November 5, 2008

White, Rural, Regional?

Moderate Virginia Republican Congressman Tom Davis was quoted yesterday on what's happened to the Republican party:

"We'll have to see what happens, but I suspect in urban areas across the country, Democrats will continue to make gains that they've made the last decade," Davis said during an interview on MSNBC.

"We've become a regional party, basically become a white, rural, regional party, and not a national party. And we're going to have to retool ourselves," he added.

I expect that the Republicans will retool themselves, and adjust to the changes in the country. But the first thing they're going to have to address is their embrace of anti-intellectualism, which culminated finally in the choice of an incurious vice presidential candidate and then the elevation of Joe the Plumber, a symbol for disingenuous and misinformed blathering. It is poisonous to the country and has proved poisonous to the Republican Party itself.

There will be a lot of finger-pointing within the Republican party, and it will be interesting to see what sort of narrative we will hear about a campaign's final days. Whether or not Sarah Palin was a bad choice, it is not a good sign for the Republicans that some have called her "the new face of the Republican party." She may instead become the new face of Republican losses, and the icon of what went wrong. The longer they embrace her as the future, the longer the Democrats are going to win. Since I believe the Democrats will serve all of us better with a more competitive (sensible) Republican party, I hope they jettison this albatross around their necks.

It will be a slow process. Harold Ford is on MSNBC trying to tell Joe Scarborough that we need to invest in infrastructure. Scarborough is (either willingly or honestly) misinterpreting infrastructure to mean "concrete" instead of intellectual, technological, and other infrastructure. And don't even ask about Fox News and the nearly Orwellian "balance" that involves repeating something long enough that it sounds true.

Hindsight is 20/20, but I told Maggie a couple of days ago, McCain should have chosen a more intellectual running mate, an already respected running mate and someone to answer Obama's message of progressive change whether she be a woman or not. Had he chosen someone that Clinton voters could have embraced, and that reinforced the earlier image of McCain, that well might have been a maverick move. It is not a maverick move to appeal to your anti-intellectual base. Shoring up his base would not have been a problem if his strategy had been early on to run against the Democratic congress while Obama ran against Bush. That, and avoiding some of the over-dramatic moments and he could have been seen as that steady hand on the tiller.

Perhaps this takes too much away from Obama's brilliant campaign. In a poker game between experienced players, you're only making advances when your opponent falters. Obama was buffeted by pitfalls around him, but he rarely himself faltered. McCain had barely an opening, but there is plenty of room for criticism in how he played his hand.

But back to the Republican party, what are the implications and the fallout of Obama's 50-state approach?

We heard a lot about this election being the most important in our lifetimes. I scoffed at that, preferring to think we already screwed up the most important election in our lifetimes, back in 2000. I still think that. But considering the changes in the electoral landscape, we should not underestimate the importance of this election. But what political changes will it bring, and what process will the Republican party turn to in trying to regain relevance in a world where we must rely on our ingenuity, innovation, hard work, compassion and intellectualism.

White, rural, regional? Discuss.

Posted by James at November 5, 2008 9:23 AM
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The Republican party is a stool with three legs: the evangelicals, the hawks, and the small-government crowd. All three of these legs are right of center, but the poisonous anti-intellectualism and social regressiveness is largely the sphere of the evangelicals.

The American public is beginning to see where antiscience and backward social policy leads, and the stool cannot stand on that leg.

Republicans need to form a new coalition, and the Democrats need to reach out to them. If Obama embraces a strong military (which he has appeared to in his speeches) he stands a good chance of pulling that leg of the stool out from under the Republicans--and that would be something they might not recover from for years.

I'll take a strong-military, socially progressive, liberal any day of the week and twice on Sunday.

As for the small-government and socially-regressive legs of the stool? These are failed notions, IMHO. There is no future in that.

I don't know what sort of new Republican coalition will be formed, but if they embraced socially progressive policies, and environmental issues, I'd gladly vote republican.

Posted by: Chuck S. at November 5, 2008 9:31 AM

Here, Here, Chuck!

The GOP needs to clean house. If they are ever honest enough with themselves to admit that Palin cost them this election, they might just make that step. won't hold my breath.

I sincerely hope that a replacement party will rise up and replace them. Apparently there is a lot of support for the Libertarian movement in the GOP, I could see that grow. I guess we'll see.

Posted by: Rui at November 5, 2008 11:09 PM

The GOP needs to replace their three legs with fiscal responsibility, moderate internationalist foreign policy, and efficient (I agree...throw out "small") government.

Got thei great Garrison Keillor quote from a friend that addresses two of those legs:

Confident men took leave of common sense and bet on the idea of perpetual profit in the real estate market and crashed. But it wasn't their money. It was your money they were messing with. And that's why you need government regulators. Gimlet-eyed men with steel-rim glasses and crepe-soled shoes who check the numbers and have the power to say, "This is a scam and a hustle and either you cease and desist or you spend a few years in a minimum-security federal facility playing backgammon."

The Republican Party used to specialize in gimlet-eyed, steel-rim, crepe-soled common sense and then it was taken over by crooked preachers who deemed we trust them because they're packing a Bible and God sent them on a mission to enact lower taxes, less government. Except when things crash, and then government has to pick up the pieces.

Posted by: Bull at November 6, 2008 10:12 AM

I meant to post about this before on my blog, Chuck, when you spoke of the make-up of the Republican party. I was fascinated, I think you'll find it interesting too. You're actually missing a leg to your stool, there are actually big-government Republicans. But I think we need to look at the bigger picture. Are the Republicans going to remake themselves (who does the remaking?), is a particular faction of the Republican party going to take over again, will a new faction come in and take over, will the social conservatives continue to call themselves "Republican," are they the only ones left in the party right now, will the "brand" be tainted, and something else will emerge? Those social conservatives give Christianity a bad name and now they've given Republicans a bad name!

Anyway, below is a link to a Pew Foundation study. I think we need not to look necessarily at what the Republicans were or should become, but rather what is left over after Obama? Who isn't served by Obama, and will they flock to the "Republican" party, and whatever that is? There are, in this study, two brands of independents. Will they go to a new "Republican" party? Or will they like Obama?

I'm seeing people saying "neither choice was good." It's easy to consider them stupid. In some cases, I think they're people who haven't thought about it much or who live with somebody who has strong opinions they're not sure they agree with. In some cases, they're probably stupid. But in other cases, maybe there's something they're dissatisfied with (too much government?) that both candidates have.

Anyway, here's the link (it's several pages, so you need to click around to get the full study):

Posted by: Maggie at November 6, 2008 11:04 AM

I think the tack that Bull describes is probably their best bet if they put country first.

If they put politics first, they'll do as Roger Hedgecock suggested and hand the party over to the culture warriors (he called it "first principles") and focus on the Prop 8 win in California. In other words, another decade of division politics over gay marriage and abortion. Some people never learn. But the prop 8 win is like "my precious! my precious!" to this stripe of political strategist.

They took the wrong lesson from Reagan, and, luckily, Obama and is listening to people like George Lakoff.

Posted by: James at November 6, 2008 12:13 PM

If we just progress far enough, more people will be turned off by prop 8. With four years of Obama, maybe we'll progress socially.

How could that pass? I know they dumped tons of money into it, but I really don't understand why people think this is any of their business or think it's a threat to anything. Are people that susceptible to advertisement? That is a very depressing thought.

Posted by: Maggie at November 6, 2008 1:10 PM

Maggie - you had to be out here to see all the BS they were pulling. For example, there were a number of different signs. They had a message on one side and "Yes on 8" on the other. Here were the messages.

Prop 8 = Freedom of Speech

Prop 8 = Parental rights

Prop 8 = Freedom of religion

Their ad campaigns contained minimal factual information and drew dire conclusions from them.

i.e. If gay marriage stands, the gays will force us to let them get married in our churches. See! They are trying to take away OUR rights.

Looks like enough people were able to buy into the fact that gays getting married would affect other people's rights more.

Posted by: briwei at November 6, 2008 1:29 PM

Maggie, I think the short answer to your last question is "yes"

People don't spend billions of dollars on advertising if it doesn't work. Propaganda is powerful.

I hear that they were running adds claiming that Prop 8 would require gay sex ed in schools and other "oh no, the children" type things. Take heart, that stuff didn't work against Obama or a lot of other candidates. It's cache is disappearing finally.

Posted by: Rui at November 6, 2008 1:33 PM

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