Editore"s Note
Tilting at Windmills

Email Newsletter icon, E-mail Newsletter icon, Email List icon, E-mail List icon Sign up for Free News & Updates

April 30, 2009

THE INCREDIBLE SHRINKING PARTY (REDUX).... The number of people who self-identify themselves as Republicans continues to shrink, as evidenced by four separate national polls released over the last five days. If this doesn't scare party leaders, they're not paying attention.

The Post/ABC poll found 21% of Americans identify themselves as Republicans. The NYT/CBS poll put the number at 20%. NBC/WSJ also put the GOP number at 20%.

The latest Pew Research Center study has a better take on the GOP's standing, but only slightly.

Pennsylvania Sen. Arlen Specter's switch to the Democratic Party on Tuesday highlights what is happening across the nation among Republicans -- they are walking away from the GOP.

The latest survey from the Pew Research Center offers new data on the party's diminishing ranks: just 23% of respondents identified themselves as Republicans, down from 25% in 2008 and from 30% in 2004.

Republicans have lost about a quarter of its base over the past five years.

Four polls, four results showing that only about a fifth of the population consider themselves Republicans. To put that in perspective, in 1992, Ross Perot and whatever it was his party was called got about 19% of the vote nationwide. Republicans are only slightly stronger now.

To be sure, this doesn't necessarily translate into Democratic dominance. Fewer Americans identify themselves with the GOP, but they're not rushing into the Democratic camp, either. Dems are doing well, and enjoy much stronger support than Republicans, but the majority party's numbers aren't dominating, at least not yet. For that matter, if the Obama administration's policies fail to meet high hopes, it's hardly a stretch to think Democrats' numbers could see a decline at some point down the road.

That said, Republicans may not like it, but they should probably realize the scope of the mess they're in if they hope to maintain the label of "major party" on a national scale.

Robert Farley had a good item on this last night: "[P]olitical parties do die. They don't die often, but even in the United States they sometimes go belly up. I think that the Republican Party has become stuck in an ideological and demographic trap of its own making, and I'm not sure that it understands the seriousness of the situation."

Steve Benen 9:15 AM Permalink | Trackbacks | Comments (43)

Bookmark and Share
 
Comments

Fine, and good riddance. But what replaces it, Steve?

Posted by: JJC on April 30, 2009 at 9:09 AM | PERMALINK

It would be interesting if the social conservatives and fiscal/economic conservatives parted ways, creating a majority Democratic party against a classical liberal party and a religious right party.

Posted by: kp on April 30, 2009 at 9:15 AM | PERMALINK

two points.
First, Steve B mentioned high hopes. It may be that
the lasting gift from the Bush admin is that people
expect things to be really bad for a long time.
... Lowered expectations from the Bush admin. Whocouldanode?

Second, the Democrats' identifier has been:
"I belong to no organized political party, I am
a Democrat."

The new one for Republicans:
"I belong to no sane political party, I am
a Republican."

Posted by: catclub on April 30, 2009 at 9:17 AM | PERMALINK

Nice try.

When the excellent and objective New York Post or Washington Times runs a poll like this, I might pay attention. The liberal Wall Street Journal isn't too credible in this household.

Posted by: Myke K on April 30, 2009 at 9:18 AM | PERMALINK

Germany has the Free Democrats and the Christian Democrats. We could do the same.

Still, I think we'll see the religionists become the meaningless rump of a third-party GOP and the new opposition party become a combination of business Republicans and Blue Dogs.

Posted by: freelunch on April 30, 2009 at 9:19 AM | PERMALINK

Having the insufficiently rabid members defecting is a feature not a bug. What will remain of the GOP is going to be a white christian taliban.

Posted by: Peter on April 30, 2009 at 9:20 AM | PERMALINK

catclub, that goes to show that Will Rogers was wittier than Michael Steele.

Posted by: freelunch on April 30, 2009 at 9:20 AM | PERMALINK

Ah, Turd-Blossum's permanent Republican Majority!

Rove really is a genius.

Posted by: Joey Giraud on April 30, 2009 at 9:29 AM | PERMALINK

Nice try.

When the excellent and objective New York Post or Washington Times runs a poll like this, I might pay attention. The liberal Wall Street Journal isn't too credible in this household.
Posted by: Myke K

Please, please Myke continue to get all your info from the "credible" Washington Post, FOX News, Limbaugh Comedy Hour, etc. That noise machine is making the destruction of your party that much faster and complete.

Posted by: palinoscopy on April 30, 2009 at 9:31 AM | PERMALINK

Interesting about the demise and morphing of Parties - The Whigs and the Know Nothings fell apart - Many of their members turned to the newly formed Abolitionist led Republican Party and selected Fremont as their first candidate. The Abolitionists of the Lincoln days are long gone. However, the RepuGs are now morphing into a type of Know Nothingness. And, perhaps, Boehner can use a Whig to replace his toupe.

Posted by: berttheclock on April 30, 2009 at 9:34 AM | PERMALINK

The "liberal" Wall Street Journal?? The one owned by Rupert Murdoch? The one relentlessly attacking Obama and the Democrats? The one that backed Bush and his gang no matter what? That "liberal" Wall Street Journal? Well, now we know why Republicans are down to 20% -- if the WSJ is too "liberal," you're so far to the right that even with a telescope, you can't see where most Americans are coming from.

Posted by: dalloway on April 30, 2009 at 9:35 AM | PERMALINK

Seeing as how the Republican party is a Southern regional party, they should be familiar with the Brer Rabbit stories. Oh yeah, I forgot, conservative Republicans don't read.

Posted by: Winkandanod on April 30, 2009 at 9:35 AM | PERMALINK

Peter wrote:

"Having the insufficiently rabid members defecting is a feature not a bug. What will remain of the GOP is going to be a white christian taliban."

I am afraid that Peter may be right! Given that the party's basic ideology is almost completely discredited among the larger electorate and its apparent leaders are taking policy stances increasingly divorced from reality, I really don't see how the GOP can survive in its tradtional form.

For example, combating man-made climate change is probably going to be the major social and economic issue of the coming decade. And yet, the GOP leadership doesn't even yet accept the notion of man-made climate change. Or, look at the GOP's response to the economic crisis: arguing for a freeze on government spending during a recession? No matter which GOP plank you look at, it's hard to find one that any any educated person who wasn't a religious fundamentalist, racially predjudiced, or 'nativist' could take seriously.

Wow... "white christian taliban" party...you read it here first!

Posted by: James M on April 30, 2009 at 9:43 AM | PERMALINK

[P]olitical parties do die. They don't die often, but even in the United States they sometimes go belly up.

I think the Republican Party won't go away because the state and local institutional infrastructure is too great. But it will continue to lose at the federal level until the party's financiers install an new set of leaders.

Posted by: PeakVT on April 30, 2009 at 9:48 AM | PERMALINK

Should they become the "White Christian Taliban Party", could we expect to see Newt and Rudi meeting their demise for adultry?

Posted by: berttheclock on April 30, 2009 at 9:48 AM | PERMALINK

palinoscopy and dalloway: Check your irony detectors. They may be miscalibrated, or in need of fresh 9V batteries.

Posted by: Rand Careaga on April 30, 2009 at 9:48 AM | PERMALINK

These discussions have such a faddish sound. Every time a party decisively loses a series of elections the pundit class hand wrings about whether that party is going the way of the Whigs. Now, take a look back in American history: How often has that happened?

Our two-party system tends to encourage the weaker party to bounce back. My guess is that the Republicans will eventually do so.

Remember that it has only been a few months since the election and the Dems are only beginning to settle into their dominant positions of power in Washington. If we were the Republicans we'd still be adjusting to a very different situation.

It's going to take time for the dust to settle, people to come to terms with the new landscape, and new leaders to emerge -- or old ones to change their stripes. I would think this would be an opportune era for shapeshifter like a Mitt Romney. I'd watch how he navigates through the party's soul searching.

Posted by: Dr Lemming on April 30, 2009 at 9:52 AM | PERMALINK

Myke k is a parody troll please enjoy the show. Reserve your outrage for the real crazy mike k.

Ai maiii. This f- ing thing keeps correcting me to Sinai and so mao

Posted by: Aimai on April 30, 2009 at 9:53 AM | PERMALINK

The benefit of the GOP being "volume-challenged" is that once the pile of dog excrement shrinks to a size where it's recognizable as dog excrement, it can simply be picked up, put in a bag, and disposed of in the nearest trash compacter.

Justice is thus served....

Posted by: S. Waybright on April 30, 2009 at 9:58 AM | PERMALINK

Dr. Lemming. Has a major U.S. political party ever been this divorced from reality before, or had policies almost entirely based on lies and distortions? Sure, the GOP will survive in some form, but it won't be anything like the GOP we knew.

Posted by: James M on April 30, 2009 at 9:58 AM | PERMALINK

The liberal Wall Street Journal isn't too credible in this household.
Posted by: Myke K

Let me jus...bwahahahahahahahahahahahahahahaha...
ahem, let me just say...bwahahahahahahahahahaha...

Posted by: Stetson Kennedy on April 30, 2009 at 10:16 AM | PERMALINK

Political parties in the US do die and most often the cause has been the South. Any political party that has tried to make this unique region of the country (which thinks of itself as a separate culture, civilization and often a separate nation) part of its coalition courts disaster later on. Usually the South has been the junior partner in a party's coalition, as it was with the Democrats for so long. But the South was also responsible for the disappearance of the Whigs as a national party, and the American "know-nothing" party as well. Under stress over and issue like slavery and race (or cultural issues today) the Southern wing of the national party will separate and segregate itself, forming itself into some third party protest movement with its "plague on both your houses" approach to our two-party system. It did it with the Dixiecrat rebellion in 1948 over de-segregation and it did it with George Wallace's southern party movements in 1968 and 1972. The South also defected from the Democratic Party in 1964 when it gave most of its votes to Goldwater.

What has happened to the GOP today is the Democratic experience in reverse. The Southern wing became the senior partner in the GOP coalition beginning with Nixon's 1968 Southern Strategy and then purged itself of its moderate and liberal junior members in the Midwest and Northeast.

The effect is the same, however. The South now hosts once again a "third" party even if it goes by the once honorable name "Republican." Political parties, however, are merely tools by which Americans conduct their politics in this democracy. It's unlikely we've entered into another Jeffersonian Era of Good Feelings in which partisan politics disappeared for a time. There will always be conservative sentiments and interests that need a party to represent them.

But this new coalition needs time to coalesce. As an opposition party it needs something clear and concrete to oppose. That takes time and patience. Three months into a new liberal administration is way too early for something like this to happen. This is why all of this hysterical, over-the-top opposition by what remains of the GOP to a President enjoying incredible public support is so counter-productive from the GOP's point of view. It only further confirms in voters minds how out of touch and ideological the GOP really is.

At this point in time, Obama has only put down theoretical markers on the agenda he will pursue. But until the success or failure of thse policies are known, there really are no effective targets of opportunity around which the rudiments of a second major conservative party can form. There will be another major party, more conservative in nature, sometime down the road. I just don't see how it can build that coalition on what remains of the GOP base, given that base's desire for doctrinal purity and its hatred at the very idea of coalitions which need compromises to form.

Posted by: Ted Frier on April 30, 2009 at 10:23 AM | PERMALINK

Rand Careaga and Aimai

Thanks for the heads-up on our comedy troll. I guess Colbert can go over the heads of non-conservatives too.

Posted by: palinoscopy on April 30, 2009 at 10:29 AM | PERMALINK

Lest we forget, the Rethugs have God on their side. They will never go away but they may be exposed for the hypocrites and liars that they are.

Posted by: SteveA on April 30, 2009 at 10:31 AM | PERMALINK

Be careful with your perspective, Steve -- despite the republican party breaking record lows, they got 47%, 45%, and 44% in the presidential, senatorial, and representatives races a few months ago.

It's the ranks of the independents that are swelling -- everybody agrees that the republicans are horrible, but they're NOT sold on the democrats yet. So long as that remains true, there will be a chance of a comeback.

Posted by: Nautilator on April 30, 2009 at 10:33 AM | PERMALINK

Thanks for the heads-up on our comedy troll. I guess Colbert can go over the heads of non-conservatives too.

Given that the real Mike K recently huffed that all the conservatives left the WSJ a long time ago, I think you can be forgiven for making that mistake.

Posted by: Susan Johnson on April 30, 2009 at 10:38 AM | PERMALINK

But this new coalition needs time to coalesce. As an opposition party it needs something clear and concrete to oppose. That takes time and patience. Three months into a new liberal administration is way too early for something like this to happen. This is why all of this hysterical, over-the-top opposition by what remains of the GOP to a President enjoying incredible public support is so counter-productive from the GOP's point of view. It only further confirms in voters minds how out of touch and ideological the GOP really is.

And substantially prolongs the period before a coalition or new party, or at the least a significantly realigned Republican party, can form and begin gathering influence. But those in or recently of the GOP who get this and are eager for the rebirth are hamstrung by those who are insistent on dragging out the death throes.

Another great post by Ted Frier, full of lots of good stuff to chew on.

Posted by: shortstop on April 30, 2009 at 10:46 AM | PERMALINK

Oops. But wingnuttery is so far out there these days, it really is hard to tell it from irony. I mean, ten years ago Sarah Palin could ONLY have been a sketch on SNL.

Posted by: dalloway on April 30, 2009 at 10:47 AM | PERMALINK

Posted by Nautilator "Be careful with your perspective, Steve -- despite the republican party breaking record lows, they got 47%, 45%, and 44% in the presidential, senatorial, and representatives races a few months ago."

while that's true...look what they got..0% of the white house, 41% of the house seats and 42% of the senate seats.....[effectively 40%, but i'm not counting the independents....]

and the vast majority of those seats are in the south...with specter flipped, the gop now holds 5 senate seats in the north..overall, there are now 24 states with no republican senator...

in the house, they hold a 16 seat majority in the south and are the minority by wide margins everywhere else...remember they have 0 seats in all of new england and 3 of 29 in NY....

if you look at the states the dems have locked up at the national level + dc..that gives them 254 electoral college votes..for starters...all they need to get to 270 is fla OR ohio....from the gop to get to 270 they need all their states plus fla AND ohio and at lease five other "swing states." they're in a hole...

one of the underdiscussed stories in obama's victory and the gop's house seat defeats is the role of the suburbs....the gop lost their grip on most of the big ones outside the south...

if you study how the "independents" voted in 08, you'll note that obama won the majority of them outside the south and the mormon/militia zone...as for the "moderates," he won their vote in 43 states....only losing 4 states in the south, plus wy, id and alaska...

on the other hand, i'm reminded that things can turn on a dime...in 04, grover norquist wrote how a 60 seat REPUBLICAN senate super majority was right around the corner.....

Posted by: dj spellchecka on April 30, 2009 at 11:02 AM | PERMALINK

Much as I would love to see the Republican leadership reduced to a weak and ineffectual pack of whiny cranks, speculation on the GOP's outright extinction is premature, to put it mildly.

Don't forget, they were in a comparable position in 1975. And look where they were five years later.

Posted by: Charles on April 30, 2009 at 11:46 AM | PERMALINK

"Don't forget, they were in a comparable position in 1975. And look where they were five years later."

I have to agree with Charles here. Another parallel would be to 64 and 68. Massive, overwhelming victory for the Democrats in 64, and yet just four years later a massive defeat. Democrats are looking at the Repub collapse as indicating a resurgence for the Democrats, but I think most of us are thinking "Good, one party down, and one to go."

Posted by: mike on April 30, 2009 at 12:34 PM | PERMALINK

I think Republican prospects for viability are even more dire than is generally accepted. For me, the killer is that the GOP has over the past couple of decades become more closely tied to the special brand of political and social nuttiness and virulence found in the South. I'm not a political historian but I don't recall in our nation's history a time when the South has so completely captured a national political party. To have an insular part of the country that's so far out of the mainstream act as the gatekeeper for what's to be orthodoxy in the GOP is the death knell of the party. Elements within the party may try to expand its appeal across the nation but they'll be defeated (and probably expelled) by the Southern core, which would rather be "right than popular." Good luck with that, Republicans!

Posted by: Taobhan on April 30, 2009 at 12:41 PM | PERMALINK

Carter and the Dems were even more popular and dominant after the GOP screwed the pooch with Nixon's try at totalitarianism. Stagflation changed everything in just four years. Parasitic banks could change everything just like that. If nothing is done to palliate eight years of asset stripping inflicted on consumers by banks, or to stop banks' ongoing asset-stripping of the Federal government, Obama and the Dems will be crushed by a presentable right-wing lunatic.

Posted by: fate on April 30, 2009 at 12:42 PM | PERMALINK

One party down, one to go, words to live by. Now might be a brief chance to form a third party based on anticorruption and human rights. Though the Dems have worked hard to crush any third party since Perot (with coercive use of law enforcement and control of media and debates), Dem complacency might retard that instinct if they're distracted by GOP obstructionism.

Posted by: fate on April 30, 2009 at 12:50 PM | PERMALINK

"To put that in perspective, in 1992, Ross Perot and whatever it was his party was called got about 19% of the vote nationwide."

It was the Reform Party.

I'm guessing that you knew that already, but there it is.

Patrick Meighan
Culver City, CA

Posted by: Patrick Meighan on April 30, 2009 at 1:18 PM | PERMALINK

Mike,

It was actually worse than that. The Goldwater landslid of 1964 was followed just two years later by big GOP gains. Ronald Reagan unseated Pat Brown in California. And (according to Rick Perlstein in "Nixonland") a whole lot of freshmen Democrats who came in on LBJ's coattails got knocked off by Republicans swept in on the tide of white backlash to the inner city riots that erupted across the nation in Watts, Newark, Detroit and elsewhere that year. Events control politics as much as politics controls events.

Posted by: Ted Frier on April 30, 2009 at 1:32 PM | PERMALINK

Ted Frier and Mike, lots of great stuff. A few add-ons:

1974-80 is an odd, somewhat misleading period. Kevin Phillips had already written the prescient The Emerging Republican Majority, and Nixon had had his landslide, so the rising GOP tide was there to see in spite of temporal numbers in Congress. Watergate was a president-specific disaster disconnected from party policy -- a fact borne out when, in '76, Carter was barely able to squeak by Ford, despite the scandal, deep recession/stagflation and the humiliating finale in Vietnam. I remember thinking, when Reagan was crushingly elected, that voters have a way of satisfying their policy needs, even if they take a roundabout route getting there.

Which is what I think has happened now, in reverse. Remember those polls in 2000, showing voters agreed overwhelmingly with Gore on the issues? A combination of Lewinsky-repellent, media attacks on Gore and Katherine Harris/Supreme Court put Bush in the White House, but the voters were not going to be put off their desires forever. 9/11 temporarily bailed out the GOP, but what happened in '06/'08 was clearly on its way eventually. (And, really, the only people who ever believed in The Permanent GOP Majority in '04 were Karl Rove and the press folk who took dictation from him. Certainly not anyone who looked at the statistics, particularly in the two presidential elections where a light breeze in FL or OH would have reversed the results) This Obama majority isn't ephemeral -- it's very real, and should last a while.

Which is not to put myself in the "GOP Goes Way of Whigs" camp. Even the most successful coalitions break down eventually -- as the GOP one did in the Great Depression, and the Roosevelt one thanks to Civil Rights and Vietnam. What Obama builds won't last forever. But, especially given the extraordinarily stupid behavior of the GOPers remaining in Congress, it can endure for the better part of 2-3 decades, as the New Deal coalition did (with a semi-timeout for Ike, the Republican who promised not to fight it).

Posted by: demtom on April 30, 2009 at 2:30 PM | PERMALINK

A friend of mine insists he's a Libertarian instead of a Republican, then parrots the Repub talking points at the slightest provocation. So maybe we should take these polls with a grain of salt.

Posted by: DG on April 30, 2009 at 3:08 PM | PERMALINK

Ted Friar: While you're certainly right, I think that the disaster of the past 8 years of presidency/Republican lockstep with horrible policies has soured enough people that, barring another 9/11, the Democratic majority is here for quite a while. The majority of the population ascribes more to the policies being put forward by the D's than the R's by a pretty wide margin right now.

Then again, if another terrorist attack happens soon, it would quite possibly be by a Beck listener who decides to blow up another Federal building, and I doubt that would help the GOP any.

Posted by: Kris on April 30, 2009 at 4:06 PM | PERMALINK

Or, more or less what demtom said.

I should really learn to refresh the page before posting.

Posted by: kris on April 30, 2009 at 4:07 PM | PERMALINK

Dr. Lemming:

"These discussions have such a faddish sound. Every time a party decisively loses a series of elections the pundit class hand wrings about whether that party is going the way of the Whigs. Now, take a look back in American history: How often has that happened?

"Our two-party system tends to encourage the weaker party to bounce back. My guess is that the Republicans will eventually do so."

I agree that (paraphrasing Mark Twain) the reports of the demise of the Repub Party are greatly exaggerated. There are a couple of key differences between now and 2004 when Grover Cleveland was gleefully anticipating a 60 majority for the Repubs in the Senate.

1) We Dems were QUESTIONING back in '04. There was discussion and agonizing for months after that election in the blogosphere and the party powers-that-be, and it went beyond "we wuz robbed" (in Ohio). We debated the meaning of liberalism and progressivism and what direction the party should take and what issues should we focus on and what issues should we backpedal. The debates were noisy and sometimes acrimonious and there was room for various viewpoints.

Contrast that with the current Repubs who believe that they must double down even more in their extreme worldviews, despite the manifest examples of failure of same. No indication that they are devoting serious thought to what sort of changes they might need to make. Yes, right now a few of them are working on rebranding, but the emphasis is on the branding rather than changing the substance. Actually that is a second difference between them and us.

2) This should really be 3). We've got Obama, the most gifted politician I've seen in my 63 years. Obama's not perfect nor would he claim to be. But he sure seems to know how to navigate the political shoals!

Posted by: Wolfdaughter on April 30, 2009 at 4:27 PM | PERMALINK

The "Tea Parties" were the last gasp of a dying party...the uneven pulse of a dying heart.

It showed the most ignorant un informed among us flying ridiculous signs unaware of being manipulated by millionaires and cultivated by corporate puppets.

The republican party will be replaced when the democratic party splits into 2 parties...Democratic socialists & Democratic conservatives. There is no "far left" and the "far right" has become so destructive and insanely ignorant as to destroy the republican party.

Millionaires and billionaires tried to get the uninformed ignorant poor and middle class to support their policies and those they cultivated managed to ruin their image completely with their angry one issue condemnations. Now they must focus on taking over half the dem party. the republicans having made themselves become so pathetic. But you didn't hear that from me...

Posted by: bjobotts on April 30, 2009 at 4:58 PM | PERMALINK

"Perot and whatever it was his party was called got about 19% of the vote nationwide. Republicans are only slightly stronger now"

This is apples and oranges. Only a fifth ID as Repugs, but 46% voted for McCain in November. Perot got 19%, but not that many would have said his was their party. Juxtaposing those two measures makes no sense.

Posted by: Baldrick on April 30, 2009 at 6:24 PM | PERMALINK




 

 

Read Jonathan Rowe remembrance and articles
Email Newsletter icon, E-mail Newsletter icon, Email List icon, E-mail List icon Sign up for Free News & Updates

Advertise in WM



buy from Amazon and
support the Monthly