Republican Party Needs More Votes if it is to Win

Bruce Bartlett explains why he’s not a Republican anymore using a time-honored refrain:  He didn’t leave his party; his party left him.  While he now considers himself an “independent,” he’s more than non-partisan; he’s “anti-Republican.”  Why?

I still consider myself to be a Reaganite. But I don’t see any others anywhere in the GOP these days, which is why I consider myself to be an independent. Mindless partisanship has replaced principled conservatism. What passes for principle in the party these days is “what can we do to screw the Democrats today.”

[…]

I think the Republican Party is in the same boat the Democrats were in in the early eighties — dominated by extremists unable to see how badly their party was alienating moderates and independents. The party’s adults formed the Democratic Leadership Council to push the party back to the center and it was very successful. But there is no group like that for Republicans. That has left lunatics like Glenn Beck as the party’s de facto leaders. As long as that remains the case, I want nothing to do with the GOP.

It’s true that moderates have largely been driven from the leadership ranks of the Republican Party.  But they’ve also been driven from the leadership ranks of the Democratic Party. The combination of gerrymandered districts and the permanent campaign have incentivized polarization.

Still, John McCain, the GOP nominee in last November’s election, was from the moderate wing of the party, beating out a slew of more ideologically pure contenders. George W. Bush, the standard-bearer in 2000 and 2004, ran as a “compassionate conservative.”  Mushy moderate Mitt Romney is the most probable nominee for 2012.

The idea that Glenn Beck is somehow the leader of the party is absurd. Given that the United States lacks a shadow government, the out-of-power party has no obvious leader.   Who was the leader of the Democrats after John Kerry lost in 2004?  Certainly, it wasn’t Barack Obama, who was a mere state senator and U.S. Senator-elect.

Also rather silly:

I see no way a Republican can retake the White House for the foreseeable future. Both CBO and OMB are predicting better than 4% real growth in 2011 and 2012. If those numbers are even remotely correct Obama will have it in the bag.

So, the “foreseeable future” is the same as “in the next election”? Yes, barring serious scandal, Obama is likely to be re-elected if the economy is good.  Incumbent presidents always win re-election when the economy is good! Indeed, their party tends to hold power even if the incumbent can’t run again.  At worst, they lose in close and controversial contests as in 1960 and 2000. But that doesn’t tell us anything about the state of the opposition party.  Voters simply prefer to keep the current team on when things are going well and to change horses when they aren’t.

Also, Republicans have to find a way to win some minority votes because it is not viable as a whites-only party in presidential elections. That’s why I wrote my Wrong on Race book, which no one read.

Well, why would anyone bother to read a book whose take-away is a sentence?  And an obvious one at that?

But it’s really a truism, isn’t it?  As non-whites increase their share of the electorate, naturally a successful candidate will need to appeal to non-whites.  But, guess what?  Successful candidates do.  Bush won 46 percent of the Hispanic vote in 2004.   McCain did far less well among Hispanics.  Then again, he did far less well among whites.

FILED UNDER: Campaign 2012, US Politics, , , , , , , , , ,
James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is a Security Studies professor at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.

Comments

  1. hallo says:
  2. PD Shaw says:

    Way too much Presidential focuss. Republicans will pick up seats next election in Congress, including, I predict Obama’s old Senate seat.

    The party’s adults formed the Democratic Leadership Council to push the party back to the center and it was very successful. But there is no group like that for Republicans.

    Yes there is. It’s called the Republican Leadership Council which is chaired by Governor Whitman and Senator Danforth, and was co-founded by some guy named Michael Steele.

  3. legion says:

    McCain may have been from the moderate wing, but go back and look at the Primaries and see how completely he turned his back on every single principle that got him into the Senate. He even wimped out about opposition to torture (which ended any respect I ever had for the man) just to get the Repub base to swing his way.

    And W may have run as a compassionate conservative, but that was back in 2000 – before 9/11, and when his competition was Al Gore. In 2004, it was all FEARFEARFEAR, remember?

    Bruce is correct – the modern GOP has no connection to the vast majority of people in this country who consider themselves “republicans” or “conservatives”. Their leadership is influenced solely by the farthest-right extremism, and as such, it is doomed.

  4. Dave Schuler says:

    Republicans will pick up seats next election in Congress, including, I predict Obama’s old Senate seat.

    While I agree with the “pick up seats” part, I’m not so sure about the Illinois senate seat part. If anybody can snatch defeat from the jaws of victory, it’s the Illinois Republican Party.

  5. M1EK says:

    legion is absolutely right. Consider how differently McCain ran this time compared to Clinton in 1992.

  6. Zelsdorf Ragshaft III says:

    You think America wants more of Obama? 9 trillion is deficit? I don’t think I would make book on that one. If you think the Democrats will retain power in both the House and Senate, you are not paying attention to the townhalls and the polls. If they do not back away, far away from health care reform that includes a public option and fails to address tort reform you just might see a repeat of 1994. We have a blue dog in my district who is pro Obamacare. He will be defeated in his reelection attempt. The people of this district do now what socialize healthcare and this coward was unwilling to hold town halls which were open to the public.

  7. kth says:

    I’d just observe that a Republican candidacy that would potentially have the most crossover appeal among minorities would be someone like Mike Huckabee: social conservatism combined with economic populism. In short, the exact opposite direction from where Bartlett would like the party to go.

  8. mishu says:

    Bruce is correct – the modern GOP has no connection to the vast majority of people in this country who consider themselves “republicans” or “conservatives”. Their leadership is influenced solely by the farthest-right extremism, and as such, it is doomed.

    I’m still trying to wrap my head around these so called conservatives who think we should go along with the greatest government takeover of our economy because “Reagan, blah, blah, blah”. Except that Reagan er, um, yeah.

  9. Triumph says:

    This Bartlett is anti-American.

    What these dingbats like him don’t recognize is that the country is being run by a TERROR-PAL, MUSLIM, IMMIGRANT, SOCIALIST, NON-CITIZEN.

    This is the first time in our history that an illegal usurper is in control. This aint time to just sit around and mope like Bartlett the bum.

  10. Furhead says:

    Well, why would anyone bother to read a book whose take-away is a sentence? And an obvious one at that?

    Zing!

  11. Gustopher says:

    It’s true that moderates have largely been driven from the leadership ranks of the Republican Party. But they’ve also been driven from the leadership ranks of the Democratic Party.

    The Democrats in the Senate are hamstringed by the Blue Dogs, and have to cater to their wishes and whims. There’s a far greater range of Democrats than Republicans these days.

    The Republicans have Collins, Snow, and then a whole bunch of mouth breathers marching in lock step.

  12. James Joyner says:

    There’s a far greater range of Democrats than Republicans these days.

    That’s a function of winning. It was true of the GOP when they had the majority. When you lose, it’s almost invariably in competitive seats, meaning the residual is in safe seats.

  13. PD Shaw says:

    I’m not so sure about the Illinois senate seat part. If anybody can snatch defeat from the jaws of victory, it’s the Illinois Republican Party.

    “RINO” Mark Kirk appears to be coasting to a coronation for the party’s nomination. The conservatives will grimace, salute the uniform, and unite behind raspberries to Obama, while pushing conservatives for other statewide offices.

    I’m also predicting the St. Louis Cardinals in the World Series, losing to the Yankees.

  14. Our Paul says:

    That Republicans may pick up seats in the House would be no great surprise. The majority of those seats will be replacement of Blue Dog Democrats, forcing the “conservative” voice further to the strident Right. The bigger question is what will happen in the Senate races. There, pockets of conservatism or fundamental Christianity that may come into play in House races will be ameliorated by state wide vote.

    My view? It is similar to Richard Posner thoughts, who points to the intellectual decline of conservatism. What will be remembered in 2010 by every person whose pay check remained stagnant, who lost his job, and whose health insurance costs were raised, is the Republican virulent opposition to Health Care Reform, Immigration Reform, and the Financial Stimulus Plan. In Posner’s words:

    By the end of the Clinton administration, I was content to celebrate the triumph of conservatism as I understood it, and had no desire for other than incremental changes in the economic and social structure of the United States. I saw no need for the estate tax to be abolished, marginal personal-income tax rates further reduced, the government shrunk, pragmatism in constitutional law jettisoned in favor of “originalism,” the rights of gun owners enlarged, our military posture strengthened, the rise of homosexual rights resisted, or the role of religion in the public sphere expanded. All these became causes embraced by the new conservatism that crested with the reelection of Bush in 2004.

    You were quite right in pointing out that Bush received 46% of the Hispanic vote in 2004. After the savaging of Sotomayor during the confirmation process, do you think any Republican is going to be able to duplicate that figure?

  15. DR says:

    Where did the 46% come from? CNN had the exit polls at 44%.

  16. wr says:

    James — First you say that the Dems have driven moderates from leadership positions. Then when it’s pointed out that there are plenty of “moderate” — read: conservative — Democrats in congress, you say that’s merely a function of winning.

    Well, which is it? You casually stated as fact that the Democrats have exiled non-conformists just like Republicans have — and then turn around and say that there are lots of moderate Dems.

    If it helps clear up the confusion, you might look at who’s in the Democratic leadership. Take Harry Reid, a moderate anti-choicer from a Red state. Max Baucus. Kent Conrad. Steny Hoyer. These are people who are detested by the left. Quick, find four people in leadership in the Republican congress detested by the right.

    Or maybe you’d like to reconsider your knee-jerk smear of the majority party…

  17. James Joyner says:

    wr: Both parties are much more dominated by ideologues than they were even 15-20 years ago. They both have moderates in Congress when they’re on the upswing and winning elections and are left with their more polarized “safe-seat” candidates when on the downswing.

    Reid, Hoyer, et al are much more moderate in the minority than they are in the leadership of a strong majority.

  18. just me says:

    First you say that the Dems have driven moderates from leadership positions. Then when it’s pointed out that there are plenty of “moderate” — read: conservative — Democrats in congress, you say that’s merely a function of winning.

    Leadership and being in office are not the same thing.

    The democratic leadership is very much from the left wing of the party, although the leadership has to contend with a lot of blue dogs who are from competitive districts.

    I think one of the problems with the GOP leadership is that it is mostly run by dinosaurs who are more interesting in keeping their positions than having principles of any kind.

  19. Pug says:

    This Bartlett is anti-American.

    What these dingbats like him don’t recognize is that the country is being run by a TERROR-PAL, MUSLIM, IMMIGRANT, SOCIALIST, NON-CITIZEN.

    This is the first time in our history that an illegal usurper is in control. This aint time to just sit around and mope like Bartlett the bum.

    Unfortunately for Republicans, this is the kind of guy Republican pols either agree with or are scared to death to offend.

    Hence, Bartlett’s point about Glenn Beck. Beck, Hannity, Limbaugh and O’Reilly are hugely influential with the Republican base. There is no denying that.

  20. An Interested Party says:

    Beck, Hannity, Limbaugh and O’Reilly are hugely influential with the Republican base. There is no denying that.

    Actually, James seem to be denying that…judging by what he has written about Beck in particular, he seems to dismiss these clowns as mere entertainers who hold no serious sway in the GOP…I wonder how many of the die-hard conservatives around here would agree with that assessment…

  21. Matt says:

    The democratic leadership is very much from the left wing of the party, although the leadership has to contend with a lot of blue dogs who are from competitive districts.’

    Harry Reid is anti-choice and from a red state for god’s sake yet you’re trying to pretend he’s some liberal extremist…

    Could you ever imagine a pro-choice pro-gay marriage anti-gun republican being the leader of the senate or house??

  22. Matt says:

    The democratic leadership is very much from the left wing of the party, although the leadership has to contend with a lot of blue dogs who are from competitive districts.’

    Harry Reid is anti-choice and from a red state for god’s sake yet you’re trying to pretend he’s some liberal extremist…

    Could you ever imagine a pro-choice republican from a blue state being the leader of the senate or house?? Do those kind of republicans even exist anymore?

  23. odograph says:

    Z. says:

    “You think America wants more of Obama? 9 trillion is deficit?”

    Well, that line hides a lot. Consider the fact of deficit explosion before 2009, and before Obama:

    http://www.econbrowser.com/archives/2009/08/the_lasting_leg.html

    Maybe this goes back to Jame’s assertion that GWB finished his career as the first Obama (ironic extension of James’ actual argument).

    The question for next elections is how on-message Republicans will be that (contrary to facts) this is “Obamas” and how that message will play.

    I expect them to be on-message, and sadly I expect only that small minority with time for reading will know the real story.

  24. James — you’re smarter than this statement that both parties of equally composed of extremists —
    Just take a look at the DW nominate scores on the 1st Dimension for Pelosi (110th Congress her score was -.51, Dem caucus median and average was -.41), while Hoyer’s score was -.34, and Rahm Emmanual’s was -.41, and Van Hollen’s score was -.43, Clyburn’s score was -.40 Those 5 were the Speaker of the House, Majority Leader, and the two most recent chairs of the DCCC, and Majority Whip. The Speaker is a touch more liberal than the entire Dem. Caucus, but not by much, and the rest of the leadership is either at the caucus central tendancies or slightly closer to the middle than the rest of the caucus.

    Now lets take a look at the 110th Congress for Republicans. I’ll highlight Boehnner, Pence and Eric Cantor for brevity’s sake.

    Median GOP DW Nominate score for 110th Congress was .54, and average was .55, both further from the center than Nancy Pelosi. No significant changes in scores if I exclude Ron Paul who is an outlier.

    Boehner: .64
    Pence: .78
    Cantor: .65

    So the GOP’s caucus’ central tendencies are further from the middle than the Democrats, and even with that consideration, GOP House leadership is even further to the right of the country than the majority of their caucus.

    And this is not even a decisive function of marginal seat losses, as this same pattern held true in the 108th Congress (2005-2006): Dem Median score -.41, GOP median score .5, Dem Average score -.41, GOP average score .51

  25. James Joyner says:

    Dave – Voting behavior isn’t a specialty area, and I last studied the literature circa 1993. At quick glance, DW Nominate seems to be based on a two-dimensional comparison of current members to the average congressman over time? In which case, it’s likely heavily skewed, considering Democrats dominated Congress for most of the 20th century.