Friday, March 29, 2013

Will the GOP go the way of the Whigs

After losing the popular vote in 5 out of the last six elections and facing an electorate that just doesn't agree with a lot of their hard right policies, the Republican Party is hurting and may be headed down the road to marginalization at best or extinction at worst.  They may join the Whigs on the ash heap of history.
For about 30 years, the Whig Party was a major national political party in the United States.  They won two Presidential elections, one in 1840 with popular General William Henry Harrison, and one in 1848 with another popular general Zachary Taylor.  Both died in office.
In the 1850s, the party fell apart.  It was primarily replaced with the Republican Party, but many Whigs jumped ship and joined the Democrats or one of a number of smaller parties, including the Know Nothing Party and the Constitutional Union Party.  In fact by 1856, the party failed to nominate a standard bearer.
The major causes of the downfall of the Whig Party were a failure to keep the coalition of divergent views together and the issue of slavery.  Many Southern Whigs supported slavery, while Northern Whigs generally opposed it, at least the expansion of it beyond the Old South.
The Republican Party of today is facing its own crisis, primarily brought on by a drift to the conservative right.  There are no more moderate Republicans.  Moderate is a dirty word in the Republican Party.  It has come to take on the same bad connotations as "liberal."
This drift to the right is popular with the base, but has little to attract swing voters.  The great middle in this country that decides elections is okay with the fiscal conservative policies spouted by the GOP, but the GOP stance on women's issues, gay marriage, and immigration has turned off a substantial portion of the voters in the middle.
The Republican Party also faces a demographic problem.  The GOP has become the party of older white men.  The electorate is becoming browner and blacker and more female.  These are three groups that vote Democratic, and it appears the numbers will only get worse for the GOP.
The African American vote has been strongly Democratic for over a generation.  The Hispanic vote has dropped from around 40 percent for the GOP to about 25 percent.  The women's vote has switched from fairly even to about a 15 point edge for the Democrats.  All three of these groups are growing in numbers, with the Hispanic vote growing the fastest.
The National Republican Committee (NRC) conducted an "autopsy" on the 2012 election, and came to the obvious conclusion that they need to get a better percentage of the vote from these three groups.  The problem is they believe it is a failure to get their message across, and if they fine tune their message, these groups will flock to the GOP.
The NRC is dead wrong.  These groups have heard the GOP message loud and clear, and they don't like what the GOP is selling.  It's not the branding of the message that turns off these groups, it is the message.
A large percentage of these groups are totally turned off by the GOP's harsh stance on immigration, their attempts to suppress the African American vote, and their 1950s attitude towards women. Hispanics favor some sort of amnesty and path to citizenship for undocumented aliens, African Americans want to be able to vote without facing Jim Crow type hurdles at the polls, and women don't want the government interfering with decisions they make on their own bodies.
If the GOP doesn't break free from the stranglehold of the conservatives and religious right, they will join the Whigs on the ash heap of history.  We won't see a one party state, but it may take a while for a new party, more moderate than the GOP, to challenge the grand Democratic coalition.

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