Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Last Chance Party

No matter which Republican wins in Michigan and Arizona today, the truth is - as Ezra Klein notes - they're still left with three bad options.

For awhile now I have been suggesting that the white male heterosexual patriarchy is in its death throes - and the Republican Party seems content to join in its demise. This week Jonathan Chait wrote an article saying basically the same thing. I'm going to suggest that its a must-read.

Here's how he describes the situation:

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

Obama’s victory carried out the blueprint. Campaign reporters cast the election as a triumph of Obama’s inspirational message and cutting-edge organization, but above all his sweeping win reflected simple demography. Every year, the nonwhite proportion of the electorate grows by about half a percentage point—meaning that in every presidential election, the minority share of the vote increases by 2 percent, a huge amount in a closely divided country.

And here's how that poses a significant problem for Republicans:

Whatever its abstract intellectual roots, conservatism has since at least the sixties drawn its political strength by appealing to heartland identity politics. In 1985, Stanley Greenberg, then a political scientist, immersed himself in Macomb County, a blue-collar Detroit suburb where whites had abandoned the Democratic Party in droves. He found that the Reagan Democrats there understood politics almost entirely in racial terms, translating any Democratic appeal to economic justice as taking their money to subsidize the black underclass. And it didn’t end with the Reagan era. Piles of recent studies have found that voters often conflate “social” and “economic” issues. What social scientists delicately call “ethnocentrism” and “racial resentment” and “ingroup solidarity” are defining attributes of conservative voting behavior, and help organize a familiar if not necessarily rational coalition of ideological interests.

Chait argues (as have I) that after the 2006 and 2008 elections, Republicans had an opportunity to re-think this decades-old "southern strategy."

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

For the Republicans, this is a "last chance" gamble.

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

Chait has done an excellent job of describing what is at stake. Our mission - come November - is to ensure that the gamble fails.


  1. I have two issues to expound upon. The first being the issues and the second being the perception of the reaction to the issues.

    First the issues. Chait's right. This election IS the White Male Reactionary dominated R's last best chance to regain power ... for 4 years only.

    I'm beginning to be convinced that by 2016 many of the current hot-button issues will be dead in the water, or limited to large pockets in a fairly small geographic area. To wit:

    DADT: dead. Now. Current appeal limited to large pockets in the Rust Belt, General in the Deep South and Idaho, and dead in the NE, FarWest and Mountain West.

    Gay Marriage: Passage is coming swiftly in the Mid-Atlantic, NE, and Far West. By 2016 only the DeepSouth and Racist Mountain West will be bastions of HeteroMarriage only.

    PersonHood Amendment: Dead on Arrival. Draconian measures such as this will, over the next 4 years be defeated by the population much like what happened in MS.

    Abortion: Will continue for some time. However, with the current upsurge in attention from women in more conservative areas, efforts to ban abortion based on state regulation, shame issues and so forth will begin to fail.

    Bailout: Nearly a dead issue now. Only the R base is concerned with the bail out. If the economy doesn't crash in the next 18 months, the bailout will not even be mentioned in 2016.

    Contraception: The only politicos to benefit from this issue is liberal democrats. This issue will NOT see the light of day from the R side as soon as Santorum wins or is defeated. I'm sure that histories of the 2012 election in future years will point to this issue as the one that woke up women.

    1. DerFarm,

      I wouldn't disagree with any of your analysis.

      But where the racial identity politics will play out will be on the issues of the safety net (ie, "food stamp president"), voting restrictions, and immigration.

    2. Can't answer to the Racial Identity stuff. I'm too close to the problem. White, male, southern.

      However, I'm seeing many more old white guys with chocolate grandkids on their shoulders. Remember what happened to Archie Bunker when his Jewish niece showed up?

      Further, they are (thankfully) dying at an alarming rate.

  2. Second, the reaction to those issues.

    Recall that R politics has been verbally over the top for 15 years. Essentially since the Newtron Man first gained power. There was exageration prior to that by politicians and R leadership, but it was localized and used for emphasis, kind of like cursing.

    Since '94, however, the overthetop statements and doomsaying have been systematic and ratcheting up election by election. Until we reach the point where a serious Morman candidate for president says the sitting president is attempting religious suppression on a scale never before seen in the US.

    Now, most of us (at least outside Faux) think that this is primarily rhetoric. That the purveyors of this laughable set of storeis don't really believe what they are saying. I think that is true. I don't think Santorum really thinks public schools should be dismantled, Mitt doesn't think that the forced contraceptive coverage is worse than what happened to Mormans in 1838, Newt dosn't really believe that Obama is guilty of infanticide.

    All this was a long way of saying that the current R's and the $$$ that allows them these exagerations live in a world of hyperbole. EVERTHING they say, see and hear is filtered thru the knowledge the without exaggeration what they say will not be heard. They expect the rest of the world to be the same.

    Thus, when women on the streets begin to say things like "we are facing the dark ages ..." they hear: "oh dear, not again ...".

    They gender gap is real because the R's don't believe there IS a gender gap. They can't hear the anquish because of their own heated rhetoric.

    These guys are failing Politics 101: Don't believe your own press.

  3. What Republicans have been able to do - to a large extent, successfully - for the past 30 years is to use racial identity as a lever. I've run into this "wall" many times, when people complain about "welfare" or "entitlements," but somehow it's meaning is "urban black people" or "illegal immigrants."

    To them, it doesn't refer to "Joe next door" who works at a minimum-wage job and is getting SNAP, or "Mom & Dad" who are getting by on Social Security and have Medicare, or "good old Bill" who is on disability. When you point it out to them, they get defensive about it, mumbling things like "they paid taxes for it," etc.

    Where I've had some success is pointing out that doing away with the programs to hurt the "undeserving" also does away with the people they care about.

    I think that the longer the Republican primary runs, the more they're going to scare the crap out of not only Democrats, but Independents - particularly women.