The Southern Party

Look at this chart ranking the tipping point states in order and ask yourself which of the states making up the 272 strongest electoral votes for Obama could be flipped by a future Republican candidate. How does that Republican candidate make 270?

I’m not seeing it. And every year, demographics bring Texas more and more into play. Latinos will be a plurality of the electorate in Texas by 2014. It is hard to see what the Republican Party can do, and do quickly enough, to avoid becoming a regional party with a few pockets of strength outside the South.


  1. Times change, issues change, coalitions change, personalities change.

    If nothing ever changed, your proposition would be correct.

    However, in my own lifetime there have been about four moments the Republican Party could never hoep to recover from–starting with Watergate, and here we are 40 years later having the same conversation.
    25 years ago, the Democrats were inept in Presidential races and seemingly without a bench of candidates, but had an unbreakable lock on the House. Now things are reversed. Things change.

    Look at things happening with economic policy in the upper Midwest. Interesting interplay of Presidential vote and state level politics. Same thing with Virginia. We live now, as we always do, in unique times.

  2. Jon, static analysis is a waste of time. Behaviors change, people change, priorities change, etc.

    Here’s an example – you own a bar, and GDub owns a bar a couple doors down from you. Your bars are very similar, and beer prices identical. You decide to raise your beer prices. By your fixation on static analysis, you will simply make more money because behaviors never change, so you’ll sell the same amount of beer at a higher price. But in the real world that’s not true – all other things being equal, you will lose some customers to GDub. If you apply a dynamic model, you take into account behavioral changes in your analysis and see if you can offset the loss in business with other factors. Do you step up the quality of your entertainment? Offer better Happy Hour specials to get people to your bar first and hopefully keep them? Etc.

    Please stop the fixation on static analysis. No serious analyst uses such a deficient model.

    • Jon Geeting says:

      I’m well aware of how party competition is supposed to cause parties to change their positions. It usually takes about 2 or 3 election cycles before a party gets tired of losing, and starts sacrificing its governing agenda just to get some power back.

      The problem for the Republicans isn’t simply that their governing agenda is unpopular, but that it’s become unpopular along demographic lines that are unfavorable to the party over the medium and long term. There is a real danger to Republicans that Latino voter preferences will become locked in the same way African American voter preferences have. Partisan identification is very sticky. The more election cycles that pass with Democrats lopsidedly winning Latino voters, the harder it’s going to be for Republicans to make in-roads. And that’s what we’ve been seeing. The 2000 election is looking like the high water mark of Latino support for Republicans.

      The other issue that’s going to make it difficult for the party to reverse course in time is that there is no organized faction within the GOP pushing for moderation. There’s nothing like the Blue Dog or New Democrat coalition inside the Republican Party. The conservatives are going to have an argument in 2016 that will sound very strong to the base, but will actually be completely wrong. The last two cycles, the party ran John McCain and Mitt Romney – candidates who the base regarded as squishy moderates even as they ran to the right of George W Bush on most issues. This proves nominating moderates doesn’t work, they’ll say, and the best way to win is to stick to our principles and nominate a pure conservative. The argument that John McCain and Mitt Romney lost because they were too conservative is going to sound absurd to Republican activists.

      So I’ll turn it around to you guys – by what process will the Republican Party become more liberal, how will they win Latino voters, and in which states will this turn their fortunes around?

  3. You’re operating under the assumption that the positions taken by the Democratic party on the economy are correct. No slam dunk there, and if Republicans are right we’re going to be in a world of hurt as we move forward, opening the door to political gains irrespective of demographics.

    But more importantly, right now the Republicans have no national standard bearer that’s likeable. I respect the hell out of John McCain, and he’d have been better on foreign policy than Obama and Romney put together. But he’s not likeable and I was concerned about his lack of economic knowledge and expertise. Romney I didn’t like from the beginning.

    I have hopes for Chris Christie, the job he’s done in the swamps known as New Jersey has been spectacular. Marco Rubio is also up there. Tim Scott has potential.

    What it’s going to come down to is who the person is, what their personality is, as much as expertise. Obama proved that you can get elected to the Presidency with absolutely no experience whatsoever. Republicans need to capitalize on that fact.

    • Jon Geeting says:

      Well yeah duh, that’s why I vote for Democrats and not Republicans. I think their policy positions will be better for the economy than the Republican positions. Obviously if I’m wrong about that, then the next 4 years will be a disaster and people will vote Republicans in next time. But 12 million jobs is the baseline forecast over the next four years, so unless something goes badly wrong, voters will be coming off of the Obama presidency thinking the Democrats are economic policy geniuses. What’s more, minority voters fare better under Democratic Presidents, so Latino voters will be remembering the second half of the Obama Presidency as good times. The next Democratic candidate for President will have a very persuasive message that the first four years of slow growth were just Obama cleaning up the economic wreckage of the Bush Presidency, and then the next four years of solid growth were the result of the Democrats’ economic policies.

  4. Sorry Junior, Obama has delayed the recovery, not cleaned it up.

    I do love it when you talk in absolutes though! Like a well-trained little hack, unable to think just parrot things he’s been told to parrot.

    Obamacare taxes go into effect in 2013. If the economy continues to improve interest rates will rise and the trillions in additional debt Obama put on us will cost billions more to service. Medicare/Medicaid is teetering (see Washington is finally paying attention to means testing as part of the solution?) Obama can’t manage foreign policy for anything – Syria will use chemical weapons and Obama will do nothing in response. That’ll be a hell of a message to send the world.

    Still major economic issues worldwide that could result in a big problem here.

    • Jon Geeting says:

      Like I said, something could go badly wrong, but the baseline is 12 million jobs, even with Obamacare taxes and benefits going into effect. You’re also assuming the Fed will let interest rates rise, when they’ve been clear that they’ll keep rates low well into the recovery.

  5. Jon,

    That “baseline” you are quoting is one study by two private forecasting firms. It isn’t the only study out there. So I guess I’m not quite sure why that’s a baseline. America DOES have a strong basis of developing, selling, and building good ideas. Never take that for granted!

    I’d probably read a little more widely than Slate for economic expertise, though Matt Y is a gifted thinker and writer. This remains my favorite article headline ever from 2010: This one is pretty good too:

    I tend to see the question as focused on issues. I don’t really buy the demographic argument, because I’ve been hearing it for years. It’s the “water wars” of political analysis. Always around the next bend. Besides, a LOT of American cities would like to have the corporate profiles of Charlotte, Atlanta, Dallas, and Austin right now, so maybe the nation could learn a thing or two from those Southern “rubes”.

    I find it healthy that politics refresh themselves every few election cycles: thankfully, we don’t tie ourselves in knots over the “bimetallic question” anymore, and I’m sure a lot of Republicans would like to focus on issues other than narrow cultural ones or the need to arm the country excessively for every c0ntingency. Despite the hurry to get the unemployment rate below 8%, fortunately without shooting unemployed people, long term joblessness/”disability” remains a major economic AND cultural issue of our times.

    I would look past the Congressional “leaders” and focus more on interesting people at the state and local level. What is the mix of policies that engender corporate growth while building on a solid base of citizens who can do basic math, reading, writing, and computer skills, who have at least a modicum of good health based on some form of state-provided basis? Do we rely or bypass stakeholders like teachers unions, the American Medical Association, construction workers and the like? How do we encourage talented people to come to America and build their dreams? How do we best design our national security structure so it isn’t so expensive but is there when we need it?

    I could see a lot of Republicans in the next 10 years stealing your ideas in this debate. That’s a good thing. I think Margaret Thatcher said there are no final victories in politics, and she was PM for 11 years!!!

    • Jon Geeting says:

      If you think that the issue positions will somehow become unmoored from demographic groups, then you need to actually make an argument for why and how that would happen. Currently, what people believe about politics is deeply intertwined with demographic profiles. Why would that stop being the case?

    • Jon Geeting says:

      I also think you underestimate the overwhelming influence of white tribalism on Republican activists’ positions on the issues. When I talk about political parties, I’m referring to IPOs, not just members of Congress. In the Republican Party, it’s the activists and interest groups on the ground who are the biggest impediment to a more nationally competitive platform, not members of Congress. Members of Congress sound more and more like those people, because the people who control the primaries control the party’s governing agenda.

  6. I agree that many issues today are cultural, and thus demographic oriented, which I would say says more on the fundamental unseriousness of American politics than it does of the inability of the system to change. Whatever you might think of “reproductive freedom,” the fact that a marginal figure like Sandra Fluke (to pick one example) could be propelled into the front ranks of American politics says a lot. It also tends to undermine any form of compromise since its hard to compromise on (things perceived as attacks on) your own identity.

    How does the current hullabaloo in Michigan get explained by “White Male Tribalism?” Yet here we are having, for better or worse, an economic structural argument that is, perhaps, meaningful. I suppose pollsters can always find a way to find out how left-handed women feel about it, but we’ll be having a lot more conversations like this in the future.

    • Jon Geeting says:

      The situation in Michigan is just party politics – it’s a push to weaken Democratic donors and organizers. The Republican Party is opposed to the Democratic economic agenda – higher taxes on high earners to fund public services poor people need – for white male tribalist reasons, and kneecapping unions makes it harder for the Democrats to elect politicians who’ll vote for that agenda.

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