Political Trends – Are there any?

Politicscollage03 "The election’s outcome is a "fairly thorough repudiation" of the party’s governing style, said Peter Wehner, a former deputy assistant to President Bush. "The Republican Party is in worse shape than conservatism," he said. "The problem with the Republican Party is that it is not speaking the language and addressing the concerns of the middle class."

Democrats made great gains this year in some of the fastest-growing parts of the South and Mountain West, boosted by expanded support from young voters, suburbanites, and Hispanics. The results demonstrated Republicans had become "a white, rural, regional party," retiring US Representative Tom Davis of Virginia lamented on Tuesday." Boston Globe


"a white, rural, regional party,"  That’s the risk. Regional parties that represent particular ethnic constituencies do not win national elections in the US.  The Republicans have to re-invent themselves as a "big tent" that stops babbling about RINOs and concentrates on center-right positions on issues that have a country-wide appeal.  No more single issue "litmus tests" about abortion.  No more embrace of neocon dreams.

The Republicans must embrace: fiscal responsibility, limited government, federalism, and a general inclination to libertarian values, no more "creep" toward a police state. 

The Democrats should look carefully at the results of this election.  I do not see evidence that a general ideological shift to the Left is taking place in the American electorate.  People were disgusted with what the Bush Administration, the "K Street Project" and the Jacobins had done to them.  In retaliation they voted Democratic in great numbers.  Blacks voted for a Black.  Will they show up in the same kind of numbers to vote for a White?  The giddy talk on 24/7 news is not reassuring on that score.

Are we really seeing an expansion of the electorate?  I doubt it.  All these "new" people could have voted in equal numbers in previous elections.  They did not.  Why?  Was this elections a "one off" as the Brits say?

The Democrats picked up 18 seats in the House?  Disappointing.  Several referenda refused public assent to leftish proposals concerning gay marriage, etc.  How does that "square" with the idea of a "progressive" trend?

Obama and the Democratic congressional leaders should be careful.  Their control of congress could be very transient.  pl


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23 Responses to Political Trends – Are there any?

  1. JohnH says:

    A general inclination towards Libertarian values would be nice as long as it includes a caveat the says “if you’re too big to fail, you’re too big.” Gigantic, intrusive government is only part of the problem. The other part is the enormous concentration of wealth and power that holds sway over all branches of government and distorts capitalism into crony capitalism
    I seriously doubt that Republicans can ever escape the clutches of oligopolistic corporations and the wealthy–it seems to be bred too deeply into their DNA.

  2. wcw says:

    Here are some good data: http://redbluerichpoor.com/blog/?p=206
    Good lessons for both parties. If the GOP keeps alientating young voters the way it did in 2008, it’s toast. Young voyters grow up, and voting habits are sticky. If the Dems govern as if 2008 had been a landslide, they’re toast. It was a close election driven by a national partisan swing. Swings go both ways.
    I would give it a few election cycles before declaring Democratic control of Congress transient, though.

  3. alnval says:

    Col. Lang:
    The Republicans must embrace: fiscal responsibility, limited government, federalism, and a general inclination to libertarian values, no more “creep” toward a police state. (pl)
    Other than the usual; greed, avarice and mendacity, what’s to prevent the Democrats from continuing to coopt the Republican principles you’ve so succinctly laid out?
    I think that’s the real threat the Republicans face. Obama is going to govern from a centrist position that effectively neuters any Republican atempt to reestablish themselves as the party of fiscal responsibility, etc. (The financial news today is awash with the possibility of GM declaring bankruptcy. Think of the consequences of that!)
    In addition, the Republicans must also divorce themselves from the base of religious ideologues they have spent years cultivating. In order to do that they must move toward the central-left position of the Democrats. If they do that, how do you tell them apart?
    The Republicans are not a body politic I’d like to try to revive by tranfusing into them the principles they’ve spent years and countless tax dollars purging themselves of. The maxim “Don’t throw good money after bad” comes to mind. Better to start afresh.

  4. If there is long-going realignment of the parties going on (which I believe has been happening since 1992) then such an event can almost never be fully comprehended or correctly analyzed until that realignment has been fully accomplished. The almost 90% black turnout (if this is accurate)indicates that whatever their belief in Obama’s capabilities (his experience is ridiculously shallow even as described on the change.gov web site)this is an aberrational vote. Economic collapse and wars should have led to a win by the DEMS alone. Okay so what does that mean? Voting blocks shift rapidly in the US and often the shift of one is offset by another. Could the SCOTUS set off such a shift? Yes, see Roe v. Wade? Could an economic collapse made worse by incompetence? Yes, the same Goldman Sachs types will be on the OBAMA team since GS is now partially a government entity? But the GS types continue to pick winners nad losers! Interesting how the Lehman situation now looms large in the defeat of McCain and the further turmoil in the markets. International events, surely yes? After all isolationist temptations still exist for both parties! And of course fate could also intervene? Marine 1 or Air Force 1 could crash or be shot down by terrorists! A charismatic and competent leader could emerge in China that cements the nations status for a century or centuries! Oil peaks? Yes that could really collapse the Western democractic tradition. After all Britain still has no idea of how it fares when the North Sea is emptied. A NUDET in the west could collapse any party in power in the nation impacted in the west! A military coup? Yes, not impossible once the full blame of Iraq falls on the careerists that failed to stand up to Rumsfeld! An on and on! Down deep the quality of individual candidates makes a huge difference. McCain was a maverick by temperament! OBAMA a maverick by race! Neither of these candidates really speaks to a future world that below the horizon develops through economy, demography, natural and unnatural events, and the continued problematic nature of the human conditions, pyschology and education, training, and experience. In an offline exchange of e-mails about Robert Kagan, PL and I have agreed to disagree on whether warfare is obsolete as a activity appropriate, necessary and inevitable for mankind. What leaders do Americans want and why do we want them? Clearly Republicans no longer can argue for rugged individualism. DEMs cannot argue for government competence and effectiveness. So what is the long term? Time will tell.

  5. NeoII says:

    So, what would an ideological shift to the left look like then? The Democrats now hold a 257 to 173 lead in the House and a 55 to 40 lead in the Senate.
    Some 54 percent of young white voters supported Obama, compared with 44 percent who went for McCain. Hispanics went for Obama 67 percent to 30 percent. That is the future of the electorate and it is not going away.
    Even rural voter support dropped to 8 for McCain from 19 points for Bush.
    How then have we not witnessed a shift to the left? Virtually every statistic in the last 2 elections indicates otherwise.
    I would suggest that the middle class finally confronted the painful consequence of voting for the “right.” That comprehension is not in any way transient as unfortunately the pain will be felt for years to come.

  6. Mad Dogs says:

    I predict that many predictions from both the Right and the Left will be wrong.

  7. frank durkee says:

    In a very ironic way perhaps the ‘real’ issue that this campaign turned on was “competence”. Of the major players [ Bush, Macain, Obama } during the last few months Obama created the the most powerful appearance and perhaps demonstration of competence.
    all the other factors mentioned and perhaps otherw were there and will remain. At this point people choose the one who seemed most competent, by finding little difference between Bush and Macain

  8. Hypatia says:

    When the Repubs finally decide to concentrate on center-right positions, they may find that Obama has already staked out a lot of them (the center-right positions, not the Repubs).

  9. Patrick Lang says:

    Transient discontent does not necessarily add up to enduring shifts.
    You may be kidding yourself. pl

  10. Duncan Kinder says:

    9/11 caused the nation to relive its Pearl Harbor trauma, and led to an abnormal Bush boom.
    The credit crunch is now causing the nation to relive its 1929 trauma, and has led to the current Democratic boom.
    The only comparable trauma I can think of would be the Civil War, and frankly I can’t visualize how that might surface or what such a trauma might entail.
    But what is more to the point is that the nation is reacting to events it neither understands nor controls, thrashing about.

  11. zed says:

    I throw this into the ring…
    This generation of professionals (25-35 yr olds) don’t have a history of working one job for their entire lives. Who knows how long the companies that hire are going to last in this internet/service/tech economy. They must always be looking ahead, down the road, setting themselves up for the next hire. This generation will take this transient mindset and apply it towards politics. Early voters voting patterns historically stick, but this habitual nature will happen less in the future because of this.
    Votes for competence; candidates with realistic issues based platforms will drive this young professional generation to make a mark on the ballot vice one issue, dogmatic preacher-type candidates. The internet has thrust all but the most socially conservative into a position to confront multiple issues that are affecting the country (the super social conservatives still can stick their heads in the sand…thanks FOX). Harnessing the collective (with things like change.gov) will inevitably push the Obama administration into a more centerist position; which is where this younger generation of college grads, professionals, housewives,laborers and other internet savvy folks find themselves; both from the left and the right.
    The Utopian in me says: Moderatism will prevail!

  12. kao_hsien_chih says:

    I think Pres. Obama is facing a tough choice. Many Congressional Democrats are still pursuing their private agendas that help them get elected in their districts–but not necessarily helpful towards solving national problems. They don’t want to see anyone taking up a bold national agenda in the White House that could undermine their pet projects. At the same time, many in the Democratic base are expecting a bold national agenda that’s highly to the left of center. Both of these notions are fundamentally flawed: Obama needs an agenda that is simultaneously bold and national, but also inclusive and centrist–which will both get in the way of the established interests on the part of the Congressional Democrats and dash the hopes of the Democratic activists. But does Obama have the wherewithal to deliver? Or, will he crash and burn like Carter between 1977-8 and Clinton between 1993-4?

  13. Arun says:

    A perceptive commenter on a right wing blog asked – why do we right-wingers consider Sarah Palin to be a small government conservative? In reality, she increased government spending (in Wasilla and in Alaska). The reason is that Alaska doesn’t have Chicago or Harlem or Detroit. The Republicans love socialism as long as it does not include people they do not like.
    — This is similar to what now Nobel Laureate Paul Krugman wrote in his book “The Conscience of a Liberal”.
    — Well, that strategy won’t work especially if the Obama presidency is even moderately successful, because there won’t be any “other” left to resent.
    So, abandon the Republican Party. A new conservative party is what is needed.

  14. srv says:

    “fiscal responsibility, limited government, federalism, and a general inclination to libertarian values, no more “creep” toward a police state.”
    I’m over 40, and I’ve never seen the Republican party do any of those things. It’s not in their nature.
    They will remain exactly the party they are. 28% Bible voters, 5% Conservative Ideologue, 5% NRA, 5% blue bloods with no where to go, and whatever else they can get through fear.

  15. stickler says:

    When a nominally conservative Republican President presides over the government’s acquisition of large swaths of the banking industry (and let’s see what waits under the Christmas tree for GM and the auto industry), arguments about “leftism” ring pretty hollow.
    The Republican ascendancy from 1980-2008 is now over. What did it deliver? Wage stagnation, budget and trade deficits, and misbegotten Wilsonian projects in Asia. We may be staring at a situation more dire than any since 1929.
    And if the electorate decides that the Democratic answer (either Clintonian or Rooseveltian) is preferable to “brother, can you spare a dime,” then the pendulum is going to start swinging leftward. Which is another way of saying, “back to the middle from the far-right place it’s at now.”

  16. zed says:

    I’m a-waitin’ for an invite to the Libertarian Party once the GOP splinters. A young, tech savvy socially moderate, fiscally pragmatic party is the future for part of the GOP; the other part can keep thumping their books and praying that Sarah will take the helm in 2012

  17. bstr says:

    Dear Sir,I am thankful for this website and the benefit of its comments section. Rather than letting off steam those who comment appear to be in actual consideration of the various case studies you present.The nation is hard to understand outside of the mind set of its people. Our nation’s greatest insight is teased out from its voting records. When numbers of our people do not know if they will vote one night before an election we are faced with a mystery. Perhaps they bear some inner sadness that clouds intelligence. Perhaps they are lazy. This was the greatest cultural and political contest since the rising of The Great Society. You and Mr. Cumming argue about war: “whether warfare is obsolete as a activity appropriate, necessary and inevitable for mankind.” The larger the population of those who are uninterested in who runs our goverment the longer warfare will be necessary.

  18. Kevin says:

    If you look at the county leader map and compare it to both Bill Clinton campaigns, the democrats made no significant gains in voting shifts except by recruiting new (possibly black and hispanic) voters in urban centers.

  19. Clifford Kiracofe says:

    So far the data appears to support the idea that the election showed a sound rejection of Bush-ism/Neoconism in foreign policy and domestic policy but perhaps not a sea change ands permanent realignment. We shall have to await further data and detailed analysis.
    The party of Ike and Bob Taft has been all but taken over by three parasitic special political interest groups:
    1. The “New Right” so-called “Movement Conservatives.” This began in the wake of the Goldwater disaster.
    2. The “Neocons” who began to penetrate the Republican Party with, for example, fellow traveler Prof. Pat Moynihan in the Nixon era cabinet, Rummy and Cheney going Neocon fellow traveler-Straussian in the Ford era, and stepped up the penetration during the Reagan era.
    3. The “Christian Right” Fundamentalists — the Rightwing Christian “Evangelicals, about 70 percent of so-called “Evangelicals” overall. The other 30 percent are moderate to liberal.
    Many Republicans (moderate and Reaganite) I know voted for Obama because they reject mondo bizarro Bushism-Neoconism and wanted to send a message.
    Will the party continue Bushism-Neoconism as desired by the three parasitic elements above and thus remain the party of Irving (Kristol), Pastor John (Hagee), etal.?
    On the other hand, is Obama just going to be Bush-lite (or worse) say in foreign policy? More global crusades and intervention presented this time for “Human Rights” etc.? Same old same old….???
    Not to mention the signal Obama has already sent the world with “Rahmbo”…a hardline Jabotinskyite Zionist will be the President’s right hand man. This is all over the Middle East press so apparently no one is expecting much there. Should we expect “Rahmbo” to help political soul-mate Bibi Netanyahu in the upcoming Israeli elections?

  20. JohnS says:

    I would venture a guess that the past 20 something years of GOP domestic policy (not counting the Clinton years) that has resulted in the bottom 80% of American households now controlling only 17 % of the nation’s wealth has put that 80% of the electorate a good bit further to the left of the one that elected Reagan in 1980, or even Bill Clinton in 1992.
    But never mind that: Right now, Americans just want things to get better. We need this president to be successful and enact policies that will result in good things for all of us and our economy, so I suspect that whether those policies are liberal or conservative won’t matter to struggling families. (The New Deal couldn’t have happened without the Great Depression!)
    For now I would say the Obama Team wisely intends to judge each policy proposal on its own merits and effectiveness rather than where it stands on the ideological spectrum.

  21. postmodernprimate says:

    “This generation of professionals (25-35 yr olds) don’t have a history of working one job for their entire lives. Who knows how long the companies that hire are going to last in this internet/service/tech economy. They must always be looking ahead, down the road, setting themselves up for the next hire. This generation will take this transient mindset and apply it towards politics.” – Posted by: zed | 07 November 2008 at 06:04 PM
    As a 37 year old I can attest to the transient nature of work life for this generation, but I think you’re dead wrong about how that will affect voting patterns. The lack of faith my generation has in the market to provide steady employment and benefits is profound. We are deeply cynical and know that businesses would sooner employ us as slaves than pay us decent wages and benefits if they could get away with it. We understand it’s nothing personal, just business. But don’t expect that we’ll sit back and accept our lot out of some outmoded, fanciful belief in the “American dream”. Romantics, we are not.

  22. Alex says:

    Run in a Republican primary in 2010. One day they’ll be back, and then it’s going to matter whether they’re the Palin Party or the Christian Democrats.

  23. ked says:

    ran across this comment on this article…
    “What is the Republican Party? Is it think tank dons like Grover Norquist or Leonard Leo or Tony Perkins? Are they elected by someone? Why does Newt Gingrich think he has a say in what happens? Does he hold a public office? Where do Rush Limbaugh and Sean Hannity fit into this equation other than being overpaid entertainers who pander to the lowest common denominators in their audience?
    Doesn’t the Republican Party and the conservative wing have people who are elected, who make real laws, who are supposed to do their work out in the daylight? Why do the Republicans settle for twilight schemers who meet in remote places to plot takeovers? It seems really creepy and un-American. Sort of like a fifth column. Sort of like a crew of subversives who should be put out of business. On the other hand, maybe they are out of business.”
    (of course, scheming by the defeated knows no party)

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