|In a NYT op-ed today, Sen. Olympia Snowe, one of just two remaining Northeastern Republicans in the Senate, makes it plain: the Republican Party is shrinking away to nothingness:
It is true that being a Republican moderate sometimes feels like being a cast member of “Survivor” — you are presented with multiple challenges, and you often get the distinct feeling that you’re no longer welcome in the tribe. But it is truly a dangerous signal that a Republican senator of nearly three decades no longer felt able to remain in the party.It's worse than that. The Republican Party has so many litmus tests, and so many contradictory philosophies (pro torture and domestic surveillance, reading of people's mail and monitoring their phone calls and email, but supposedly pro individual liberty; for government control over pregnancy and research, but also "pro freedom," for zeroing out taxes for the rich, but supposedly "for the little guy" too; against big government but for big government handouts to corporations, and on and on...) it's almost impossible to qualify for membership. Hispanics are not welcome. Attacking black people is part of the fun. The elderly shouldn't' get Social Security, and women should remain under the firm control of the state, but both are crucial constituencies at election time. As a result, losing Arlen Specter is the least of the party's troubles, as Avi Zenilman of the New Yorker points out:
... I have said that, without question, we cannot prevail as a party without conservatives. But it is equally certain we cannot prevail in the future without moderates.
In that same vein, I am reminded of a briefing by a prominent Republican pollster after the 2004 election. He was asked what voter groups Republicans might be able to win over. He responded: women in general, married women with children, Hispanics, the middle class in general, and independents.
How well have we done as a party with these groups? Unfortunately, the answer is obvious from the results of the last two elections. We should be reaching out to these segments of our population — not de facto ceding them to the opposing party.
There is no plausible scenario under which Republicans can grow into a majority while shrinking our ideological confines and continuing to retract into a regional party. Ideological purity is not the ticket back to the promised land of governing majorities — indeed, it was when we began to emphasize social issues to the detriment of some of our basic tenets as a party that we encountered an electoral backlash.
... the number of Republicans are shrinking, and almost sixty per cent of independents support Obama. “There’s no doubt that the G.O.P. has lost about a third of the identifiers it had six years ago,” Michael Dimock, the associate director of the Pew Research Center, told me. In this most recent poll, Democrats outnumbered Republicans two to one. “The larger gap in approval is almost more driven by excitement among Democrats,” he added. Republicans have ZERO blacks in Congress, five Hispanics, and exactly ONE Jewish member (Eric Cantor.) They are literally a party almost exclusively for and of, southern and western white men. In other words, the GOP as a national party is fading away, and fast. And the sad thing is, even as their party is dying, they won't listen to Sen. Snowe, they'll roundly attack her, and then they'll invite her to leave the party, just like Specter. Rush and company will bid her "good riddance," and continue to disappear into an angry, white, gun hoarding ideological cave in the American South.
Dimock noted that most Republican defectors become independents—unlike Senators, civilians don’t need to join a party to keep their job. Specter is a lagging indicator; he was threatened by a primary challenger in a shrinking party, so he took his generally centrist instincts to the other side of the aisle.
This means Obama and Democrats may have less trouble passing their agenda. It also means that if things get worse under the Democrats, and Republicans come to power, then even fewer moderates stand in the way of Rush Limbaugh’s agenda.
Labels: conservatism in the wilderness, moderate Republicans, Olympia Snowe, the GOP