Rumors of the Democratic Party’s Demise Are Greatly Exaggerated

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Erik Kain

Erik writes about video games at Forbes and politics at Mother Jones. He's the contributor of The League though he hasn't written much here lately. He can be found occasionally composing 140 character cultural analysis on Twitter.

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89 Responses

  1. Avatar Ryan B says:

    Miniter’s argument is idiotic. Demographics are destiny.Report

  2. I mostly agree with this post, but I cannot agree with this assertion:

    Certainly there is a consensus movement on the right – the aptly named conservative movement – but that movement makes up only a small portion of Republican voters, many of whom now identify first as Tea Partiers and as Republicans second.

    I think we can safely say that anyone who, when given a list of 20 names ranging from Wolf Blitzer to Rachel Maddow, would name Rush Limbaugh or Sean Hannity as their most trusted news personality would qualify as a part of the conservative movement, no?

    Some quick research brings us to this survey, which shows that 30% of Republicans name Limbaugh and an additional 19% name Hannity as their most trusted news personality: http://media.ifc.com/img/onair/original_series/mediaproject/zogbypoll_resultsnov08.pdf

    So that’s just about 50% of Republicans right there. If you add even half of O’Reilly’s 20%, then you’re at an overwhelming majority. The fact is that most Republicans are movement conservatives.Report

  3. Avatar Jason Kuznicki says:

    The two parties aren’t going away for reasons of election law.

    Ballot access is difficult. Qualifying for matching funds is difficult. Convincing voters to support a third party candidate in Congress is difficult, especially given how everyone knows that third party candidates can’t get the powerful committee and leadership positions. Getting even a single electoral vote is difficult, unless you’re a regional party, and those never last very long.

    We’ve had the same two major parties since the Civil War, and never mind that a glance at their history reveals them both to be ideological pretzels. Barring massive changes to our electoral system, I expect it will take another Civil War to be rid of them.Report

    • Avatar Plinko in reply to Jason Kuznicki says:

      This is right. The fact is both Republican and Democratic coalitions have a lot of diverse interests behind them and neither can be all things to its members.

      There is always going to be incentive for some marginal members to switch sides in order to gain influence, something that will only intensify if one party’s tent brings in a few more groups and some find their influence diluted. That alone creates a pretty strong driver for balance over the long run.Report

    • Avatar patrick in reply to Jason Kuznicki says:

      I’m with Plinko and Jason on this one.

      > We’ve had the same two major parties since the
      > Civil War, and never mind that a glance at their
      > history reveals them both to be ideological pretzels.

      Indeed. One can plausibly say that the Democratic party is doomed in the sense that the Democratic party of 50 years from now will be only somewhat recognizable to a Democrat of today.

      Pretty sure the label is still going to be in use, though.

      I’m encouraged somewhat by open primaries. But dismantling all of the legal capture that both political parties have structured into the law is going to take a while.Report

      • Avatar Will Truman in reply to patrick says:

        Even if you leave aside the capture, there are mathematical formulas you can apply that will determine the number of parties (or permanent coalitions) that will exist within a given electorate, under a given system. A super-successful third-party in the US will replace one of the two, be captured by it, or enter a permanent coalition with it.

        Given the capture, it’s unlikely we’ll see a new party rise as with the Republicans. But it is true that the party under the old name may be entirely unrecognizable and the red-blue map could basically flip itself again.Report

    • Avatar Koz in reply to Jason Kuznicki says:

      To some extent I disagree with all three of you (Plinko, Pat, Jason). Not that your arguments are wrong but there is an element of the current context that all three of you are overlooking.

      The Red/Blue polarization of political culture is very strong. And the arguments for gridlock are becoming weaker. Because it’s getting more and more difficult to accomplish bipartisan things, I think the parties together are going to force the American people to pick one or the other.

      In February 2009, it would have been the Demo’s. Right now, I’d venture that it would be the Republicans. In any case, the volatility of the last three election cycles lead me to believe that one party is going to be dominant and the other will be a protest party within say ten years.Report

      • Avatar Will Truman in reply to Koz says:

        It’s pretty easy to imagine one party having a natural advantage and winning most of the time, but I doubt the other party would be relegated to “protest” status. The thing about parties in power is that they get arrogant. And the parties out of power miss being in power so much, they will change whatever they ideologically need to in order to get back there.Report

        • Avatar RTod in reply to Will Truman says:

          “The thing about parties in power is that they get arrogant.”

          Perhaps, but can you go one step further?

          I would argue the problem is that the parties’ function and structure are designed to build and/or protect power. This is a very different thing than governing.

          This is why a party always looks better when it is not in power – it is actually focused on performing the activities at which it excels. The party in power always looks bad in comparison, because it’s previous victory forces it to perform those tasks that they are not so good at (governing well).Report

          • Avatar Will Truman in reply to RTod says:

            I would argue the problem is that the parties’ function and structure are designed to build and/or protect power. This is a very different thing than governing.

            This is exactly true. The primary (perhaps only) function of a party is to win elections. It’s the people within the party that have policy preferences. If the people within the party are not enough to win elections, they are useless to the party and the party will find people who can win elections.

            This is why a party always looks better when it is not in power – it is actually focused on performing the activities at which it excels.

            True as well. It’s easier (if more frustrating) to not-govern than to govern. And it’s for this reason (as with the above) that I don’t believe that we will be seeing any “permanent majorities” any time soon. The party in power gets arrogant, the party out of power is in a position to seem more attractive than it is.Report

        • Avatar Koz in reply to Will Truman says:

          The reason I think we’re going to see one party as the dominant party and on party as the protest party is because you’ll weak enthusiasts of the protest party will pragmatically support the dominant party to get some small scale policy advantage. Again, it looked for a moment like that was going to happen in February 2009 and it might have if President Obama had done a couple of things differently.

          Then the majority gets big enough where its not immediately swingable and the majority runs on autopilot. Think about Chicago from 1940 till now.Report

      • Avatar patrick in reply to Koz says:

        > Not that your arguments are wrong but there
        > is an element of the current context that all
        > three of you are overlooking.

        > The Red/Blue polarization of political culture is
        > very strong. And the arguments for gridlock are
        > becoming weaker.

        These two things together don’t lead where you’re going (at least, I don’t think they do).

        The Red/Blue polarization of the political culture is indeed very strong. And the arguments for gridlock are indeed becoming weaker.

        But the squishy middle is reliably there. About half the country calls themselves Dem, and half Rep, but it’s really 1/3 and 1/3 with the last third being uncommitted people.

        And this is among the voting populace.

        There are lots of different groups of people in this country. When it comes to politics, there are people who are loudly anti-(whatever), but they don’t get off their duff and vote. There are people who vote in every election, but haven’t voted a party line three years running ever.

        The politically active, voting, consistently partisan member of the U.S. populace only makes up about 66% of the people who walk into the polls on any given election day. The other 33% are people who are there this year because they really care about (one thing), but might not vote next year or the one after.

        This is also why the parties can’t govern; it’s not just what Will and RTod point out. It’s because two years after they get a majority, they lose it. Reliably. Because the squishy middle doesn’t have the attention span that the partisan has.Report

    • Avatar Anderson in reply to Jason Kuznicki says:

      Right, the overall system of first-past-the-post voting for a candidate, rather than a party, under a presidential, rather than a parliamentary, governance naturally leads to two parties, as Duverger’s Law tells us (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Duverger's_law). This, along with making gerrymandering the duty of the legislative branch, gives us twin parties that aren’t going away barring some unforseen revision of the constitution and major election laws. However, there are things that can defintely be done to make the system more accomadating to “third party” viewpoints and moderate voters: put the district-creation process into the hands of an independent board, like they’ve done in California; make a single primary in which the top two candidates are put on the ballot, rather than each party having their own primary, also ala California; make third party candidates a larger part of debates, even if they intially don’t have enough support to technically do so; lessen ballot signature requirements…Overall, though, I don’t think this is enough of a problem to warrant needing “a civil war” to change the system. Yes, polarization sucks and alot of people’s votes don’t really count, but the overall electorate is still pretty moderate and both parties, in the long run, have to be willing to adapt to meet the accountability standard of democracy. Sure, the Repubs seems pretty dogmatic now, but they can’t stay that way for too long, lord knows the Dems haven’t…And consider that with a PR system, we get to feel good about having party options, but democracy is as difficult as ever, if not more so because of the need to form tenuous coalitions to govern. Just look at Israel’s Knesset with six parties…Report

      • Avatar Will Truman in reply to Anderson says:

        I don’t disagree that there are things that can be done. The end result, though, would likely be party supplantation and permanent coalitions, rather than any sort of multi-party system.

        Except for proportional representation, which could change everything.Report

        • Avatar Anderson in reply to Will Truman says:

          Oh I completely agree; the two party system is here for the long haul. I more mean “things that can be done to make the parties less polarizing and more likely to include moderate/independent/libertarian/whatever voices.” Duverger’s Law tells us that two parties will come out of a FPTP system, but it doesn’t tell us what these two parties have to look like.Report

  4. For one thing, red states – reliable Republican bastions like North Dakota – on average take in more federal dollars than they pay out in taxes. So asserting that the “overwhelming majority of Republicans pay more than they receive” is just wrong.

    The initial assertion may be wrong (I think it probably is, “overwhelming majority?”), but the beneficiary/donor state map is a poor indication of it. It’s not as though the money a state gets is evenly distributed among its population. Corn subsidies given to ADM are not given the Indianans generally, but rather to ADM. Yellowstone National Park isn’t a payment to Wyomingans, but rather something in Wyoming that is preserved for all of us. Idaho gets PILOT money because the government has roped off wide swaths of its land that the state can’t utilize or get property taxes from, and not evenly distributed among Idaho’s population. And so on. It’s often payment for land or services rendered, wherein dealing with the federal government is no different than dealing with a private entity.Report

  5. Avatar North says:

    I’m bemused that he’s putting retirees in the Democrats camp.Report

  6. Avatar JosephFM says:

    There’s also the point that recently elected Republican incumbents are busy alienating the people who voted for them, especially at the state level. If people had actually paid attention to his campaign platform and took it seriously instead of neglecting to ask how firing people creates jobs, Rick Scott would have lost in a landslide. I think he’s doing serious harm to Florida’s economy, basically guaranteeing that we’ll have 10% unemployment for years to come (though we probably would have anyway)…but he’s also pretty much guaranteed that come 2014, we’ll have our first Democratic governor since the 90s.Report

  7. Avatar Koz says:

    Miniter’s thesis is somewhat misplaced. The consequences of the Democratic party being a collection of interest groups are important, but they are more tactical than teleological.

    The correct argument, I think, is to that for the Team Blue activist class, politics is a job, but for their counterparts on Team Red, it’s a hobby.

    Therefore certain defunding moves can cause substantial loss of political strength on the left but it’s a very idiosyncratic thing.Report

    • Avatar patrick in reply to Koz says:

      > The correct argument, I think, is to that for the
      > Team Blue activist class, politics is a job, but for
      > their counterparts on Team Red, it’s a hobby.

      Not so sure I buy this, but it tickled part of my brain. Care to elaborate?Report

      • Avatar Koz in reply to patrick says:

        There’s just an underlying difference in mentality between conservative activists and the various interest group liberals wrt public service and the meaning of participation in the political-cultural sphere.

        This applies significantly to unions but to other parts of the Demo base as well. Most union political activism is paid, and if for some reason the funds aren’t there, the windbreaker types don’t go out even if they sympathize with the cause they’re working for.

        Team Red just thinks differently. I remember there was some contest among the Bush volunteers in Wisconsin in 2004. I forget exactly how you were supposed to participate in the contest but the “prize” seemed to be the opportunity to volunteer more (you got to drive a Senatorial candidate around for a day or something).

        In any case, I think the phenomenon is quite a bit stronger than a couple hazy examples from me. I think Patrick Ruffini has written about this in the context of internet presence/fundraising as well.Report

        • Avatar Anderson in reply to Koz says:

          “Team Red just thinks differently”

          Eh. Tell me some major differences between Karl Rove’s or Ed Gillespie’s mindset approaching an election vs David Axelrod’s or James Carville’s…election politics is all two sides of the same coin. Get as much money and people on your side as possible and hit the other guy where it hurts.Report

          • Avatar Koz in reply to Anderson says:

            I’m thinking of guys one or two levels below that. For example there was this guy in Des Moines named Kayne Robinson who was a police captain and I think he eventually became assistant chief of police. I think he might be with the NRA now.

            In any case, for 3-4 years or so he was one of the say, three dozen most important Republicans in America. And AFAIK he supported himself performing his law enforcement duties in Des Moines. Pro-life activists are all volunteers or very meagerly paid, even those who can send emails which will be read by a million or more recipients.

            By contrast, the full time activists for unions, immigrants, environmentalists, etc., have made a career out of politics and have to be paid accordingly.Report

  8. Avatar Art Deco says:

    black and Hispanic voters are on the rise, while white voters are occupying an increasingly small corner of the ballot box.

    The domestic black population makes up about 12% of the total and has not been increasing. They are also tapped out as a source of votes for the Democratic Party. The Republican Party performs poorly with Puerto Ricans and California Chicanos, not other segments of the hispanic electorate.Report

    • Avatar patrick in reply to Art Deco says:

      Give it time. As minorities become politically significant, they get more conservative.Report

      • Avatar Ryan B in reply to patrick says:

        Like the Jews.Report

      • Avatar Koz in reply to patrick says:

        This is only a generality and for now is too optimistic for the Repblicans. As David Frum pointed out, Latinos are not going to be a GOP constituency any time soon.

        Otoh, there’s a significant number of libs who think that minority demographics, especially Latinos, are going to make the Demo’s the hegemonic party in America for a long time and that’s not right either.

        I don’t know if this is the best way to put it, but Latinos are more of an interest group constituency for the Demos as opposed to an identity group constituency. Therefore we should expect in ten years that the Latino vote goes 60-40 Demo as opposed to 92-8 or something. Combined that with the fact a significant number of Latinos are not American citizens and the ones who are undervote their share of the voters and the increasing Latino demographic is something less than a juggernaut. It does help the Demo’s but not as much as some of them are hoping.Report

        • Avatar DarrenG in reply to Koz says:

          “Latinos” are not a monolithic demographic.

          Cuban-heritage voters in Florida have very different interests from Mexican-heritage voters in the Southwest or Puerto Rican-heritage voters in New York.

          That said, the largest, and fastest-growing Latino demographic (those of Mexican/Central American heritage) is heading the opposite direction you’ve predicted here in the Southwest. For years Latino voters would break 55-45 to 60-40 Democratic in most elections. Based on years of xenophobic immigrant-bashing by the Republicans, culminating in things like Arizona’s “papers, please” law, we’re now seeing Hispanic voters break in much more lopsided proportions in recent elections, with little prospect of that changing soon.Report

          • Avatar Koz in reply to DarrenG says:

            We’ll see. I suspect this is a situation where the Miniter argument is right. If illegal Mexican immigration stops (as it is now) for a significant period of time (because of a fence, SB1070 or any other reason) I suspect 60-40 will be the norm.

            You can already see this in the differences among Texas, Arizona, and California. All three states have a very interesting Anglo-Mex political cultural relations. In Texas, both Anglo and Mex politcal culture is conservative, in California both are liberal. Arizona is the problem child, where there is a very strong Team Red/Team Blue divide.

            Once the issues causing this divide are gone, I suspect it will become much weaker.Report

            • Avatar DarrenG in reply to Koz says:

              Why do you assume continued, or further, throttling of illegal immigration would swing things back to the GOP? I don’t see an obvious connection…

              In Texas, both Anglo and Mex politcal culture is conservative, in California both are liberal.

              Incorrect in both cases, I think. Both large states have very diverse and quickly-evolving political cultures. Just because Texas ends up reliably red in most national elections and California tends to go blue, don’t confuse that with the idea that the internal politics in either state are homogenous.

              As I mentioned below, I think it’s very difficult to overstate the amount of long-term damage the GOP has done to themselves with Hispanics over the past few years; it’s going to take a long time before voters forget about SB1070 and the race-baiting campaigns run by various GOP candidates throughout the Southwest.Report

              • Avatar Koz in reply to DarrenG says:

                “Why do you assume continued, or further, throttling of illegal immigration would swing things back to the GOP?”

                Because the Mexican and Central American immigrants who are here will develop closer ties to their employers and their families and communities and weaker ties to the MALDEF activist types.Report

              • Avatar BlaiseP in reply to Koz says:

                Don’t kid yerself. Hispanos don’t trend one way or the other, they despise both parties equally. Hispanos are awfully conservative in the main, family-oriented, religious: if the GOP didn’t act so stupid about the immigration issue, they’d vote Red in great numbers.

                As DarrenG points out, there’s no Hispanic Vote. Hispanics are up here because they’ve largely turned their backs on the countries from which they came. They form their own expatriate communities, they don’t interact much with the gringos unless there’s a good reason to and they’re in it for themselves, as everyone else is in America. Closer ties to their employers… that’s just fishing hilarious. Hispanos start their own businesses as soon as they can.Report

              • Avatar Koz in reply to BlaiseP says:

                The less monolithic the Hispanic vote is, the better for the GOP. What will hurt the GOP is if the Latin vote is a 90-10 behemoth, but it’s not.

                Also, it’s better for the GOP if the Hispanics start their own businesses as well. Small business owners are probably the solitary most Republican voting demographic there is. The problem there is cultural. The countries where Hispanic immigrants come from don’t have the private property/Rule of Law culture we’ve developed in America so it will have to be learned.Report

              • Avatar BlaiseP in reply to Koz says:

                Oh, absolutely. The Burro Party has condescended to Hispanos for years and years. Trouble is, the GOP has been sucking up to the xenophobic wing of the party, viz. Arizona. The GOP ought to have captured every Hispanic in the USA with its conservative family values talk, indeed, had the GOP run Jeb Bush instead of his idiot brother Dubyah, they’d own ’em all lock stock and barrel.

                The GOP needs to move on and quit catering to the old-style Dixiecrats and their mouthbreathing children. The real conservatives are the guys who got legal in the last few amnesty programs and are grateful as hell to this country and whose children are enlisting in the military and starting their own businesses and going down to the local church. But noooo… the GOP just has to go on demonizing our brown brethren. If they had any sense, and they manifestly don’t, the GOP would open the borders wide and brownify this country to the gills. If they did, they’d win elections for the rest of their lives.Report

  9. Avatar Art Deco says:

    Republicans are shrewd politicians, and when backed into a corner they put up a vicious fight. The trouble comes when Republicans actually take the wheel.

    And you fancy the current administration is untroubled at the wheel?Report

  10. Avatar Koz says:

    Reading the Miniter article again, he way oversold his case.

    Even so, he does have at least one point that bears repeating. The Rust Belt/Upper Midwest is a GOP secret weapon, especially in Presidential races. Pennsylvania, Michigan, Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, Wisconsin, Minnesota, Iowa. A Demo Presidential candidate needs them all except Indiana and Ohio and he’ll want Ohio badly enough. Economically, culturally, demographically they’re all trending Republican. And they’re all within plausible reach of a decent GOP candidate (except Illinois).Report

    • Avatar Ryan B in reply to Koz says:

      That is not true of Michigan, and it’s probably not true of Minnesota either.Report

      • Avatar North in reply to Ryan B says:

        Definitly not true of Minnesota. I’m skeptical of the general idea that the midwest in general is going to flip red en masse.Report

        • Avatar Koz in reply to North says:

          It doesn’t have to flip red en masse (though I think that’s a plausible scenario). Just the opposite in fact. Any roughly even split of those states and the Demo candidate has no chance.Report

        • Avatar Jaybird in reply to North says:

          Generic Republican could win most states in certain years (I suspect that 2016 will be one of those years if 2012 is not).

          The problem is that the Republican party is not very good at deciding who is and who is not a Generic Republican and the Tea Party (bless them) see “Generic Republican” as a Republican most likely to stab them in the back (and they’re right).Report

    • Avatar DarrenG in reply to Koz says:

      This also ignores the states in the South and Southwest that are trending the opposite direction, and which have rapidly increasing populations rather than the declining populations of the rust belt states.

      The rust belt is also the last bastion of union support and are big supporters of the social safety net, which together will keep many voters who agree with the GOP on social issues in the blue camp.Report

    • Avatar Jesse Ewiak in reply to Koz says:

      Yup, totally trending GOP. Look how popular Rick Snyder and Scott Walker are!Report

      • Avatar Koz in reply to Jesse Ewiak says:

        Why not? We’re the upstanding good-government salt-of-the-earth burghers. You’re the illiterate scam-artist patronage ward-heelers. Who should they vote for? That’s a big deal in Minnesota, Wisconsin and to a lesser extent Iowa.Report

  11. This argument (not yours, E.D., but his) is almost laughably bad. As the very first post in this thread asserted, anyone who doesn’t grapple first and foremost with demographics when talking about this stuff is not worth taking seriously.

    ETA: and if I may pick a nit — say what you will about the man, but Gorbachev did NOT want to save the USSR as it was presently constructed; that was the whole damned point!Report

  12. From E.D.

    “Republicans are simply very, very bad at capturing black and Hispanic votes.”

    I will agree with that statement on blacks (though I think the cause transcends politics and speaks to historical grudges burned into their DNA). As for Hispanics I don’t know that I agree. They aren’t as homogenous a voting bloc (as Art Deco points out) and I also think their wish list is shorter. If immigration reform happens and it suits them I think we’ll see them quickly assimilate into American culture.

    Hispanics are already embraced in a way that blacks never have been. For example, at the Lowe’s down the street from me every sign in the store is in English and Spanish. As a result my kids now know the Spanish word for hammer and garden hose. We have Mexican restaurants all over the place. I have a couple of family members who regularly use the N word and yet they invite their Mexican farm workers to Thanksgiving dinner. The truth is that Hispanics are more like the Irish or the Italians a century ago than blacks. Once they are stitched into the American quilt they will be just as unpredictable in their voting habits as whites.Report

    • Avatar Jesse Ewiak in reply to Mike at The Big Stick says:

      I think the party of George W. Bush could embrace Hispanics no problem. But, can the party of SB1070 embrace Hispanics?Report

      • The party of SB1070 will, in the long run, have little choice but to become, like the Democrats, a party of not-SB1070.

        It’s far too easy to forget that in the two-party system, the two parties have little choice but to allow for their agendas to evolve and change over time to adjust to new realities. It’s not a coincidence that Democrats went from being the home of those most interested in making sure that blacks could not vote in the early 20th century to being the champions of civil rights legislation in the second half of the 20th century.Report

        • Hmmm, that’s probably not the best example. Civil Rights was nowhere near an electoral necessity. In fact, it completely cost them the New Deal Coalition that was successful.Report

          • I’m trying to get at something a bit more subtle here, and probably didn’t word that properly in any event. It’s not so much that Civil Rights itself was an electoral necessity as it is that actively advancing the Dixiecrat worldview became electorally problematic at some point, particularly in the Northeast.Report

            • Avatar Koz in reply to Mark Thompson says:

              Well, that’s not a good analog for immigration then because most of America is at least mildly restrictionist. The liberal immigration base is much narrower regionally.Report

              • Avatar Mark Thompson in reply to Koz says:

                1. I am not at all certain that in, say, the 1920s and 1930s, a majority of Americans would not have fit into the category of being at least “mildly restrictionist” when it came to the notion of equal civil rights for blacks.

                2. Regardless, there is a big difference between a majority of Americans agreeing with a certain viewpoint and it being electorally advantageous to agree with and indeed place special emphasis upon the promotion of that viewpoint. If proudly pushing that viewpoint turns a sizable portion of the members of the minority into single issue voters against you, but isn’t a terribly high priority for many of the people in the majority, it quite quickly becomes electorally advantageous for a politician holding the majority viewpoint to try to avoid that issue entirely and find some other issues to prioritize. Meanwhile, it also eventually (not at first) becomes electorally advantageous for a politician holding the minority viewpoint to start pushing that issue as frequently as possible.

                Woodrow Wilson made overt racism a not insignificant part of his Presidency. His party carried this theme into the 1920 election, featuring accusations that Harding was black and thus unfit to serve. The notion of equal civil rights for blacks was not exactly popular at the time, and in the midst of the Great Migration, national voter resentment towards blacks was off the charts. IOW, the Dems’ overtly anti-black platform was hardly unacceptable to the majority of voters, probably up to and including Northern voters. And what happened? Far from this being a source of electoral weakness for the Dems, it helped reduce them to a regional party for an entire decade. Not that the Republicans of the time were passionate believers in civil rights- with few exceptions, they certainly were not; but at least they weren’t placing the advancement of overt racism in the center of their agenda.

                When the Dems finally came back on a national level in 1932, I would venture a guess that that this part of their platform was mostly put on the back burner. Not that FDR was good on civil rights by any stretch of the imagination or even that he represented a reversal of 1920s Dem race policies, just that he was able to appear not so much worse than the Republicans for race issues to do more harm to his electoral prospects than good.

                In the long run, Republicans are going to have little choice but to put their xenophobia and nativism on the back burner.Report

              • What xenophobia and ‘nativism’?Report

              • Avatar Robert Cheeks in reply to Mark Thompson says:

                “In the long run, Republicans are going to have little choice but to put their xenophobia and nativism on the back burner.”
                You mean join the commie-dems in ignoring current immigration law?Report

              • Mark,

                I would disagree that this is really about xenophobia and nativism. As an example I would point out the 394,874 legal Asian immigrants that the US received in 2009. The 122,804 African immigrants that we received. The 47,013 Central American immigrants. The 101,359 South American immigrants. There is no legislation or credible movements that I am aware of that are targeting these legal immigrants for political or legislative attacks.

                The complaint it about illegal immigration and I really don’t think skin color is the issue for most of the conservatives that are doing the complaining. I also don’t think it’s about the country of origin. It’s about their legal status.

                http://www.dhs.gov/xlibrary/assets/statistics/yearbook/2009/ois_yb_2009.pdfReport

              • I would say that if it nativism and xenophobia weren’t a substantial part of the equation and the problem just one of enforcement of existing law, then conservatives would be interested in pursuing any number of alternatives and/or compromises for achieving such enforcement. Surely getting rid of birthright citizenship would not be at the top of the agenda.

                Regardless, it’s not really important for purposes of this discussion what is actually motivating bills like SB1070; what’s important for this discussion is how those bills are perceived by those who are either part of the targeted group or who have close personal ties to the targeted group such that the issue is important enough to them to make them single issue voters against the Republicans.Report

              • But isn’t birthright citizenship a legitimate concern with regards to illegal imigration i.e. ‘anchor babies’ ?Report

              • Not even remotely. The very term “anchor babies” is extraordinarily offensive since it implies motives for illegal immigrants that have virtually no basis in reality.Report

              • There is nothing offensive about it. It is a bland descriptive term.Report

              • what’s important for this discussion is how those bills are perceived

                No, what is important is what those bills actually prescribe (in the case of the Arizona law, checking the immigration status of people stopped and arrested).Report

              • Avatar Jason Kuznicki in reply to Mark Thompson says:

                There is nothing offensive about [the term “anchor babies”]. It is a bland descriptive term.

                It’s a descriptive term for something that doesn’t actually happen the way the term’s users imagine. Rather like “leprechaun gold.” It’s descriptive but imaginary. Say it around an Irishman, and he’ll be annoyed with you at best.Report

              • Avatar Burt Likko in reply to Mark Thompson says:

                Bear in mind that according to the Pew Research Center, roughly one in twelve babies born in the U.S. are born to parents who lack legal documentation to be here (and about a quarter of all babies born here are born to non-citizens).

                Whether those people came here intentionally to have a so-called “anchor baby” is a doubtful proposition in my opinion, but there is some basis in fact to the legend.

                FWIW, I find the term moderately offensive. It’s impolite but there are worse things you can call someone.Report

              • I find the term moderately offensive. It’s impolite but there are worse things you can call someone.

                Is there a polite way to convey the concept? That, it seems to me, is the problem.Report

      • As political necessity dictates, Poison Dart Republicans will give way to We Want To Win Republicans, and the rhetoric will subside. It may require some time in the dark for this to happen, though.Report

        • Avatar Jesse Ewiak in reply to Will Truman says:

          Why would a Republican House member voted in to office in 2010 listen to a Mitt Romney-type Republican if Mitt Romney loses in 2012, which is entirely possible.

          Hell, it’s entirely possible, just thanks to vagaries of redistricting and the lineup for Senate seats up for election that the GOP might win the Senate in 2012 and only be more emboldened to go even more far right. A debt ceiling fight in 2013 with a 52-48 GOP Congress and a slightly weakened GOP House will make this past summer look like fun.Report

          • I’m talking a longer time horizon. By “some time in the dark” I mean repeated lost elections. A loss in 2012 and 2016 at least, maybe 2020 as well. And without congress throughout most of this period.

            The way things are going, I think that they have as much chance of losing the House as gaining the Senate. The “vote the bums out” sentiment is as strong now as it was in 2010 and 1994, according to Nate Silver. They might both win the House *and* lose the Senate, but the way these debt talks are going, I think that the party is in serious, serious trouble.Report

            • Avatar Jesse Ewiak in reply to Will Truman says:

              Yes, people whacking the GOP for being obstinate, they’re now back in the middle, pissed at both parties. After all, look at Obama’s approval rating over the past week or so. So, I think anybody who thinks this mean a big swing to the DNC in Congressional races is a little unrealistic. I think personally, the DNC’s best bet is still to point out the entire GOP voted for a bill that eliminates Medicare, but what do I know? 🙂

              Second, let’s even say that the DNC barely holds on to the Senate and wins back the House. Fine. Nothing much will still get done becuase of the 60-vote Senate, but we’ll avoid Armageddon for 2 years. But what happens in 2014, when unemployment is still high and Obama has cut a deficit deal that cuts Medicare payments to providers and slightly decreases Social Security benefits? We get a whole new batch of hard-right Republican’s who believe the problem that Eric Cantor is too liberal. 🙂

              To be honest, I think the GOP won’t truly enter the wilderness until the Fox News base dies off and the Millenials/Generation Y are a larger part of the voter population.

              At that point, they either have to move to the center on things like the environment, gay marriage, and such or risk becoming a permanent minority. But until then, they’ll manage to stay close thanks to fear that has been instilled in large parts of the population by conservatives for thirty years.Report

              • Not much to disagree with there. Except that I don’t think there’s a risk of either party becoming a “permanent minority” since I do believe they will shift around as required with enough time in the dark (which, as you say, may be some time off – or may never happen!). After all, what good is a base that won’t deliver?Report

              • Avatar Jesse Ewiak in reply to Will Truman says:

                I’m guessing I just misunderstood when the wilderness period would be. By permanent minority, I meant minority as long as they continue to hold on to the same beliefs. I guess here’s my basic prediction. It may be a bit off kilter, but it’s what I believe.

                2012-2024. House and Senate bounces back and forth between both parties, Obama easily defeats the GOP nominee if it’s anybody but Romney and defeats Romney likely with around the same amount of EV’s as 2008. 2016 looks promising for the GOP in 2013, but their top candidates either decide not to run or fail to win reelection to their offices. The DNC nominee wins in 2016 in a close-ish election simply ’cause of the change factor.

                2024-2036. This is the wilderness portion for the GOP. Demographics have changed enough that Texas is a only a purple-ish state, the entire Southwest is a dead zone for them, and they’re still pushing hard-right policies that are unpopular with old people in the Midwest. Anybody who tries to move the GOP to the center gets shouted down and I even can see a center-right Presidential candidate in this time period getting a right-wing third-party opponent in the general.

                2036 and so on. If the GOP moves to the center, it does so at this point. Otherwise, it’s a dead party outside of the Deep South/Mountain West and the political fights are between various cliques of the DNC.

                Laugh at or rip apart these predictions if you will. I realize that predicting political trends 25 years out is a little silly. 🙂Report

              • Avatar David Cheatham in reply to Jesse Ewiak says:

                That’s pretty much exactly what I’m imagining.

                The idea it’s the Democrats on the way out is just…insane. It’s the Republican party that’s tearing itself apart, because its base has escaped control of it. If anything, the Democrats are stronger than ever. Although, granted, the Democrats have managed to move more _right_ than ever, too.(1)

                The Republicans be winning some local elections for a bit, but the ones that win are extreme ideologues who do things that really piss the majority of people off. And they can’t even find a presidential candidate.

                However, political parties do not ‘die’ like that. They end up as a minority and then other people come in with other ideas. Pretending we have any idea of how long that will take is a bit silly, but I think you’re basically right. It’s going to be extremely hard for them to find candidates who can win both the primaries and the general for at least a decade.

                1) As I have to keep pointing out to everyone, the Democrats moving right is not a victory for the Republicans. It’s a _loss_. It’s a victory for people pushing right-ish policies, sure…but it’s absolute disaster for the Republicans. New voters show up, look around, and even the ones with center-right positions say…hrm, I think I’m a…Democrat? And vote for them.

                The parties _used_ to fight over the center, for damn good reasons. The Republican party has apparently forgotten this. (Or, rather, been extorted out of it by their base.)Report

              • You may be right and you may be wrong about the GOP’s short-term prospects. Where I really think you’re wrong, though, is longer-term. Parties simply don’t accept loss after loss the way that you are thinking the Republicans will. A loss in 2008 was because of Bush and McCain. A loss in 2012 was because of Romney. A loss in 2016 will start raising questions. It took only two cycles before the Republicans signed on to Compassionate Conservatism. Three cycles for the Democrats and the Third Way. That’s despite these parties holding congress at the time. Parties exist to win.

                Then, on the other side of the equation, once a majority party no longer fears the minority party, fractures start to appear. Within the internals of the party, there are winners and there are losers, and eventually the losers stop cooperating.Report

            • No elections are scheduled for today. Few know what the hell’s going on inside this spending showdown. The truth will trickle out. [Or get dumped on us.]

              Mostly, as a center-right country, we want our elected representatives to their damn job: make things run smoothly and leave us the hell alone. During crises like this, whoever’s making the most noise is the one who annoys us the most, hence the poll results, whichever way they’re swinging today.

              As a center-right country that works for most of us, we want things the way things used to be: admittedly an idealized past where everything ran smoothly. We want the current financial crisis solved with a minimum of fuss; somebody to wave a magic wand.

              The reality, though, is that it can’t be fixed without fuss. Even now, Rasmussen sez 54% of likely voters favor the repeal of Obamacare, based on the sense that it’ll make things worse in what is clearly a crisis, based on unemployment and housing prices alone, things we need no Heritage or Brookings to tell us.

              Will we re-elect Obama anyway, even if that number holds? Fuck yeah! This is America!

              I read the polls and see irreconcilable conflicts in favoring this, blaming who, and all the permutations. It’s an old saw, but the only meaningful polls are in November, Election Day.

              I adore [new Ohio governor] John Kasich, and looked up his polls a few weeks ago, and they were in the toilet. However, I saw that Ohio’s bonds were just upgraded because of his financial reforms. I’m sure his polls are still in the toilet, but he’s doing his damn job, as promised. Will it help him politically? Dunno.

              I found Miniter’s points all valid and interesting, but like Dick Morris’ sharp analyses, all these factors may amount to Not Much. [I love the incisiveness of his points, but Morris is always wrong about what they might mean.]

              I happen to agree with Miniter that the Dems are a coalition party and the Reps are a consensus party, a rather elegant point. However, I don’t know if it means a danged thing out in the real world. If I knew nothing of politics [some say I don’t], I’d have voted for the cool young black guy in 2008 instead of the crabby old man.

              Neither will I insist that that was the wrong choice. I do think we’ll muddle our way through this current crisis; we have no choice. But it’s been fermenting since the 1930s, so polls based on the headlines we’re skimming tell us less than nothing.Report

    • Avatar RTod in reply to Mike at The Big Stick says:

      “As for Hispanics I don’t know that I agree. They aren’t as homogenous a voting bloc (as Art Deco points out) and I also think their wish list is shorter. If immigration reform happens and it suits them I think we’ll see them quickly assimilate into American culture.”

      Probably true. But homogenous or not, if the you keep treating them as boogymen they will probably still decide not to back you.Report

    • Avatar DarrenG in reply to Mike at The Big Stick says:

      This is largely true, I think, except that it ignores the deliberate attempt by the GOP to prevent such integration and block any immigration reform that would garner wide support from Hispanic voters.

      Right now it would be very difficult to overestimate the amount of damage things like SB1070 and the various immigrant-bashing campaigns the GOP has run in California, Arizona, Nevada, and Texas have done to the Republican brand among Latino voters in those states.Report

  13. Avatar Mike Schilling says:

    Republicans are shrewd politicians, and when backed into a corner they put up a vicious fight. The trouble comes when Republicans actually take the wheel.

    Much like Communists.Report

    • Avatar Chris in reply to Mike Schilling says:

      For better or worse, there aren’t any communists threatening to get anywhere near the wheel in this country, much less to take it. Republicans, on the other hand…Report

    • Avatar David Cheatham in reply to Mike Schilling says:

      Heh, I used to make a similar point about ‘conservatives’ before, back during the Bush era.

      All conservatives that have been elected, except Saint Reagan, seem to somehow, uh, not be real conservatives once elected. (And everyone is just pretending that Reagan was.)

      Conservativism, at this point, sounds exactly like communism….every time it’s _tried_ it appears to fail, at which point all the supporters of it dismiss that example as ‘Not really conservativism’.

      Look, there are really only two options at this point for both of those: Either is not a good political political philosophy, and fails when implemented, or it is physically impossible to implement correct, so it’s a moot point how it’s implemented.

      But, now we’re got actual ‘real’ conservatives in office. Yeah, how’s that working out?Report

  14. Avatar Robert Cheeks says:

    Hey, don’t ynz think there’s a slightly different differentiation going on this time around?
    For example, the commie-Dems have a real ..well, commie-Dem. It’s, daily, becoming obvious that Barry’s objective is to destroy the American economy and, perhaps, rebuild it in the image of the preachments of either his mommy or daddy. While the staid GOP is pretty much stuck with the RINO’s and the Neocons who make it a practice of bedding down together and the Paleos who have a habit of jumping ship when the candiddate turns out to be a McCain or a Dole, and now jump in close lock-step with the Tea Parties who will either change the face of the country clubbers or be on their way. The big difference is that many of those who voted for Barry, and weren’t the really serious Kool-aide drinkers, are no longer interested in voting for him and would rather vote independent or stay home, disgusted.
    Depending on how bad Barry and the Commie-Dems phuque up the economy I’ma guessin’ it’s possible you might not see a Democrat president for a couple of cycles or more. Interestingly, as a result of Barry’s administration, you may see a ‘balanced budget admendment’ sometime, an effort to strictly limit ‘welfare’ particularly as it pretains to the professional welfare class, along with a push to locate every class of ‘social’ redistribution, except Social Security, down to the states, where they will be re-defined by mainly GOP executives and legislatures. Why, with the grace of God, you might see them starting to tear down our ineffectual general gummint, firing it’s apparatchiks, hanging the congressional criminals and and engaging in a little good for the soul, State’s rights!
    Can Federalism be far behind?
    I’m listening to Dylan’s “Deadman” and smiling, as I write this!
    “…and the politics of sin!
    …what are you trying to overpower me with, a doctrine or a gun..?”Report

  15. Avatar BlaiseP says:

    The Big Two political parties are protean creatures, shape-shifting all the time in response to perceived weaknesses and opportunities. What was deluxe becomes debris: neither political party sticks to its message for long. They’re always trying to present themselves as the Fresh New Thing. It’s like selling personal hygiene products. Not a whit of difference.

    The Tea Parties (it seems vital to observe that’s a plural) arose in response to a perceived disconnect between the political parties in power and Ordinary Joes. There’s always been some disconnect, probably less now than there ever was, but hard times have always provided fertile ground for malcontents, peddling simple solutions to complex problems. But what’s new there?

    Miniter is dead wrong. The modern Democratic Party is not the child of FDR. FDR’s Democratic Party died with the successes and failures of Lyndon Johnson, the very last New Dealer. If we are to make any comparisons to Gorbachev, let it be to LBJ’s politically-suicidal insistence on passing the Civil Rights Act and the Voting Rights Act. The old (and then-young) rednecks left the Democratic Party by the tens of thousands: at the time LBJ observed the Democrats would be out of power for a decade, and they were. Those rednecks were welcomed into the GOP with open arms and Nixon would ride to victory on their backs.

    Obama is the logical heir to William Jefferson Clinton, a sly, calculating weasel much impressed with his own abilities to charm the folks. He lost a midterm election, as most presidents do; he won a bruising fight on health care, which Clinton did not. The GOP has hardly distinguished itself as the Fresh New Thing, the manly deodorant used by those in the know.

    The GOP’s “consensus” seems to be little more than a unified rejection of B. Hussein Obama. Boehner obviously has no control of the Tea Party Jacobins. The welfare state has many components, not least of which is the corporate welfare state, which the GOP is intent upon nursing upon its ample breast. The Tea Party gazes with jaundiced eyes upon this litter of corporate piglets, but the GOP defends them nonetheless. It little matters which states get and which receive: following Dorgan’s Law, the odds of getting any pork varies directly with the importance of your vote.

    The demise of both parties has been predicted often enough to warrant its own entry in the Dictionary of Tired Tropes.Report

  16. Avatar Barry says:

    We can tell that Mitner is probably a BS artist just from writing in Forbes; the fact that he assigns ‘fiscal conservatism’ to the GOP is proof positive that he’s a liar.Report

  17. Avatar Barry says:

    Sorry, ED – I don’t mean that you’re dishonest; but Forbes has been a home for hacks for quite some time. You’re one of the exceptions.Report

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