republicans can’t win. And while the Republican coalition is slowly shrinking and will have to be expanded, it remains relatively competitive in presidential years, and still has an advantage in off-year elections, where its older, wealthier, whiter base is relatively more likely to turn out. The major coalitions right now are both relatively stable, and the playing field between them might be the most level in American history.

Comments (62)

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  1. Scott de B. says:

    I see the Republican party in the same place as the Democratic party of the 80s. They have a built-in advantage in the House, but the Presidency and the Senate are less favorable and even the House will be subject to erosion over time as happened to the Democratic Congress in 1994. The Democratic Party eventually was able to reinvent itself. We will see if the Republicans can do the same.

    • NonyNony says:

      IMO, the Democrats are going to need to take control at the state level in multiple states during a redistricting year if they ever want to control the House again.

    • cpinva says:

      the only way they can “re-invent” themselves, is out of existence.

      The Democratic Party eventually was able to reinvent itself. We will see if the Republicans can do the same.

      the GOP is, and always has been, in the modern era, the party of the 1%. since 1% doesn’t get you much, in the way of public offices, they had to expand their base. they did this by both the “Southern Strategy”, and the “whack job fundie” strategy, which incorporated the worst combination of human personality traits known to mankind. they assumed this base would expand over time. it has not, it has, in fact, contracted.

      they’re options are limited:

      1. become extra-crispy conservative, and try for the “Spanish Inquisition” vote.

      2. drop the social agenda altogether, and just go for the greed vote.

      either way, it leaves them with a pretty narrow demographic.

  2. Derelict says:

    The Republican Party COULD be fine. However, they still have the very fundamental problem of the Tea Party.

    As long as the Tea Party controls the primaries–and it will do so for the foreseeable future–the GOP candidates will remain tied to extreme rightwing positions because only those who evince Tea-Party sanctioned positions will survive the primaries. Even better (or worse, depending on your point of view), those positions will slowly move even further to the right as the Tea Party pushes for more purity and adherence to its core fundamental believe:

    “Oppose whatever Democrats/liberals want–even if it’s something we supported five minutes ago.”

    • Richard says:

      I think thats true. Its now looking likely that immigration reform may be passed this next year. I think that might enable the Republicans to pick up an additional ten per cent or so of the Latino vote. But if the Republican leadership endorses and votes for it, the nativist racist faction of the Tea Party contingent, no small percentage, may bolt the party or, at least, vote against any Republican who voted for reform. Its a real problem for them.

      • djangermous says:

        “I think that might enable the Republicans to pick up an additional ten per cent or so of the Latino vote. ”

        The Republican testerics that will accompany any attempt to be slightly less vicious to brown people should limit that.

        • Richard says:

          I stated my thinking on this before. The Republican opposition to any immigration reform – which, of course, must include amnesty for those in the country illegally now – is the major reason why Hispanics voted nearly 75% for Obama. With this no longer an issue if immigration reform is passed, there are a substantial number of Hispanics who might consider voting Republicans. Not enough to get a Republican majority of Hispanics but enough to make a difference in the toal vote and possibly influence a close election. I have three nephews who are Mexican-Americans and members of the Los Angeles Police Department (as well as one nephew who died in the line of duty for LAPD). Except for the immigration issue, they would be possibly inclined to vote Republican and I think there are a sizeable number of Hispanics who might be similarly inclined.

          • witless chum says:

            The question is how long are they going to hold a grudge against Republicans? The Dems will certainly try to take sole credit, even if they peel off a minority of Republican votes.

          • Malaclypse says:

            Except for the immigration issue, they would be possibly inclined to vote Republican and I think there are a sizeable number of Hispanics who might be similarly inclined.

            Also, except for the open white supremacy, many black people might be inclined to vote Republican.

            • Richard says:

              Well, if you believe that the Dems will continue to get over 70% of the Hispanic vote even if immigration reform is passed by a bi-partisan coalition, including the Republican leadership in the House, I believe you will be disappointed. Bush got 40% of the Latino vote and that figure is within reach for the Republicans if the immigration issue has been resolved.

              • Malaclypse says:

                I just don’t expect the party of white ressentiment and “English, like Jesus spoke” to pass immigration reform.

                • Ed says:

                  If Charles Krauthammer is talking about “amnesty” then it’s certainly possible. I think the GOP would like to get immigration reform out of the way and then start courting Latino voters. They don’t necessarily need to win them all over, just peel off enough to be competitive. Seems doable enough under the right circumstances.

                • Richard says:

                  We’ll see. I certainly agree that if immigration reform isn’t passed, the Repubs go nowhere with the Hispanic vote. But I did hear a bunch of Republican leaders saying yesterday that they want immigration reform and bi-partisan talks about it are going to start this week. Sometimes, elections matter.

                • Krauthammer talked about amnesty when four governors of borders states all agree that illegal immigration has been slowed to almost nothing.

                • Richard says:

                  From Krauthammer:
                  “In securing the Republican nomination, Mitt Romney made the strategic error of (unnecessarily) going to the right of Rick Perry. Romney could never successfully tack back. For the party in general, however, the problem is hardly structural. It requires but a single policy change: Border fence plus amnesty. Yes, amnesty.”

                  I think thats a big change from what he was saying just two weeks ago. And Cantor, Boehner and even the vile Hannity have said they would not be averse to immigration reform. And Shumer is meeting with Lindsay Wagner on the topic this week. I dont think its out of the question that the Republican leadership will endorse a bill like the one that Bush supported and get enough votes to get it through the House and Sendate (where Democratic support will be at 90% or more)

                • Richard says:

                  Lindsay Graham, not Wagner

                • I’ve always been of the “enforcement first” school, with the subsequent promise of legalization. I still think it’s the better policy. But many Hispanics fear that there will be nothing beyond enforcement. So, promise amnesty right up front. Secure the border with guaranteed legalization to follow on the day the four border-state governors affirm that illegal immigration has slowed to a trickle.

                  So essentially, make a promise that you never have to keep.

                • djw says:

                  It requires but a single policy change: Border fence plus amnesty. Yes, amnesty.”

                  I fear the “we’re going to build a giant wall to keep any more people who look like you from entering” part of that message might blunt the goodwill the other part of it might inspire.

                • Tybalt says:

                  Chuck Schumer’s going to be pissed when he shows up at that conference room and finds that Lindsay Wagner’s not there.

              • Murc says:

                With this no longer an issue if immigration reform is passed

                It’s cute how you think immigration reform will put the issue to bed forever.

                We’re still periodically fighting over the New Deal, for Christ’s sake, a legislative agenda that was enshrined in law before most of those in Congress were born. You think comprehensive immigration reform will put it to bed?

                The only way the Republicans can resolve this issue in their favor is by getting on the right side of it AS A GROUP. Twenty or so Republicans grudgingly voting in favor of immigration reform (especially if they water it down or pass a permanent second-class laborer guest worker program) in a cynical bid to capture voted while the vast majority of them, and their base, continue to howl about the brown menace, will do nothing.

                It doesn’t matter if Boehner and a bunch of pundits reluctantly move to treat Latinos with respect if every teahadi between here and Arizona ignores them.

                if you believe that the Dems will continue to get over 70% of the Hispanic vote even if immigration reform is passed by a bi-partisan coalition, including the Republican leadership in the House

                “Demcorats plus a tiny handful of Republicans who are denounced as apostates” is not a “bipartisan coalition.”

                • Taj Mahalo says:

                  Immigration is not even the most important issue for most Latino voters (setting aside for the purposes of this argument that Guatemalans and Mexicans have virtually nothing in common with Cubans, who in turn have little in common with Puerto Ricans, etc., rendering the concept of a “Latino vote” more than a little problematic).

                  It turns out that, at least at present, Latino voters are by and large more sympathetic to Democratic positions on a host of issues, because they don’t regard damn near any exercise of government power inherently illegitimate. The only electorally significant group of people who broadly share the Republican Party’s rhetorical devotion to small government and suspicion of government power are white men.

                  It is unlikely that the Republican Party is going to reshape itself so fundamentally that it will be significantly more attractive to Latino (or Asian, or Black, or Women, or Gay) voters any time soon. Halfhearted immigration reform isn’t going to get it done.

                • Richard says:

                  Passing immigration reform will make the issue recede into the background for a decade. Of course, the issue won’t go away. Nothing ever goes away

                  If Boehner or Graham makes a deal with Shumer and Pelosi, they won’t just bring along twenty apostates. They’ll get close to a majority of their group ( or they won’t take a chance of doing it. – they want cover).

                  And it won’t make them heroes to Latinos. It will just give the Republicans a chance to pick up ten or twenty more percent of the Latino vote

                • Richard says:

                  Halfhearted immigration reform or whole hearted immigration reform will IMHO give the Republicans the chance to increase their share of the Hispanic vote. And while immigration reform is not the biggest issue with Cubans and Puerto Ricans, the majority of Hispanics are from Mexico and Central America. And my impression from talking to a lot of them ( my wife was born in Mexico as we’re all her siblings) is that the Republicans wholesale opposition to immigration refrm

                • Ed says:

                  If reform passes soon, it will likely get more than a handful of GOP votes. But in any case Republicans don’t have to put the issue away forever or lure a majority of Latino votes from the Dems. They just have to lure some. As time passes that will probably become easier.

                  Also, Latinos are a large enough portion of the electorate to have the potential to play one side off the other. They’d be foolish not to do that if there’s an opening. Right now they can look forward to the pleasant prospect of both parties competing for their votes. Not so bad.

              • Richard says:

                Is what causes a substantial number of Hispanics from ever considering a vote for a Republican

              • Bruce Baugh says:

                Not if they make repealing it a major effort. Among other possible complications.

              • cpinva says:

                so, you believe immigration is the only issue holding back a tidal wave of hispanic support for the GOP?

                Bush got 40% of the Latino vote and that figure is within reach for the Republicans if the immigration issue has been resolved.

                the 40% bush got was predicated mostly on the whack job fundie social issues, and that 40% was mostly older, immigrant hispanics. their children and grandchildren, born and raised in the US, are not, if the polls and exit polls are accurate. following along in mom & dad, and grandpa & grandma’s fundie christian ideology. the youngsters are voting democratic.

                i submit that immigration reform changes nothing, and the hispanic GOP vote loses even more ground, as the hispanic population both dies and gets younger.

      • Green Caboose says:

        The GOPwarts won’t vote for sensible immigration reform, true, but not exactly for the reason mentioned.

        No Republican still in the party will ever leave the party. Oh, they may pretend to be an Independent for a while but they have no place else to go.

        What they will do, however, is vote for the more extreme guy in the primary – every time, regardless of any consideration like seniority, circumstance, or chance of winning the general election. Therefore, every GOP house member and Senator has to toe the line and pretend to be as extreme as possible to ward off a primary challenge.

        And if an incumbent GOP congresscritter voted for a sensible immigration bill that would virtually guarantee a primary challenge with real legs.

  3. c u n d gulag says:

    I was never prouder of being a Democrat than when at the National Convention, we became OPENLY pro-choice, pro-immigrant, and pro-gay.

    We are a browner, younger, more female, and gayer nation now, and that’s only going to keep going in that direction.

    In 2 years, more of the Republican base of ancient rage and hate junkies will be dead.

    And in 4 years, still more of them will be dead and buried.

    They ain’t birthin’ angry white men fast enough to keep the relative stability that Scott’s writing about for much longer.
    And even though we keep telling Conservatives that they should just ‘Go F*CK Yourselves!”, even THAT won’t change things much if they tried it.

    Having said all of that, I never doubt the ability of the Democratic Party to snatch defeat from the jaws of eventual imminent victory.

    • Exactly. Women are 50% of the population. it isn’t smart to spot the Democrats a majority of that demographic. The Hispanic population is growing. Sure, they are arguably socially conservative, but if you make a point of alienating them you are creating a generation of Hispanic voters who will favor Democrats. Oh, and although the gay population is probably more or less stable, the number of people who know gay people, and especially the number of people who know they know, or are related to, gay people is growing fast. It’s one thing to marginalize a group you don’t know. It is another thing entirely to marginalize someone’s kid, or nephew, or grandchild. The Republicans I know are wringing their hands and asking “Why don’t people vote for us?” The reason, chumps, is that you don’t give them any reason to.

    • ajay says:

      We are a browner, younger, more female, and gayer nation now, and that’s only going to keep going in that direction.

      No, I’m pretty sure that America has always been roughly as female as it is right now. And the US median age (36.8) is actually higher right now than it has ever been before – exactly as you might expect, given longer life expectancy.

  4. mpowell says:

    Well, of course the Republican party isn’t doomed today. They held the WH from 2000-2008. Demographic trends can only move so slowly. But the same forces that will keep them competitive for several more election cycles are the same forces that will make it difficult for them to reinvent themselves when the time comes. They have a very stable support base in the white community. However, that base is highly opposed to the kind of changes they desparately need to gain more hispanic/minority/female voters. And a large part of the problem can be traced back to the Fox News media machine. On the one hand, it keeps the base’s views in line with certain elite preferences. On the other hand, media personalities don’t need Republicans to win elections to make money and they will keep stirring the pot on issues like abortion and immigration that will make it hard for the party to move away from it’s poisonous views on those issues.

    Probably in the next 8 years, nothing much interesting is going to happen. But in 2 or 3 election cycles, if voting patterns don’t shift before then, the Republican will start to be in real trouble. So it will be interesting to see how that plays out. There are a lot of possibilities.

    • This seems like their basic problem to me: as the electorate gets browner, more female, more supportive of gay rights, more comprised of voters who came of age under Bush, etc., the Republican coalitions gets smaller and smaller…and they respond by getting angrier and angrier, further alienating the new voters they need to win. They aren’t to the point that they can’t win nationally, but they will be in a few cycles at their current rate, and as Akin & Co. demonstrated this year, they’re in a precarious enough position where the crazies can cost them big time even in an election they should win.

      • Ian says:

        For further illustration, see the Republican party of California, which has purified itself to the point that it now holds fewer than a third of the seats in either legislative house.

  5. Cheap Wino says:

    The GOP will be forced into greater irrelevancy if the economy does well.

  6. JRoth says:

    The thing about presidential elections is that they happen so far apart – the “youth vote” in Bush-Gore is now middle aged. 2016 is looking like a very promising year for the Dems: we should see significantly better economic growth (although I see little likelihood of a Clintonian boom), and hopefully Obama won’t start any new wars. If (and of course it’s a big if) the GOP misses the presidency in 2016, then the Romney electorate will be 8 years older – and deader – the next time they have a promising shot at the WH. Making peace with Latinos alone won’t make up for the overall demographic shifts between ’12 and ’20.

    I agree that it’s basically true that the GOP has shown, decisively, that 45% of America will vote R whether the candidate is Olympia Snow or Brownback, which means that they will occasionally hit the jackpot by electing a crackpot, but I’m not sure that’s the same as being viable for the long term.

    • efgoldman says:

      I agree that it’s basically true that the GOP has shown, decisively, that 45% of America will vote R whether the candidate is Olympia Snow or Brownback, which means that they will occasionally hit the jackpot by electing a crackpot, but I’m not sure that’s the same as being viable for the long term.

      The problem is, as the TeaHadi governors and state legislatures have shown the last two years, they can do an awful lot of short term damage that will have long term consequences.

  7. jon says:

    Democrats will do well if they stick to their toots, and support equal rights, social security and public health. They can shift modest amounts of money from weapons programs, and invest it in education, culture, infrastructure and technological innovation – which will employ more people and set the stage for the next economy. Trying to mimic center-right Republicans will be disastrous.

    Republicans will be able to recruit the current generation of soldiers being mustered out now as the wars wind down – and unable to find a decent job with a future. They show every intention of becoming an isolationist, know-nothing, fascist party focused on regressive social policies and corporate advantage. They couldn’t gain a majority of the Hispanic vote in Florida this time, but they will continue to try to hive off and fracture portions of the immigrant and minority communities to bolster their ranks.

  8. ploeg says:

    So the Republican party was able to poll a whole 48% popular vote with near 8% unemployment against a blah guy whose middle name is Hussein. As the economy improves, and as people get more used to the White House being occupied by a blah guy whose middle name is Hussein, I expect Republicans to do less well in future, all other things being equal. And I expect all other things to be equal for some time to come; as long as incumbent Republicans do not feel personally threatened, they will not change their behavior.

  9. Ken Houghton says:

    If Scott and especially JRoth (“45% of America will vote R whether the candidate is Olympia Snow[e] or [Sam] Brownback”)are correct, are they both suggesting that running a White (and probably Male) candidate in 2016 would not get the Democratic share of the White vote above 40%?

    • Rarely Posts says:

      Dukakis only got 40% of the white vote.
      John Kerry only got 41% of the white vote.
      Clinton only got 39% of the white vote in 1992, and only 43% in 1996.

      White racists (whether conscious or subconscious) already vote against Democrats because: (1) Democrats support equality for minorities & (2) Democratic support for social programs for the young and poor (whether education spending, SNAP, Medicaid) is interpreted as giving money to “undeserving” minorities.

      Having a black man on the ticket didn’t change the votes of white racists much because they already voted against the Democrats. In contrast, having a black man on the ticket may have helped energize black and Latino voters and increased turnout.

      Anyone who assumes that a white democrat would have advantages over Obama in terms of electability is making a big mistake.

  10. JMG says:

    Dear Scott: I would argue that although the two parties have been fundamentally tied since 2000, the shape of the tie (judge’s decision, if you will) has bent from very slightly Republican advantage to very slightly Democratic. This makes the Democrats slightly more able to withstand event-driven negative forces than are the Republicans. In a game played only every two years, that’s not a negligible edge.

  11. ralphdibny says:

    After every election we get a slew of “DOOOOOOOMED!!!!” articles. Remember Karl Rove’s Permanent Republican Majority? I put about as much stock in these new “demographics are destiny!” articles as I did Rove.

    I agree that the parties are pretty equal at this point, which makes the individual candidates that much more important. If the Democrats nominate a candidate that campaigns like John Kerry instead of Barack Obama, then the Republicans have a really good shot in 2016.

    • Chatham says:

      Pretty much. And one thing people seem to overlook is that the establishment tends to both be more fearful of Republicans than Democrats and tilts towards the right more than the population. The media this time around was completely unable to point out that Romney was dishonest, but they had no problem saying that about Gore. The media think that entitlements must be cut, and that the deficit is a bigger problem right now than the unemployment rate. Voter suppression also works agains the Democrats.

      These are structural disadvantages, and if the Democrats let their guard down (like Obama did during the first debate), they’ll get hammered. As in the debates, for the Democrats to win the have to surpass the Republicans by a large margin. A weak candidate with a weak team runs the risk of getting hammered.

  12. tonycpsu says:

    With the 2010 gerrymandering probably preventing the Democrats from doing anything in the House until 2020, their best bet is to try to find vulnerable GOP reps and turn them into RINOs — sort of how the GOP turned many Democrats into blue dogs by getting them on board votes that would endanger them in their districts. The fact that the GOP seems to want to cut some sort of deal on immigration reform might be helpful here — GOP reps with a significant and/or rising Latino population might be open to going further to the left on the immigration bill, which could either cause a rift in the GOP or force them to get primaried, opening up space for a moderate-ish Democrat in those districts.

    It’s a bit eleven-dimensional-chess-y, but I think it could work.

  13. Murc says:

    I would like to note, to play devils advocate, that you should never, ever underestimate the ability of older people who have managed to become somewhat comfortable to suddenly and viciously turn into Republicans, regardless of their ethnicity or background.

    I’ve shared this anecdote before, but my lifelong union member, son of immigrants, victim of racism grandfather voted Republican in every single election since 1980 until he died last year, despite the fact that liberals in general and Democrats in particular were instrumental in helping him build a good life and put his kids through college.

    And he did this because he got old and wanted the country to stop changing and all these people who were different from him to stop moving in and making him all uncomfortable.

    It’ll happen with second and third generation Latinos at some point, mark my words.

    • mpowell says:

      You might be right. Sometimes I wonder what Republicans think will happen if they actually succeed in gutting SS and medicare.

      • Murc says:

        Well, remember; a lot of them genuinely do think the welfare state is unnecessary and people will be just fine without it. What they probably figure will happen is all those old people will devote the time they don’t spend successfully managing their stock portfolios which are paying for their retirement into hectoring their grandkids to vote for culturally conservative policies.

    • Davis X. Machina says:

      McCain took 10% of the over-65 vote. It went R by 20% in the 2010 midterms. 16% went to Romney. (That’s all-race 65+)

      You could build a party on that. Ix-nay on the yan-Ray and the ouchers-vay, and you’re halfway home.

      They do make new old people every day.

    • Richard says:

      I don’t think it will happen as long as the official Republican position is no amnesty, lock them up or self deport. Once you get a reform package passed that gives the people presently here a chance to stay here, you’re right

  14. If the president and the congressional Democrats have the unity and the courage, they can make major, long-lasting gains with Latino voters. All they need to do is push a very liberal, very forgiving, immigration reform bill. It will force the Republicans, and particularly the Republican leadership, to say and do things that they will regret for a decade.

    Similarly, they ought state loudly and repeatedly that social security benefits are not on any table.

  15. Tracy Lightcap says:

    The Vodz was right:

    At the next congress, held in 1907 in London, the Bolsheviks proved victorious. This was the first time I saw Lenin in the role of victor. Victory turns the heads of some leaders and makes them haughty and boastful. They begin in most cases to be triumphant, to rest on their laurels. But Lenin did not in the least resemble such leaders. On the contrary, it was precisely after a victory that he became especially vigilant and cautious. I recall that Lenin insistently impressed on the delegates: “The first thing is not to become intoxicated by victory and not to boast; the second thing is to consolidate the victory; the third is to give the enemy the finishing stroke, for he has been beaten, but, by no means crushed.” He poured withering scorn on those delegates who frivolously asserted: “It is all over with the Mensheviks now.” He had no difficulty in showing that the Mensheviks still had roots in the working-class movement, that they had to be fought with skill, and that all overestimation of one’s own strength and, especially, all underestimation of the strength of the enemy had to be avoided.

    Yep. Democrats would be wise to keep Lenin’s example in mind. The Pubs are still a formidable force in our society and will be until their advantages in the House can be overcome. That’ll take a lot of time and effort.

  16. Ian says:

    I’m a bit baffled by just how loud the chorus of “DOOM!” is from conservative circles; I suppose that it’s partly a way of invalidating Obama’s victory (i.e., he only won because of demographics, it wasn’t a fair fight, etc.).

    That said, the Democratic Electoral College advantage looks pretty solid at this point. It doesn’t guarantee them victory, but it gives them a big leg up.

    I’m also sceptical about claims that once Republicans ease up on immigration they can count on more Latino votes. In California, Latinos simply don’t vote Republican, and it’s not just because so many Republicans are anti-immigration. It’s been 18 years since Prop 187 and nobody mentions it these days; Republican candidates don’t talk about immigration at all if they can help it. By and large, Latinos in California agree with the Democrats about what government can and should do, and vote accordingly; they were a big reason that Prop 30 passed so easily. My fervent hope is that this is prophetic for the country as a whole.

  17. [...] to think that predictions of the death of the GOP are wildly overdrawn (and I’m not alone in this view).  Clearly the party as presently constructed has trouble winning presidential [...]

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