Stray Thoughts on Republican Irrelevance
June 3, 2009
Between high-profile conversions from the Northeast to the Midwest to the Rocky Mountain West — not to mention Obama’s warm relations with the nation’s two most prominent moderate Republican governors, California’s Arnold Schwarzenegger and Florida’s Charlie Crist — it’s beginning to look like a strategy that isolates conservatives, reinforces the impression that the GOP is defined by the borders of the Deep South and all the while underscores Obama’s stated goal of working across party lines.
“Boxing the Republicans into a South-dominated party is very good strategy, because the more you reduce the Republican Party, the more conservative and reactionary it will become, and thus less attractive to moderates,” said Tom Schaller, a University of Maryland-Baltimore County professor and the author of “Whistling Past Dixie: How Democrats Can Win Without the South.” “The Midwest and the Northeast are the places where there are still remnants of old-line Rockefeller Republicans. And these are the places where the Democrats will build durable majorities.”
Here’s an interesting thought experiment. Lets assume Obama’s strategy works, and the Republicans are relegated to the South, alienate everyone whose skin color is darker than snow or whose ideas are contrary to those of their favorite entertainers. Suppose they lose all their support in the Northeast and cease to be players in the Midwest. Suppose further that they shed considerable chunks of what was once safe territory (i.e. Virginia) to shifting demographics. Suppose they are crippled internally and unable to reform, bound to a fanatical base and a cowardly leadership. Suppose that the decline in their popularity does not bottom out in the near future. At what point in this process do we declare the GOP, for all intensive purposes, no longer a major party in American Politics? When 20% of the electorate self-identifies as Republican? 15%? We call a party fringe in Europe when it gets those kinds of poll numbers, as Le Pen did back in 2002. Ditto in local politics, as those of us who lived through the Ventura administration would be hardpressed to forget. Why should it be any different for the GOP? And what would it mean if it did?
Just a passing thought I suppose. But not a completely implausible one, given those latest poll numbers. Interesting times indeed.