The Mark Twain report on the death of the Republican Party


Aaron David

A fourth generation Californian, befuddled.

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112 Responses

  1. Avatar Glyph says:

    Cleaned up some typos (including in the title), as well as some grammar/punctuation, and added paragraph spacing for readability.Report

  2. Avatar Saul Degraw says:

    For an alleged non-partisan libertarian, I find your need to constantly defend the GOP as odd. I find that the allegiance of libertarians to the GOP is odd in the first place. Was is it about business rights that are more important to libertarians than social rights? It isn’t like the GOP is exactly a warm home for social liberty. This is sort of what makes a lot of liberals and minorities suspicious of libertarian as a political identifier. You largely have a lot of white guys talking about how they are not Republican and yet they get very defensive when people criticize the GOP. I am having a hard time squaring this circle over the independence of libertarians here.

    No one is saying that the GOP is going to die right away and never recover. The only major parties to really die permanent deaths in American politics were the Federalists and the Whig Parties. The Federalists is debatable and the Whigs quickly rebounded to be the GOP. Even in the UK, it is really only the Liberals that died and they were basically just replaced by Labour as the dominant party.

    The issue is I have written before is that the death of political parties can be like dying from a terminal disease. The process can be long, slow, and there can be moments of rebound and relapse where body or party looks like it is recovering but really isn’t.

    The Democrats made huge electoral sweeps in 2008, The GOP rebounded in 2010, the Democratic Party recovered in 2012, and the GOP recovered in 2014. If this pattern holds, 2016 should be a banner year for the Democratic Party, followed by 2018 for the GOP, and 2020 for the Democratic Party again. But I will concede who can tell.

    You can’t really look at individual states. Massachusetts has had Republican Governors for most of my life. This has not prevented them from being overwhelmingly Democratic in their state legislatures, Congress, and the Senate for most of my life as well. The Democratic Party holds a real super-majority in the Massachusetts General Court. The GOP controlled the NYC mayor ship from 1994 until Bloomberg’s switch to Independent. The NYC City Council was still overwhelmingly Democratic during this time as was almost every other elected office in NYC.

    When is the next time you think the GOP will have the chance to be in the majority in the California state legislature or win a state-wide elected office in California? Looking at wikipedia, the GOP lost big here even during 2010 and 2014.

    There will always be social conservatives and Republicans in every generation. No one is claiming otherwise. Late Generation Xers and Millennials are a lot less white and a lot more liberal than proceeding generations. Their experiences during the Great Recession make them much more amenable to unions and to the welfare state. There are still young GOP politicians.

    The GOP has a tough bind when it comes to economic and social issues. Their base demands countless efforts to repeal the ACA and countless promises to overturn the Supreme Court on SSM. Their base also eats all the racist red meat that Donald Trump is giving them over Mexicans. This is not helping them win the younger generation even if all the red meat thrown is not serious.Report

    • Avatar Kolohe says:

      Saul Degraw: For an alleged non-partisan libertarian, I find your need to constantly defend the GOP as odd.

      The no longer mad scientist covered this, but a descriptive claim is a normative one. And ad is not the only one that has been pushing back on some of OurTod’s interpretations of disparate factoids.

      edit: and the other side of Republicans dying a demographic death is that the soupy social coalition of urban dwelling upper income professionals and working class people of diverse races don’t have as much to bind them together if LGBT rights are settled law.Report

    • Avatar trizzlor says:

      Indeed, Massachusetts has had more Republican governors than Democrats throughout the 20th century. Maryland is a good example though.Report

      • Avatar Road Scholar says:

        Right. And thoroughly red Kansas has elected quite a few Democrats to the governor’s mansion as well. Before Brownback we had Kathleen Sibelius (not counting the placeholder elevated from L.G. when she was appointed HHS Secretary).

        For whatever reason governorships seem a poor measure of this sort of thing.Report

        • Avatar Michael Cain says:

          The northern Great Plains states, regarded as pretty solid red by most pundits, have a history of electing the occasional Democrat to a state-wide office (Governor, US Senator). Worth saying, though, that from the perspective of policy views, these are not coastal big-city Democrats.Report

      • Avatar Damon says:

        Maryland is not a good example of any GOP “sweep”. MD is a Democrat machine state. They’ve elected two republican governors since the 80s. Two. Ehrlich was a one term gov. Hogan will be as well. The election of Rep governors in MD reflects more the crappy Democrat contenders than any real political change in the electorate. MD is as liberal, socialist, and paternalistic as it’s ever been, if not more so.Report

        • Avatar Kim says:

          Truth. NJ used to be a Republican state, but don’t trust a poll from NJ, ever. They hate ALL their politicians (with good reason), and so the polls turn into protests-of-the-minute.Report

        • Avatar Richard Hershberger says:

          Regarding the most recent Maryland gubernatorial election, Anthony Brown is a classic example of the pitfall of a single-party state. Brown is your classic faceless party apparatchik. He was nominated because it was his turn, not because anyone was particularly excited by him. This situation can set up an upset. Compare this with Gray Davis in California. He won the election, but then he lost the recall election for no particular reason other than that not even his wife and children could identify him in a lineup.

          More generally, minority party governors are not unusual in American politics, going in either direction. One ought not read too much into this.Report

          • Avatar Kolohe says:

            I agree with the lack of excitement, but I wouldn’t say Brown got the nom because it was ‘his turn’. For a bit, he was the rising star of the state party – photogenic helo pilot Iraq war veteran (though he was a JAG by the time he went to Iraq). The state AG (the other person that would have been ‘in line’) ran against him, but the Brown campaign was able to successfully protray Gansler as a bit of a goober.

            And Brown’s probably going to be in Congress after the 2016 election and may get another bite at the Annapolis in a few years.Report

            • Avatar Richard Hershberger says:

              I can easily see him in Congress. I don’t see him winning the D nomination for governor, unless the field is really really weak. He is tainted goods.Report

    • Avatar Stillwater says:

      For an alleged non-partisan libertarian, I find your need to constantly defend the GOP as odd.

      Dude, I’ve been blowing that trumpet for years now, and I’m an effing liberal! From my pov, what Aaron D wrote up there is just the facts, man. I mean, I’ve written basically the same thing as Aaron (well, without all the logical arguments and cool reasoning and stuff … ) manymany times here and you’ve never busted me for it. Romney and McCain both established the baseline here for the national vote: that the GOP can expect high forties percentiles even when their candidate is wearing clown shoes. Add in a bunch of state-level gains and I’d say things look pretty rosey for the GOP taking the WH.Report

  3. Avatar Oscar Gordon says:

    I find your need to constantly defend the GOP as odd.

    Where in this post did he defend the GOP? All he said was that given their electoral success, the narrative of their decline is problematic.Report

  4. Avatar Morat20 says:

    There are two Americas. There’s the America that votes when there’s not a Presidential ballot, and the one that does.

    These Two Americas explain how the GOP is both struggling and successful, simultaneously. (Well, add in a dash of gerrymandering).

    Unfortunately one of the Americas is, bluntly, kinda old. Their votes are slowly dwindling due to mortality. And IIRC, they’re not being replaced 1 to 1.Report

    • Avatar Kolohe says:

      Which America showed up in 2004? In 2006?Report

    • Gerrymandering and whatever voter suppression they can manage, now with the full support of the Republican majority on the Supreme Court .Report

      • Avatar aarondavid says:

        Well, as long as the left is OK with Gerrymandering, I am fine with the right Gerrymandering.

        That said, there is a reason why I talked about Governors and Senators.Report

      • Avatar Kolohe says:

        Larry Hogan and Cory Gardner won office where neither gerrymandering nor voter ID laws were an issue.Report

        • Avatar Saul Degraw says:

          Udall ran a horrible campaign and Gardener ran a pretty smart campaign in a good GOP year. Colorado is also a fairly purple state and Hickenlooper managed to win a narrow plurality victory. I think Udall could have done the same if he ran on his positives but I might be armchairing.Report

      • Avatar Michael Cain says:

        It’s an alternate Tuesday, so I can believe in conspiracy theories. The Supremes’ decision in Arizona v. Arizona was a sacrifice of a couple of Republican seats in Arizona to protect more Republican seats in California?Report

        • When John Roberts was a Republican staffer, he opposed the VRA because it interfered with pro-GOP redistricting plans. When he was appointed ti the bench, that went away and he opposed it purely on principle, though he had to invent a new principle for that to work. It’s not a conspiracy theory when it’s all out in the open.Report

        • Avatar Kim says:

          Last legal conspiracy I heard tell about was about limiting RICO.
          (That seems a lot more plausible, as lawyers and judges are rather vested in the law not running amok).

          As a bonus, this is something that can be taught/spread through law school.

          I’m not sure most people think about propagation of conspiracies much…Report

        • Avatar aarondavid says:

          Erm, something up with your link @zicReport

          • Avatar zic says:

            It’s just a link to a report (randomly chosen) on the AZ districting commission, an example of how concerns about gerrymandering are probably a good thing, even though I don’t believe gerrymandering plays a very big role in the overall political landscape.

            Concerns over it, and pushback on it, comes when redistricting happens after the census, and don’t really drive voting patterns they way that other issues drive them; and nationally, redistricting works for parties as they thrive or fail to attract voters. I’m much more concerned about voter suppression than I am gerrymandering. Somewhere between 10,000 and 20,000 (maybe more) people were turned away from voting in FL in 2000 due to voter-role purges; far more than enough to have kept the election out of the supreme court and settle it in favor of Gore.

            Do you know how they conducted that purge? Katherine Harris used FL’s felon list, and obtained felon lists from nearby states with FL addresses, as well. If your name sounded like someone on that combined list combined with a similar street address, you were booted. There were a lot of problems.Report

      • Avatar Stillwater says:

        Gerrymandering and whatever voter suppression they can manage

        Heh (in a dark way 🙁Report

  5. Avatar nevermoor says:

    I think two things can be true at the same time:

    1. GOP success is generally based on the old, white, male vote. Demographic shifts without voting pattern shifts are going to be rough, and the GOP is doing exactly the opposite of what it would need to to shift voting patterns.

    2. GOP is winning a large number of elections right now, primarily in low population states/districts because it absolutely dominates its core demographic. Thus, democrats would need earn ~10 million more votes than the GOP to take back the house.Report

  6. Avatar Tod Kelly says:

    As this is a response to my writing over the years, I feel I need to pushback — not so much on your conclusion (which is largely correct and which I largely agree with)) so much as what you say I’ve said (which is pretty far off). I have never said that the Republican Party is dead or dying; indeed, I have never believed that.

    What I have said, quite repeatedly I will admit, is that the Republican Party has gotten to a point where its most visible leaders care more about media ratings than they do either governing or winning national elections — and that there are necessarily negative consequences for the party, for the county, and for conservatism in general because of this. I don’t even think they’re the country’s conservative party any more; I think the Democrats are.

    But Republicans aren’t dying — they’re thriving in a lot of ways. Their leaders and pundits make money hand over fist. And in a lot of cases, you are correct — on a state and local level they are not only winning elections, a lot of Republicans are getting things done. But on a national election level? Not so much. And on a getting the majority of middle-road voters to come on board with them on their pet issues? Again, not so much. They lost what would have been a slam dunk presidential race in almost amy other modern era election lat time around. And this time around they stand a really good chance of being the very first modern-era party that loses a national election to a non-incumbent that most people (including a lot of people in the candidate’s own party) don’t really like or trust. That’s a problem.

    But even so, they aren’t going to die. They will do what every party does once they’ve lost enough national races and litmus-test battles. They’ll go back to the drawing board, regroup, and come back a stronger and better party for it. I have long said round these parts that I think this is likely to happen in 2020, though as I wrote just last week GOP party leaders seem to actually be serious about changing strategies and tone in the 2016 race. I doubt they can muster the task of pulling all of their underlings to a place where they have a viable candidate as soon as 2016; I think the primaries are going to force everyone to take extreme and nationally unpopular positions on things like gay rights, women’s issues, the poor, and non-whites that will come back and kill them next November. But they might. And they don’t, I’m still betting on them to make the necessary adjustments for 2020.Report

    • Avatar Morat20 says:

      And this time around they stand a really good chance of being the very first modern-era party that loses a national election to a non-incumbent that most people (including a lot of people in the candidate’s own party) don’t really like or trust. That’s a problem.

      I’d check polling on that. It’s been a few years since I saw a national poll that had subgroups, but IIRC Hillary was incredibly well liked among Democrats — and doing fairly well with independents. But Repulicans were pretty much united in disliking her.

      So if, say, 33% gives you 70% approval, 33 gives you 50% approval and 30% gives you 90% disapproval….well, you can see how the numbers might lead you to conclusions that may or may not be valid. (Assuming I did the math in my head correctly, that example corresponds roughly to an average 50% approval — but among people with any chance of voting for her, the approval rating averages 60%).

      I’d wait until you saw some subgroups, and especially saw some graded intensity among them before drawing any big conclusions about Hillary’s likability. (On a tangent — Obama’s numbers have never dipped below, what 39%? They’ve been pretty steady around 45%. Yet I hear a number of people talk about unpopular he is compared to past Presidents. I guess not Reagan who went down to the low 30s, or Bush who went down to under 20…..)Report

      • Avatar Will Truman says:

        Clinton polls well enough against Republicans, but her favorabilities are not good.

        If they don’t improve (and I think they might) the 1968 comparison is a good one.Report

        • Avatar North says:

          True, but her recognition is sky high which means that there’s good reason to believe that, absent her eating a live baby on national television, her ratings are going to stay roughly where they are. Her opponents, meanwhile, are not enormously well known and in politics that means that they have a lot of room to go down. Now yes, an optimist can say there’s room to go up but we both know that doesn’t happen. When one of the big national parties aims all its mud cannons at you, you lose popularity even if they’re firing blanks.Report

          • Avatar Will Truman says:

            That’s part of Tod’s point, though. The GOP could lose because people that think HRC is untrustworthy still prefer her to Republicans.Report

            • Avatar Morat20 says:

              The problem is that “people think Hillary is untrustworthy” is not really a supported position.

              Republicans don’t trust her at all. Democrats trust her pretty solidly (but not as much as Republicans distrust her) and independents trust her about as much as they do any politician.

              Partisan intensity is skewing the perception.

              Although watching the NYT’s immediate “Oh crap!” walkback was…pretty sad, actually. It’s been more than 20 years, and they didn’t even hesitate before snapping on the bait. You’d think they’d have learned,….Report

              • Avatar Will Truman says:

                It’s not just a question of intensity. If it were just a problem with Republicans, her numbers would look better than they do.Report

              • Avatar Jesse Ewiak says:

                That’s Morat’s point. Almost no Republican’s trust her, some Democrats don’t trust her (but will vote for her anyway), and independents trust her as much as the last 30 second ad blast they saw in between commercials on The Voice or The Walking Dead.

                Hillary’s high favorables on certain things were always a kind of ‘out of politics’ bubble.Report

              • Avatar Will Truman says:

                I agree that those high favorable weren’t going to last. That’s different than majorities saying they don’t trust her. That’s different from some of her polling numbers looking like Donald Trump’s in certain swing states.

                These perceptions may change. They may be the result of some smear campaign. They might not cost her the election (which was Tod’s point). But her numbers are in that area are not good good. Her favorables are not good. That her election odds are so good say something not very good about the GOP right now.Report

              • Avatar Jesse Ewiak says:

                Remember, Hillary’s favorables also partially suck because half of my FB friends still think Bernie can be President.

                Let’s look at Hillary’s favorables in August after Slick Willy, Obama, and Biden all drop the hammer with awesome speeches about how awesome Hillary will be.Report

              • Avatar Will Truman says:

                Sure, the numbers can change. I think there’s a decent chance they will. But you want numbers like “53% of voters think you are honest and trustworthy” and not numbers like “57% of voters don’t think those words apply to you.”

                And the latter represents something that is, well, not good. And your candidates running behind someone with numbers like that is, well, really not good.Report

              • Avatar Kim says:

                Your facebook friends are incapable of doing simple math, aren’t they?

                Hillary’s not a natural politician (the way Biden and Clinton are), but neither was Obama (or Nixon for that matter, but he was a quick study)Report

    • And this time around they stand a really good chance of being the very first modern-era party that loses a national election to a non-incumbent that most people (including a lot of people in the candidate’s own party) don’t really like or trust.

      Not unless the modern era started after 1968.Report

      • Avatar Richard Hershberger says:

        The modern era started the day that I invented sex. (You are welcome, by the way.) That was considerably after 1968. This is probably a good thing, seeing as how in 1968 I was five.Report

    • Avatar Kolohe says:

      “But on a national election level?”

      Still, the flaw in this analysis is a) a sample size of 2 and b) the the Elephants nominated in one case the previously ‘non-conservative’ alternative to Bush Jr, and in the other case a New England Republican. So, like, not the darlings of either the so-con or tea party factions.

      Maybe Obama is just good at winning elections? He’s never lost a general election campaign.Report

    • Avatar aarondavid says:

      “Sailing to Irrelevance” “Why the GOP can’t have nice things”” Swinging for the fences”

      While you might not said that they are dying, you pretty much intimated that the current version of the party is, if not dying, shooting itself in the foot. That it cannot compete nationally. I think, from what I wrote above, that you are wrong. Now, maybe, for reasons that Saul describes, its just my partisanship showing through. Well, I am an ex Democrat, and do feel the same way about the party as ex-Catholics feel about the church. I fucking hate them.

      I presented a few reasons why I think you are wrong, and I backed them them up with data. Data which I feel is quite telling, namely that when we have a group of people getting elected, as republicans, in deep blue states as we are being told, time and again, over several years, that the party needs to desperately change. In general, I think the case for change is overstated quite drastically, if there is any case at all.

      What I do think is true, is that the Republicans are going in a direction that many people dislike. They are not changing in the way that those people feel that they should change, not accepting things that those critics feel should be accepted now.

      As I said in the piece, I am not a social conservative. I am not a Republican, nor have I ever been one. I also don’t have an ax to grind about them.Report

      • Avatar RTod says:

        I am, fwiw.

        I would argue back that you do share one key item with socons: you hate liberals, and the GOP’s making that their central message allows you to forgive or look the other way for some terrible terrible atuff.Report

        • Avatar aarondavid says:

          And I would fire back that your hate of Republicans blinds you, and allows you to excuse many of the horrors of the left, namely the destruction of due process and loss of freedom of speech.

          Again, I provided real links to how the GOP is doing in regards to the current political landscape, and in fairly deep blue areas at that. I also showed how (in my opinion) much of the polling that the left has been relying on is biased in its direction. @kolohe
          who is no fan of the social conservatives, to judge by his comments here, has also pointed out that the GOP is not doing as badly as people want to make out. Do you think that his hatred of liberals are blinding him to this also? How about JR?

          As I need to often reiterate, and as I stated in the OP, I dislike the the Socons as much as I dislike the Progs. So, in other words, I don’t think you have an argument that proves that the right needs to change its arguments, especially if you are using “you hate liberals, and the GOP’s making that their central message allows you to forgive or look the other way for some terrible terrible stuff,” when I have stated that I don’t like either.Report

          • Avatar greginak says:

            Oh yeah i remembered when the left ended due process and freedom of speech. That was a busy day but we did get both of those boxes checked off. I thought ending freedom of speech would have led to having to listen to a lot fewer opinions i disagree with but somehow it hasn’t. Fox and Rush and Ann C are supposed to be gonesville. The end of freedom of speech is a let down.Report

          • Avatar RTod says:

            I’m not sure why you think I hate Republicans. Again FWIW, I don’t. Two of the last four governors and presidents I voted for were Rs, and as I’ve said repeatedly I think Romney and McCain both would have been good presidents. (Romney especially.)

            As to my relationship with progressives, it’s hard to respond without knowing a little more what types of things you’re talking about. Can you give examples of the due process and freedom of speech erosions you’re talking about? I can think of a few, but the ones that come to my mind are things I write about here, so I’m guessing the must be different examples.Report

            • Avatar aarondavid says:

              Oh, I dunno,from everything that you have written about the R’s over the last few years? But that said, if you feel that you don’t hate them, then you don’t hate them, and who am I to say otherwise. (As far as voting, if by some chance Sanders ran against Trump, I would vote for Sanders in a heart beat. I think you and I will both gladly cross lines to vote for the better person.)

              As far as freedom of speech, I wrote about it here, and Brandon brought up CU above I believe. For due process, see everything about the current vogue of campus kangaroo courts involving title IX and denying the accused counsel. None of this is to say I agree with the right on these issues, I am a Libertarian after all, but for me, these are very serious problems that I have with the left. I have other issues too, but this isn’t the place for that.

              I don’t think I am going to change any minds here regarding these issues, but that is not the point of this reply anyway.Report

      • Avatar Saul Degraw says:


        “Well, I am an ex Democrat, and do feel the same way about the party as ex-Catholics feel about the church. I fucking hate them.”

        Well this explains a lot of things! There is no zeal like the zeal of a convert!!Report

        • Avatar aarondavid says:

          I am not a convert, again, I simply hate how the D’s, my former party, have fallen into a pit.Report

          • Avatar greginak says:

            What pit have the D’s fallen into? I can think of plenty of reasons to be irked by the D’s but what are you reasons?Report

          • Avatar Saul Degraw says:


            I suppose that this shows how different people can see the world differently. I ask what pit? The Democratic Party achieved the first real substantial health care reform since Johnson signed Medicare and Medicaid into existence. They achieved the biggest leap to single-payer/universal health care reform, this has been a dream of liberals since the Truman administration or potentially the Teddy Roosevelt administration. The base of the Democratic Party is urban, generally not white, but they do very well with working class whites from every part of the United States except the South.

            The Welfare State has been a part of Democratic politics since the New Deal if not earlier so how is embracing HCR this falling into a pit? The Democratic Party started embracing civil rights in 1948 when Hubert Humphrey advocated for and won a strong civil rights plank for the Democratic Party platform and Strom Thurmond walked out. How is continuing advocacy for this falling into a pit? How is advocating for SSM falling into a pit?

            There seem to be a lot of white-Americans that are very angry and very afraid about changing demographics.Report

            • Avatar Richard Hershberger says:

              Don’t forget the Democrats’ inexcusable failure to get us into more wars. A classic pattern is the Democrat moving to the right in response to 9/11. How one can look at the facts of 9/11 and conclude that we are safer under the Republicans is an interesting question in its own right. But regardless, if one’s response is that we need to start bombing somebody, then clearly the Republicans are the party of choice.Report

  7. I think the issue is less that the GOP can’t win elections, and more that it is currently incapable of effectively governing on a national level when it does win elections. In a two party system, you’re always going to have an ebb and flow to elections simply by virtue of not being the other party.

    But winning an election and actually governing are two very different things. Actually governing requires some sort of unified national agenda, something beyond a bunch of hyperbole and rage about how the other party needs to be stopped. Raging about the other party is good for motivating the base to get to the polls, selling books, and getting TV ratings. But it doesn’t substitute for an agenda or even for a coherent governing philosophy; instead, its success primarily arises out of the fact that it covers up all of the substantive divisions and disagreements within the party. So when the party wins elections and is faced with actually governing, it finds it damn near impossible to maintain the unity needed to implement an affirmative agenda.Report

    • The Republican Party is in fact very good at achieving and consolidating power, and bloody awful at using it in any constructive way. It often considers its moderates wing the true enemy. The beliefs required to be a true believer (not a RINO) would not withstand five minutes of actual thought. In the places where it’s been able to apply its ideology most fully, like Louisiana and Kansas, the result has been utter disaster.

      The GOP — Bolshevism for the 21st Century.Report

      • Avatar Stillwater says:


        Yeah, I agree about Kansas. That oughta be an object lesson for implementing the Party Line Preferred policies. (It won’t be.) As I recall Colorado Springs went thru a similar situation at the city level when taxes were cut and government services were ensmallened.Report

        • Avatar Richard Hershberger says:

          Kansas also raises the specter that Republicans cannot govern on the state level, either. This clearly is not the general case, but in Kansas we see what happens when Real True Republicans are in charge. If this is the wave of the future, then there will be much wackiness down the road.

          For what it is worth, Republicans in general don’t have any trouble governing on the local level. While Maryland is a blue state, I live in a solidly red county. I’m not certain, but it may well be that every county and municipal level elected official is a Republican. There is a crazy wing, but mostly the people in charge are old-fashioned Main Street Republicans. They understand that roads need to be paved and plowed, and they generally agree that a good public school system is a worthwhile ambition. My municipality is currently putting in a fiber-optic network, eventually to cover the entire area. A Real True Republican would object to the government doing this, and on a larger scale I suspect it would be controversial because of this. But on the purely local level, it is obviously good for attracting businesses, and I have heard nary a peep. I’m sure many would object to this characterization, but I see it as the local Republican politicians acting like Democrats, because they aren’t in a position where they need to thump their chests to establish their bona fides.Report

          • Avatar gingergene says:

            Any Republican who campaigned at the federal level for infrastructure, public schools and government-subsidized utilities would be called a RINO at best and a Socialist at worst. You could argue (and many have) that this is a case of the local party staying put while the national party heads rightward.

            Alternate questions: How do you think being a red island in a blue state influences what happens? Does the state create hard fences that limit what local (R)s would otherwise like to do? Are the locals more liberal in general due to their proximity to so many Democrats?Report

            • Avatar Richard Hershberger says:

              The state delegation goes through phases. In their hardline phase they will loudly refuse to have anything to do with the Democrats in the legislature, while also complaining that they are cut out of the process. The Democrats of course have their own factions and local interests. In their pragmatic phase, the Republicans will make deals just like normal.

              I’m not sure if the county Republican Party is more liberal than most. As previously noted, we do have our crazy wing. This includes a county commissioner who rides around on his Harley giving talks about how ‘sustainability’ is a UN plot to take away our freedoms. Sadly, I am not making this up, or even exaggerating for comic effect. On the other hand, you don’t need to read too far between the lines to realize that most of the county party are rolling their eyes at him, and a lot of county commission votes come in at 4-1. Then there are people like me. I am a RINO. I grew up Republican, but switched nearly a quarter century ago. I recently re-registered as Republican because for local elections the Republican primary is what counts, in a local primary even a small number of votes can matter, and as aforementioned some of these people are barking mad. I assume I am not the only one in this situation, but I don’t know how many of the registered Republicans in the country routinely vote Democratic in the general election.Report

    • Avatar Stillwater says:

      And yet!, the GOP gains.

      I don’t disagree with any of that Mark, I just wonder how much that analysis matters to the swing voters, and how much a fear of what you describe will GOTV for Dems. One handicap I think Dems are dealing with is that Clinton simply isn’t a GOTV kinda candidate. Tod wrote a post about this issue not too long ago, the jist of which was that Dems oughta temper their enthusiasm for a candidate who was Anointed! pre-primary in 07 and very quickly lost to Obama.Report

    • Avatar CK MacLeod says:

      Mark Thompson: So when the party wins elections and is faced with actually governing, it finds it damn near impossible to maintain the unity needed to implement an affirmative agenda.

      Nowhere near as much a problem for the Rs as for the Ds.Report

      • Avatar Will Truman says:

        For what it’s worth, I’m 100% with @mark-thompson on this. In fact, other than my own eminently wise self, I think Mark is the only person who fundamentally understands the real Republican dilemma. So much else is just a symptom of this problem.Report

        • Avatar CK MacLeod says:

          Why is it a dilemma? In the face of an epochal financial catastrophe combined with a major foreign policy setback (something between a “fiasco” and a “cataclysm” depending on where you sit and whom you’re asking), on the Republican watch, the Dems managed to gain nominal control of Congress and the Presidency for one 2-year period, pass a stimulus bill and a health care bill, then spend the next six years losing the interest of the American people except on issues affecting a minuscule portion of the population, while further alienating a sufficient blocking minority. Instead of being punished for obstructionism, the Republicans have been given tools to continue it indefinitely – until the next catastrophe perhaps. Prospects for passing a Democrat or left-liberal agenda remain somewhere in the vicinity of nil, as far as I can tell, though maybe you know something I don’t.Report

          • Avatar Michael Drew says:

            This is generally a quite powerful critique of an “R’s in crisis” or “R’s in governing efficacy doldrums” narrative. For ten years the problem has indeed been not winning elections enough to be able to pass an agenda, no not having a governing agenda. When they are in power nationally, they do pass major national agenda items. Two huge tax cuts for the rich; a long sought-after foreign war that was not indicated by the attack that finally allowed it. I would add that they have been able to pass conservative agendas in the states. Whether these turns out to be “effective governance” then ends up being a policy discussion. But I don’t get the sense that @mark-thompson’s contention is that their agendas consist of bad policy ideas – i.e. I take him to be saying that, broadly, they don’t have a positive national governing agenda. And I think this is mistaken. When they come back to power, it will re-emerge, clear as day, like the lifting of a dense fog. Just as it did in Wisconsin after the obfuscation of the 2010 campaign for governor there.

            Meanwhile, while they’re not in power, they also execute their blocking agenda quite skillfully. Not quite so skillfully as to be able to complete prevent the passage of any left-liberal agenda as @ck-macleod suggests – ACA did pass; Dodd-Frank did pass, etc. – but enough to muck it up for years at a time after yielding at points of maximum power ebb for them (i.e. 2009).

            All of which is to say, I take both narratives – R’s in crisis, D’s in crisis – as being largely overstated. I do think that the Rs have some long-term issues. But I don’t think the dynamics of its media-celebrity-paycheck feedback loop pose the immediate mortal threat to its near-term governing effectiveness that Mark does. Nor to their political viability, as Tod does. When they get back in power, and they will, albeit maybe for not very long, they’ll pass an agenda, don’t worry about that.Report

          • Avatar nevermoor says:

            nominal control of Congress and the Presidency for one 2-year period

            Out of genuine curiosity, what work is “nominal” attempting to do here? Dems had 60 senators, the house, and the presidency.Report

            • Avatar Michael Cain says:

              Senate was 58 Dems and 2 independents, not all under the best of control. Example: The House, the White House, and a simple majority of the Senate wanted some sort of public option in the ACA (at least early buy-in to Medicare). Lieberman(I) of Connecticut and Ben Nelson(D) of Nebraska forced the public options to be removed. Even before Scott Brown rendered the point moot, Nelson had announced he would filibuster the conference committee report if it included any public option. I might not have chosen “nominal”, but what the President and Senate leadership could do was constrained by some of the members of their own party.Report

            • Avatar CK MacLeod says:


              Out of a genuine willingness to engage in a discussion of the ideas, but not necessarily to parse a comment word by word:

              The work the poor overstressed and possibly not perfectly chosen word “nominal” is doing there is chiefly to note the fact that, even when “the party” possesses “60 senators, the house, and the presidency,” if it is not in control of itself, it is not in control of anything. It may not, after all, be able to pass the program that it or most of its members and its (nominal!) leaders run on, and that its supporters, especially its most loyal and ardent supporters and sometimes even the vast majority of all its supporters, wish to see enacted.

              So, they (mostly) run on the public option, defeat their opponents in closely scrutinized debates on the public option, propose the public option, and just barely by the skin of their teeth pass a health care bill that lacks the public option. They run, debate, win, propose on climate change, and are unable to pass a bill on climate change. They run etc. on job-creation measures, electoral reform, campaign reform, financial reform, and achieve little or nothing despite their 60 Senators, House Majority, and Presidency. They prove unable to use their 60 Senators to remove additional hurdles to implementation of their program or supposed program. It turns out that the party that “controls congress” actually shares power with the party’s or individual members’ numerous competing clients, and, because it lacks the power to impose party discipline, doesn’t really control much of anything as a party, while the hungry sheep look up, and are not fed, and become notably less interested in politics and politicians in general, ceding the field especially in the off years to the people who bottom line don’t really want the system to work – in the sense of function to realize a positive program – and who, by contrast, are rewarded for their continued participation.

              (For that latter group, the negatives, the system does work: to the extent it successfully doesn’t. There is also no mystery why on balance libertarians would prefer the Rs, since in the present epoch they represent whatever achievable restraint on the party of government and on government itself.The problem for R voters arises if and when, and to the extent, there is some set of policies they are desperate to see enacted and that might realistically be enactable on the federal level, but that’s another conversation.)Report

              • Avatar CK MacLeod says:

                PS: Like @michael-cain said.Report

              • Avatar nevermoor says:

                Thanks, that helps. And was not intended as an unnecessary parsing. I just didn’t understand what you meant.

                I would, of course, strongly contest the suggestion that those two years “achieve[d] little or nothing” but you are certainly right that party reliability is a lot weaker here than some countries (such that even a party with historic levels of contral, as the Dems had then, is only nominally in control of government). Ben Nelson and Joe Lieberman are prime examples from that era, may neither ever receive forgiveness.Report

              • Avatar CK MacLeod says:

                Yer quite welcome. I think we’re not too far apart on the basic terms. I also don’t think anyone is in a position to assess, objectively and for all time, what was achieved during those two years, or for that matter over the entire course of the O presidency. It may turn out, as Chait has argued, that O is doing or did a lot more on climate change than people overly focused on legislation and particular high profile issues like Keystone recognize. It may turn out that the Iran deal and these recent (late and long-delayed) initial steps on prison and justice reform represent historic turning points (and also areas for meaningful bipartisan cooperation).Report

              • Avatar nevermoor says:

                Certainly true that time will tell. My prediction is that the ACA lives on and grows until we have a pretty near-universal coverage system that makes less sense than it should but is a million times better than what we had before Obama. My hope is that its imperfections become glaring enough that we replace it with a simpler single-payer system (perhaps even as a GOP cost-savings proposal once the fundamental principle of universal coverage becomes non-controversial in some decades), but we’ll see.

                On the other hand, I bet Dodd-Frank gets slowly undone until it has near-zero practical effect and we have another finance-driven bubble/collapse.

                It will definitely be interesting to see how Iran and Cuba play out, I have no predictions on those. I don’t think we can really fix climate problems until they get so bad fixing them is near-impossible. Hell, OK still can’t stop fracking despite hugely unprecedented earthquakes and its GOP leaders must pretend the causes are somehow unclear.Report

    • Avatar aarondavid says:

      Well, @mark-thompson I would disagree with this “I think the issue is less that the GOP can’t win elections, and more that it is currently incapable of effectively governing on a national level when it does win elections.” Buy the reason I disagree is because I have been watching the D’s win national election and not be able to govern. For example, the implementation of HCR that still isn’t at 50% popularity , foreign policy that isn’t well likedand along with attempting to pass gun control which, according to the Pew report that Tod and I link, people still feel that the republicans best support them on. Sure, there are lots of things to dislike both parties about, but as an ex Dem, the R’s bother me a lot less.Report

      • Avatar greginak says:

        Or you could say HCR which has been passed, foreign policy that had led to an opening with Cuba and a treaty with Iran. Gun control hasn’t gone anywhere but they have put very little effort into so that isn’t much of loss. The D’s have actually gotten some things done.Report

        • Avatar aarondavid says:

          Or that those are all things that have been costing D’s in elections at the state level over the last 5 years.Report

          • Avatar greginak says:

            Well not foreign policy where the two big moves i noted all generally popular.

            The ACA has cost votes for a lot of reasons. Yuppers. But they did get a big item they have wanted for years done. That is governing. Maybe the R’s should have a vote about repealing it.Report

          • Effective governance and popular policy are not necessarily the same thing. I supported SS reform in 2005, but Bush couldn’t get it off the ground despite majorities in both houses of Congress. I didn’t support the ACA, but Obama was able to get it passed.Report

            • Avatar Saul Degraw says:

              I find SS reform to be something easy to advocate when you are a white collar professional who can easily work to 70 or beyond.Report

            • Avatar LeeEsq says:

              It would help if people trusted the GOP more on social security people. Too many people, including yours truly, think that when GOP speaks about social security reform they really mean gut it beyond recognition or repair. People might not like the ACA but I imagine more people, for good and ill, find the Democratic Party a lot more sincere than the Republicans when they talk about universal healthcare. This helps sometimes.Report

          • Avatar Morat20 says:

            Except 2012. Kinda a big outlier there, hmm?Report

          • Avatar Jesse Ewiak says:

            The point of winning elections is to do things, not just win another election.Report

            • Avatar aarondavid says:

              And @jesse-ewiak
              The point of doing things is to help the populous. Not getting elected does not help the populous.Report

          • Avatar nevermoor says:

            I’m not sure I agree with this, but even if I did it’s not a critique that really matters. Political power should be used to do things, not purely to maintain itself.

            I suspect the GOP would quickly find that the ACA is wildly popular if they were in a position to actually kill it (rather than to pass base-pleasing symbolic attempts).Report

  8. Avatar Burt Likko says:

    Further to @tod-kelly ‘s remarks in his (partial) self-defense, the Great Republican Reboot Of The Teens is in fact underway right now. We see it in the early agitation for Trump. We see it in support for the libertarian-ish-ness of Rand Paul. We see it in the exploration of ways to back out of the room with face preserved on same-sex marriage and gay rights, likely under cover of “protecting religious liberty.” We see it in the quiet stepping-away-from of “low taxes” as the panacea. We see it in the ranks splitting about the Confederate battle flag.

    And I suspect most of all, we see it in the anti-big-business populism aimed at people who really do resent big business buying itself big government and squashing them, but don’t want to feel like that sort of resentment makes them into dirty hippies.

    What this will all turn into, I can’t really say yet. I don’t think anyone can. I think Tod’s right, though, that by the end of the 2020 election, we should have a fairly good idea of what the GOP will have turned in to.

    What we should not expect is that the end product of the Great Republican Reboot Of The Teens will look all that much like the Democratic Party does today. Republicans will eventually reform themselves into something that is a) opposed to a substantial portion of the favored political policies in the Democratic constellation; b) makes room for social conservatives, especially the religious folk, who will continue to be a high-priority target audience for the GOP until all of us are well decomposed.Report

    • Avatar Morat20 says:

      We see it in support for the libertarian-ish-ness of Rand Paul.

      I think his numbers are so low he won’t make the Fox debate, and I know his fundraising is pretty abysmal.

      Trump, on the other hand — if I was competing for the mushy middle, I would be running as far away from that man as possible. The fact that he’s leading the pack says pretty awful things about what the GOP primary voters want for America.Report

      • Avatar Will Truman says:

        Paul’s not doing very well compared to the expectations of some, but he is not on the borderline for being in the debates. He’s in.

        I’m not sure that Trump ’15 tells us any more than Rudy’ 07 did.Report

        • I wonder if he’ll say anything that challenges the others. His pandering on the Iran deal is nor encouraging.Report

        • Avatar North says:

          Agreed. Really all Trump is doing is shoving more stakes into the carcass of GOP latino outreach. By the time the election rolls around only the Latinos will remember him much*.

          *but I expect they will remember and that ain’t nothing.Report

          • Avatar Will Truman says:

            One of the interesting things to me, though, is that Trump does not appear to be dragging the other candidates down in the head-to-head. The distancing from him may actually be working. Small comfort if they lose anyway, but not what I might have predicted.Report

            • Avatar Kolohe says:

              While Trump is doing his thing Jeb! is giving interviews in Spanish to Telmundo.

              What if Trump is this cycle’s Sistah Soljiah?Report

              • Avatar North says:

                Possibly, the eventual nominee would have to Sistah Soljiah him first tho.Report

              • Avatar Kolohe says:

                Everybody except for Cruz (and maybe Paul*?) has taken turns publicly calling him out. Lindsay Graham’s cell phone destruction video is the only call out that that broken through the media foam, iirc.

                *I’m not sure either way. I have seen Jeb!, Perry, Walker, Kaisich, and Graham all say (or have their surrogates say) negative things about Trump.Report

    • Avatar Jesse Ewiak says:

      Actually, as other people have pointed out, the short term future of the GOP isn’t Rand Paul, it’s Donald Trump or in a more controlled form, Scott Walker – populist white non-unionized working class conservatism against the elite Other (ie. middle class public union workers, professors, etc.).Report

  9. Avatar LWA says:

    I yield to no one in my scorn for my former party, but I do agree that glee over their demise is premature.

    Not just premature- foolhardy, since whatever problems there are with Republicanism/ conservatism (and those labels pretty much overlap now), it has 2 things going for it:

    1. It isn’t all wrong- the concept of caution, of holding fast to the tried and true; the concept of wariness of government power; the virtues of thrift hard work and responsibility; patriotism, and all the rest are valid and should be defended.

    2. Even where it IS wrong, demonstrably wrong, horribly wrong, it answers a very deep and universal need in the human person. Donald Trump, for all we mock him, is sending out the universal bat-signal to xenophobes everywhere- His same message is found in nearly every culture and tribe around the world, and is eternal.

    Corey Robin’s thesis is (IMO) right on target, that the preservation of the private power of male power and the hierarchy of wealth is the core of the conservative cause.
    Because it too, flows from things which are not in themselves wrong.

    BSDI is a terrible cliché, but I will also say that a matching concern can be leveled at my side of the aisle- just that the concerns are not always symmetrical and balanced- it does happen that one side can go off the rails more badly than the other.

    I have also cautioned my fellow liberals about loading up too much significance on demographics- there isn’t any special magic in skin color or ethnic heritage. African and Hispanic people are perfectly capable of embracing fascism. So far, the best thing we have going is that the fascism of the right is also racist to the core- I really seriously shudder to think if a more charismatic Allen West were to win over the hearts and minds of the conservative base.

    No, I think the conservative base will always be with us- it will just shrink or split or morph, but never go away.Report

  10. Avatar North says:

    Well anyone predicting the “death” of a party is nuts. I don’t see my Todd as being nuts because I don’t see that he’s predicted that the party is dead. He’s mostly been meditating on an interesting phenomenon: The GOP basically scrambled out of a prescription for the political wilderness that was handed down by the voters in 2006-2008 by doubling down on a destructive and inconsistent set of behaviors and they’ve been quixotically paying for it ever since. Eventually they’re going to take their medicine, change and get back in order. Until then they may be able to motivate voters to the polls in off elections but they’re going to keep bonking into each other like clowns in bumper cars as long as there’s an opposition party Executive.Report

  11. Avatar Jesse Ewiak says:

    Most of the GOP gains in state legislatures in the past few years have been pecking at the carcass of the Southern Democratic Party, where it was still living via gerrymandering and ancestral support, that finally totally collapsed when Southern Republican’s could put a black POTUS and a good ole’ boy state representative under the same party banner.

    Throw in the fact that the modern Democratic coalition doesn’t vote in midterms (which is an issue) and you have a recipe for partial disaster.

    But, the truth is, thanks to the undemocratic nature of the Senate, the GOP should really have nearly 60 seats in the Senate by now. Mike Castle should be ending his 1st term. Some random Republican in Missouri should as well.

    As always, American’s are center-left economically when it comes to issues that affect them, center-right when it comes to poor people that don’t look like them, and liable to wide shifts in opinion based on the fear of the week when it comes to foreign policy.

    The GOP isn’t dead, as a party that can win elections when the institution is so heavily biased to their needs and wants (the Senate), is gerrymandered as hell in several ways (yes, I know, there are bad Democratic gerrymanders as well – when Texas and Florida institutes a independent redistricting committee, I’ll happily start lobbying for Illinois and New York to do the same), or runs away from the party stated opinions on social issues (every Republican Governor in the Northeast and portions of the Midwest), they do all right.

    But, yes, on a Presidential level, the modern Republican party can’t beat the modern Democratic party in a national election, unless the Democratic candidate is severely flawed, and no, Hillary is not that severely flawed candidate.Report