Saturday, January 25, 2014


The Atlantic's Molly Ball says Republicans don't think they have to do any rebranding -- and, unfortunately, I agree with them:
Without changing a thing, Republicans are very well positioned for the midterm elections this year and even for the 2016 presidential election. As the University of Virginia political analyst Larry Sabato recently noted, Republicans are almost guaranteed to keep the House of Representatives in November; they have about a 50-50 chance of taking the majority in the U.S. Senate; and they are likely to keep their majority of the nation's governor's mansions. The erosion of public trust in Obama and Democrats spurred by the botched introduction of the healthcare exchanges continues to reverberate in public polling of contests up and down the ballot, erasing the public-opinion edge Democrats gained from the government shutdown and tilting more and more contests in the GOP's favor, according to Sabato, who on Thursday revised his ratings of three Senate contests, tilting all of them more toward Republicans.
Notice that this is not because the Republican Party is popular -- congressional Republicans, in particular, are staggeringly unpopular. Notice that it's not because Republicans are proposing ideas that reverberate with the public, nor is it because the existing Republican agenda is in sync with what the American public thinks. Americans support a higher minimum wage and extended unemployment benefits and higher taxes on the wealthy and universal firearm background checks and, these days, same-sex marriage. Republicans support none of these things. And yet they're in great shape.

What's working for Republicans is precisely what always works for Republicans: having a noise machine that flings one charge after another at Democrats, waits for Democratic errors so they can be exploited (no thought is ever given to actually fixing any such problems), and creating or exacerbating other problems so they can be blamed on Democrats. The Republican "agenda" is to make swing voters distrust Democrats (for economic hardship that Republicans don't want alleviated, for Obamacare flaws that Republicans don't want corrected) and to make the base despise Democrats (for Benghazi, for IRS scrutiny of the tea party, for a mythical vendetta against the likes of Chris Christie and Dinesh D'Souza, for a thousand more things betwen now and the next election).

So next time you hear that Republicans "can't just be 'the party of no,'" the correct response is: apparently they can.

Ahh, but what about the presidential election in 2016? Ball says they're looking pretty good there, too:
The political scientist John Sides recently ran a back-of-the-envelope calculation using a model that, taking into account just three factors -- economic growth, the president's approval rating, and whether there’s an incumbent on the ballot -- previously predicted the result of the 2012 election within a percentage point.... If the first two factors look in 2016 the way they look now, and with no incumbent a given, Republicans will have a 64 percent chance of victory, according to the model.
By blocking or watering down any measure that would strengthen the middle class and help the poor, Republicans can limit economic growth (note, for instance, how their refusal to renew extended unemployment benefits reduced GDP). So that's factor #1. Factor #2 is the president's approval rating, and the GOP is determined to demonize him by any means necessary.

On the other hand, BooMan says the deck is stacked against Republicans in presidential elections, so Republicans do have to keep thinking about rebranding:
The bigger reason for rebranding is to do something about the structural advantage the Democrats have in the Electoral College.
Yeah, maybe. My sense is that Democrats have the inside track for 2016, at least if Hillary Clinton is their nominee.

But does that even matter? BooMan goes on to say this:
When a party holds the White House for twelve or more consecutive years, it changes the country. We saw that when the Dems had a twenty-year reign from 1933-1953, and we saw it when the Republicans held the White House from 1981-1993. There is a ripple effect that is felt decades down the line.
But I think that's true only if the party in the White House for twelve or more years is actually allowed to govern. Democrats certainly were for most of the FDR-Truman era, as were Republicans under Reagan and Poppy Bush.

But Barack Obama has been mostly stymied, apart from his health care law (which Republicans have tried to hobble dozens of different ways). If Hillary Clinton wins in 2016, it won't be because America wants more of the same -- it'll be because we still want what we voted for in 2008 and 2012, but never got.

And we still won't get it after 2016, because Republicans will stymie Hillary, too.

And then they'll probably score big gains in the 2018 midterms, running against "the failed Hillary Clinton presidency."


aimai said...

I think the Republican party as currently constituted can comfortably keep running to the far right at the local level--the House and the Senate but that they can't do it at the national level for the next three to four election cycles. But the thing that you are missing is that although dysfunctional and divided government will then be the new norm for new, young, voters--that is, those voters coming up under Obama and Hillary I and II will basically expect dysfunctional government--no one is manufacturing new Republican voters.

The social and emotional thrust of Republican vote getting is becoming old, tired, stale and it appeals to a dying demographic. They are like a body being kept on life support by clever machinery--thats what the gerrymandering of congressional districts and voter suppression has given them. A slight lease on life. And its true that their core voters will never switch, never retreat, never change. But so what? The corpse is still dead but on life support and when the machines stop pumping (redistricting, new young voters) then the corpse will die.

There's a great scene in Georgette Heyer's novel about William the Conqueror. He is planning to save Normandy by invading England and taking it over and making it his seat of power and kingdom. A freak of nature is brought to his court for entertainment--two women: conjoined twins, one is dead and hangs, lifeless, against her sister's body. His jester points out to him that this is the fate of two people, yoked together against nature. One will die and drag down the other, sucking the lifeblood out of the healthy one.

That's the stage we are at with the Republican party. They are a dead corpse hanging on us, the living, preventing the flourishing of a vibrant new America. But they can't do it forever. They just aren't capable of manufacturing new voters, try as they will. They can continue to sap our strenght and interfere with the proper working of the government, but not for long. I give them four more electoral cycles, max.

Chris Andersen said...

Anyone who thinks they can predict the election using a formula with only three factors because it worked once is trying to sell you something.

Don't buy it.

Victor said...


If I survive, I'll tell you how my vodka and bleach tastes tomorrow!

Frank Wilhoit said...

" one is manufacturing new Republican voters...."

Quite true -- even the Republican propaganda machine cannot do this -- but the flip side of that extremely shrewd observation is the fact that there are no swing voters: there are only people, on either side, who can be bludgeoned into apathy and into non-participation. We do not see any third cohort of voters sloshing back and forth from one pan of the scale to the other; all we see is people sitting home. No one (statistically) has switched parties since 1980.

The center is uninhabited. Advantage: whomever is less confused on that point.

Frank Wilhoit said...

"...bludgeoned..." or disappointed, perhaps better said.

Ten Bears said...

I think that's right, Frank. Though of No Party Affiliation - we can do that in Oregon, indeed 53% do) I started voting Socialist (Green, Working Families, whatever) in 1980 and haven't stopped. I only vote for a Democrat if it's the only choice I have to vote a Retard out of office. I'd vote Anarchist but they never seem to have a candidate.

Steve and I have bounced this back and forth for a while now, a. It's long been my contention we are witness to the painfully slow end of the Republic Party. It's just taking a long time, and quite possibly more time, to quit running around like a chicken with its head cut off. Steve disagrees, but I'm not sure he knows how many old buckaroos lost the ranch betting to an inside track.

No fear.

sdhays said...

The House Republican caucus seems to want to have another fight over the debt ceiling before the 2014 elections, so it seems that they are not satisfied to allow October fade into the memory mists, and the Democrats seem to be actually trying to come up with a popular platform to run on for 2014 (rather than their usual cowering), so while I certainly wouldn't bet on the Democrats taking over the House 2014, I do think that there's a potential recipe for the Democrats to perform above expectations. Depending on how it goes, that in itself could have big repercussions for 2016 if Tea Party governors who want to be President don't get reelected.

Booman also thinks that Hillary might be able to have such a landslide that it would put the Democrats back in charge of Congress. The filibuster is already dead; it already can't be used to starve the Administration and courts, and the filibuster on legislation and Supreme Court nominations will last until it is actually used on something important that the majority actually wants (e.g. if we had a Democratic House and Senate and the only thing preventing immigration reform was a Republican filibuster, the filibuster would end or it would be reformed in a way that allowed an eventual majority vote).

IF the Democrats are able to control both houses of Congress in 2017 (or, if we're dreaming, 2015), the Republicans won't be able to prevent them from governing, at least not like they have been able to in the Obama era. Then it will be on the Democrats not to screw it up like they did in 2009 when they didn't just take the hit for a ridiculously huge stimulus that would have completely jump started the economy.

Davis X. Machina said...

....when they didn't just take the hit for a ridiculously huge stimulus that would have completely jump started the economy.

Anything big enough to do any good was too big to pass. Anything over 800 billion, anything less than 45% or so tax cuts, wasn't getting out of Congress.

sdhays said...

Davis X. Machina - I believe you're right about that, but that's kind of my point. Who decided that $787 billion was small enough to pass but $1.3 trillion was too big? Somehow Congress was able to cut $1.3 trillion in taxes in 2001 and dump it on the deficit; that wasn't "too big to pass", it was push through under reconciliation, if memory serves. A Democratic majority having the will to ignore the Village (and Republicans) to get the policy right would have been rewarded in the midterms. After all, no one really cares about the debt/deficit; if the economy had been quickly recovering in November 2010, the Democrats may have held on to the House no matter how much screeching the Tea Party was making.

I'm just saying that when Democrats retake the majority, they need to be prepared to be aggressive and focused on tangibly improving the lives of average Americans by the time the next election comes around. Congress passed some good legislation in 2009-2010, including the PPACA, Dodd-Frank, Fair Pay, etc. But those either work to prevent bad stuff from happening again or took years to fully implement, leaving way too much time for confusion. Too small a stimulus is the same; because it was too small, it even discredited the idea of stimulus altogether even as it was working.