Cross Posted at the Partisan Report
There have been several editorials and opinion pieces in recent days advising the Republicans on how to make their way out of the wilderness. A few more are saying the prognosis is worse and the party is slowly dying. The collective knee-jerk reaction for others is to call on the Republicans to move to the center and abandon the decisive issues. To stop playing so closely to the base (notably in the South) because by doing so is causing the loss in other regions.
Most recently, Johh Avlon (author of Independent Nation: How Centrists Can Change American Politics. in which I happen to own) wrote an article explaining in so many words that the GOP has become irrelevant because of their stubborn conservative ideology. Avlon often states the fact that Independents are the fastest growing bloc of voters and that 50 percent of voters are moderates. That claim in itself is very ambiguous when considering the information withheld when supporting that myth.
Moderate on what issues? All of them? Most find that hard to believe.
Most individuals who are independents are so because they don’t understand the difference between Democrats and Republicans. Most don’t know, don’t care, and are unwilling to take the time to learn about how our government works and how our institutions came about. Generally speaking most do not have many defining convictions and are impulse, or influenced voters (when they do vote) as opposed to informed voters.
Historically, the vast majority of them do not vote. This year’s election was no different which failed to meet the turn out of 2004, which is especially significant considering the media orgy and historical tone this election took on. Not even the excitement of Ross Perot’s candidacy could get these moderate/independents out to vote. In 1996, just 48% Americans went to the poll to cast their vote between Clinton, Dole and Perot.
Since we are talking about smart guys like Avlon, another Political Scientist, Robert Putnam, should be introduced. Regarding today’s climb in independents Putnam states, “The average college graduate today knows little more about public affairs than did the average high school graduate in the 1940s.”
And again, “Scandals and war can still rouse our attention, but generally speaking, fewer Americans follow public affairs now than did a quarter century ago. (Bowing Alone, 2000 pp. 35, 36).
Is there any amazement in the fact that the majority of voters didn’t know who the majority Party was in congress when they cast their vote?
The partisan mind did not change since 2004. It is a social identification. A form of membership reinforced by stereotypes and psychological images in conjures up about the other party. From this, a sense of attachment is formed to the group that they identify. In other words, Republicans are people who think of themselves as Republicans. It’s the same case for Democrats, too. Independents fall evenly between the two.
There is a reason why Republicans turned out in lesser numbers than they did in 2004. The Republicans in charge stopped being Republicans. McCain embodied that perception to many. It was certainly not because the GOP is too conservative.
There is no magical center, or center message that many refer to. At least not to the point to where it is safe to abandon the core principles of the base especially when 30% of all voters are conservative. That is about 10% more than liberals nation wide.
There is only the best message for that particular time. Barack Obama and the Democrats have not whisked the country to the left. Just as Ronald Reagan did not whisk the country to the right (Take Clinton, he successfully interrupted the Reagan Revolution as early as 1992 though he did leave it largely intact). Reagan and Obama just offered vast differences, used their unique power of personality, and articulated a clear vision much different from the one that had been heard.
Paradoxically, Obama enjoyed 96% of the black vote in the presidential election but over 70% of black voters voted against gay marriage in California. As was the same case in Florida and the affirmative action ban in Colorado (two states in which Obama won). Proof that Obama doesn’t have a clear agenda to take the country sharply to the left. Not even by his most passionate base. He simply offered something different during tumultuous times and called for a rejection of the failures of Republican governing, not conservative beliefs and values.
Clearly financial anxieties rose over the last two months of the election. It is widely known that financial worries and economic troubles have a profoundly depressing effect on society. When the Republican Party stopped being the party of reform and good stewardship and became the Party of Power, their bad fortunes rose, and their political stock dropped. They became the object of scorn and image of government incompetence. It’s the vicious cycle that effects all majority parties and incumbents.
The GOP wasn’t rejected because of what they believe. They were rejected because they stopped governing by those beliefs. When the Republicans get back on message and become the party of reform, good stewardship, limited government and spending, they will become the 800-pound gorilla again. A potent opposition party waiting for the reigns of power to be dropped, as is the constant in politics, and will assume power once more. It won’t have anything to do with how centrist they become but everything to do with how dedicated they stay to the fundamental beliefs and principles in which they were elected to govern.
Loozianajay, Sunday, November 9, 2008
at 9:46 PM