Monday, June 28, 2010

The GOP's Chicken-Counting Obsession

I have written early and often that the Republican Party counts it's mid-term election chickens before they hatch at its own peril. This did not take any great feat of prognostication on my part, only years of experience and an understanding of elementary demographics.

That experience tells me that the party out of power usually picks up seats in a mid-term election and GOP is likely to make small gains in the Senate and larger gains in the House come November, but the boastful prognostications of party bigs and their pundits-in-arms of sweeping pickups a la 1994 do not stand up to scrutiny.

Here's why:

* The party's base is growing older, grayer and even whiter at a time when it shows very little inclination of trying to broaden its appeal, a fundamental problem compounded by the fact that people who put their teeth in bedside water glasses before turning in are especially resistant to change to begin with.

* Party voices advocating change like David Frum, let alone hewing to a more traditional conservative philosophy like longtime Utah Senator Bob Bennett, who was thrashed in a primary election by an extreme right-winger, are being banished from the party temple.

* Party chairman Michael Steele may want to bring the party to a "hip-hop suburban audience," but he will fail twice over. Hip people, whether they are soccer moms or not, typically aren't Republicans, and the U.S. is trending back to urban from suburban. The party's hostility toward cities and their problems is legendary.

* D
espite the anti-incumbent fervor that the Tea Party has helped stoke, roughly 95 percent of all incumbents will be re-elected to Congress. Where the Tea Party is having an impact is in accelerating the destruction of the GOP by subsuming electoral appeal to raw ideology. These include attacks on unemployed Americans as being "lazy" and other wingnuttery that will not appeal to most voters.

One upshot of the GOP death wish is that Senate seats in Florida, Kentucky and Nevada that were safely Republican or expected to go Republican in November may end up Democratic.

Meanwhile, Republican Governor Rick Perry, seen as a shoo-in be re-elected Texas governor, is in the political fight of his life in part because the state party has endorsed an extreme right-wing platform that, among other things, would ban oral and anal sex and send to jail anyone who issues a same-sex marriage license.

How about them chickens?

* * * * *
Great minds think together, or something.

Political demographer Ruy Teixiera, who forecast the rise of the winning Obama coaltion, has written a lengthy piece (.pdf) far more scholarly than mine that explains much as I have as to why the GOP's long-term outlook is grim.

Illustration by Zena Saunders for the Utne Reader

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