Tuesday, April 28, 2009

The Future of the Republican Party

Arlen Specter’s joining the Democrats today is an exclamation point on a long string of events that show that the Republican Party is crumbling. Obviously in the last two elections they were soundly defeated, but I think that this is more significant that just a few bad elections, this is a fundamental shift in American politics away from the Republican Party.

Specter belonged to the moderate/liberal wing of the GOP, and his leaving the party is a symbol of the GOP’s shrinking appeal among moderates. 21% of Americans currently consider themselves Republicans, compared to 35% Democrats and 38% independents. As moderates leave the party, there will be no internal opposition to the GOP’s swing to the right witnessed in the past few elections. The current main wings of the GOP are the moderates like Arlen Specter who are leaving the party in droves, the Mitt Romney-type fiscal conservatives and economic libertarians who often also adopt socially conservative policies in order to get elected, and the fundamentalist religious and xenophobic politicians in the mold of the populist Sarah Palin. Unless Republican leadership realigns the party, the first wing will leave the party, and there will be an increasing split between the other two wings. The fiscal conservative wing will blame the overemphasis of the culture wars by the populist wing for electoral defeats. The populist wing will energize a small but very vocal minority of Americans, but will probably ultimately be just a flash-in-the-pan movement with little national significance. I think it would not be too much of a stretch to say that the second wing of the party might realize that the culture war will no longer win elections, and will abandon the GOP for the Libertarian Party, leaving the GOP to be controlled by populist culture warriors and to fade into obscurity. The culture wars will become largely irrelevant, and the real political debate will become economic.

There will almost definitely be a realignment of some sort—perpetual Democratic control is unlikely—but it will take a long time before the GOP and conservative movement gets its act together and becomes a viable nation-wide movement once again, rather than just becoming a regional Southern party, unless a split actually occurs and the Libertarian Party will be the main opposition to the Democrats, as the Republicans become politically irrelevant social conservatives.

1 comment:

ShamRockNRoll said...

I agree.

The statistics, popular sentiment, the 2010 electoral map... they all go in our favor... not to mention the ongoing demographic shift. The youth vote went 66% for Obama, as compared to 61% for Reagan... and that generation went on to shift the political landscape to the right. Voters are becoming more liberal and more diverse (which in itself benefits Democrats).

This does NOT mean we should become over confident. Never underestimate the ability of Democrats to F something up politically. But with a leader like President Obama going up against a leaderless and collapsing GOP, I'm not all that worried.

It is definitely a good time to be a member of the Democratic Party.