No one expects the Spanish Inquisition…


As we ramp up to a Presidential election year, articles are coming out looking at the long term viability of the major political parties. As many know, our country has been undergoing a demographic change. We’ve seen this in the outcome of the last two presidential elections, where the last one ended with Republicans having the rug pulled out from under them when a whole lot of infrequent, newly registered, and largely minority voters, turned up to an election where they were not expected. At least not by the GOP. This trend to more minorities and minority voters is only increasing.

Two articles are making the rounds with a tale of two parties, the GOP and the Dems. First is pollster Stan Greenberg who has a book out on the demographic changes, and how it’s a death knell for the GOP. In this article, the GOP is stuck appealing to their base on social issues (like marriage equality) and immigration. Meanwhile, the more they appeal to their base, the less they appeal to the general electorate. The only way out of this is for the party to shift their stand on these issues which their base will not stand for. He lays out the case well, and as a pollster, he knows the numbers.

Next, we have Matthew Yglesias on Vox, saying it’s the Democrats who are in real trouble because although they have the demographics behind them, and the GOP shooting themselves in the foot on that issue, they don’t seem to be doing what they need to get folks elected. He sees a rosy picture for the GOP who he accounts as better organized in terms of locating and grooming candidates and turning out voters. He doesn’t look at the demographics as much as the won-loss of actual races.

Yglesias blames the Democrats for not organizing, but ignores the issues of money, and gerrymandering in GOP wins. The amounts of money in these races now is obscene. When you have huge amounts of money, you have negative ads, and at a certain point, even the best candidates can’t overcome that. I remember talk after the last cycle of elections and someone saying, “We can beat them when they outspend us 3-to-one, but not when it’s 5-to-one.” I asked a fellow teacher in Kansas how Brownback got re-elected (because it’s not like he’s popular), and the answer was, “The other candidate apparently went to a strip club once in college.” That’s the sort of thing that comes from hit pieces, not investigative reporting.

Yglesias has a point about Democrats not getting folks out for down-ticket races and how that is crippling. For all his background in organizing, attempts to create ongoing organizing (OFA being an example) have come to naught. Obama has been good at getting low turnout and minority voters to vote for him, but has shown little in the way of coattails. Turnout among this group may drop in this election, as there is no Obama on the ticket. THIS is the weakness of the Democrats and one that must be addressed.

Yglesias focuses on the elections, not the demographics. There is a logic in this because it doesn’t really matter what the demographics are, if folks aren’t turning up. On the other hand, looking at prior elections (even very recent ones) when the electoral demographics are changing this rapidly, won’t tell you a thing about how things will be in the future. How do I know this?

This as all happened before, and I’ve blogged about it.  California went from a state with a solid GOP presence to one with a GOP limited to the extreme north and the interior of the state. And it went down fairly quickly. One day Pete Wilson was governor and Proposition 227 (no bi-lingual education) passed, and then poof! We were a blue state. Arnold only got elected governor in an open race, and never would have survived a GOP primary except as an incumbent under the election rules of that day.

At one point in recent years, all the state constitutional officers were Democrats, and they had a two-thirds majority in the legislature. I’d say it’s like living in an inverse Wisconsin, but it’s not. There are corporate Democrats, and Jerry Brown, while better than Obama, is a former head of a charter school so is very resistant to regulation of that industry. The GOP has changed too (not without kicking and screaming). This article talks about it.

There are other things California has done that other states are starting to emulate and follow. Our districts are created by an independent commission based on computer generated mapping to prevent gerrymandering. Reforms like term-limits and top two primary winners regardless of party go onto the general election also make California different electorally, although I do not feel those were great steps forward.

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