Realignment and It Feels So Good

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If you need a cheap buzz right now, start trolling the liberal blogs. They're not just delirious about the size of their gains. There's a sense that Karl Rove, built up by reporters (and, let's face it, by John Kerry's campaign skills) as a history-shifting political genius, has been utterly crushed. Plenty of linking to this retrospectively hilarious Fred Barnes fluffer on the Man Who Knew Too Much About Joe Wilson, which ran shortly after 2004 (Via Oliver Willis).

Even by the cautious reckoning of Rove, President Bush's chief political adviser, Republicans now have both an operational majority in Washington (control of the White House, Senate, and the House of Representatives) and an ideological majority in the country (51 percent popular vote for a center-right president). They also control a majority of governorships, a plurality of state legislatures, and are at rough parity with Democrats in the number of state legislators. Rove says that under Bush a "rolling realignment" favoring Republicans continues, and he's right. So Republican hegemony in America is now expected to last for years, maybe decades.

It's kind of amazing Republicans ever believed this crap. The 2004 Bush victory wouldn't have happened without 1)residual 9/11 angst, 2)enhanced GOP turnout, and 3)Kerry. (It could have happened with a candidate Sharpton too, but I think my point is clear.) And the GOP wouldn't have gained seats in the House and Senate if not for Southern Senate retirements and Texas gerrymandering—Democrats basically broke even outside the South, actually gaining seats in Illinois and Colorado.

That's not preventing a rush of counter-spin from Republicans who claim this election is a temporary setback to the coming permanent majority. If the Republicans really think this—especially if they re-elect their current floor leaders—they're not going to staunch the party's bleeding in the West, Midwest and Northeast. Take a look at the Senate. In 2008, Republicans will be defending the low-hanging fruit they won in 2002 when the Iraq war buildup boosted the president's popularity everywhere—Minnesota, Oregon, Maine, Colorado. They have to hold New Hampshire, which is still shuddering from the Democratic landslide that nuked two congressman and both Houses of the state legislature on Tuesday. The churning conventional wisdom about this Democratic majority coming in on the backs of "conservative Democrats" is a false promise for Republicans. As I wrote that, Fox News' John Gibson tried to argue that the new Democrats were conservatives in disguise because some of them were "ex-military." Really, if that's the mentality, the Democrats are going to keep making the sale to libertarian-minded voters.

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  1. I think the Republicans benefited, for want of a better word, by the circumstances surrounding the War on Terror and the War in Iraq, but I also agree that Karl Rove ain’t no Lee Atwater.

    Permanent majority? …Come on!

  2. Rove says that under Bush a “rolling realignment” favoring Republicans continues, and he’s right. So Republican hegemony in America is now expected to last for years, maybe decades.

    Sounds like the stuff “smart” people said about Enron before 2001.

  3. Don’t get too excited folks, the gains the Democrats just won are historically average for an off year election in the President’s second term.

    Which is not to say I’m on board with the idea that Republican leadership lasting for years, maybe decades, is some sort of guarantee.

  4. The vote we saw on Tuesday was not about voting for the Democrats, it was about voting against the Republicans.

    The big question is will it hold until 2008? The problem is that Americans is nortious of having very short term memories. Things that happen last week seem like decades ago, I can’t image what 2 years will be like.

    Things change in 2 years and if people are happy with the way things are, they may just continue trend.

  5. Teh Reps are too focused on getting out the southern fundies to get to 50.01%. That sort of thing works until it doesn’t then you’re farked. Like mortgaging the house in 1999 to buy pets.com.

  6. happy democrats make my life easier. election day in 2004 was like september 11th’s first anniversary out here. yesterday everyone was in a grand mood despite the rain.

  7. The vote we saw on Tuesday was not about voting for the Democrats, it was about voting against the Republicans.

    I’m hearing a lot of this, and it strikes me as being pretty meaningless. Every vote for a Democrat is a vote against a Republican, and vice-versa. It’s like saying “the Redskins didn’t score a touchdown, the Cowboys just gave one up”…

  8. The vote we saw on Tuesday was not about voting for the Democrats, it was about voting against the Republicans.

    I too noticed that the Libertarian vote was bigger as a percentage of the vote than the margin between candidates in some of the most important races.

    Still, the people who voted for Democrats really did vote for Democrats.

  9. I will say that more people voted against Kang than they did for Kodos.

  10. But was the vote for the Deomcrats about I really like what the Democrats stand for or was it more about I’ll vote for the Democrats because the Republicans are a bunch of screw ups?

  11. Don’t get too excited folks, the gains the Democrats just won are historically average for an off year election in the President’s second term.

    Midterm Election Results for the House:

    1986 Democrats +5
    1990 Democrats +7
    1994 Republicans +54
    1998 Democrats +5
    2002 Republicans +8

    http://clerk.house.gov/histHigh/Congressional_History/partyDiv.html

    2006 Democrats +29 with 10 still undecided.

    If you go back further, you get a higher average, but, over the last twenty years, 1994 and 2006 are remarkable.

  12. So are the Free State Project people up against 50 new Democrats moving in from Massachusetts for every one libertarian they can persuade to move there? Ah for the days of old (pre-Kennedy) when New England was solid Yankee Republican.

  13. The vote we saw on Tuesday was not about voting for the Democrats, it was about voting against the Republicans.

    This has always seemed like an odd argument.

    If that is the case — then that should bode even worse for the GOP, shouldn’t it??

    The voters may not be sure what they are getting with the Dems since they didn’t offer any real plan or strategy, as many conservative pundits have been saying repeatedly. But they definitely know what they don’t want, and that modern day “conservatism”.

    If this really was a vote against Republicans, then it follows that America has pretty loudly rejected Republicans and Republicanism and whatever it stands for today. And that too me would be more disappointing than losing because they prefered what they other guy was offering, if I were a GOPer.

  14. “the Redskins didn’t score a touchdown, the Cowboys just gave one up”…

    I like football so try this one. The Bears scored 41 points on the Niners. Is it because the Bears offense is that good or is it because the Niners Defense is that bad?

  15. “If this really was a vote against Republicans, then it follows that America has pretty loudly rejected Republicans and Republicanism and whatever it stands for today. And that too me would be more disappointing than losing because they prefered what they other guy was offering, if I were a GOPer.”

    I agree.

  16. In the House, the Dems’ gains might not be as permanent, as they ‘stole’ several seats in overwhelmingly GOP districts, as well a larger number in districts that lean GOP. That might not be so true in the NE, which is rapidly becoming much more solidly Democratic.

    That said, my only prediction is that I can’t predict what will happen in an election two years from now.

  17. Troll over to FreeRepublic and behold! You’ll find some “conservatives” blaming the Libertarian Party for “stealing” votes and putting neo-communists in office.

    Same tripe DU posters still probably whine about over Ralph Nader…

  18. Conservative Democrat = populist (the anti-libertarian).

    These are the people that Reagan pulled from the democrats in the 80’s and Bush took in the early 2000’s. Both times it was about social issues.

    The democrats, republicans, and media all mistakenly call this body of swing voters “moderates”, but they are far from that. They consistently vote for heavy government intrusion into the fiscal and social lives of citzens. They vote for which ever party is scratching the particular itch they have in any given political season.

    This time the mostly voted against what they saw as moral/ethical deficiencies in the ruling party.

  19. Thanks, Ken Shu-u-u-u-ltz.

  20. In the House, the Dems’ gains might not be as permanent, as they ‘stole’ several seats in overwhelmingly GOP districts, as well a larger number in districts that lean GOP.

    Last night, I was talking with my girlfriend about when I was workin’ to elect Ronald Reagan back when I was just a kid. I told her how I’d voted for George W. Bush the first time around and how I’d come to reject him, and she mentioned that she wouldn’t have gone out with me if she’d thought I was a Republican now.

    She isn’t all that familiar with American politics of the 80s, and I had to tell her that not so long ago, being a Republican, to me, meant supporting free trade, low taxes and fiscal responsibility. Being a Republican to her meant defending the use of torture, spreading democracy at gunpoint, etc.

    It was Ronald Reagan who said something like, “I didn’t leave the Democratic Party–the Democratic Party left me.” I’ve studied the “Revolt of the Dixiecrats”–Did you know that, before Reagan, the south used to vote Democrat as a block? People change. Issues change. Leadership changes. Districts change.

    God. Freedom. Family. My Dog. The Washington Redskins. …all my other loyalties are based strictly on performance. I sure as hell couldn’t put a political party on that list.

  21. Speaking anecdotally — I wouldn’t take too much comfort from GOP voters voting Democratic out of frustration.

    It’s that first vote that’s the hardest. After that, you’re voting for a known quantity. They’ve already voted for them once…

    It’s like inertia — you’ve got the initial burden to overcome, but once it’s moving you need less force to keep it rolling along.

    Yesterday’s election created new Democratic voters. Quite a few of them. And they’ll probably remain Democratic voters until the next wave….or slowly leach away over a few decades, depending on how the Democrats do.

  22. Troll over to FreeRepublic and behold! You’ll find some “conservatives” blaming the Libertarian Party for “stealing” votes and putting neo-communists in office.

    I’m glad some of that sad bunch realizes it! …and they should keep it mind for next time. Next time, better court the Libertarian vote. …or else!

    Oh, one more thing… I think we should point this out to liberal Democrat bloggers as well.

    …They wouldn’t have the Senate without us.

  23. Ken Shultz,

    You mean, “before Kennedy,” not “before Reagan.”

    The realignment of the Dixiecrats began when Kennedy began pushing on civil rights, sped up when Johnson signed the Civil Rights Act, andlly got going when Nixon adopted the “Southern Strategy.” Reagan’s huge victories there just solidified a movement that had been building for almost two decades.

  24. BTW, Texas is going to be majority-minority as soon as 2016. If, at that time, demographic groups split their votes between the Democrats and the Republicans as they did in 2000 or 2004 (nevermind 2006), the Republicans will be unable to win a national election.

    Bush and Rove recognize this, and it goes a long way to explaining why Bush is so Latino-friendly, in style (remember all of those little bits of Spanish he used to throw into his public events?) and substance (like his soft-on-brown-people immigration bill). But the rest of his party remains blissfully ignorant.

  25. As I wrote that, Fox News’ John Gibson tried to argue that the new Democrats were conservatives in disguise because some of them were “ex-military.”

    What are the odds that this is what happened, rather than Gibson citing their military backgrounds as one of a several pieces of evidence that they’re conservative?

  26. Troll over to FreeRepublic and behold! You’ll find some “conservatives” blaming the Libertarian Party for “stealing” votes and putting neo-communists in office.

    Damn! That feels good.

    The next time someone from Reason comes up to one of them at a GOP convention, and that Reason someone asks, “So why should a libertarian vote for the Republicans?”, they better have a good freakin’ answer. …unlike last time.

    No! Kerry would be worse is not a good freakin’ answer. …not to a protest voter.

    …and the same goes for the Democratic convention. That’s right. Reason’s comin’ to your convention, and they are gonna pop “the question”. So why should a libertarian vote for the Democrats?

    Ask not for whom the question polls–the question polls for you.

  27. It does feel so good. After so many years of RCD’s and Johns and Kwaises and all the ppl in real life who think just like them, it feels like sanity is gripping the country again. like blowing the crap out after a nasty sinus infection — it just make the brain itself feel good.

  28. Sam,

    I’ll give you the details if you want ’em, but kwais doesn’t belong on that list.

  29. >BTW, Texas is going to be majority-minority as
    >soon as 2016.

    Hispanics. It is 60-30-10 white, hispanic, black now. By 2016 it will be more in the 50-40-10 range. Note that yesterday’s turnout was more in the 75-15-8 range, according to exit polls. Assuming that kind of turnout continues, whites will be the majority of voters until the white population share is under 40%. Texas will be competitive around 2016, but it will by no means be a Democratic state.

    The average statewide republican candidate Tuesday won about 55-60% of the vote. This in about as bad of a year for Republicans as can be imagined.

    Sen. Hutchison won 44% of the Hispanic vote, according to exit polls. Gov. Perry, who is about as popular as heart disease, got 16% of blacks and 31% of Hispanics, against 45% of whites. Perry had the same share of the Rio Grande Valley, which is mostly hispanic, that the Democrat did.

  30. “…and the same goes for the Democratic convention. That’s right. Reason’s comin’ to your convention, and they are gonna pop “the question”. So why should a libertarian vote for the Democrats?”

    Kos explained this one: “Because you shouldn’t be libertarians at all, you should be enlightened progressives, like us.”

  31. “…and the same goes for the Democratic convention. That’s right. Reason’s comin’ to your convention, and they are gonna pop “the question”. So why should a libertarian vote for the Democrats?”

    Because they won’t call you a “property rights nut” or “gun nut” to your face, but they will behind your back.

  32. Fair enough, rvman. I shouldn’t project the nationwide Hinspanic vote ratios to Texas, where the Democrats tend to win their votes by only 5-20 points, as opposed to the 3:1 ration in the rest of the country.

  33. “Yesterday’s election created new Democratic voters. Quite a few of them. And they’ll probably remain Democratic voters until the next wave….or slowly leach away over a few decades, depending on how the Democrats do.”

    Morat20:

    You are fooling yourself. The election results were driven by libertarians and libertarian leaning Republicans either sitting out the election, actually voting libertarian, or casting a protest vote for Democrats. Those voters are free agents. Their vote needs to be earned.

  34. Flyover Country:

    You keep right up with thinking the average voter is just like you. They’re not. If it’s any comfort, they’re not like me either.

    People are creatures of habit, instinctively fearing change unless they’re relatively certain that any change beats the status quo.

    But once a change is enacted, it’s generally the new status quo. As I suspect the next two years will be unpleasant for Republicans — they would be even if Congress restricted itself to merely releasing various committee reports the GOP has been content to sit on, and waited for the Abramoff indictments to come down — 2008 will be another Democratic year.

    Perhaps not for President — I don’t see either side holding up any potential candidates I like — but the Senate forcast for 2008 sucks for the GOP. Add in the massive changes in state legs and Governors, and the next round of gerrymandering — I mean redistricting — will favor Democrats heavily.

    Now, they can lose it all — the GOP just showed that. I suspect they won’t. The Dems remember losing in 1994 for being perceived as corrupt and out of touch, and certainly are going to remember the GOP losing for those same reasons this year — I’d say it’s at least a decade before they get violently stupid about it.

  35. David Weigel wrote: The 2004 Bush victory wouldn’t have happened without 1)residual 9/11 angst, 2)enhanced GOP turnout, and 3)Kerry.

    If those are the reasons for the 2004 Bush victory, Karl Rove deserves a lot of credit for the win. Turning out the base and demonizing the opposition are the things he does well.

  36. Quite so, Fodderstomp.

    If Dick Gephardt, Howard Dean, or Joe Lieberman had won the nomination, all of the people who voted for Bush just because they decided Kerry was just too odious would have voted for Bush because they would have found Gephardt, Dean, or Lieberman to be uniquely odious.

    And we would have heard exactly the same lament: if only the Democrats had nominated Anybody But _______________, but I just can’t bring myself to vote for _____________ after I found out about _________________.

    It continues to astound me clueless people are about how they can manipulated. We need to start teaching media criticism in school.

  37. joe,

    John Kerry made it quite clear during his campaign that he wasn’t going to undo that which Bush had done, but he was going to do the same things “smarter”. I don’t thing you can equate being turned off by insufferable arrogance (and zero track record of doing anything of note in the Senate) with being manipulated. I think it’s a damn shame Al Gore didn’t run again in 2004, because this country would be much better off after he stomped Bush in the rematch (and I believe he would have).

  38. “You are fooling yourself. The election results were driven by libertarians and libertarian leaning Republicans either sitting out the election, actually voting libertarian, or casting a protest vote for Democrats. Those voters are free agents. Their vote needs to be earned.”

    About 20% of voters self-identify as “independent.” Some of them are libertarian leaning, some aren’t. They get to decide the outcome every election.

  39. It continues to astound me clueless people are about how they can [be] manipulated. We need to start teaching media criticism in school.

    Quote of the week. S’true.

  40. 1)residual 9/11 angst, 2)enhanced GOP turnout, and 3)Kerry.

    Correction:

    3)Gore

    As a hawkish libertarian, I have far more ire for Gore than for Kerry. The mere thought of Gore as president even drove me to (temporary) forgiveness of Republican transgressions against smaller government and basic civil liberties. I hope to never get that emotional again.

  41. Ain’t you the busy bee today. Go netroots, go!

    Sorry about Lamont!

  42. The democrats, republicans, and media all mistakenly call this body of swing voters “moderates”, but they are far from that. They consistently vote for heavy government intrusion into the fiscal and social lives of citzens. They vote for which ever party is scratching the particular itch they have in any given political season.

    Too true. I could stomach a democratic victory if we were voting for Clinton-like third way people. In that case it might’ve been ok to teach Republicans a lesson. But we’ve got a bunch of Lou Dobbs style ignorant, xenophobic protectionists who could really do some damage and may be in office for a while.

    Remember, once they become “incumbents” they become harder to knock off.

    All you people who were bitching about how far the Republicans strayed are soon going to be crying for the days when anti-gambling legislation was your biggest complaint.

  43. All you people who were bitching about how far the Republicans strayed are soon going to be crying for the days when anti-gambling legislation was your biggest complaint.

    You don’t actually, you know, read this site, do you?

    If anti-gambling legislation was the biggest complaint I had about Republicans, I’d probably not have painstakingly made sure to vote for anyone but them on Tuesday.

  44. Re: Kos and his “progressives.”

    I’ve long complained that self-described “progressives” seem to be heavily identified with stopping anything that I consider to be progress. They are nanny-statists.

    Kevin

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