Saturday, March 3, 2012

2012: last chance for the GOP?

This is a follow-up to my blog post, a couple of days ago, about the so-called "miracle of 1947," as David Brin put it. I'm not so sure I'd call it a "miracle," myself, but that's just semantics. Basically, the post was about the Democratic Party reinventing itself - twice - during the 20th Century.

The Republican Party reinvented itself, too, by deliberately wooing white racists after the 1964 Civil Rights Act. In the short-term, that was hugely successful. By how does that look going forward? Over the long-term, their very success at attracting racists might prove to be disastrous for the party (and maybe for all of us).

Here's Jonathan Chait:
Of the various expressions of right-wing hysteria that have flowered over the past three years—goldbuggery, birtherism, death panels at home and imaginary apology tours by President Obama abroad—perhaps the strain that has taken deepest root within mainstream Republican circles is the terror that the achievements of the Obama administration may be irreversible, and that the time remaining to stop permanent nightfall is dwindling away. ...

The Republican Party is in the grips of many fever dreams. But this is not one of them. To be sure, the apocalyptic ideological analysis—that “freedom” is incompatible with Clinton-era tax rates and Massachusetts-style health care—is pure crazy. But the panicked strategic analysis, and the sense of urgency it gives rise to, is actually quite sound. The modern GOP—the party of Nixon, Reagan, and both Bushes—is staring down its own demographic extinction. ...

The Republican Party had increasingly found itself confined to white voters, especially those lacking a college degree and rural whites who, as Obama awkwardly put it in 2008, tend to “cling to guns or religion.” Meanwhile, the Democrats had ­increased their standing among whites with graduate degrees, particularly the growing share of secular whites, and remained dominant among racial minorities. ...

Every year, the nonwhite proportion of the electorate grows by about half a percentage point—meaning that in every presidential election, the minority share of the vote increases by 2 percent, a huge amount in a closely divided country. [my emphasis] One measure of how thoroughly the electorate had changed by the time of Obama’s election was that, if college-­educated whites, working-class whites, and minorities had cast the same proportion of the votes in 1988 as they did in 2008, Michael Dukakis would have, just barely, won. By 2020—just eight years away—nonwhite voters should rise from a quarter of the 2008 electorate to one third. In 30 years, nonwhites will outnumber whites.

Do you wonder that Republicans have become hysterical, especially since there's actually a non-white president in the White House? Barack Obama, just from who he is, not from what he does, is the very embodiment of their fears. Well, the GOP deliberately wooed white racists, and that gave them a real advantage, at least at first.
In 1985, Stanley Greenberg, then a political scientist, immersed himself in Macomb County, a blue-collar Detroit suburb where whites had abandoned the Democratic Party in droves. He found that the Reagan Democrats there understood politics almost entirely in racial terms, translating any Democratic appeal to economic justice as taking their money to subsidize the black underclass.

It's easy to think the worst of people who are different from you. And Republicans have been pushing this theme for decades. Do you have problems? It must be because the blacks are getting favorable treatment. Not that any of them want to work, of course, because the Democrats are giving all your tax money to black welfare queens.

That tends to work even on people who aren't overt racists. Indeed, many of those people adamantly insist that they're not racist. I know. I encounter them all the time. They indignantly deny being racist even as they express their very racist thinking.

But America is becoming more diverse. Younger people are more comfortable with racial and religious diversity than the elderly, who grew up in a very different time. But as time passes, the elderly slowly die off. Meanwhile, racial minorities - especially Hispanics - are growing rapidly in numbers.

Is it any wonder that Republicans have become absolutely hysterical at Hispanic immigration? During the Bush years, Karl Rove actually thought to create a new Republican majority with Hispanics. After all, they tend to be Catholic, quite religious and quite conservative on social issues.

But that's hard to do when you've deliberately filled your political party with racists. The Republican base gets hysterical at the very thought of Hispanics in America. (They do tolerate Cubans, favoring them over all other Hispanic immigrants, apparently because they hate Castro even more.)

So instead of wooing the Hispanic vote, today's Republican candidates for president have to demonstrate that they hate Hispanics as much as the GOP base does. But without them, what kind of future does a whites-only Republican Party face?
Obama actually lost the over-45-year-old vote in 2008, gaining his entire victory margin from younger voters—more racially diverse, better educated, less religious, and more socially and economically liberal.

Portents of this future were surely rendered all the more vivid by the startling reality that the man presiding over the new majority just happened to be, himself, young, urban, hip, and black. When jubilant supporters of Obama gathered in Grant Park on Election Night in 2008, Republicans saw a glimpse of their own political mortality. And a galvanizing picture of just what their new rulers would look like.

In the cold calculus of game theory, the expected response to this state of affairs would be to accommodate yourself to the growing strength of the opposing coalition—to persuade pockets of voters on the Democratic margins they might be better served by Republicans. Yet the psychology of decline does not always operate in a straightforward, rational way. A strategy of managing slow decay is unpleasant, and history is replete with instances of leaders who persuaded themselves of the opposite of the obvious conclusion. Rather than adjust themselves to their slowly weakening position, they chose instead to stage a decisive confrontation.

Note that these people aren't rational. They're faith-based and apocalyptic. If they were accepting of racial and religious diversity, they wouldn't be Republicans in the first place.

Now, it wasn't always this way. There used to be moderate and even liberal Republicans. Republicans helped pass the 1964 Civil Rights Act, and they didn't all do it for cynical political reasons. But for decades, the party has deliberately wooed white racists. And Republican leaders have stoked racial fears, because that got their supporters fired up, eager to donate money and to vote.

So what do they do now?
None of this is to say that Republicans ignored the rising tide of younger and browner voters that swamped them at the polls in 2008. Instead they set about keeping as many of them from the polls as possible. The bulk of the campaign has taken the form of throwing up an endless series of tedious bureaucratic impediments to voting in many states—ending same-day voter registration, imposing onerous requirements upon voter-registration drives, and upon voters themselves. “Voting liberal, that’s what kids do,” overshared William O’Brien, the New Hampshire House speaker, who had supported a bill to prohibit college students from voting from their school addresses. What can these desperate, rearguard tactics accomplish? They can make the electorate a bit older, whiter, and less poor. They can, perhaps, buy the Republicans some time.

Republicans see these demographic changes, too. And in their fear, they're doing everything they can to maintain control. After all, if demographic changes are working against them, this might be their best chance.

But note that they're not showing the courage of the Democratic Party, which reinvented itself - to some extent, at least - twice during the 20th Century. They're not facing their mistakes head-on. They're certainly not correcting them.

Yes, party leaders have apologized for that "Southern strategy," but those are just words. They're sticking with the substance of that. Indeed, they're doubling-down.
The way to make sense of that foolhardiness is that the party has decided to bet everything on its one “last chance.” Not the last chance for the Republican Party to win power—there will be many of those, and over time it will surely learn to compete for nonwhite voters—but its last chance to exercise power in its current form, as a party of anti-government fundamentalism powered by sublimated white Christian identity politics. (And the last chance to stop the policy steamroller of the new Democratic majority.) And whatever rhetorical concessions to moderates and independents the eventual Republican nominee may be tempted to make in the fall, he’ll find himself fairly boxed in by everything he’s already done this winter to please that base.

Will the gamble work? Grim though the long-term demography may be, it became apparent to Republicans almost immediately after Obama took office that political fate had handed them an impossibly lucky opportunity. Democrats had come to power almost concurrently with the deepest economic crisis in 80 years, and Republicans quickly seized the tactical advantage, in an effort to leverage the crisis to rewrite their own political fortunes. The Lesser Depression could be an economic Watergate, the Republicans understood, an exogenous political shock that would, at least temporarily, overwhelm any deeper trend, and possibly afford the party a chance to permanently associate the Democrats with the painful aftermath of the crisis.

During the last midterm elections, the strategy succeeded brilliantly. Republicans moved further right and won a gigantic victory. In the 2010 electorate, the proportion of voters under 30 fell by roughly a third, while the proportion of voters over 65 years old rose by a similar amount—the white share, too. In the long run, though, the GOP has done nothing at all to rehabilitate its deep unpopularity with the public as a whole, and has only further poisoned its standing with Hispanics. But by forswearing compromise, it opened the door to a single shot. The Republicans have gained the House and stand poised to win control of the Senate. If they can claw out a presidential win and hold on to Congress, they will have a glorious two-year window to restore the America they knew and loved, to lock in transformational change, or at least to wrench the status quo so far rightward that it will take Democrats a generation to wrench it back. The cost of any foregone legislative compromises on health care or the deficit would be trivial compared to the enormous gains available to a party in control of all three federal branches.

Note that the Republican Party already controls the Supreme Court. That's the result of decades of Republican dominance. (And both parties, in fact, have tended to appoint more conservative justices than those they've replaced. Republicans replace conservatives with far-right extremists. Democrats replace liberals with moderates.)

Thanks to the disastrous 2010 elections, Republicans have regained control of the House of Representatives, and are positioned very well for taking the Senate, too (since they're defending far fewer seats than the Democrats this year). It's likely to be bad enough even if they don't take the presidency. If they do, we're in for a world of hurt.

Note that they'd be toast right now, if it weren't for the economic collapse that they themselves engineered. Ironic, isn't it? In good economic times, today's GOP wouldn't stand a chance. Well, that's why they've been dragging their feet, and even deliberately sabotaging the economic recovery.

These people are on the wrong side of history, but that just makes them even more hysterical, even more determined to do whatever they have to do to maintain control. Think of what George W. Bush did to us. Even under the best of circumstances, we won't repair that damage in my lifetime. What would an even crazier George W. Bush do to our country?

So I guess I'm feeling both optimistic and pessimistic. The GOP, as it is today, is doomed. But over the short-term, it can still destroy us.

Thanks to Jeff for the link.


Jeff said...

Thanks for the props, WCG. Just doing what I can to add to the conversation.

I am of two minds about the future of the GOP.

There's the side of me that's like Agent Smith in "The Matrix;" whispering into the collective ear of the Republicans, "Like the HAD your time."

But there's also the side of me that says, "there are three things that will survive nuclear war (or global warming): Cher, cockroaches, and the Republican Party."

If the Republican Party is, indeed, doomed, you know damn well they're not going to go quietly.

Stay frosty.

WCG said...

The thing is, we need an opposition party - a sane opposition party, at least, a loyal opposition party.

But we don't need white supremacists, and we don't need a theocracy. Debate is a good thing, and disagreement is natural. But the end does not justify the means.

People willing to advance their own political or religious beliefs at any cost are a danger to this country. Such fanatics are so certain they're right that they're often willing to do anything, no matter how heinous, to advance their own agenda.

Anonymous said...

You make it sound like anyone who chooses to be republican MUST be the devil. With our economy in the dumps, there are certain things that shouldn't be at the forefront of discussion regarding taxpayer's money (Universal Healthcare), we simply cannot afford. The democratic party has done a great job at getting the votes of minorities and younger people, but this was largely based off the promises of "hope" and "change."

Obama's agenda is slowly pushing America towards socialism, I am not okay with that. I have worked diligently for the past 3 years attempting to earn my diploma. I plan on taking risks in my lifetime and if that risks pays off I plan on keeping what I make.

Much of what Obama has done has only been further detrimental to the economy. The stimulus plan, no one knows where most of that money went. The promises he made to capture the vote of the young and educated have gone largely unfulfilled. This country's debt has only multiplied beyond imagination since he has taken office, and not all of it can be attributed to the "racist republicans."

WCG said...

Well, first, Anonymous, no one seems to be advocating universal healthcare, although I wish we were. "Obamacare" was a Republican plan, created in right-wing think tanks in the 1990s and supported by Republicans right up until the point where Democrats adopted it, too.

And since the Democrats were determined not to add to the deficit (the House of Representatives had rules in place to prevent that, until the Republicans took over again), it was designed to actually save our country money, so there's no question about being able to afford it.

Second, sure, I hear from his political opponents that "Obama's agenda" is pushing us towards "socialism," but I've seen zero evidence of that. In what way is he actually a socialist? They never give any examples. And is that why the stock market has been booming since he's been in office, because Wall Street loves socialism so much?

Furthermore, you can claim that Obama has been detrimental to the economy, but where's your evidence of that? In fact, the evidence is all the other way. When he took office, the economic collapse appeared to have no bottom. He stopped the crash and we've been slowly climbing out of the mess Bush left us ever since.

The stimulus worked. Independent economic reviews have demonstrated that. It was too small, though - too small to make up for continual cuts at the state level. Still, it was a net positive. And the American auto industry is booming, when Republicans wanted to let it collapse. (Considering how dire the economy looked at that point, there's no telling what that would have done to our country.)

I'm willing to listen to contrary arguments, but so as far as I can see, the evidence does not back up your claims. Yes, the deficit has increased, but that's normal in an economic slump, because costs automatically go up while revenue decreases. That's not the result of anything Barack Obama has done.

We knew the deficit would increase before Obama even took office. It was already in the forecast. And we knew unemployment would keep increasing, because that's a lagging economic indicator. (But if you look at the graph of that, we lost fewer jobs each month under Obama until we finally started to add jobs again.)

Oh, and independent organizations have shown that the deficit can be attributed almost entirely to three things: Bush's tax cuts, which overwhelmingly benefited the wealthy; two wars which Bush started and, for the first time in our history, without raising taxes to actually pay for them; and the economic collapse itself, which, of course, also happened under Bush, not Obama.

I don't think that Republicans are the devil, since I don't believe in devils. I don't think that they're all racist, either, but many of them are. Note that they deliberately wooed white racists in their notorious "Southern strategy," and they were very, very successful at that. That's why the GOP base is so filled with racists.

Anonymous said...

Maybe Obama is not a socialist bit his background and continued acquaintance with extremists says differently.

Looking at Obamacare from an economic standpoint it could work in the long-run, pushing those who are uninsured to at least pay some sum of money that way those who have paid for insurance will not be carrying all of the burden. Though, I see education system improvement much more important than this.

The stimulus plan effectively kept relatively low skill labor jobs alive, by doing this, America is letting itself lag behind even more on a global skill. Money should be spent on further developing and teaching the public how to run high-skill jobs. This may be terrible in the short-run but we have to look out for the future.

Taxes are a must in this country, but nearly 50% of Americans pay nothing and Obama's administration is pushing 'everyone pay your fair share.' What is the fair share when some pay nothing?

WCG said...

Anonymous, did you even read my previous reply? No comment about that? I answered each of your previous points in detail. (I assume that was you, previously?)

For one thing I noted that I'd need more than your unsupported claims that Obama is a "socialist," and that's still true. So now, Barack Obama "pals around" with socialists? Heh, heh.

You know, I hear that same sort of thing from the left, that he has too many conservative associates and advisers. To both of you, I say that's crazy. I want our president to hear a diversity of views.

One of the tragedies of the Bush administration was that they were all "loyal Bushies," all right-wing true believers. So when they went completely off the rails, there was no one to say, "What if we're wrong?"

Sorry, but guilt by association doesn't work with me (not that you gave me anything but your unsupported claims, again). I want Barack Obama to listen to socialists, and to everyone else, too.

Re. your second point, health care reform has been a Democratic priority for years (and even a Republican issue, at least if you go back to Nixon). Our system of health care is an embarrassment in the developed world. And Barack Obama campaigned on health care reform, so apparently people wanted it. They did elect him.

"Obamacare" is about as conservative as health care reform gets. It's basically just requiring people to have insurance. As I say, it's a Republican plan. But as conservative as it is, it's still fulfilling an Obama campaign promise.

Is improving education important, too? Of course, but so what? Who says that it has to be one or the other? But frankly, with Republicans automatically opposed to everything Barack Obama proposes, even if they supported the very same thing yesterday, it's hard to get anything at all accomplished.

(This is too long, so I'll post the remainder in a follow-up reply.)

WCG said...

Third, the stimulus plan has little to do with making America competitive in the long run (except as spending went to education, infrastructure, and research and development, which some did). But that wasn't the point. The point was to get us out of the worst economic collapse since the Great Depression.

That's a short-term issue, true. But you can't worry too much about long-term issues when you're mired in such a horrible slump. You have to prioritize. True, the stimulus wasn't quite big enough, and far too much of it was tax cuts (which are very inefficient at stimulating the economy), but Barack Obama was just bending over backward trying to appease Republicans (and/or he's more conservative than either his supporters or detractors expected).

Finally, it's simply not true that "nearly 50% of Americans pay nothing in taxes." It's not even close to being true. That's just right-wing propaganda.

Everyone pays taxes. And even if you're just talking about federal taxes, working people pay a great deal in payroll taxes to support Social Security and Medicare, two of the biggest parts of the federal budget. (I'll point out that wealthy earners actually pay a lower rate of payroll taxes than the working poor. Doesn't that bother you?)

Many people right now don't pay federal income taxes, true - or they have enough deductions that they get the money back (and that's the case even with some millionaires). But this is during a terrible economic slump. It's at a time of sky-high unemployment, and after decades where wages have stagnated, too. The average American worker was better off in the 1970s than after 30 years of "supply-side" economics.

Besides, as a practical matter, if you're actually concerned about the deficit, does it make sense to take money from people who don't have any, or from people who do? The wealthy have made out like bandits in recent decades, partly by paying a far lower tax rate than they used to, back when America was booming.

So what do Republicans propose? That the wealthy pay even less, while the government take more money from people who are unemployed or otherwise living hand-to-mouth. Honestly, how can they get middle class people to buy something like that? How can you buy it? That just blows my mind!

I realize that Fox "News" hammers away at this stuff 24/7, but how can you be convinced by it, even so? That just astonishes me. How can you buy arguments like that?

Well, whatever. Just note that everyone pays taxes. And working people all pay federal taxes. It's not the working poor who are making out like bandits, not even close.

Anonymous said...

Being a 22 year old father of two, I typically do not have the time to do significant amounts of research. I am doing this more for the sake of myself to be able to gather as much information as possible. Though, I did come across this article which is very interesting (though it is very dated).

I have thoroughly enjoyed reading your responses. Hopefully I will have time, in the near future, to actually dig for supporting facts and evidence of my viewpoints (following my last two responses I have kind of felt like a jackass). What you have brought up is typically much more in-depth than what my acquaintances can come up with. You seem very well-versed in your politics.

WCG said...

I understand your time constraints, Anonymous. Yes, there's a practical limit to how much research each of us can do. But in general, I find right-wing claims lacking in evidence.

Note that I enjoyed your comments, too. I like being challenged in my assumptions, because that's the only way I'll ever find out if I'm wrong. I'm not easy to convince, but I do like to hear contrary opinions. Come back any time.

PS. Did you mean to include a link with your latest comment? (You said "this article.") Here are a couple of things you might find interesting, including this graph of our national debt and this one which shows the reasons behind the deficit.

Gregg Garthright said...


No need to feel like a "jackass" for your comments - you're presenting them in a polite manner, and you're certainly entitled to your opinions.

Bill is extremely well-informed (he spends A LOT of time reading). He's not always right (he THINKS he is, of course), but he's usually correct more than not (or maybe I just agree with him most of the time). Don't expect to win an argument with him - arguing with Bill is a little like wrestling in the mud with a pig - after a while, you realize the pig is enjoying himself.....

This is a great blog, and I really do think Bill's a smart guy with some valid viewpoints. He's not offended when you disagree with him - just don't get offended when he returns the favor.

Please consider signing up with Google and commenting with a user name - it helps to keep people straight so everybody knows who they're talking to.

Landis said...

Gregg, I appreciate the pat on the back. I kind of feel that my views have been demolished at this point and I definitely need to do some more research so I don't wind up being one of voters simply voting on emotion. I am not offended at all it just Bill has undoubtedly brought new interesting points to light that I cannot battle without proper research.

Bill, sorry about the non-post of the link but here it is, looking at your links it is kind of the other side to that argument. (My phone will not let me post the link, I will have to do so at home... so never mind on that being posted right now)

As I do agree that the wars have been detrimental to our economy in hindsight, the majority of Americans thought the war was a good idea before hand. Alot of patriotism and fear were floating around after the 9/11 attacks along with fear of a nuclear threat inside of Iraq, though nothing of substance was found. The war was not declared solely by George Bush, the war was put into play by Congress.

Obama promised to cut the national deficit in half during his campaign only to increase spending in areas such as welfare, in turn quadrupling this deficit. This is hardly a cut.

When campaigns are stripped to the bare bones and all of the promises thrown out by both parties are taken out, it really comes down to Republicans wanting small government and Democrats wanting large government. Throughout history, both parties have become heavily corrupted but I am a fan of small government interaction and less control of the overall economy and US citizens.

I hope I have actually brought forth some decent points and I will be sure to post the link when I return home.

Landis said...

PS. I am Anonymous

Landis said...


Here is the web address.

WCG said...

Thanks for the link (and the name), Landis. I don't have time to get to it right now, but I will.

At just a quick look, note that 2009 isn't Obama's budget, but Bush's. Obama didn't even take office until 2009 had already begun.

And note that whether the majority of Americans thought the wars were a good idea is hardly the point. (I certainly didn't think they were a good idea. And Barack Obama spoke out against the Iraq War before it began.)

Yes, starting a war tends to be popular, especially when no one has to pay for it and someone else gets to fight it. That's why politicians do it (and that's certainly why Congress went along with it).

"Republicans wanting small government and Democrats wanting large government"? Heh, heh. Oh, you're really been drinking the Kool-Aid, haven't you? :)

But I'll try to get to that, too, as soon as I can. I'm just really busy right now.

Landis said...

No argument that Bush's spending was terrible and he did double the deficit in his eight years in office. 2009 is attributed to Bush, but also included in this budget are two (significant) Obama plans. These two are a $410 billion dollar Omnibus Spending Bill (this bill alone outdoes Bush's average spending of $1.66 billion dollars per day), and the $265 billion dollar 2009 portion of the stimulus plan.

Bush's average spending over his eight years in office equals abouts $410 billion dollars per year (not good) while Obama is running an astounding $1.413 TRILLION per year. This represents over a $1 trillion dollar difference.

America is a democracy and it does not matter what the minority think (yes they can sit back and say "I told you so") it only matters what the majority think. Yes, the decision was ill-informed on many levels, especially in hindsight. But, as they say, hindsight is always 20-20. Though, after 9/11, I am glad we showed our backbone as a country.

I am not drinking the metaphorical kool-aid at this point lol, but I know what I have learned through educational instutiond (liberal ones at that). Obama has increased spending in many federal programs, which in turn grow the government and give it more control. Welfare has increased 20% (only 3% in the Bush era). Looking at this growing government and government funded programs, it is hard not to think that Democrats want more governmental control.

Democrats are in favor of more spending and more federal spending, though to get this spending one must meet certain requirements set by the government.

WCG said...

OK, I wrote a new post addressing those issues, Landis.

Gawd, I was up until nearly 2 AM writing it, and it gets very rambling at the end. (Well, I tend to ramble even during the best of times.) But I wanted to get it done, and I just didn't have any time during the day (or today, either).

That graph is three years old, and almost all of it was projections. Well, when it comes to projections, what are your assumptions? Will the Bush tax cuts end as scheduled? That would cut the deficits nearly in half just by itself. So it's really hard to separate fantasy from reality when someone is forecasting the future.

But the past is down in black and white. We can look at the past and see exactly what happened. And that helps us judge whether the rhetoric we hear really makes sense. Are these people trustworthy? Look at what they've done in the past, and are doing now.

But judge for yourself. That new post is here.