“It is useless to attempt to reason a man out of a thing he was never reasoned into”

Jonathan Swift
"The Democrats have moved to the right, and the right has moved into a mental hospital." - Bill Maher
"The city is crowded my friends are away and I'm on my own
It's too hot to handle so I gotta get up and go

It's a cruel ... cruel summer"

Saturday, May 23, 2009

Dancin' With Who Brung Ya, Or Goin' Down With The Ship?

Ron Brownstein, one of the voices of the media echo chamber, has an unusually long and analytical piece on the regionalization of the Republicans here. While the analysis is really just a long compilation of data supporting a well-recognized phenomenon, the data itself is useful. It shows just how different the South has been from the rest of the country over much of the past century, related, of course, to its slave-holding history. The story identifies how dependent the Republican Party has become on the support of southerners, especially those of the white, male persuasion. The historically interesting aspect of this is that it is the same trap that Democrats were in in the 1878-1948 period. Today's Republicans risk a true split in the party whenever they veer toward the electoral center, but given their current base of support, they are not in position to win national elections any longer, because the rest of the country has moved beyond the convenient myths that supported them during the past 30 years.

The press has given due note to the prediction Lyndon Johnson made following the passage of the Voting Rights Act in 1965, "...we may have just given the South to the Republicans for a generation." Though this proved true, not much has been written about what might happen next. The reality that is being lived on the ground is that not only have the Republicans lost touch with majorities in most of the rest of the country (we're really not counting Idaho, Wyoming and Utah), but also that even within the South, they are losing ground. That is happening partly because of immigration to the South from other parts of the country, as well as growing Hispanic populations in Texas, Florida and North Carolina, but also because younger voters in the South are trending more Democratic than their parents. It is no accident that the Obama campaign targeted ALL voters under 30 in the last election, even in the South. And as a result of that campaign and its modern database development, we now know who a lot of those folks are and how to get them to come out again.

Today's Republican leaders (note the quotes from former RNC chairman Haley Barbour in the Brownstein piece) are reduced to nothing more than the wishful thinking that Obama might fail and thus return them to power. The far more likely scenario is that both health care and energy bills will pass this year, that the economy will rebound at least modestly, and that Obama will be reelected in a Rooseveltian rout, because, to paraphrase Al Franken's character, Stuart Smalley, gosh darn it, people like him.