Monday, April 4, 2005

Democratic Death Spiral - Part 2

Writing in today's NRO online, Robert Moran discusses some interesting numbers from last fall's presidential election. As frequent visitors here well know, I strongly believe that we are in the early stages of a historical political realignment in this country. Read here for my past fevered writings on this theory.

Moran, reveals that many Republican strategists believe that their current congressional majority is on "autopilot" since Republicans won such a commanding victory in terms of congressional districts in the 2004 election. From Moran's article:

"Bensen runs POLIDATA, the source for post-election numbers crunching at the congressional district level and below (see his most recent report [PDF file]). Bensen's number-crunching showed that President George W. Bush won a whopping 255 congressional districts in 2004. John Kerry won only 180. That in itself is a devastating indictment of a candidate with marginal appeal and a party generally relegated to the coasts, an obvious finding that the Washington Post completely missed in its analysis of this data.

Between 2000 and 2004, Bush increased the number of congressional districts he won by 27 (228 to 255). This data is difficult to compare due to redistricting, but it still demonstrates the difficult situation the Democratic party finds itself in.

The root of the Democrats' problems can be found in two simple statistics. Bush defeated Kerry in 214 congressional districts represented by Republican lawmakers and defeated Kerry in 41 congressional districts held by Democrats. In contrast, Republicans only have 18 seats where Kerry defeated Bush, less than half as many."

This is a stunning turn of events since the 70's and early 80's when the thought of a Republican congressional majority was nothing more than a pipe dream. How times have changed. While there are many faults with Republicans, and the prospect of a secure majority is not the least bit appealing, one cannot ignore the success they have had in securing a large base of Christian conservatives, suburban professionals, and libertarians with no real political home. Even more stunning is that because the Democrats have existed in the beltway media echo chamber, Republicans secured this tactical victory largely unnoticed by Democrats until it was too late.

Having just finished the Hamilton biography, I'm reminded of the bitter political landscape that existed in the 1790's and early 1800's. At that time the feuding between the Federalists led by Hamilton, and the Republicans led by Jefferson and Madison was as bitter as anything we've seen today. As with today, the Federalists held a strong base in the Northeast and won the Presidency in the first three elections with George Washington and John Adams.

Hamilton and the Federalists were critical to the evolution of America from a confederacy of states, to the current form of the republic as outlined in the constitution, because Hamilton was able to design and implement a strong federal government allowing the sum of the states to become greater than their individual pieces. Jefferson and the Republicans were always wary of the Federalists and feared that the real plan was to return the U.S. to some form of constitutional monarchy. While no evidence exists that this was so, it is instructive to remember that Americans have always harbored a natural suspicion of Federalism that exists to this day.

Republicans, Terry Schiavo not-withstanding, continue to recognize this trait and have built their governing coalition with this in mind. As a result, Americans uncomfortable with a strong central government dictating laws that are really best left to individual states have found a political home, albeit an uncomfortable one, with Republicans. Just as Federalists served their purpose and then slowly died off, Democrats helped deliver Government mandated solutions such as the New Deal, and Civil Rights legislation when these were needed. Much to the Democrat's credit, these battles were won and successfully became part of the fabric of our society.

Sadly, the party of FDR and LBJ seems wedded to its big government past, in a time when so much political opportunity for them exists. While the Republican victory has been impressive, the revolutionaries are already showing signs of incumbent hubris. Spending is escalating, deficits growing, and as the Schiavo case highlights, the majority party is not beyond abandoning its anti-Federalist root. Alas the Democrats, as with the Federalists are too caught up on in-fighting, and too stuck in the echo chamber of their own denial to notice.

So they will die. This is the inevitable result, unless some visionary rises to save the party from itself. Hillary you ask? Part of the problem. Mrs. Clinton does not believe in smaller government, she resists any attempt to empower the individual, and she seems to personally believe that she knows what is good for the country. Citizenry be damned.

The best hope for Democrats is that they kill the cancer of old time liberalism and receive a transfusion of libertarianism to save the party. Technology and freedom have so empowered the individual that the future lies in greater personal freedom, not more government. Libertarians intuitively realize this, but can find no credible political party to support their beliefs. They tend to lean Republican, but this is a marriage of convenience, not true love. Democrats are perfectly positioned to capitalize on this trend.

As the neo-cons left the Democratic party and built the Republican revolution, neo-libs can do the same for Democrats. Alas, I'm afraid the party is too intellectually stilted to make the transition. My guess is a new party of disaffected Republicans will form, perhaps taking on the hollowed out carcass of the Democratic party. The union will then move on with a tip of the hat to Democrats for the good deeds they accomplished during their time.

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