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November 24, 2006
The Generational Thumpin'

John Podhoretz takes a look at the analysis of the midterm vote provided by Jay Cost at RCP and discovers a very alarming shift away from the Republican Party. The trend portends not just a one-time loss of control of Congress, but perhaps another generation of Democratic control, unless Republicans can convince independent and centrist voters that they've learned from their mistakes:

According to vote-cruncher Jay Cost of, 54 percent of the ballots in open races were cast for Democrats and 46 percent for Republicans. Between 2004 and '06, the GOP's share of the vote fell an astonishing 10 percentage points.

Cost puts it like this: "Republicans should thus count themselves very lucky. With this kind of vote share prior to 1994, the Democrats would have an 81-member majority, as opposed to the 29-member majority they now enjoy." Only certain structural changes in U.S. politics since 1990 prevented that mega-thumpin'. That is, Republicans in the House were spared a decimation of their ranks by forces beyond their control.

But those forces aren't beyond Democratic control - which should panic Republican politicians. Many of the structural changes that saved them this time can be undone, especially after the census of 2010 leads to new congressional maps - which it appears will be supervised in a majority of the states by legislatures controlled by Dems.

Republicans need to do more than rebuild trust with the voters; they need to rebuild their state and local organizations and focus on finding candidates at those levels. Minnesota felt the impact of the Democratic sweep more profoundly than the GOP did at the national level, losing 19 seats in the state House and relinquishing the majority for the first time in several years. State legislatures around the country went Democratic as the anti-Republican sentiment made its way down ballot.

This demonstrates the return of the Middle in American politics. For the last three electoral cycles, Karl Rove's analysis was brilliant in his focus on turning out the base. Those elections proved Rove correct in that the middle had shrunk to a narrow portion of the electorate, perhaps 6-8% -- but that was when the Republicans offered a big tent based on a few central principles. The more they tried to add to those core focus issues, the more centrists they created. In addition, a war always tends to polarize people and create divisions where compromise once existed. Independents and Reagan Democrats who supported the GOP over economic and libertarian issues found the party too concerned with other issues to continue their support.

If this trend continues, we will face a generational minority on the Right. In four years, the new census will launch redistricting efforts in every state, and we have seen little evidence from either party that they intend to be reasonable about it in 2010. If the Republicans do not return to power in these states, the Congressional districts that result will provide an even higher bar for them to clear in order to return to a House majority. Clearly the Republicans have to switch gears, and fast, to reconnect to voters on all levels.

How do we do that? How do we convince independents and moderates to return to the GOP? We have to focus on our core principles and allow for a wide range of opinion on all else. Republicans have to ask themselves the reason why they want the majority -- and simply keeping the Democrats out of it will not be enough. What will we do if we get the keys to the car again? What would constitute success? In my First Principles posts, I've tried to show how we can achieve a generational success: shrink the federal government, eliminate pork and earmarks, confirm judges that will stop legislating from the bench, protect private property, eliminate the levers of corruption in government, and secure the nation from infiltration and attack.

If we remain focused on those issues, demanding loyalty only on our core beliefs and really sticking to that agenda, we can rebuild trust with voters in the middle -- the ones who abandoned the GOP in droves in the midterms. Otherwise we are heading for another generation in the wilderness.

Sphere It Digg! View blog reactions
Posted by Ed Morrissey at November 24, 2006 9:14 AM

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