Wednesday, November 08, 2006

The Party of the South

I've been thinking about this all day, but I'm no way qualified to talk about it, nor have I found better analysis...yet. But, here's an intriguing theory being bandied around the blogosphere: the Republican Party as a regional party, confined to the South. Glenn Greenwald makes the assertion here, in passing:

Republicans lost in every region and were defeated in critical races even in the reddest of states, such as Kansas, Indiana and Arkansas. The Republicans are rapidly collapsing into a regional party -- the Party of the South -- and even there, they lost incumbents and vast amounts of their support. They have pandered to such a small and deranged band of extremists for so long, and they are now finally paying the price in the form of a disintegrating movement and continuously shrinking band of followers.

And here's Fred Barnes (via War & Piece):
The defeat for Republicans was short of devastating--but only a little short. The House seats the party lost in New York and Connecticut and Pennsylvania will be hard to win back. Just as Republicans have locked in their gains in the South over the past two decades, Democrats should be able to solidify their hold on seats in the Northeast, as the nation continues to split sharply along North-South lines.

What should worry Republicans most, however, is erosion of its strength in the West and in two states in particular: Colorado and Arizona. Fours years ago, Colorado was solidly Republican. Since then, Democrats have won a Senate seat, two House seats, the governorship, and both houses of the state legislature. At the state level, that's realignment.

So the Republicans suffered mightily in the Northeast, suffered somewhat in the West, and Democrats were able to contend in some traditional Southern strongholds. Is that realignment, or merely the GOP having a very bad mid-term? I don't know, but it's an interesting theory, and a nice counter to the oft-repeated (and inaccurate) meme that Democrats have become the party of the NE and the Coasts.


Nat-Wu said...

I would add that whatever the case turns out to be, what we've been seeing in Arizona and Colorado in particular (and the West in general) is a trend toward independency. Now, as we were talking about before, it's almost impossible to pin the meaning of Independent down, much less figure out how much of a factor they are in deciding elections. However, we do know that more people in the West have started calling themselves independent. Couple that with reports that the independent vote went heavily Democratic this time around, and you can see the beginning of some chain of causation. Now as you say, we don't know whether that's some kind of permanent realignment. However, it does indicate that the western states are not Republican by default anymore.

We have not seen that they are trending Democratic overall. That was the case in this past election, but Repubs were fighting a disillusionment of epic proportions. I can see plenty of Indies going Dem simply to spite the party that betrayed them, but in the future, if they truly are Indies and not Dems in Indie clothing, we should see more Independent candidates arising out there.

I'm no expert, but remembering my lessons from poli-sci and my own empirical knowledge of the US, the western states are generally not as morally conservative as the southern states. That is probably the basis for the break between the two. If the Republican party is going to continue to serve the latter, they will certainly not win back the former. I know the claim that Coloradans are not moral conservatives seems wrong when you think of all the evangelical churches in Colorado Springs, but I maintain that even most of those people are less in the evangelical lock-step than southerners are.

Xanthippas said...

Yeah, I'm really in no position to talk as well, but it does seem to me that western voters have gradually peeled away from the Republican party over the past several years (exemplified in conservative conservationists making common cause with environmentalists in protecting national parks.) The Republicans have probably lost the NE for some time to come, and I think general disgust with the Republican party helped Democrats make slight inroads into typically Republican territory, even in the South. But since I can't say how much of those inroads are due to demographic/political change and how much is a result of the anti-Republican mood, it's hard to say how permanent they are.