Wednesday, June 26, 2013

The Future of the GOP ...

It should be a good day for conservatives (well, except for DOMA--but that's a separate post):
  1. The Supreme Court struck down key elements of the Voting Rights Act making it possible for certain states to modify their voting rules (those on the 'naughty list' which largely--but not entirely--includes southern states who had Jim Crow style laws) without having to pass a Department of Justice test (read good analysis here).
  2. Democrat Paula Deen is under assault for alleged racist behavior. She campaigned for Obama.
As good as this sounds, though, I think there is an alignment happening here that the GOP will need to make some decisions on--and soon.

The GOP Is Becoming A Regional Party Socially
What do I mean by this? I mean that these events--despite Paula Deen's Democrat voter ID card--are going to have the effect of reinforcing the GOP's socially-conservative southern branding.

Consider this (on how the Voting Rights Act has had impact recently):
[S]ince 2006 the U.S. Justice Department has blocked 31 attempts to change voting laws, most of them in the nine, mostly Southern states fully covered by the relevant section of the law. (They are: Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi, South Carolina, Texas, and Virginia.) Most, if not all, of those proposed changes would have aided Republican electoral fortunes by making it harder for minorities to vote (because most vote Democratic). But the Justice Department stepped in.
And for Deen? She certainly is a Democrat--but her defenders? They're largely southern:
The strong reaction to Ms. Deen’s pickle reflects a simple truth: race remains one of the most difficult conversations to have in America. And here, where antiseptic nostalgia for the antebellum South is not uncommon, the conversation is even more complex.
A Salon writer picks up on the complexity--but isn't surprised by the outcome:
I’m actually baffled by how much play this story is getting in the news, where everyone seems shocked that an older white woman from the Deep South is racist and harbors a nostalgia for the antebellum era. Or perhaps my lack of surprise reveals my own biases. Though I know better, I have certain ideas about the South. Is this where I say, “I have Southern friends”?
While Deen is a Democrat it's not like Republicans haven't had some of their own racial incidents recently (Arizona Republican Senator's son uses handle N1ggerkiller on an iPhone game). What's important, though, is the endgame on all this. The article above ends by making this case:
The Supreme Court’s decision to strike down a central provision of the Voting Rights Act will make it easier for Republicans to hold and expand their power in those mainly Southern states. That will, in turn, make it easier for them to hold the House. It will also intensify the Southern captivity of the GOP, thereby making it harder for Republicans to broaden their appeal and win back the White House.
This comes as Boehner declares he won't bring the Senate Immigration bill up for a vote and Republicans across the south mobilize to set up Voter ID laws. The time has come for Republicans to really make a decision about where they stand with regards to minorities and their vote.

What Can They Do?
The first path is to embrace the majority vote. That will hold until 2050 but it'll become impossible to win national office long before then. On the other hand, Fox News said just last night that "Moderate Republicans are killing the party." The link is to video--but down below is a transcript button. Kicking all the moderates out is certainly on some people's agenda.

The next apparent move would be to do what the Democrats did in the late 1940's: make a massive move towards Civil Rights. It would be hard to out-compete the Democrats on this (what's more amnesty-than-amnesty? Dissolve the southern Texas boarder?) but perhaps something could be found. I think that's unlikely though.

The third answer, however, is more appealing: become Libertarian. Give up on social issues altogether. You will absolutely lose election cycles--but Rand Paul is leading in one recent poll.Going full Libertarian would have some serious issues because it's a philosophy that has a deal-breaker in it somewhere for almost everyone though and while Rand Paul doesn't have his father's racial issues he certainly does have some baggage to carry there.

What if there were a fourth way? A ... middle way.

The Centrist Party?
Yeah ... I've Never Heard Of Them Either
The Centrist Party came up for me randomly (an ad on The Omnivore) and I wanted to check them out.  What do they say? Well, it's kinda vague--but.

  1. Economy: Transparency is of maximal importance. No earmarks. Focus on necessary national infrastructure rather than state pet-projects.
  2. Education: Get technology involved more. Raise scores, decrease costs.
  3. Energy: They are concerned about environmental issues (desertification, deforestation), clean burning fuel, global warming, and peak oil. I would guess that means a focus on clean nuclear power--but maybe I'm just optimistic?
  4. Environment: They want to stop or minimize global warming.
  5. Health: They focus on prevention--especially around obesity reduction. They suggest research to find out why we're so fat. They want to more greatly empower the FDA to work on this and other preventative measures (better food, sleep, etc.)
  6. Political Reform: Unclear. They want to start by 'cleaning house' and then be pragmatic or something. Their use of a "run on sentence" "designed to give you the feeling that it, runs on and on... sort of like the political rhetoric we have been subjected to by those who are more expert at word crafting and re-characterization, than they are at management and administration that has, as its heart, honor and reason." that explains their position does not encourage me.
  7. Security: They want to both address terrorism (somehow--but more cheaply than we do now) and build bridges that lessen the tensions with other (terrorist) peoples. Good luck.
Would something like this work? My conclusion is--for this--sadly, no. While I think they could get somewhere with the Economic platform and their Education pablum is fine as far as it goes, too much of what they have there is flimsy or outright ridiculous (Political Reform) for me to take them seriously. Is there anything else that's on the table?

The Independent Party?
If You Prize VERY Simple HTML, They Are The Party For You. I Suspect It Was Hand-Coded!
I thought, you know, maybe--maybe they are trying to appeal to independent moderates. Turns out, not so much. In their platform:

Freedom from "Liberalism"Freed from the lawless oppression of Liberal rule, we may then compassionately and justly use our energy and ingenuity to provide for ourselves and our families. We will then establish truly free and responsible enterprise and reassert the basic human right to property.
So, yes: they could get the base--but that would be all they get.

The New Moderate Party?
Pros: Lots Of Quality Of Thought. Cons: Not Really A Party
It's more of a blog than a party--but it has a platform that's ... well, pretty moderate. Understanding Terrorists? Okay--sure. But we still treat them as non-soldier combatants. Lower some of the aid to Israel--it's been 50 years. They can walk on their own now. Abortion? By the 2nd Trimester you need to have a reason. Global Warming? We need to do something--but let's not be hysterical.

Universal Medical Care? Uhm ... government-fund the payment of private sector premiums (I think). Would this even work? I can't find anything on guns or blanket military spending--but on Illegal Immigration? Enforce the law. The GOP can get behind that. Guns? It's not on the platform list--but he supports an assault weapon ban (which he says should only be used in wars--so he's missing the real meaning) and more background checks. It's, you know, mostly moderate.

Could this work? It's (sad to say) the closest I've seen to a 3rd Party that isn't the Libertarians.

I don't see a viable center-right party today so I think there's a space for it. Something a very little like the New Moderate (but further right) could have some appeal if the present course starts looking like a dead-ender. I think there will have to be some serious thought about what the 2016 elections will look like after all of this shakes out--because you can win a bunch of House elections without minorities and you can win some Senate seats without minorities--but you probably won't win the presidency. 

If the GOP becomes a purely congressional party their days are numbered no matter what.

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