Saturday, March 29, 2008
A New York Times Magazine piece chronicles the depression that is setting in for Republicans now that the strategies that gave them temporary power are starting to turn off new generations of voters:
After the 2004 elections, Karl Rove began to talk with growing conviction about a permanent majority for the Republican Party. That majority lasted two more years. It would have been difficult then to imagine a more stunning reversal. The Democrats now control both houses of Congress and suddenly enjoy an advantage in campaign funds that, given the G.O.P.'s intimacy with big business and the recent supremacy of Republican fund-raising, would have been unimaginable just three years ago. Cole maintains that the 2006 election was an event of equal scale and significance to the Republican victory in 1994 — "in many ways, it's a flip." Republican operatives now worry that the social conservatism that helped seal Rove's majorities might create for them a deficit that lasts a generation, that the party's position on social issues like gay marriage may permanently alienate younger, more moderate voters.[...]
The situation has provoked an uncommon modesty in the Republican establishment. "Most of us can't wait to get to 2010," Dan Mattoon, a lobbyist and former deputy chairman of the N.R.C.C. told me. John Ensign, Cole's counterpart in the Senate, has made a point of acknowledging, publicly, that he doesn't expect to win back seats this year. The Republican consultant Rich Bond told me, "Tom was dealt an almost unwinnable hand." Yet Cole has been almost strangely sunny about his prospects. "This isn't an ideologically conservative country, and maybe some of us overreached in thinking that it was, and have been corrected for that," he told me in January. "But I believe that it is still a center-right country, and I think this election will show that."
The article talks about a new "suburban populism" that is shifting old Reagan voters back to the Democratic column:
[M]any within the Democratic Party believe that the gains of the 2006 election weren't merely the result of good strategy. They believe that the map was undergoing a fundamental shift. Perhaps the most-studied Democratic detailer of the map's evolution is a consultant named Mark Gersh, whose analysis of the 2006 election results has become the Democratic Party's official version. "Most people think of politics as changing from the grass roots up," Gersh says. "It doesn't. It changes from the top, from presidential races on down."
For Gersh, the modern political map has sustained two basic changes in the past 30 years. The first, beginning with Ronald Reagan's election in 1980 but only culminating with the 1994 election of Newt Gingrich's insurgents, was the slow, top-down conversion of socially conservative blue-collar voters, in the South and elsewhere, from Democratic partisans to Republican ones. In 2006, Gersh saw the culmination of the second big shift. "The biggest thing that happened in 2006 was the final movement of upper-income, well-educated, largely suburban voters to the Democrats, which started in 1992," he says. The largest concentrations of districts that flipped were in the suburbs and the Northeast. This, Gersh says, was the equal and opposite reaction to the earlier movement toward the Republicans and to some degree a product of the social conservatism demanded by the Republican majority. When I spoke to Emanuel earlier this month, he told me: "I believe there's a suburban populism now. The Republican Party has abandoned any economic, cultural or social connection to those districts." [...]
In their intimacy with the numbers, many Republican operatives now worry that crucial segments of the electorate are slipping away from them. Republicans had traditionally won the votes of independents; in 2006, they lost them by 18 percent. Hispanic voters, who gave the Democrats less than 60 percent of their votes in 2004, cast more than 70 percent of their votes for Democrats in 2006. Suburban voters, long a Republican constituency, favored Democrats in 2006 for the first time since 1992. And Democrats won their largest share of voters under 30 in the modern era, a number particularly troubling for some Republicans, since it seems to indicate the preferences of an entire generation.
"What is concerning is that we lost ground in every one of the highest-growth demographics," said Mehlman, the former R.N.C. chairman and Bush political adviser, who is now a lawyer at the lobbying firm Akin Gump.
[Remember that Ken Mehlman was the RNC chairman who apologized to the NAACP for the GOP's use of the southern race strategy.]
For operatives like Cole, focused on expanding the party's appeal, the conservative movement had become too demanding: its aggressive rhetoric on some social issues alienated young voters, its swagger on immigration hardened Hispanic voters against Republicans and its emphasis on tax cuts for the wealthy made it difficult for the party to appeal to populist voters. Buffeted by those movement passions, the great thing at the center of it all — the party — began to fray. "If there are Republicans out there who think that 2006 was a year that could be changed by a few votes in a few districts, they need to wake up," Mehlman told me. "It was a rejection." [...]
Part of the problem, for a Republican Party that wants to get back to basics, is that George Bush and Karl Rove's party was not theirs alone but a pretty precise articulation of decades of post-'60s Republican strategy. "You go back to the Reagan years, and even before that, and we always had a three-legged stool: anti-Communism, anti-abortion and tax and spend," Dan Mattoon, the Republican lobbyist and former deputy chairman of Cole's committee, told me. "The first leg dropped off when the Berlin Wall fell, and after 9/11 we've tried to do the same thing with terrorism, but it's not as strong. The second leg, tax and spend, was pretty strong until George Bush. Then we had just one leg of the stool, which was social issues, and I think that you look at the makeup of the younger generation and there's more of a libertarian view on social issues." Cole says that the party's rhetoric on issues like gay marriage has cast Republicans as too reactionary for many suburban districts. "My problem on social issues is the tone — sometimes we have been too shrill, and that has alienated voters who might otherwise have joined us," he told me. The challenge, then, is finding a new generation of candidates who aren't. [...]
The Democratic Congressional committee's eight-to-one fund-raising advantage over its Republican counterpart has been understood by Republican operatives in the stiff terms of a morality play. Though Republicans traditionally built their fund-raising on small donations from grass-roots conservatives, the party began to pay less attention to that group after 1994, when its position in the majority meant contributions from K Street, which came more easily and in larger chunks. After 2006, the party found that its financial support from both groups had eroded — the base because it was disappointed by a party that had ignored it, and the lobbyists because the Democrats were now in control of Congress. "Corporations and PACs go where the power is," the Republican strategist Scott Reed told me. But mostly the party's operatives blame themselves for not realizing this. (Republican operatives say that the Republican National Committee's small-donor list, diligently tended to, is the reason it, alone among the party's committees, has been able to outraise the Democrat's national committee.) When I asked the House minority leader John Boehner how he assessed the committee's fund-raising so far, he told me: "It stinks. No other way to put it." [...]
In November, Cole asked the party's leadership to give him a seat on the appropriations committee, making the case that he would be able to raise more money from corporations if he were in a position to reward them for their generosity. The Democrats published gleeful press releases ("Is Tom Cole carrying on the Abramoff-DeLay legacy?") and Cole eventually withdrew his name from contention, with Boehner's staff, in a final indignity, leaking early word of the departure to the media. Things got bleaker in January, when Cole's staff discovered accounting irregularities so troubling that they turned their books over to the F.B.I. (In mid-March, the National Republican Congressional Committee announced that its former treasurer, Chris Ward, may have funneled several hundred thousand dollars into his personal and business accounts; the F.B.I. is investigating.) [...]
Loved Guliani's retort on the question about why he didn't follow the advice of the NYT. "If I did, I'd be a democrat." The NYT is tabloid trash.
Well, actually it's not. I don't always agree with the Times' choices, but it is one of the best newspapers out there. And this is the magazine, which is another whole animal. The problem with your post, Iron, is that you are attacking the messinger rather than addressing any of the points, and actually quotes and facts, in a heavily researched piece. That's just cheap, and makes you sound defensive, and a bit like Haley Barbour when he chides the "liberal media" for reporting truths he doesn't like—a strategy that he perfected as head of the RNC that helped get the country in general, and the GOP in specific, in the current mess it's in. Such superficial strategies have run their course in America, and the GOP is bleeding as a result. Which, deliciously, is the whole point of the article that you are trying to avoid discussing with your childish insult of the messinger.
Oh, and it's entirely possible that had Giuliani been a Democrat, he would be the nominee by now. As it is, he's a joke.
To be fair, Guiliani isn't much of a republican. I'd argue it's the medias relentless pounding home of the great lie, followed by the Bushies inept handling of their years in office that is effectively doing the republicant's in. I doubt seriously that the democrats are going to prove any better. Please don't insult me by comparing me to haley "Cancer Man" barbour again, please? I didn't vote for him either time. :)