Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Buchanan on the Shrinking Republican Base

He's a crotchety old cuss, with a mean xenophobic streak in him, but as conservative commentators go, Pat Buchanan hits more than his share of bulls eyes. This article analyzing recent trends in presidential outcomes is a beauty, although still marred by some of Pat's usual blind spots.

He begins with a discussion of the geographic Democratic strongholds that make up what he calls "The Blue Wall":

"In the five successive presidential elections, beginning with Clinton's victory in 1992 and ending with Obama's in 2008, 18 states and the District of Columbia, with 248 electoral votes among them, voted for the Democratic ticket all five times. John McCain did not come within 10 points of Obama in any of the 18, and he lost D.C. 92-8...

Not only are the 18 hostile terrain for any GOP presidential ticket, Republicans hold only three of their 36 Senate seats and fewer than 1 in 3 of their House seats. "Democrats also control two-thirds of these 18 governorships, every state House chamber, and all but two of the state Senates," writes Brownstein.

In many of the 18, the GOP has ceased to be competitive. In the New England states, for example, there is not a single Republican congressman. In New York, there are only three.

The Blue Wall is The Kerry States less New Hampshire: Everything northeast of Virginia(again, save NH), the Great Lakes states save Ohio and Indiana, and all the Pacific states save Alaska. Drawing it out on a map, it looks like Canada seeped down into the US. With 270 electoral votes required to win, the GOP has its work cut out for it, especially considering there is no equivalent red wall. Buchanan again:

In the same five presidential contests, from 1992 to 2008, Republicans won 13 states all five times. But the red 13 have but 93 electoral votes, fewer than a third of the number in "the blue wall"...

Put succinctly, the red pool of voters is aging, shrinking and dying, while the blue pool, fed by high immigration and a high birth rate among immigrants, is steadily expanding.

Philosophically, too, the country is turning away from the GOP creed of small government and low taxes. Why?

Indeed, with more and more immigrants landing on our shores who are not white fundamentalists, the Whitewing Party can't pull off a majority any more, and will have to broaden its scope to attract new voters. Atheists, homosexuals, and minorities see little appeal in the Palinist GOP. The data doesn't look much better if you exclude the 2008 race and just look at the Clinton^2/Bush^2 years, the GOP only manages 135 to that same 248 for the Democrats.

Buchanan also accurately notes that those on the public dole are unlikely to vote other than in favor of their pocketbook, but he neglects to mention the most glaringly obvious reason voters are abandoning the GOP's small government, low taxes message: because the GOP themselves have abandoned it. Eight years of GOP domination of our federal government have resulted in bigger, not smaller government, with debt that should make anyone's tongue snap off in their mouth who mentions "fiscal responsibility" and "GOP" in the same sentence. The GOP themselves abandoned their principles, so why should anyone else buy into them?

Finally, the GOP faces a serious cultural problem, and here Buchanan's little red choochoo runs off the rails. He's part of the problem, so his analysis is expectedly blinkered.

"Lastly, Democrats are capturing a rising share of the young and college-educated, who are emerging from schools and colleges where the values of the counterculture on issues from abortion to same-sex marriage to affirmative action have become the new orthodoxy."

Pat is living in the ignorant past, as do so many GOP stalwarts. We should have expected no less from the man who still, in defiance of all the evidence, claims Sarah Palin was a net gain for the McCain ticket. The bottom line is that new voters emerging from college reject the GOP cultural plank not because of any orthodoxy, but simply because the science supports so little of it:

The Bible does not form the basis for our laws
Evolution is not "just a theory"
Homosexuals are not deviants living a chosen lifestyle
Allowing homosexual marriages will not destroy society
Aborting an early pregnancy is not a murder
Abstinence-only education does not work
Anthropocentric Global Warming is the consensus of scientists
Lowering taxes does not increase revenue

As more data comes in, these truths will become even more inconvenient for any Republican insistent on defying them, and will cause the GOP base that still buys them to become more intolerant and out of touch with the rest of society. Simply peruse the comments of Pat's or nearly any thread on Townhall these days, and you'll see many comments like this one:

"None of the established punditry have identified the reasons the GOP was crushed last year. Ideology was not an issue in the elections. American voters haven't a clue as to the ideology of either party. Few have any knowledge of politics, know nothing of the candidates - except Obama because they know from Oprah he's cool, and know nothing at all about how our government is structured or how it works. To attribute the GOP's loss to the disdain for conservatism is erroneous. We are being led to believe this lie because it is what the communists want."

This is what the Rovian divide and conquer strategy has left the GOP: a base of ignorant, paranoid, crusaders for Jesus who still think the communists (with their toadies, the dreaded liberals) are going to get us.

The GOP has a simple choice: get up to speed on science and the real world, stop pretending Jesus said "Go forth and change the laws", or become the Shakers of the 21st century.


Doppelganger said...

Good post.

Speaking of orthodoxy - I understand that Mitch McConnell - whose margin of victory shrunk substantially in his last re-election bid - has stated that the GOP must "return" to it's core principles in order to regain it's power.

I thought that their core principles were in large part responsible for the mess we are in today, and that their core principles, put inot action, were what lost them their majority.

Tax cuts for the rich (and general conservative fiscal policies) helped get us into the mess the economy is in now. The GOPs suggestion for getting us out of this mess? More tax cuts for (primarily) the wealthy.

I had to laugh - I caught some GOP congressman saying that the reason they did not support the stimulus bill is that they are 'deficit hawks' and they do not want to saddle our grandkids with debt...


Anonymous said...

As a Libertarian, I hope that the majority of your comments fall on deaf GOP ears. What you are proposing is to reform the GOP into a "Libertarian lite" rather than the "Democrat lite" that it currently has become. Almost every one of your comments and propositions is true. The only issues I would beg to differ on are:
1. "Lowering taxes does not increase revenue": This has been proven time and time again to work in a downturned ecomomy. It does not, however, work in an economy that is chgging along with good growth. On the contrary, taxes can be used, along with interest rates, to keep the rate of growth sustainable. Fact is fact, look at Kennedy, Reagan, Clinton (the 1997 tax cut), and Bush. All incidents of cutting taxes caused the overall economy to rebound.
2. "Abstinence-only education does not work" This is simply not true. What I think you mean is: "Abstinence-only education does not work when it is the only education that is offered, with no contraceptive and STD education concomitantly taught" In this you would be correct. Abstinace programs have been shown to delay the onset of sexual activity by 18 months. This is the key. During the period of time when a child is most vulnerable to engaging in sexual activity, and forgoing any forms of contraception or protection, is delayed until a time when their thought processes are more mature and can more rationaly examine the possible consequences of engaging in sexual activity without said protection. 18 months is a long time in teenage development, and helps to decrease the overall pregnancy rates. Of course abstinance-ONLY programs should be filled out with proper STD and pregnancy prevention education. (AKA: comprehensive sex education) Done throw out the abstinance teaching "baby" with the religious mumbo-jumbo "bathwater"

I still hope you fail so I can get you and those like you to switch to the Libertarian party and leave the Republican party to the far-right religious. If they will stay with that party through the "neo-con" movement of the past 12 years, then they will stay with the party through anything.


ScienceAvenger said...

I hear you Doppelganger. I just hope when they talk of returning to their core principles they mean lean efficient government, low tax burdon, self-reliance, self-responsibility, and respect for science and technology. Those we can use.

ScienceAvenger said...


I applaud the general spirit of what you say. However, I've become convinced that no third party can become viable in the United States with the current rules as they are - debate invite discrimination, all-or-nothing electoral colleges, and all the other rules the two ruling parties have made to keep them in power. It is just too much of an obstacle to overcome. Push hard to change our system's rules, and I'll be right there with you. Until then, it's sadly all a waste of time IMO, with one possible exception: taking over the 2nd half of a split GOP when the Palinists break away. If the GOP follows their lead and gets clobbered in 2010, it's only a matter of time. Be ready.

As to the specifics, you misunderstand me. I'll take the blame for one, and hand it to you for the other. When I said "lowering taxes does not increase revenue", I meant it in a Laffer curve sense, not in the sense of growing the economy over the long term, where we agree 100%. No, I am insistent on reminding people that the GOP chants about supply side tax cuts increasing current revenue due to changes in the attitudes of workers is crap. Laffer had a point, but there is no evidence that the inflection point of the tax-income graph is anywhere near our lowly tax rates.

When people like Rush say "Reagan lowered taxes and doubled revenue", they are using noninflation adjusted figures. When inflation is taken into account, the supply side boom evaporates. George HW Bush was right, it is voodoo economics.

As for abstinence-only sex ed, come on now. "Abstinence-only education does not work when it is the only education that is offered..."? Um, that's what the "only" in "abstinence only" is for dude. Abstinence as a part of a comprehensive sex education program is what most of us want. It is a pity the Rightwing loons who push AO so hard have tarnished the name of abstinence. As you rightly point out, it is still the best option for a lot of young people, and some older ones.

Keep fighting the good fight, and I hope you prove me wrong.

Doppelganger said...


If only the Republican party would shed it's archaic, anachronistic, anathematic 'social conservative' "values", I could even be persuaded to vote for one of them.

But their implicit pro-class warfare stance, their bizarre marriage to far-right religious fanatics, etc., just makes it impractical for me to do so.