Arlen Specter Isn't the Only One Abandoning the GOP

New Washington Post poll shows a party in decline:

when you are looking for clues as to where the two parties stand politically there is only one number to remember: 21.

That's the percent of people in the Post/ABC survey who identified themselves as Republicans, down from 25 percent in a late March poll and at the lowest ebb in this poll since the fall of 1983(!).

In that same poll, 35 percent self-identified as Democrats and 38 percent called them Independents....

....they show a somewhat significant decline from even last November's election when exit polls showed 32 percent of voters identifying as Republican as compared to 39 percent for Democrats and 29 percent for independents and others.

But remember: there is a great deal of ruin in a party, and post-1964 was a pretty similarly grim period for the GOP's public support. They just need to hope Obama keeps following the LBJ legacy and then in 2012--who can be their Nixon? Take your pick! 

Back in Reason magazine's March issue, I wrote a review essay on conservatism's past and future vis a vis the Republican Party's so-called successes, which notes a few times in our political lifetimes the Party could have fairly been declared dead or dying--yet it didn't turn out that way.

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  • Cool Cal||

    I suppose it would be flagrantly naive of me to hope for Gary Johnson.

  • Art-P.O.G.||

    Then the 38% who identify as Independents suddenly self-identify as Libertarians and become a force for political change in the country. ;)

  • ||

    Meh. I saw first hand the wave of "libertarians" that defected from the GOP in '92. You can call yourself a duck, but that doesn't give you feathers, webbed feet and reduce your weight to that of a typical witch. LINOs can suck it.

  • Alan Vanneman||

    By itself, the 21% doesn't mean much. The GOP reached bottom--19%--a year before Reagan's 49-state victory in 1984. But in 1983 the party held the White House and the Senate. Plus they had some ideas and some momentum. Right now the Republicans aren't in favor of anything but torture.

  • Max D.||

    What's the point of the Republicans' being in power again (if they can pull it off) if they're just going to act like Democrats? The one thing we can count on is that they will fuck it up in short order. Unfortunately, the Republicans' problem has never been that they overreached.

  • ||

    These numbers are mostly meaningless. It's all about branding, and a lot of people are into the Obama (Democrat) brand right now, or don't want to be associated with the opposite brand. How they end up voting in the privacy of the booth can be very different.

  • ||

    What's the point of the Republicans' being in power again (if they can pull it off) if they're just going to act like Democrats?

    That, in one sentence, is the Republican brand's problem.

    The Dems are riding a tiger right now, and have basically bet the farm on some kind of recovery next year. Not a terrible bet, given how business cycles work. If the economy isn't showing some real improvement, and the catastrophe they have built into our fiscal policy hasn't shown up yet, they'll probably do pretty well. But they're shooting for a pretty narrow window, there.

    Absent, of course, a foreign policy disaster. Pakistan is looking about pretty lost right now, so I wouldn't rule that out. I would give better than even odds that AQ will have Pakistan, and therefore nukes, in four years.

  • Guess My Bra Size||

    "Absent, of course, a foreign policy disaster. Pakistan is looking about pretty lost right now, so I wouldn't rule that out. I would give better than even odds that AQ will have Pakistan, and therefore nukes, in four years."

    No, 6 months.

  • ||

    R C Dean,

    So the Republicans' problem is that they're not conservative enough, right?

  • Wicks Cherrycoke||

    "What's the point of the Republicans' being in power again (if they can pull it off) if they're just going to act like Democrats?"

    The point is this: over the past 25-30 years, our government seems to have functioned best (comparatively speaking) when it has been divided -- one party holding Congress and the other holding the White House. It's not that you want the GOP in power; you want them to be a sufficient counterweight to keep the Obama folks from running wild.

  • ||

    Arlen Specter Isn't the Only One Abandoning the GOP

    A show of hands please. How many here have abandoned or given up on the GOP?
    I've never voted for a Dem for POTUS but seriously considered it for a while in 2008. The last time a Republican got my POTUS vote was 2000. My ass is still sore over that one. The GOP can keep courting the religious right and watch the votes trickle away.

  • VM||

    I think I speak for myself... and others...

    Arlen: close - not only quit the party, how about quitting politics. I can think of 434 of your friends who also should consider that...

    Jsub - never - the alliance with the "moral majority" and the religious right kept this moose away.

  • Mike Farmer||

    It seems to me the Republican Party is at a crossroads where in order to survive, it might have to make tough decisions which could hurt short term -- like standing up to the religious right and moving away from social conservatism as it realtes to legislation, and concentrating on what a government should be responsible for -- law and order, protection of individual rights, rational courts and strong national defense -- and the overall efforts to limit government power. At least then, even if hurts the Republicans short term, there will be a clear choice at election time.

  • Pon Zoidbug||

    "Come one, come all," he said.
    "This sounds too good to be true," I said.
    He said I looked like a rich young man.
    "So, is it a deal?" I enquired.

    Two years later, he was gone -- with 60 trillion of my dollars.

    But I had the big-tent minarchy!

  • ||

    I haven't vote GOP in the Presidentials since '88, and, frankly, I blame that on watching Red Dawn too many times at a tender age.

  • Brandon||

    As recently as November 2002, when the GOP defied history by picking up midterm seats, prominent people were theorizing about the death of the Democratic party. Political winds can shift with shocking abruptness.

    But for those interested in freedom and limited government it should matter little which party happens to hold power.

  • ||

    Voting is for chumps.

  • ||

    38% identify as Independents... but there is no Independents party. So who do they vote for? It ain't gonna be the LP as long as the LP keeps fronting hardcore anarcho/minarchists. It's just not a viable scenario, as those 38% are not libertarians. They may be fiscally conservative and socially liberal, but they do NOT want a decimated and minimalistic government. They do not want legalized crack cocaine, private ownership of military weapons, the closing of all public schools and libraries, complete privatization of residential roads, etc. No LP candidate is going to get more than 0.5% of the vote if that is their goal.

    So the independent vote is going to go to either the Democrats and Republicans. Like it or not, that is the reality we live in. If we want any sort of positive change in this world then we need to start supported socially liberal conservatives in the Republican Party, and fiscally conservative liberals in the Democratic Party. We need to identify those candidates and get behind them. Since the independents are going to naturally gravitate away from the incumbent, I recommend a Republican strategy. Join the Republican Liberty Caucus. http://www.rlc.org.

  • robc||

    How many here have abandoned or given up on the GOP?
    I've never voted for a Dem for POTUS but seriously considered it for a while in 2008. The last time a Republican got my POTUS vote was 2000.


    I gave up on what little support I gave them in 1995 - the failure of backbone during the government shutdown.

    Ive never voted for a Dem for POTUS. I voted GOP in 1988 and regret that one. I registered GOP for the first time in my life in fall of 2007 so I could vote for Ron Paul in the primary. I owed him for 1988. If Gary Johnson is the nominee, I will vote for him in 2012.

  • ||

    WOLVERINES!

  • ||

    How many here have abandoned or given up on the GOP?

    How many here have never given the GOP the time of day in the first place? (Beyond voting for Ron Paul, which doesn't count, does it?)

  • ||

    I am having trouble seeing where the Republican party goes from here. They're never going to win nationally again by appealing only to half of the white people in this country. It's quickly shedding anyone who doesn't represent some gerrymandered ultraconservative district, so those guys don't have an incentive to moderate themselves, assuming they don't actually think they're on a direct mission from God to save the babies and what not.

  • MNG||

    But, but, anti-Obama feelings are sweeping the nation, he's clearly overreached in everyone's mind, I mean, look at the tea-parties!

  • robc||

    They may be fiscally conservative and socially liberal, but they do NOT want a decimated and minimalistic government. They do not want legalized crack cocaine, private ownership of military weapons, the closing of all public schools and libraries, complete privatization of residential roads, etc. No LP candidate is going to get more than 0.5% of the vote if that is their goal.


    This is where lack of logic causes problems. No president has the power to get that done in even 4 or 8 years (especially since under the 10thA, many of it falls to the states) so having that is a goal shouldnt present an issue with voting for the person.

  • robc||

    socially liberal conservatives in the Republican Party

    Im repeating myself but I hate that concept.

    I am neither fiscally conservative nor socially liberal.

    I am fiscally libertarian and socially libertarian.

    And there is a difference.

  • MNG||

    Joe (Bless His Holy Name) used to talk about Mondalization, from where many hard core Democrats in 1984 were just sure that Mondale was going to win because Reagan was so plainly evil and only a fool or an evil person woould vote for him...

    An inability to fairly see where the other side is coming from means stunning defeat in the long run...Movement conservatism is finding this out now.

  • Brandon||

    If we want any sort of positive change in this world then we need to start supported socially liberal conservatives in the Republican Party, and fiscally conservative liberals in the Democratic Party.

    If you are one person and you seek to improve a political party's candidates from within, where will your efforts have their greatest impact? In a party the size of the GOP, or a party the size of the LP?

    Turning the LP into a viable vehicle for libertarianism is very difficult. Libertarianizing the two major parties is impossible.

  • VM||

    marc - RP is socially conservative enough, that he'd qualify for GOP.

    or Constitution party.

    (with social issues, particularly where nobody is coerced, harmed, etc, libertarians should be as far from the religious right as possible. )

  • ||

    So the Republicans' problem is that they're not conservative enough, right?

    No, its that they're not libertarian enough.

    Seriously, softpedal the social con stuff (or, which is actually easier than you think, morph it from "the State should protect my beliefs" to "the State has no business undermining my beliefs"), run on incrementally smaller government and devolution to the states. Current polling, even at the dawning of the Age of Obama, shows Americans favor smaller government and the private sector.

  • JP||

    Their problem is that they spent eight years taking whatever credibility they had for fiscal responsibility and smearing it with Santorum.

  • ||

    It ain't gonna be the LP as long as the LP keeps fronting hardcore anarcho/minarchists.
    Wait just a cotton picking minute there.
    I'm a minarchist. And one of the saner commenters at H&R.

  • ||

    How many here have abandoned or given up on the GOP?

    I gave up on them when Reagan reneged on ending draft registration.

    -jcr

  • Anonymous||

    "hardcore anarcho/minarchists"? What the fuck do you think libertarianism is, comrade?

  • ||

    I saw first hand the wave of "libertarians" that defected from the GOP in '92.

    You're off by a couple of decades there. The LP started around the time that the Goldwater/Taft Republicans were fleeing the party in disgust as the Rockefeller/Nixon types took over.

    -jcr

  • ||

    "And one of the saner commenters at H&R."


    You have to admit J sub D, that it is a pretty low bar.

  • ||

    The last time a Republican got my POTUS vote was 2000. My ass is still sore over that one.

    Do you think it would have been any less so if Gore had won? He was pretty gung-ho about toppling Saddam himself.

    -jcr

  • Alberta Libertarian||

    Why not allow for a party that would encompass those who would like to see a limiting of the government roles along with a strong free market agenda.

    Ever hear of ACT?

    http://www.act.org.nz/plan

  • duster||

    Do you think it would have been any less so if Gore had won? He was pretty gung-ho about toppling Saddam himself.

    I do, since dems have an opposition party.

  • Alberta Libertarian||

    Has anyone noticed that while the Democrats have largely increased the size of their party by reaching out to social conservatives, moderates, and independents, the GOP is doing everything in it's power to ensure the party is "ideologically pure."

    I love the people who say the GOP has to be more "conservative." What the hell does that mean, I can only assume it includes the following:

    1. Increase the size of the military industrial complex, build more permanent military bases overseas.
    2. Bring about a more restrictive Patriot Act.
    3. Ban gay marriage and flag burning through a Constitutional amendment.
    4. Start a war with Iran or Syria.
    5. Cut taxes without cutting budgets. The end result of course being a higher budget deficit.

    It would be nice if alot of these GOP pundits could think outside of the following boundaries:
    Good = torture, tax cuts, war, jingoism, fundamentalist Christianity, creationism.
    Bad = civil liberties, non-intervention, science, university, the media.

  • alan||

    Art-P.O.G. | April 29, 2009, 3:51pm | #
    Then the 38% who identify as Independents suddenly self-identify as Libertarians and become a force for political change in the country. ;)


    I'm actually wondering, if you were to poll the 39% along libertarian and socialist lines and it came up an even split or better, the Libertarians would really be competitive with the Republicans. There may be legitimate talk of those 'damn Republican spoilers' in 2012!

  • alan||

    J sub D | April 29, 2009, 5:12pm | #
    It ain't gonna be the LP as long as the LP keeps fronting hardcore anarcho/minarchists.
    Wait just a cotton picking minute there.
    I'm a minarchist. And one of the saner commenters at H&R.


    I hate to tell you but sanity is an obsoleted frame of mind in these times.

  • Alberta Libertarian||

    What if you created a party whose sole aim was to win Congressional elections. Let's call it the Liberal Party [meaning classical/market liberal] to run in the country with an agenda focused on many of the same principles many American's hold to. If you were to win a couple dozen seats that would be enough to possibly hold the balance of power and give more leverage to the ideas of the free market.

    That way you won't be as corrupted from running in Presidential races and both parties would be forced to appease libertarians.

  • ||

    What the hell does that mean, I can only assume it includes the following:

    So, conservative = everything I oppose.

    You don't suppose that conservative could also encompass such things as

    (1) Rolling back the confiscation and redistribution of wealth.

    (2) Rolling back interference by the government in economic life.

    (3) Eliminating government propagandizing for certain ideological mindsets ("green" this and that, "multicultural" hooey, etc.)


    You know, stuff that represents a return to the role of government from decades ago. "Conservative" stuff. Libertarianism is a profoundly conservative doctrine, in many ways, Alberta "Libertarian".

  • Alberta Libertarian||

    "You know, stuff that represents a return to the role of government from decades ago. "Conservative" stuff. Libertarianism is a profoundly conservative doctrine, in many ways, Alberta "Libertarian"."

    You mean back when we were embroiled in Vietnam, the government was in a war against poverty, and race riots were a common occurence.

    That is unless you have definitive proof that in the past 8 years the GOP and most conservative pundits have been critical of Bush and skeptical of foreign interventionism. That along with strong opposition to rewriting the Constitution.

    It's no surprise that Timothy Lahaye, the author of the "Left Behind" series has more clout amongst conservatives than Jeff Flake.

  • Anonymous||

    You mean back when we were embroiled in Vietnam, the government was in a war against poverty, and race riots were a common occurence.

    More like back when we were embroiled in the Revolution, the government was was in a war against its poulace, and taxing the colonies to support the rest of the empire was a common occurence.

    But that can't possibly be true, because conservatives don't desire small government; they desire black slaves and to use corporations to convince you to transfer your property to them by way of "capitalism," right?

  • ||

    they show a somewhat significant decline from even last November's election when exit polls showed 32 percent of voters identifying as Republican as compared to 39 percent for Democrats and 29 percent for independents and others.



    Although one notes that the same poll also shows a "somewhat significant" decline in the number of Democrats, too.

    The Republicans were more socially conservative in the 1980s than now; just so were the Democrats, and the country, so Republicans didn't seem so conservative and nor did it seem to make a difference voting for most Democrats anyway.

    And in any case, the fact that so many people here who complain about the Religious Right still like Ron Paul, who's definitely Religious Right, proves that many libertarians will compromise on social issues some if there's compromise in other areas, including federalism. Of course, it's much easier to agree when it comes to just opposing the Democrats' version of activist government.

    The Republicans' problem for libertarians more is that without any hint of smaller government, they're just the more socially conservative form of Democrats. Not that it makes sense for Libertarians to insult Republicans for Specter switch parties because of being suddenly unable to win a primary thanks to the stimulus vote, or of complaining that the only Republicans left in the House are libertarian crazies like Jeff Flake and Jim DeMint, as some commenters are apparently doing.

  • ||

    Arlen Specter in many ways is a big-government conservative; aside from being pro-choice, he's against personal freedom on various social issues as well. In many ways, such as his vote on the stimulus and TARP, he's exactly the sort of guy that libertarians said that the GOP had too much of. Now that he's gone, of course it's a sign of weakness.

    That is probably true, though. There is no libertarian majority in this country. How many of those 39% of independents are really both fiscally and socially anti-libertarian? How many people who claim to be libertarian have a list of "exceptions" that hit every hot button case of the idea and can't imagine actually repealing regulations that are already there? "Moderates" are not libertarians; they're often the reverse.

    Libertarians thinking that this helps them are dreaming. There's a reason why Democrats and Democratic voters hate the more libertarianish Justice Thomas much more than Roberts or Alito. Corporatist Hank Paulson was much better received in DC than Secretary of the Interior Gale Norton (former Libertarian Party member) or interim Secretary of the Interior / Undersecretary of the Interior Lynn Scarlett (former Reason Foundation president).

  • ||

    Wait just a cotton picking minute there.
    I'm a minarchist. And one of the saner commenters at H&R.



    Yeah, so? I'm a radical minarchist too, and on my more pessimistic days even call myself an anarchist. But neither of us are going to get elected to congress on a strict minarchist libertarian platform.

    I walked precincts for a (big L) Libertarian who actually got elected to city council. But he didn't campaign on legalizing crack, selling off the roads, and closing down schools. It takes a while to wean the general public off of government, so instead of campaigning on no government, you start out small, with less intrusive government.

  • The Bearded Hobbit||

    What if you created a party whose sole aim was to win Congressional elections

    Back in ye olde days ('70s) the Libertarian Party was winning many grass-roots elections and was billed "The Third Largest Party". Aside from the D's and the R's, the L's held many elected positions in local and statewide elections. This contrasts with groups like the Reform Party, mostly a one-man show to get Perot elected. I haven't kept up with stats lately but I think that the Greens have taken over in the grassroots #3 spot.

    .. Hobbit

  • ||

    Torture is going to be a problem for the Republicans for a good while.

    I waffle between hijacking the Republicans and turning them more in a libertarian direction, and the more high-risk/high-gain scenario of letting them die and hoping that the small-government faction migrates to the Libertarian Party.

    Heck, some complained about Bob Barr, but I saw it as an opportunity for the LP to acquire certain inroads into the Republican political machine. If Dick Armey and Newt Gingrich jumped ship they would bring a vast network of political (and money) connections with them. So the LP gets more centrist and more like the GOP. However, it would be minus the religious right, and most of the other baggage associated with Republic Party.

    Worst case scenario would be a split, with the Rump Republican party retaining 20% or so of the vote. That would guarentee Democratic pluralities for many years.

  • ||

    Torture is going to be a problem for the Republicans for a good while.

    It's a pretty big problem for the other wing of the Ruling Party, too. The reason why Obama wants to give the Bush minions a pass on it is because of all the congressional Democrats who were complicit in the crime. Pelosi's squirming like an army private with a fistful of incriminating photographs behind her back.

    -jcr

  • MJ||

    Specter leaves the GOP citing that the PA GOP electorate no longer supports him for his yea vote on the stimulus, and the problem is the GOP's social conservatism?

    Specter is a liberal, who by a quirk of electoral fate found being in the GOP more conducive to winning a Senate election than being a Democrat. His prescence in the GOP was never more than a marriage of convenience. His departure is because PA GOP voters are finally tired of being held in contempt by their own candidate and were not going to nominate him again.

    As a practical matter, Specter's departure makes the GOP's numbers game to block the more egregious parts of the Dems agenda more difficult, if he could be relied upon to vote against it. However, if you believe the problem for the GOP and US politics in general is that the two major are too alike, then a Republican Specter was the ugly embodiment of this trope.

    At least this development means Specter is no longer the ranking member on Judiciary, the best he can hope for now is being Leahy's Ass Man.

  • Mr. Chartreuse||

    I think it is really going to be hard for the GOP to get out of the rut they are in, given the positions they have taken for the past few decades. For instance, they really staked themselves out as being the party of a strong national defense and any cuts to the defense budget were going to let the Enemy of the Month invade and pillage the land. According to the Wikipedia article on the US defense spending:



    For the 2009 fiscal year, the base budget rose to US$515.4 billion. Adding emergency discretionary spending and supplemental spending brings the sum to US$651.2 billion.[1] This does not include many military-related items that are outside of the Defense Department budget, such as nuclear weapons research, maintenance and production (about $9.3 billion, which is in the Department of Energy budget), Veterans Affairs (about $33.2 billion), interest on debt incurred in past wars, or the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan (which are largely funded through extra-budgetary supplements, about $170 billion in 2007). As of 2009, the United States government is spending about $1 trillion annually on defense-related purposes. [2]



    Or a more shorter version, we spend a shit load of money on defense. The GOP, aside from the Ron Paul wing, doesn't seem to have any interest in ending the biggest, baddest, meanest, motherfucker in the valley approach to foreign policy, so any reductions in the defense budget are not likely to happen. However, you really can't have a smaller government without first dealing with US foreign policy and the costs that we the taxpayers have to bear. And, even if the GOP somehow did want to dismantle the empire, the Dems would find it convenient to scream about all the jobs that would be lost from deep defense cuts (witness the hissy fit from Dems and GOPers alike when, heaven forbid, a foreign company landed the Air Force tanker contract:"They're going to tuk ur job!"). Or they'd take the approach that we need to be the world's police and the military costs are what we need to bear the burden as the world's most powerful nation (see the support for Kosovo and also the support for intervening in Darfur). This would then require the GOP to have a lot of political courage, since they have to give up one of their strongest issues, and that's something I doubt they have.



  • Anonymous||

    So the LP gets more centrist and more like the GOP. However, it would be minus the religious right, and most of the other baggage associated with Republic Party.

    A sizeable amount of the Religious Right I know lean to minarchy. While the opposite of that are busy lobbying for the government to ban foods and spend more. I don't see what's incongruous with that; the Left is so in love with itself, it's made its own diety in the shape of government.

  • ||

    we spend a shit load of money on defense. The GOP, aside from the Ron Paul wing, doesn't seem to have any interest in ending the biggest, baddest, meanest, motherfucker in the valley approach to foreign policy, so any reductions in the defense budget are not likely to happen.

    The tragic irony is that the USA could still be the biggest, baddest meanest motherfucker in the valley with about 1/4 of what we currently spend on the military. The disparity between what we spend and what the rest of the world spends is vast.

    -jcr

  • Mr. Chartreuse||

    The tragic irony is that the USA could still be the biggest, baddest meanest motherfucker in the valley with about 1/4 of what we currently spend on the military. The disparity between what we spend and what the rest of the world spends is vast.

    Sadly true. If we only spent $140 Billion we would be spending twice as much as China currently does, and I'm pretty sure China won't have the logistical capability to invade Hawaii anytime soon.

  • Mr. Chartreuse||

    forgot to close a tag, d'oh!

  • Sophie||

    Interesting. In today's climate, I'm not surprised that so many people identify with Democrats, with the whole Obama thing and all. And honestly, is anyone really surprised the GOP is losing numbers? It's in need of a major renovation - a renovation back to its roots. That's the uptick in independents right there. On that note, the number of independents is actually comforting - at least 38% of non-GOP voters aren't swept up in Obamamania (which is MORE than the self-identified Democrats). Two years from now when Obamba has run this country into the ground, those are our voters. Hello, 2010 midterm victory!

  • Sean Galt||

    "Turning the LP into a viable vehicle for libertarianism is very difficult."

    It's not as difficult as you think. We're doing quite well at it. Anyone in south Florida is welcome to join us.

    "Libertarianizing the two major parties is impossible."

    This is true, and it's a waste of time, money and effort.

  • mark||

    Why do I never hear about the Free State Project during these libertarian wish-fests?

  • ||

    OMG - you guys are crazy - back and forth - back and forth - get over it already. Learn from it, use it to better yourselves.

    Look, you want to have an impact, stop dickering around with the republican party and the democrat party. Start building the Libertarian party.

    For years we run candidtaes, now we compromise our principles to run more main stream candidates - what a waste. Doesnt anyone see what needs to be done here.

    We do NOT need to have republicans come to our party. What we need to do is build our base. It is what every successful political party does around the entire world. Why would it be different here?

    As Libertarians, assuming you want a real change, you should get off your tuff and go build build your organization. When its built you will have the people you need to run a successful campaign.

    Keep doing what you are doing and you will keep getting the same crappy results. Your choice - crappy results or success - choose wisely - it could be the determining factor to whether the US exists after 2012 or not.

  • Anonymous||

    Why do I never hear about the Free State Project during these libertarian wish-fests?

    Because the FSP was a ruse to get the mushy-minded anarchists safely and voluntarily into an insitution (namely, Vermont). FSW is the real cheese, and we don't need the hoi polloi all over it so that the state becomes LA-in-absentia when things get hairy.

  • ||

    """Or a more shorter version, we spend a shit load of money on defense."""

    Over a trillion dollars every two years.

  • Nike Dunk Low||

    thanks

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