Tuesday, May 19, 2009


This, from Gallup, is nice, but I wish it were having more practical effect:

The decline in Republican Party affiliation among Americans in recent years is well documented, but a Gallup analysis now shows that this movement away from the GOP has occurred among nearly every major demographic subgroup. Since the first year of George W. Bush's presidency in 2001, the Republican Party has maintained its support only among frequent churchgoers, with conservatives and senior citizens showing minimal decline....

Shouldn't this be affecting our day-to-day political life a bit more than it is? Isn't it odd that the only current or former member of the political class who seems to be in any trouble over torture is Nancy Pelosi? Shouldn't the Democratic agenda be sailing through Congress largely uncompromised, not constantly being watered down by a coalition of Republicans and craven Blue Dogs fearful of incurring the anger of GOP talk-show hosts and 527 groups?

You could argue that there's just a lag between reality and the Beltway's perception of that reality, but, as Gallup notes, the GOP losses started in 2005 and the party's status reached its current dire state at the end of 2008. And there've been, y'know, a couple of election cycles in there, with unambiguous results. The pundits and politicians have had ample opportunity to adjust to the new reality.

But I think the GOP is following the National Rifle Association model -- and sometimes, as in the case of Pelosi, it works. The NRA approach is simple: you don't have to be a majority, you just have to get a small, enraged, uncompromising gang together and then bray and bellow and threaten your enemies. Every chance you get, you issue what I believe dog trainers call a "dominance challenge."

And it works. Gun ownership has been declining in this country in recent years (well, maybe until very recently) -- but opposition to gun control is on the increase:

Notice, however, that there's still plurality support for stricter gun laws (and hardly any support for making gun laws less strict, which is what's been happening all over the country in recent years). But it doesn't matter. Gun control laws aren't being seriously considered. Center and left politicians fear the bark and the bite of NRA dominance-challengers.

Is that the GOP's model right now, consciously or unconsciously? And given centrists' politicians timidity and the press's persistent belief that "real" Americans still think like Rush Limbaugh, are we sure it's a blueprint for long-term irrelevance?

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