Blog Credo

The whole aim of practical politics is to keep the populace alarmed (and hence clamorous to be led to safety) by menacing it with an endless series of hobgoblins, all of them imaginary.

H.L. Mencken

Monday, November 5, 2012

Cut And Paste Blogging

Party Roles are Changing

by BooMan
Mon Nov 5th, 2012 at 11:20:11 AM EST
In 1988, the Democrats lost very badly for the third presidential election in a row, and for the fifth time in six attempts going back to the debacle in 1968. Without the Watergate scandal and President Ford's unpopular pardon of Richard Nixon, it probably would have been a complete shutout. But, since 1988, the Republicans have lost three out of five elections and are poised to lose four out of six. And, in the two years that the GOP "won," they did so by the narrowest possible margin. In 2000, they lost the popular vote and only won the Electoral College because of a decision by the Supreme Court which handed Florida to George W. Bush. In 2004, Bush would have lost if not for Ohio. Since 1988, no Republican nominee has received more than 286 Electoral College votes. In this cycle, there was never much chance that Romney could exceed that number.

Assuming Romney loses, he will be the one who gets most of the blame, but the GOP needs to start worrying about the fact that they have a coalition that must basically win every battleground state to have any chance at winning the White House. To give you an idea of what I am talking about, consider this. If Obama wins in Nevada and Colorado in the West, New Hampshire in New England, and in Iowa, Ohio, and Wisconsin in the Midwest, he will have 290 electoral votes even while losing Indiana, Virginia, North Carolina, and Florida. That is 20 more electoral votes than he needs to be reelected. In other words, the Southern coalition is not big enough to compete for the White House. For the foreseeable future, any respectable Democratic nominee for president is going to be just one big state away from winning the election before the campaigning even begins. Winning Ohio will likely be sufficient, and if it is not, winning Virginia and one other state will get it done.

Now, Obama could wind up winning Florida and Virginia and North Carolina, but those states will probably remain competitive in future presidential elections. The problem is, they are not enough for the GOP to win. This is a structural change from the second half of the 20th Century. The Republicans had a lot of success winning the presidency from 1952-1988, but they controlled the House of Representatives for only two of those years and the Senate for only eight. The way things look now, we should see nearly the opposite. The GOP will be hard to dislodge from the House and will trade the Senate back and forth, but the Democrats will dominate the presidential elections. The problem is that the two parties are not built to work that way. The Republicans are not legislators and they do not know how to work with an executive from the opposing party. It's impossible to understand modern conservatism without understanding that they developed a hatred of the federal government precisely because they almost never controlled the pursestrings from 1933-1994. The have the ideology and mentality of a minority party. Meanwhile, progressive Democrats have developed a deep suspicion of executive power both because of the mistakes of the Vietnam era and because of abuses under Nixon, Reagan, and Bush. To a certain degree, Democrats are less comfortable wielding executive power. These are legacies of the 20th-Century, but they will probably unwind in some ways as this new power dynamic takes hold.

In the short term, it's a recipe for dysfunction. Our only hope for avoiding this in the short term is to win the House tomorrow. But the real solution to the problem is for the GOP to go through a wrenching civil war and come out the other side with a new ideology more suited to being legislators. They also need to do something to appeal more to non-white voters or their advantage in Congress will dry up before too long.

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