Here is the question I asked my wife the other day: How do Republicans ever win an election? How is it possible that Democrats, and all the ‘natural’ advantages that party has, can ever lose?
This whole conversation started when we were talking about the abhorrent lack of political knowledge some of our friends and family show. One of them voted for Obama without even knowing his name (Maybe she thought calling him Hussein was a right wing attack).
Try to think about this. Imagine yourself as a political ignorant. Also consider that you are an average citizen, with an average job, family, and concerns. Most probably, you are an ‘independent’ (40% of population), someone who is not emotially or intellectually connected to either party.
Why on earth would you choose the ‘mean’ party over the ‘bleeding heart’ party? Do you prefer the ‘war monger’ party or the ‘peace and cooperation’ party? The party of the rich and greedy of the one that helps unions and blue collar workers?
It is very nice to keep discussing fancy economic theories and advanced global strategy issues, but at the end these things don’t win or lose elections.
Now, it is somewhat easy to see how little scandals (like Clinton’s) or big economic upheavals (like the end of Bush’s second term) can turn things around. But I am mostly talking about the overall existence and viability of the Republican Party. Why doesn’t it turn into a Democratic party with a different name?
Currently, I think the Republicans have basically has 2 things going in its favor: pro-religion sentiment and patriotic/tough on foreign enemy’s stance.
That is very concerning.
First, because if you understand Christians at all, you know that a lot of their belief system sounds like a Democratic welfare program. You have to help the weak, no matter how lazy or wicked they are. You have to forget and forgive offenders. You have to live your life for others, not to yourself.
On the military front, republicans only have the advantage because of one historical event: Vietnam. Democrats got burned bad and decided to drag the isolationist/pacifist crowd to its side. But this can change at any point. An eventual (albeit improbable) Obama success in Afghanistan could be the trigger.
There is another risk for the Republican Party lurking on the background: our own economic success. You see, many ideals behind the Republican Party are about freedom. You are free to choose what you buy, when you buy it, and how you pay for it. You can keep your work’s riches and try to expand your wealth as much as possible. Democrats are about equality. No one should be without X (job, health care, house, food, etc, etc). No one should be allowed to accumulate wealth without giving back some (20%, 30%, 50%, etc) to the ‘community’.
Since we are becoming a richer world, the marginal returns on excess wealth are becoming smaller. A rich person and a high middle class person have many more things in common today than they had 30 years ago. That is why the ‘barons’ of our time (Gates, Buffet, etc) are all Democrats. They don’t care if they have to pay 20 million instead of 15 million in taxes. Given the choice, they actually prefer to give out as much as they can so they can enjoy the social benefits of being a philanthropist.
The only other reason I think Republicans are still viable are around the special circumstances created by the two party system. It forces fringe groups to associate with one or the other. The average American hates fringe groups. Even though this is a problem for both parties at some level (extreme right wingers include skin heads, anti-Semitic groups, etc) the problem is that lefty fringe groups are more vocal. People like code pink, PETA, pro-gays, etc. This difference in exposure makes it look like these groups have more influence over the party direction than the ones on the other side.
Anyway, this is all I could come up with. Overall, I think the Republican Party is going through dangerous times right now. After the resurgence in the 80s (mostly triggered by Carter’s incompetence but also by years of Keynesian policies that went out of control) it looks like now the tide has changed. I see some Republican gains in 2010, especially due to the immense incompetence of Pelosi and her like. But overall I think this is one of those times when we will have to get used to be a minority again.
If we should be so lucky.