Summary: After the election, with its typically thin margin of victory (in votes), comes the usual silliness — about the winning party establishing an enduring lead, structural, that will last for generations. We get this every decade or so, with the parties alternating as star and goat. Now the Republicans are the doomed losers. Today we look at the GOP’s problems (in the comments list any not shown). The next will show that solutions lie near at hand. This is the 6th in a series about the results of Campaign 2012.
But the mass of the electors did not analyse very much: they liked to have one of their “betters” to represent them; if he was rich they respected him much; and if he was a lord, they liked him the better. The issue put before these electors was, which of two rich people will you choose? And each of those rich people was put forward by great parties whose notions were the notions of the rich — whose plans were their plans. The electors only selected one or two wealthy men to carry out the schemes of one or two wealthy associations.
— Introduction to The English Constitution by Walter Bagehot (1867)
We discussed the demographic doom in chapter V. For an analysis of the usual “new era of dominance” foolishness see this by John Sides (Assoc Prof Political Science, George Washington U). Here we look at other factors wrecking the GOP.
- Poor congruence of its policies with those needed by voters
- Broken internal governance
- A party whose vision has disconnected from reality,
seeing instead an imaginary world
- Update: Will the base let the GOP change?
- Are we a divided nation, by geography?
- Other posts in this series
- For More Information
(1) Poor congruence of its policies with those needed by voters
“The GOP, Real Parties, and Factions”, Daniel Larison, American Conservative, 8 November 2012
Everyone involved in politics would like to believe that the political coalition he supports is a “real party” rather than a self-serving faction, just as everyone likes to believe that his views are the moderate and reasonable ones opposed to the “extremism” of others.
What this “real party” talk obscures is the degree to which the GOP fails to serve the interests of many of its constituents and its most likely supporters while masking this failure with a generic appeals to “values” or American exceptionalism. Those appeals don’t really promise Republican voters much of anything specific or concrete, and so the GOP conveniently never has to deliver. If many white working- and middle-class voters stayed away from the polls this year, I suspect it is at least partly because many of them recognized that the GOP, especially one led by someone like Romney, had nothing to offer them.
(2) Broken internal governance
“How the Republican party sabotaged itself: the real story of the 2012 election“, Michael Cohen, Guardian, 5 November 2012:
The single most defining element of American politics over the last four years is that the Republican party has fallen out of the crazy tree and hit every branch on the way down. It is no longer even appropriate to say the Republican party is dominated by its conservative wing; but rather, that the GOP is controlled by its extreme, radical wing.
The shift of the Republican to the far, far right is not a recent development. Instead, it is reflective of a four-decade shift in ideological orientation in the GOP: from a party once torn between distinct conservative and moderate wings, to one in which moderates have gone the way of dinosaurs and VCRs. But there is no question that in the past four years, the extremism of the GOP has increased dramatically – so much so that their most recent president, George W Bush, is persona non grata in the party because he is viewed as too moderate and not sufficiently conservative. Imagine that.
For years, the national Republican party emboldened this wing of the GOP and made it the vanguard of its efforts to maintain national power. That group now holds ideological sway in the Republican party. In the naked pursuit of short-term partisan gain, the Republican party has unleashed forces that it can no longer fully control.
The result is a set of policies that not only are radical, but also are out of step with the mainstream of American politics. This includes everything from efforts to privatize Medicare, eviscerating social security, rejecting any role for fiscal policy other than cutting taxes, and taking the position that illegal immigrants should not receive amnesty but rather “self-deport”. This is not to mention the GOP’s growing extremism on abortion rights and reproductive health in general.
Republicans once aspired to, and briefly held, the mantle of a party of ideas. Today, the GOP in its deference to the ideological rigidity of its radical wing has reached a position where Republicans have no serious ideas for reforming healthcare, creating jobs, stimulating the economy, or fixing the nation’s crumbling infrastructure.
The GOP’s problems are not just at the national level. Romney outperformed the Republican Senate candidates in most of the important races (Aaron Blake, WaPo).
(3) A party whose vision has disconnected from reality, seeing instead an imaginary world
“The View from the Cocoon of Denial and Epistemic Closure“, Alex Massie, The Spectator, 7 November 2012 — He reviews quotes from major GOP leaders, quote daft statements, and concludes …
When your rhetoric collides with voters’ sense of their own reality then you cannot or should not be surprised that voters prefer their reality to your imagination.
Note too amidst all this howling and wailing and gnashing of teeth how there’s no attempt to understand why Americans voted the way they did. No attempt to wonder why the Republican party offered such a paltry economic message. No attempt to ask why the GOP had no healthcare policy that would actually soothe justified concerns about both Obamacare and how an ordinary family on $50,000 a year might have better, more affordable healthcare.
(4) Update: Will the base let the GOP change?
“Election Reflection” by Jared Bernstein, 11 November 2012:
The R’s are predictably doing the requisite soul searching, especially on their demographic problem that their core base is a shrinking share of the electorate. There’s lots of obvious stuff about “reaching out to Latinos, minorities, women” but there’s something missing from the stuff I’ve heard. Their conversations seem to assume that they’ll win if they can just move from base to base+X, with X being larger shares of the groups above (people other than older, white men). But this isn’t their core problem. That they can’t win with a growing share of shrinking base was obvious to many well before Tuesday.
Their problem is that base is inversely related to X. If order to reach out to X in ways that X might respond to, you risk alienating your base, many of whom blame X for their woes and very much resent any government actions to reach out to them. I haven’t heard any serious discussions of R’s solve that paradox.
(5) Is America a divided nation? Does politics follow geography?
Let’s start with a look at America, supposedly a divided nation, with a map prepared by Mark Newman (Prof Physics, U MI). It’s a cartogram, with the sizes of states scaled by population. Rhode Island (1.1 million appears twice the size of Wyoming (0.5 million), although WY has 60X the area of RI.
This cartogram shows county-level election returns, with party votes in red and blue — shades of purple showing the percentages of votes for each party. Most of America is evenly divided, appearing in purple. The large cities are mostly blue, the rural areas mostly red.
America has many internal divisions, but the geographic divisions between ideologies (liberal and conservative, each with their party) are relatively small — and exaggerated by our winner-take-all system, which creates a false picture of a nation consisting of large red and blue party blocs.
No, we’re not extremely geographically divided (although that is, as always, a factor). Not a strong foundation here for the secessionists.
(6) The posts in this series about the results of Campaign 2012
- Conservatives, celebrate the historic victory you won today!
- The votes were counted and one wing of our one ruling party won. Rejoice!
- How Obama AND conservatives both won on Tuesday
- Civil rights just took a step forward, the slow hard way. The right way.
- The hidden major party, the key to political control of America
- Let’s list the GOP’s problems. They’re all easily solvable.
- The Republican Party is like America, and can quickly recover it strength
(7) For More Information
Here’s a fun game about the past of the GOP. Read about these liberals from our past. Can you name them?
- Let’s play “Name that Liberal”
- Let’s play round 2 of “Name That Liberal”
- Let’s play round 3 of “Name That Liberal”