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Republicans? Who’s that?

For the past several weeks before the election when it was already clear that Obama was going to win, I was looking for it and could not find it. During the election night coverage and the days immediately after, on TV, radio, newspapers and blogs I was looking for it and could not find it. Only in the last two days I found two isolated examples of people who “get it” – here and here. What?

The failure of imagination coupled with failure of doing basic math has been missing all along. Everyone is wondering how will the GOP make a come-back, what they need to do to come back, never questioning the notion that such a thing is inevitable. Why do people think that a two-party system in which the two parties are Democrats and Republicans alternating in power, is some God-given situation? It’s not written in the Constitution. Nobody remembers the Whigs, the Know-Nothings and other parties that used to be powerful in the history of USA and vanished once they exhausted all the possible ideas they could have? Nobody remembers the Ross Perot era Reformists, much more recently, and how many votes they got in 1992?

I think the GOP is at the point when it has exhausted itself. Here’s why:

History and demographics are against them.

The younger generations are much more socially liberal – they are far less racist, sexist and homophobic than their elders. They will not lose those feelings as they grow older. In a decade or so, appeal to base instincts of cowards will not be an effective electoral strategy.

This is how the electoral map will look like when the current youngsters get older.

In a couple of decades, more than 50% of Americans will be non-White in various shades and hues. Racism, as a campaign strategy, is dead.

The “none” is the fastest growing response to the question of religious affiliation on censuses. Fewer and fewer people will be fervently anti-gay and anti-choice. Religious fundamentalism will gradually lose power as a campaign issue.

Everyone who has talked to the youngsters lately knows that they are much less partisan than we are (sometimes to our chagrin – I am vociferously partisan myself) and do not fall as easily to negativity and demonizing others as “the Enemy” as the older generations. Hate is not going to win any elections any time soon.

All the kids who, this year, worked their asses off for Obama – not just voting, but knocking on doors, phone-banking, etc. – are lifelong Democrats now. An entire generation is lost to the GOP.

Yee-haw is not a foreign policy. Vicious aggression has no appeal to the generation that has grown in a global village, texting their friends across the globe late at night. They have traveled much more than their parents and are not afraid of foreigners and will not want to go to war with some far-away country just because their people are dark-skinned or whatever.

What can Republicans do?

The thoughtful, decent Republicans have left the party. They may not have changed their party registrations, but it’s too late to go back. The GOP has been taken over by the Palin-loving crowd and those guys will not be allowed back.

The Republican coalition is breaking into its three main components.

The neocons may not care about social issues, but they have been proven wrong on foreign policy. The long-standing advantage of the Republicans in regards to the way voters see them as better on national security has melted – in this election, it was the Democrats that people trusted more.

The economic conservatives may also not care about social issues, and some of them may even be OK on foreign policy, but they have been proven wrong on economics. Their libertarian, free-market-leading-to-monopolies worship resulted in the economic meltdown. I don’t understand why people were surprised by the current economic crisis. I am not an economist so I could not know the exact details how it would break down, nor could I predict exactly when it would happen, but I knew that an economy based on erroneous assumptions MUST break down at some point.

The social conservatives are just wrong on everything.

So, what are the scenarios?

One: The social conservatives retain the grip on the party, making the platform even more based on bigotry and religious fundamentalism. Other self-identifying conservatives leave (or do not return to) the party. The GOP becomes a regional party of the Appalachia until they dwindle into non-existence. At this moment, this looks like the most likely scenario.

Two: Economic conservatives come back and kick the social conservatives to the curb. They have been proven wrong on economics, so they are not going to be so attractive to the voters any more. And without the fundies, they do not have the electoral numbers needed for winning any more national elections.

Three: the three factions get together and make peace with each other in order to retain the numbers at around 50% of the electorate. What platform should they adopt? The fundies have an absolutist mindset – my way or the highway – so they will push for a further move to the Right. Guess how that will play among the moderates and independents? Good-bye, White House. But let’s say that fundies grudgingly agree to a more moderate platform. How far left can the GOP go? Not much, really. There is no space to move – the Democrats are smack in the Center, and everything to the right of it is discredited. If they stay a little to the right, people will not like some parts of their platform, so they will lose to the Dems every time. If they try to go smack to the Center, they will have the exactly same platform as the Dems – in that case, people will go with the Real McCoy, not the newfangled impostors who are not to be trusted to be as honest about those beliefs as the Dems are.

So, the only hope for the GOP is if the unified party moves to the Center AND Dems move further to the Left to give them space.

But the Dems do not have the instinct to move further left from Center. And I hope they are not crazy to try and thus leave the open space for the GOP to move in. Furthermore, observing the death-throes of the Republican Party, other parties will quickly move in to fill the vacuum. Libertarian Party (which did quite well in places like North Carolina and will thus be on the ballot next time) will adopt a socially liberal and economically conservative stance, challenging the Dems from the Right. The Greens will start swelling in their ranks (many of their natural constituents who backed the Dems in order to kick out the crazies will find the Dems too centrist for their taste, and will now feel safe to go back ‘home’) and will challenge the Dems from the Left, thus stabilizing the Dems smack in the Center, not leaving any air for the GOP to breathe in. Perhaps the GOP will split into two parties, each insufficiently attractive or numerous to win a nation-wide office.

I think that the two-party system in which the two major players are the Democrats and the Republicans is over. There will be a lot of jockeying for position all across the political spectrum and a lot of struggle about potential reform of the electoral rules (which Democrats will resist and may conscript the remaining rump GOP to help in retaining the status quo). If everything goes well, perhaps we will end up with a true multi-party system in which there will be 4-5 parties of roughly equal strength, none capable of winning and ruling completely alone.

But one thing is certain, there will be no more alternate victories between Dems and Repubs – that world is now over.

Comments

  1. #1 Joshua Zelinskyz
    November 9, 2008

    Don’t be too hasty. This is a single election. First, it isn’t clear if all the new voters in this election (who primarily voted for Obama) will vote the same way or vote at all in future elections. Second, the point about how young people voted fails to take into account that in general the youth are more likely to be left-wing than the rest of the population. People often become more conservative as they age (or as they get paychecks). Third, the claim that racism is not enough now is simply not backed by the evidence; all we’ve seen is that racism is not enough for a very weak canddidate. The Republican party may become the party of the slightly more right of center individuals along with the extreme right wing that will still vote Republican because they have no other major options.

    If McCain had run more moderately, hadn’t selected Palin as VP and hadn’t appeared to fail so badly around economic issues he might very well have won. And if McCain were not up against a very charismatic, highly organized individual like Obama he might have won.

    The last massive realignment of a long-standing major party was the fall of the Whig party which occurred due to the massive splits over slavery. There’s no similar situation today. We should not make such large generalizations from a single election result especially when over 45% of the population still voted Republican.

  2. #2 natural cynic
    November 9, 2008

    One can only wish. *Sigh*

  3. #3 HP
    November 9, 2008

    One thing that would not surprise me would be to see a majority of Evangelicals suddenly remember the Sermon on the Mount and switch to the Democratic Party. I think we’ll see Fundamentalist numbers diminish both as an inevitable historic ebb and tide, and as a reaction against fundamentalisms of all stripes.

    I don’t think we’ll see a political role for atheists and freethinkers like in the days of Robert W. Ingersoll anytime soon.

    It’s highly likely that in 12 years or so we’ll see a re-emergent “Republican Party” by that name, but it will bear no more resemblance to the current Republican Party than the modern Democratic Party bears to the party of Huey Long and Strom Thurmond. I suspect that the Republicans of 2020 will embrace social liberalism (gay marriage, decriminalizing drugs) along with laissez-faire economic policies. (Never underestimate the power of the myth of free markets.)

    Look for a string of failed nationalist third parties along the lines of the British National Party or Le Pen’s Front National. They’ll have about as much electoral success as the U.S. Greens have had.

  4. #4 Martin Langeland
    November 9, 2008

    Or:
    Suppose that governing has its usual heady effects and the Democrats tear asunder.
    The Blue Dogs might embrace the Rethug Rump and Libertarians to recreate a “moderate” (right wing) party, while the more centrist Dems (there are no left Dems) coalesce with the Greens to form a slightly, slightly, leftish center party.
    Still two parties. Still the same positions: Center and Right. No Left.
    Saaaa…
    But you had me going with the thought of a President of any party facing a Congress of three equal factions!
    –ml

  5. #5 llewelly
    November 9, 2008

    Funny how the electoral map of the future you provide includes Utah, Idaho, and Wyoming in ‘Appalachia’.

  6. #6 Coturnix
    November 9, 2008

    Those are different maps. This one is about youth vote. The other one, and you have seen it everywhere I ‘m sure, is the map of states that went more red in 2008 than in 2004 and that is Appalachia. The two maps are not comparable and they are parts of two separate arguments I put forward in this post so it is very important not to conflate them.

  7. #7 Zeno
    November 9, 2008

    There is a powerful structural bias toward a two-party system in the United States, partly because we’ve never had a viable way to build majority coalitions in the House and Senate. We’re not parliamentary.

    Having said that, there’s no reason the opposition party has to be the Republican Party. The hardcore Palinistas will try to recast the GOP in their image: God, guns, and nativism. It’s a dead-end road, but they love it. Their fervor can keep a Republican rump caucus going for a few more cycles, but extinction is their eventual fate.

    Will the Greens flourish? I doubt it. The Democrats will co-opt much of the Green program, but not so much as to panic the many people who think Green policies mean a retreat to subsistence yeoman farming.

    The Libertarians? They’ve always been pretty far out on the fringe, but they have the legacy of support for small government that the GOP used to consider essential to its political creed, but which they betrayed. Perhaps some refugees from the GOP will move it into stronger contention.

    So what will replace the Republican Party? It might be something that is still called the Republican Party, since it’s easier to take over an existing national party than build one from scratch. But it won’t be viable unless they pry it loose from people like Huckabee, Tancredo, and Palin.

  8. #8 Coturnix
    November 9, 2008

    Joshua Zelinsky: “People often become more conservative as they age”. I hear this all the time, but can never find evidence for it. A small number of people become rich bankers or CEOs and start voting Rrepublican because they want lower taxes or deregulation. A larger number of people grow up conservative, but then turn liberal as they encounter diversity when they go to college or travel the world or become Web-savvy. Some people just don’t track the world as the world become more liberal thus they appear relatively more conservative compared to the new youngsters, but only few of them will actually start voting Republican as they age. The net sum of those changes is probably negligible. I have a feeling that this idea is just a self-congratulatory right-wing myth.

  9. #9 Coturnix
    November 9, 2008

    Joshua Zelinsky: “First, it isn’t clear if all the new voters in this election (who primarily voted for Obama) will vote the same way or vote at all in future elections.”

    Correct, but what is it that GOP can possibly offer them that will be appetizing enough for them to come back?

  10. #10 Coturnix
    November 9, 2008

    Joshua Zelinsky: “Third, the claim that racism is not enough now is simply not backed by the evidence; all we’ve seen is that racism is not enough for a very weak canddidate.”

    First, name a stronger candidate than McCain, the only Republican who, until about a couple of months ago, was liked by independents and Democrats? GOP has no field whatsoever.

    Second, four years of no-drama Obama will counter a lot of racism still prevailing. It will not just be a presumption, but actual empirical evidence, that a Black President is at least OK, i.e., can do the job. The racism argument, as well as many other arguments, depend on the Obama administration’s performance. But the treshold is low – all he has to do is be less wacky than Bush which is an easy task. Seeing how he is un-ideological and pragmatic, he is likely (barring extraordinary events) to vastly overshoot those expectations.

  11. #11 Monado in Toronto
    November 9, 2008

    I’m not sure… we had the Reform Party (far right/Alberta separatists) splitting off from the Conservatives, who were reduced to a couple of seats… then the Reform became the Conservatives and stealth moderates… they’re now running the country, worse luck.

    I’ve heard that women tend to become more radical with age as they realize what being a woman means socially and for power and reproductive rights. Some people, regardless of sex, get twenty years of experience become more tolerant of differences. Others go on having one year of experience twenty times over

  12. #12 Coturnix
    November 9, 2008

    Joshua Zelinsky: “If McCain had run more moderately, hadn’t selected Palin as VP and hadn’t appeared to fail so badly around economic issues he might very well have won.”

    If he selected a more moderated VP, the fundies would not have turned out – they just don’t vote when they don’t like the candidate because they don’t really grok democracy. They liked Palin. The moderate Republicans liked McCain. But the McCain-Palin duo made both of the groups half-unhappy about the candidates. They lost because they need both factions to turn out in force, but cannot do that any more – one group or another will be less than motivated.

  13. #13 Coturnix
    November 9, 2008

    Joshua Zelinsky: “And if McCain were not up against a very charismatic, highly organized individual like Obama he might have won.”

    True. But irrelevant to my thesis. McCain lost. I see no math that allows GOP to win in four or eight years from now, no matter who the candidates on both sides are.

  14. #14 Coturnix
    November 9, 2008

    Joshua Zelinsky: “There’s no similar situation today.”

    Are you inhabiting the same world as the rest of us?

    – a Black guy beat a White guy
    – the biggest swing block for Obama (comparison with 2004) were – white males!
    – a non-ideological pragmatic beat an ideologue
    – a guy who makes decisions from empirical information beat the guy who makes decisions by ‘gut feeling’ and wishful thinking
    – message of Hope beat the message of Hate
    – the most transparent candidate in history (and apparently starting the most open and transparent administration in history) beat the secretives
    – Iraq quagmire
    – global warming as a humongous and immediate challenge
    – a shocking realization that we will all have to change our way of life, and accepting this
    – a glaring demonstration that empty free-marketeering and deregulation are deadly
    – people just knowingly voted for a “socialist”

    The entire conservative edifice has just been exposed as disfuntional for everyone to see – and people voted accordingly. And the demographic trends suggest that this was the GOP last chance – they could have won but didn’t. Next time, they just don’t have a platform to run on, people to put up as candidates, or electoral math to help them win.

  15. #15 Pierce R. Butler
    November 9, 2008

    Without a change in the winner-take-all system, US politics will be locked into a duopoly for the foreseeable future – and without a change in campaign financing, both sides of the duopoly, by whatever names they use, will be predominantly corrupt.

    In theory, any of the states could get the ball rolling toward a multipartisan future by adopting proportional or instant-runoff voting schemes. But what incentive is there for legislators elected by current methods to enact the necessary changes?

  16. #16 Jimmy
    November 9, 2008

    I think you’re right, at least to the extent that the Republicans are having a serious identity crisis and will be a long time rebuilding. But Zeno is right about our serious structural bias towards a 2-party system, which we’ve retained when other parties have died too.

    That said: even as a Democrat, I’d like someone to rebuild sooner than the 12-20 years a lot of people are tossing around. One-party rule is a bad thing.

  17. #17 Joshua Zelinsky
    November 9, 2008

    Coturnix, in regard to your points (not responding in as organized a fashion I probably should)

    Re: people becoming more conservative when they age. I just did a quick google search but it appears that most of the decent sources suggest that if anything that opposite is true on average (see for example http://www.livescience.com/health/080310-liberal-seniors.html ). The only real response I have to that is more or less anecdote about the history of my family.

    Re: New voters. I agree it is unlikely that the new voters will vote for Republicans. But even if they stay out of the election that will still make future elections very different.

    Re: Racism. The primary reason that racism didn’t work that well or backfired in this case was because it was blunt enough to cause non-racists to react against what the campaign was doing. A more well-run, subtler campaign could likely succeed more with such moves. I also think you are underestimating how deep some racist feelings are. They aren’t logical. The same people who are racist now aren’t going to change much because of a prominent example of a black person succeeding. If that was the sort of evidence that took hold they wouldn’t be racist to start with.

    As to comparing the situation to the 1850s: the situation isn’t that similar. We’ve had wars in the past that have not gone well. We’ve had economic crises. They haven’t killed things before. Slavery in contrast was a fundamental overarching issue that overrode almost all other concerns(it was like what some members of the religious right want abortion or gay marriage to be today). The point is that none of the issues you have mentioned have the same overarching, overriding effect.

    Regarding McCain-Palin. I suspect that if McCain had picked Huckabee or Romney as his running mate things might have been very different. Palin was about as bottom of the barrel a pick as one could get. She effectively destroyed the campaign. She appeared uneducated, unintelligent, and inexperienced which combined with a candidate who was running on his experience, made a near perfect storm of campaign sabotage. The only way it could have been worse is if Palin had publicly campaigned by labeled all the scientists as “evilutionists”.

    Also note that the Presidency isn’t the only thing that matters. Ted Stevens has been reelected and Michelle Bachman has been reelected. Parties have gone through periods where they have not had the Presidency for extended periods of time. That doesn’t keep them from having a lot of the Senate and House. And in 2010 and 2014 Obama isn’t running.

    The claim that “platform to run on, people to put up as candidates, or electoral math to help them win.” simply isn’t accurate. McCain got 46% of the vote and many people were happy with his platform. They have more than enough people who are willing to be candidates. So they just won’t have the Presidency for a while. Obviously, they need to think pretty hard right now about what the party stands for, but that’s a very different claim than saying that the party as a whole isn’t going to exist.

    Your analysis is sound if people were voting primarily on ideas. But most people don’t vote on ideas. They vote on personality, and rhetoric and emotion. And in that context this is to a large extent a setback due to the double knockout of Palin and Obama. And even given that 46% still went for McCain.

  18. #18 Coturnix
    November 9, 2008

    If McCain had picked Huckabee or Romney as his running mate things might have been very different. I agree. but he didn’t so he lost. The post is about the future, so this is irrelevant to my argument.

    Ted Stevens did not win (yet) and may not – check Nate Silver for the numbers.

    On racism – see my previous post in the Politics category (the post-election summary).

    Many people who voted for McCain were not happy with his platform, mainly because he had no platform. His plan was to promise to have a plan. Without any concrete proposals to show, people assumed he would be just the same as Bush, except even more hot-tempered and trigger-happy. They voted for him for a variety of reasons: racism, general wingnuttery, personal identification with the GOP brand, cowardice.

    I did not insist that GOP will cease to exist. I gave it as one of the many possible scenarios. It will probably continue, and still for a while have regional successes (e.g., congressional and state-wide races). But it will not have the power to win a national race (for President) for a long time. Its brand is damaged.

    It is a very interesting moment in history. Not a single overarching issue, but many things happening simultaneously, each one of them damaging to conservatism as an ideology. The Free-Market myth is busted. The Big Government myth is busted. GOP as a party of small government Myth is busted. Conservatism as a “smart” ideology myth is dead. GOP as a party of ideas Myth is dead. Pretty much everything that conservatives run on is now on the losing end of popularity and the demographic trends indicate it will just get worse for them – which is good as conservative policies are not based on empirical information on how the world works but on wishful thinking. And we have reached a point when no amount of personal charisma of a candidate can overcome this overwhelming burden of ideological wrongness.

    The only way for GOP to survive is to become firmly Centrist and hope that Dems move Left and thus leave empty space in the Center. If Dems do not move, which I suspect is the case, GOP will have a hard time distinguishing itself from the Dems in any way and especially doing it in a way that inspires confidence they really mean it (as it is obvious that Dems really mean it). There is enough space for only one party in the Center, and Dems are now in control of that position. Being on the Right of it is not a viable national position right now. And by the time it may become so, the world will be a very different place, not to mention that some other parties may gain in strength and the entire system may have changed by then. I just do not see GOP as a party that can win a Presidential race unless Dems totally, terribly screw up. With Obama’s non-ideological pragmatism, we may have to wait a long time before Dems screw up that bad.

  19. #19 Nichlemn
    November 10, 2008

    I put as much credit in this being a long-term shift as I did Karl Rove’s “permanent Republican majority”. Both of these scenarios are based on wishful thinking. Governments around the world oscillate between control by “left-wing” and “right-wing” parties, and this is recent election is no exception. Yes, it looks like the GOP has some serious problems at the moment. But this often appears the case when *any* party loses power. And there have been far more convincing victories with more worrisome trends before. It’s erroneous to assume that trends will continue with all other things remaining equal. The median voter theorem makes it unlikely for current demographic voting patterns to hold up as the minority population increases. It might take some adjusting to, but it’s rare that any party in a competitive democracy could be predicted to dominate ex ante.

    As for “conservatism as a myth”, “which is good as conservative policies are not based on empirical information on how the world works but on wishful thinking” – this seems rather ironic given that you didn’t attempt to prove this with any empirical evidence of your own, and have also arguably engaged in wishful thinking of your own (given your heavy optimism for the future of the Democrats).

  20. #20 Homespun1
    November 10, 2008

    If you want to find out where the GOP’ers are going look in the Obit’ section of your local paper. They are dying off faster than new ones can be brainwashed.

  21. #21 Mike_F
    November 10, 2008

    Be VERY careful what you wish for. As a citizen of a country where the largest party has ~25% of the seats in our parliament, I can tell you that coalition governments have their own MAJOR defects. That said, I think that if you look at democracies worldwide, you will find that those that determine parliamentary representatives by geographic districts naturally tend to a two party structure. The Republicans may be down, but only a partisan engaging in wishful thinking can dream them out at this stage…

  22. #22 Alan
    November 10, 2008

    If the Palin supporters get control I can easily see them leading the Republicans into the wilderness like a political version of the Donner party.Over here in the UK the success of Labour meant that our Conservatives spent nearly decade on in-house bickering, and they still have not entirely got their act together. Having said that, there is nothing like a defective opposition for creating self importance and internecine feuds in the ruling party – the Democrats are good for six years I reckon but after that the argunents over Obamas successor are going to get very nasty.

  23. #23 MH
    November 10, 2008

    Bora, I think you have to familiarize yourself with recent UK politics. By the mid 90’s, the electorate was sick of the Torys. Labour (the traditionally left-wing party), in a bold move, leap-frogged over the Liberal-Democrats to take the middle ground, led by their charismatic new leader, Tony Blair. The Conservatives under John Major were crushed in the 1997 election. The country was hopeful that things were going to change. They didn’t.

    What happened was that Labour (‘New Labour’) started to move right of centre, thus putting the Conservatives in a similar position that the Republicans find themselves in currently. The Torys either had to go further right (which would have made them a fringe party, never sensibly electable), or stick with the same policies that Labour were advocating (which would have given them no special appeal over Labour). They finally settled on the latter, and basically, bided their time. For many years, they were unable to field a charismatic leader.

    Eventually, Blair’s gloss wore off, and various issues (Iraq war, state of public services, erosion of civil liberties) have made the electorate eager for change again. The Tory’s have a young, fresh leader, and if there was an election today, they would win by 14%, despite their policies being almost indistinguishable from Labour’s.

    And don’t forget that we have a credible third party here, which is just left of centre, and is a much better position for enacting the change that the electorate say they want (and btw, their leader, Nick Clegg, is an atheist!).

    So, what I expect to happen in the US in the next decade is that the GOP will remain fundamentally unchanged, and will wait until firstly they get a credible leader, and secondly the electorate get tired of the Democrats. Then they will once again regain power.

    I should point out that nothing would please me more than to see the death of the Republican party, but UK politics have made me cynical. I do however see developed countries becoming generally more liberal as time passes, which makes me happy. :-)

  24. #24 Julie Stahlhut
    November 10, 2008

    I think the death notices for the Republican Party are premature. It was in pretty bad shape after Nixon, and still bounced back. And it absolutely roared back in 1994, based on its well-funded capacity for promoting itself with smoke and mirrors. (If it were to lose its money base, of course, all bets would be off.) And I certainly wish that this election would spur the development of a viable many-party system, but I don’t think that necessarily follows.

    That said: I agree that racism no longer makes a viable campaign strategy. It’s still around and is as poisonous as ever, but younger voters and those approaching voting age have grown up in a completely different environment than did those of us born in the 1950s and earlier. And I do like to think that the oblique racism and xenophobia of this year’s Republican campaign (“He doesn’t see America the way you and I do ….”) provided an ultimately important backfire. (Why, no, in fact, Barack Obama clearly does not see America the way that the screaming yahoos at a Sarah Palin rally do. And neither do more than sixty-five million American voters.)

  25. #25 Coturnix
    November 10, 2008

    Nichlemn: Looks at my archives, the ‘Politics’ and ‘Ideology’ categories – there is a lot there. Too much to include in every new post. Yes, the two sides oscillate, but the mean (or the set-point) keeps moving to the Left over time. A truly rightwing GOP is not sustainable any more.

    Mike_F: I did not indicate anywhere that this is what I wish for. I thought I was pretty clear I am interested in a multi-party system. I just don’t see how a purely rightwing party can have a national (as opposed to regional) power any more. I am aware of the problems of Parliamentary democracies, but I still think that is preferable to a two-party system, especially if one of the parties is too weak to be effective opposition.

    MH: yes, that is what I expect. GOP will spend some time in the wilderness, waiting for the Dems to become unpopular again. This may take some time. In the meantime, third parties will move in and work hard on changing the system. So, when the GOP, unrecognizible ideologically to us today, comes back, it will join not one but several other parties. It will find it more difficult to position itself and to distinguish itself from others. I think they will never be as all-powerful again as they were for the past three decades or so.

  26. #26 Mimi
    November 10, 2008

    While I don’t agree with some people’s hasty comments that we grow more “conservative” as we get older and the youth of the nation becomes less gullible as we age as I read on other topics similar to this (what are you implying here?) I can only hope that this is where we are headed. However (yes there is a “however”), I have dealt with to many racist, bigoted, religious zealot types, “family” protecting, gun toting (even though I can definitely lock and load), scary people that are my age. They scare me. They are so full of hate towards anything that is different or what they consider out of the norm. The youth of America is not as liberal as we would like to think. There are a great many who still thrive on white supremacy. I have seen more than my fair share of skinheads at punk-rock concerts. There are even more who are super homophobic. My island is full of Obama supporters but are also VERY VERY anti-GLBT. Since I am a gullible youth, though, I will stick to my “hope” and all things mushy and hope we really can progress as a people. I really hope we are all TRULY seen as equals one day and that Freedom of Religion, Speech, and Press will continue to be upheld. I will continue to hope that we will begin to, in the famous words of Dr. King, not “judge people by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character. Call me naive and gullible. Call me an idealist. really, though, what is wrong with these things?

  27. #27 Coturnix
    November 10, 2008

    It does not seem like this election was just a win for Obama, but an even bigger win for the Democratic party as a whole.

  28. #28 Coturnix
    November 10, 2008

    Also, apart from the snarky title (and I hope people read more than a title!), it is pretty clear from my post that I am not gloating about Dems losing credible opposition – I am lamenting about Dems losing credible opposition.

    I am not even gloating about the fall of GOP. I am gloating about the fall of GOP as it is now – a party based on hate, divisiveness, anger, cowardice, bigotry, religion, anti-intellectualism, vigilantism, aggression, viciousness, dishonesty, Orwellian language, reverse-Robin-Hoodism, whishful thinking and empirically wrong policy ideas on every front. I wish they rethink, reassess and come back. But this will take a long time, and in the meantime the political landscape of the USA will change. I am curious to see where GOP tries to position itself and how it tries to differentiate itself from other parties that will rush in to fill the vacuum.

    The scenario outlined in the post is that of third parties (and a rump GOP) will come in and provide needed opposition to the Dems from both the Left and the Right.

    But there are other scenarios. If, as change.org suggests, the Obama government will be very open and transparent, with millions of people having their voice heard, than those people will provide the opposition even if no other party comes in, ushering some kind of post-party way of doing things – national debate on every issue and every bill.

    For 8 years, rightwing blogs defended Bush and leftwing blogs attacked Bush. Now that Obama is in charge, I expect the rightwing blogs to become irrelevant and ignored, while leftwing blogs will become the opposition – holding Obama’s toes to the fire on every little piece of legislation.

  29. #29 Coturnix
    November 10, 2008

    Just as I wrote that last sentence, I saw that Joe Trippi agrees with me on this.

  30. #30 David Marjanovi?
    November 10, 2008

    If everything goes well, perhaps we will end up with a true multi-party system in which there will be 4-5 parties of roughly equal strength, none capable of winning and ruling completely alone.

    As Zeno mentioned, that’s impossible, because new administrations arise from presidential, not congressional, elections in the USA, and presidential elections are elections for a person — which means that there are, in the vast majority of cases, only two candidates that have any serious chance of winning. Each of these candidates then accrues a party behind himself for support…

    I think the Reptilian Party will nominate Palin in 2012, go extinct, leave the Dems unopposed, and then the Dems will split, restoring the two-party system a bit to the left of its current location. We’ll see.

  31. #31 Coturnix
    November 10, 2008

    Sure, I am agnostic as to the origin of the parties, i.e.., if they arise from splitting of existing parties, or strengthening of existing small parties, or foundation of new parties. But a one-party system is a bad idea and probably impossible in the long term. Before it settles (if it structurally has to) into a new two-party system, it will probably go through a complex period of jockeying for power among several parties first.

  32. #32 Matt Penfold
    November 10, 2008

    I see parallels with the situation in the US to the situation we had in the UK in 1997 when a hugely unpopular Conservative goverment was defeated in a landslide by Labour.

    Following the defeat there was considerable in-fighting amongst Conservatives with some arguing they needed to move more to the right, and other arguing they needed to fight Labour in the centre. They tried the moving to the right thing, under Micheal Howard and it was a failure. Now, under Cameron they have positioned themselves in the centre, and abandoned much of the socially conservative agengs they had previously embraced. It is now quite possible they will be back in government with 18 months.

  33. #33 Nomen Nescio
    November 10, 2008

    i agree and disagree with David. third parties are impossible in the USA, but not because the presidential elections are for an individual — rather, as mr. Butler said further up the thread, it’s because of the winner-take-all, single-representative district system. this badly needs changing, and i don’t know of any legal or technical reason it couldn’t be changed, but the political and social inertia against any such change is enormous.

  34. #34 Caliban
    November 10, 2008

    Hmmm. I get the feeling that such rosey predictions must be too good to be true. We had eight years of Bush and 46% of the voting public still voted Republican.

    To point out that the major planks of the party have been intellectually discredited means absolutely nothing to those 46%, most of whom, i would say, vote as an expression of tribal identity.

    Just because an idea or even a group of ideas, is discredited doesn’t mean that all the folks whose identity is defined by those discredited ideas will then abandon them. People are just not that rational.

  35. #35 AntiquatedTory
    November 10, 2008

    Before you declare conservatism dead, remember that the Reagan revolution was in large part a reaction to the failures of the program-for-everything Democratic congressional hegemony of the ’70s.
    What I’d like to know is what happened to classical liberalism? The UK has no small government party now, and the US has no sane small government politicians. Free-market fundamentalism and what is usually called “libertarianism” in the states seem to have completely abandoned Anglo-Saxon pragmatism in favor of a bizarre absolutist all-government-is-bad position. Between those guys and the social conservatives, JS Mill would have voted Democratic if he were to come back today as an American citizen. (Maybe ACORN could register him anyway, ha ha ha.)
    More Mill and less Rand would benefit American conservatism no small amount, IMO.

  36. #36 Matt Penfold
    November 10, 2008

    i agree and disagree with David. third parties are impossible in the USA, but not because the presidential elections are for an individual — rather, as mr. Butler said further up the thread, it’s because of the winner-take-all, single-representative district system. this badly needs changing, and i don’t know of any legal or technical reason it couldn’t be changed, but the political and social inertia against any such change is enormous.

    The UK has the same first past the post system, for the UK parliament and yet has three main parties. For Welsh and Scottish representation at Westminster the three parties become four with the addition of the Nationalist parties.

  37. #37 Feynmaniac
    November 10, 2008

    I think it’s a bit too quick to count the Republicans out (as much as I would want to). The Democrats have shown that winning the Presidency with a charismatic leader, as well as the the House and the Senate, and winning due to an economic crises caused by a President Bush is not enough to kill the Republican party.

    Voters tend to have short memories. If the Democrats manage to solve the economic crisis and the problems in Iraq they will have the luxury to ask “what candidate do I want to have a beer with?” and start listening to whatever the 2016 version of Swift Boat veterns is. If not, the Republicans will blame them and gain power again.

    Yes, they have been weakened, but they are still quite powerful. The Republicans face the problem of staying the same and dying out or change and keep some power. They are going to make the obvious choice. They will do whatever it takes to get or keep power (e.g, say John McCain has an illegitimate black child, link someone who lost 3 limbs in Vietnam to Saddam Hussein and Osama bin Laden, prey on voters’ homophobia, etc.) Watch and see them to do whatever it takes to bring down Obama.

    I don’t say this with any glee. I would love to see the Republican party wither and die and/or America to have a multi-party system. I just don’t see that happening in the near future.

  38. #38 Alex
    November 10, 2008

    So, which side in the Republican civil wars should we lend howitzers to? I can see two arguments – secretly back the Palinpartei to wreck the whole thing, or less secretly support the Christian Democrats to put them in a box. I prefer number 2; it’s less evil and Rovian, and the failure modes aren’t as bad.

  39. #39 Nomen Nescio
    November 10, 2008

    Matt, that’s true, but i don’t know enough about UK politics to speculate on exactly how the differences work. i suspect some politico-cultural difference may be involved.

    i do know that a similar argument can be applied to David’s position; if the presidential elections drove party structure that strongly, then any country with a strong, popularly elected chief executive would tend towards a two-party system. that’s clearly not so.

  40. #40 Azkyroth
    November 10, 2008

    The neocons may not care about social issues, but they have been proven wrong on foreign policy. The long-standing advantage of the Republicans in regards to the way voters see them as better on national security has melted – in this election, it was the Democrats that people trusted more.

    Which is idiotic anyway, considering that of the three significant wars in this century in which the US was a belligerent and in some meaningful sense won, two of them were fought and won against countries that were our military equals, at least on paper, by democrats (World War I and II), leaving only Desert Storm to the Republicans (Korea, as a stalemate, is probably about half a point). I really would like to know where people got this impression that Republicans have a better record WRT defending America (I’m guessing it’s mainly related to Reagan’s personality cult and Jimmy Carter’s failures).

  41. #41 Coturnix
    November 10, 2008

    Or mistaking machismo, flag-wrapped parades and aggressiveness for the actual ability to strategically fight and win a war?

  42. #42 Matt Heath
    November 10, 2008

    In a couple of decades, more than 50% of Americans will be non-White in various shades and hues. Racism, as a campaign strategy, is dead.

    It may be that both of these statements are true but the latter surely doesn’t follow from the former. I mean if some minority groups are moved into the “in group” of racist appeals (as Jews, the Irish and southern Europeans were before them) what stops those appeals from working?

  43. #43 Coturnix
    November 10, 2008

    I doubt that Blacks and Latinos will be swayed by racist arguments ;-)

    But, on top of the fact that the fundies are now in control of the party and the moderates are gone, you also need to consider that the GOP has lost House and Senate seats in two consecutive elections and is likely to loose some more in two years. The problem is that the ones who are losing are decent and moderate, while those who remain are the nutcases who live in the reddest parts of the reddest states. Thus, as the GOP minority in Congress shrinks, it becomes more and more batshit crazy. Those who are elected officials always hold greater sway within the party than those who are out on the street. And if these nutcases keep trying to block, filibuster and vote against Dem proposals that the majority of the American people like, this does not make the popular perception of the GOP any better.

  44. #44 D. C. Sessions
    November 10, 2008

    Consider the prospect of the socially liberal fiscal conservatives realizing that the theoconservatives have the whip hand. A few leaders declare Libertarian and invite others of like mind to do the same.

    Suddenly there are several times as many Libertarians as ever before, and for once they actually have some people in office. The next Libertarian caucus is very … interesting.

    Not likely, of course — the Republican leadership is too invested in the party they grew up with (although keep in mind that many of them came of age in the 60s, just as the current set of Obama Democrats are coming of age now.)

  45. #45 D. C. Sessions
    November 10, 2008

    However (yes there is a “however”), I have dealt with to many racist, bigoted, religious zealot types, “family” protecting, gun toting (even though I can definitely lock and load), scary people that are my age. They scare me. They are so full of hate towards anything that is different or what they consider out of the norm. The youth of America is not as liberal as we would like to think. There are a great many who still thrive on white supremacy.

    IMHO the USA is in for some serious readjustment. The US economy will never again dominate the world the way it did in the 20th century, and the US standard of living will never again be what it was then.

    And that, I suggest, is going to drive a whole lot of people nonlinear. They expect to start off at 20 living as well as their parents do now, and their parents are just now starting to dig out of the hole they went into to start out living as well as their parents got to after a lot of hard work. And so on.

    I’m a boomer and watching this happen scares me for my grandchildren, because that kind of future will make for desperate people, and desperate people are easy to manipulate. Especially if you give them a reason to blame things on someone.

  46. #46 oddjob
    November 21, 2008

    It’s too early to write the GOP obituary, or the obituary for the two party system (a system which has twice survived the extinction of one of its two major parties). To a certain degree I sympathize, Coturnix, but it apears to me you aren’t considering that the next elections will not be referenda on the Republicans. It will be the Democrats who are being evaluated, not the Republicans.

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