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A Temporary Majority - The problem Democrats canít solve.
Weekly Standard ^ | February 18, 2013 | Jay Cost

Posted on 02/10/2013 5:51:39 PM PST by neverdem

A tradition after each national election, presidential or midterm, is for the pundit class to pontificate on whether and how the results point to a realignment. This exercise dates back at least to the publication of The Emerging Republican Majority by Kevin Phillips in 1969, and it continues to this day. Now, of course, the hot topic is the so-called emerging Democratic majority, dominated by young people, nonwhites, and upscale social liberals. Pundits across the political spectrum are offering free advice to the Republican party on how to change its ways lest it face extinction at the hands of this “coalition of the ascendant.”

In 2012’s Lost Majority, Sean Trende of Real Clear Politics ably deflates the logic behind realignment theories, arguing that they are a poor way to understand the ebb and flow of electoral politics. More often than not, the game is to highlight evidence that happens to support our theory while overlooking inconvenient data that cut against it.

The conventional view of American political history divides it into periods of partisan dominance: The GOP dominated electoral politics from about 1865 to 1932, the Democrats from 1932 to 1968, and the Republicans again from 1968 to about 2006. This, however, is simplistic. In fact, the periods of genuine dominance have been much briefer: Republicans dominated from about 1894 to 1910, then again from 1918 to 1928; Democrats dominated from 1930 to about 1946, then again from 1960 to 1968.

And even during these briefer periods, caveats abound. The Republicans of the early 20th century were divided along ideological lines, as conservatives battled progressives. The drubbing the GOP took in the 1922 midterm was one of the worst blowouts in history, and hardly consistent with a theory of party dominance. As for the New Deal coalition, it began to fracture as early as 1938, giving way to a “conservative coalition” of Republicans and Southern Democrats who held the balance of power for most of the next generation. And during the Republican majority that was supposed to “emerge” after 1968, it was the Democrats, not the GOP, holding the House of Representatives for the next quarter-century.

And sure enough, the Republican party of 2013 holds more House seats, governorships, and state legislatures combined than it has controlled in a very long time. That is hardly a recipe for irrelevance.

The biggest problem with realignment theories is that they often fail to extend their analysis much beyond demographic characteristics, and so implicitly assume that people vote, robot-like, according to the color of their skin, age, geography, or religion. They thus fail to anticipate change. A demographic-based theory of electoral alignment formulated in 1961 (after John F. Kennedy won more than 70 percent of the Catholic vote) would have had no capacity to anticipate the sea-change among Catholics that began as early as 1968 and continues to this day.

When we look beyond demographic characteristics, we discover that majority coalitions inevitably depend on how well the party they empower governs. If that party does a good job, it will hold the coalition together, at least for a while. If it governs poorly, the other party is in prime position to poach a critical mass of voters. And since the 1830s, no issue has mattered more to the question of “Who governs?” than the performance of the economy.

Each of the past periods of party dominance, such as it was, began because the other party had failed to govern, and ended when the new majority party could govern effectively no more. The economy was central in each instance. The Panic of 1893 ushered in the GOP, and the Panic of 1907—combined with rampant corruption and inability to enact sensible tariff laws—ushered it out starting in 1910. The social and economic tumult after World War I brought the Republicans back to power, and the Great Depression swept them out once again. The Great Depression ushered the Democrats into a majority, and the postwar labor strikes ended their grip on power.

The central question for any majority party is can it govern well, especially on the economy? From this perspective, it is clear that neither party has the edge moving forward. Over the last 12 years, economic growth has been stagnant, and neither party has proven itself capable of turning things around.

For the 55 years following World War II, the American economy grew like gangbusters. Real GDP growth averaged 3.6 percent per year, and it was this fantastic expansion that created the modern middle class. However, since the recession of 2001, the economy has been in stall speed, more or less. Growth has averaged just 1.6 percent since then, and real incomes have stagnated as paychecks have not kept pace with the rising cost of health care, education, and energy.

This state of affairs shows no signs of change. Indeed, the most recent GDP number is inconsistent with where the economy should be at this point in the business cycle. We should be hitting 3 percent growth or higher, not saddled with a modest contraction. And let us not forget the second-order effects that such weak growth has on our politics. Without growth, there is no way for the United States to meet its social welfare obligations, which has in turn sparked the extremely divisive and unpredictable battle over the budget deficit.

If the Democratic party cannot bring about improvement in the economic numbers, it will not retain control of political power. It is as simple as that. No enduring majority coalition has been able to hang on to power for very long amid such widespread disappointment over the economy. And the warning signs are already there for the Democrats, if they care to look: The historically small numbers of Democrats in the House of Representatives, governorships, and state legislatures, plus the fact President Obama won fewer votes in 2012 than he did in 2008, are all signals that public patience with the party has its limits.

What’s more, the Democratic coalition is bound to have trouble doing what is necessary to grow the economy. The party of the 1930s, ’40s, and ’50s was a party of farmers and industrial laborers who depended on private-sector economic growth, so the Democrats of that era focused their efforts accordingly. But today’s Democratic party has many powerful constituents within it who are isolated from the ebbs and flows of the private economy. Upscale social liberals in the Northeast and Pacific Coast are so well off that they are basically recession-proof. And, what’s more, the position of the farmer-industrial working class has been usurped by unionized government workers and far-left gray-collar labor unions like the SEIU, which are more interested in expanding government than the economy.

All of this raises the key question: Can the Democrats keep these groups happy and grow the economy? The evidence to date suggests the answer is no. Witness the Democratic opposition to opening up domestic energy production, which would have been a no-brainer 50 years ago. Witness the party’s stimulus bill of 2009, which focused more on political patronage than economic growth. Witness the party’s continued efforts to push for a cap and trade system, which would kneecap economic growth. And above all, witness Obamacare, a vast regulatory system that saddles businesses with even more burdens. The Democrats have proposed all of these things since 2009, when they were voted into office to jump-start the economy.

Looking back over the last decade, it is hard to conclude that American politics looks as it did in the first decade of the 1900s or the 1930s, when one party had a decisive advantage. Instead, it looks much more like the period from 1876 to 1894, or 1966 to 1982. These were times of great social and economic tumult. The public responded back then much as it has recently, changing the partisan composition of government time and again in the hope of finding some combination of leaders who can manage the affairs of state.

As long as so many in the country are so deeply dissatisfied with the state of the union, neither party’s position is secure. And it is an open question whether the Democrats of 2013 even have the capacity to address our most pressing problem, continued economic weakness.

Jay Cost is a staff writer at The Weekly Standard.


TOPICS: Business/Economy; Culture/Society; Editorial; Politics/Elections
KEYWORDS: brilliant; demographics; economics; economy; immigration; immigrationreform; itstheeconomystupid; jaycost; realignment; seantrende; unions
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1 posted on 02/10/2013 5:51:44 PM PST by neverdem
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To: neverdem
Amnesty will guarantee the democrats win most national and state level elections for the next three generations.
2 posted on 02/10/2013 6:01:30 PM PST by skeeter
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To: neverdem

We shall see. If they take a poll in the Fall of 2016 and a majority of the voters are still blaming Bush for the sour economy, then the Pubbies are sunk once again. And I won’t rule that possibility out. The Dem faithful have an endless capacity to swallow bovine fecal matter thrown at them from their Dem leaders.


3 posted on 02/10/2013 6:06:07 PM PST by driftless2
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To: neverdem

Oh, I’ve no doubt the Pubs will rise again. But the difference this time is that when the Dems go out, they’re going to take the country and its economy with them. The sad fact is that we’ve reached the tipping point where the idiots will keep electing the Santas that promise free stuff. At least until the point is driven home to them that in the end, there IS no free stuff, only stuff that exacts a price somewhere else in the economy. Before that happens, there will be economic upheaval and social disruption on a scale no one has seen in his lifetime, perhaps ever. It cannot be predicted just what will happen, or what type of shell the Pubs will be taking over, or just what can be done to set it back on course. Depends, I suppose, on whether after all the conflict and disruption, the entitlement society still feels entitled and continues to act on that. If so, there will be no stability until one group, either the entitled or the productive, are effectively neutralized.


4 posted on 02/10/2013 6:09:52 PM PST by Emile (Leftists are so 'open-minded', their brains have fallen out. -- (HT to GOPJ))
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To: neverdem

They don’t seem to be having much of a problem holding on to power in North Korea.

I submit that the NK economy is somewhat worse that the US economy.

The author apparently has never heard of vote fraud either.


5 posted on 02/10/2013 6:11:45 PM PST by null and void (Gun confiscation enables tyranny. Don't enable tyranny.)
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To: neverdem

This fellow makes a pretty good historical case, but we have one condition today that is different and relevant. The Latino population in the USA is far larger and growing rapidly and there is no proof or record that they will ever vote republican in large numbers. I think this trumps the author’s position and clearly predicts the near (5-10 years) future.


6 posted on 02/10/2013 6:12:39 PM PST by umgud
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To: skeeter

We are definitely swimming against the tide.

Every year 2.5 million (mostly old, white, 60%+ R voting) people die replaced by (mostly minority 70%+ D voting) people.

Two generations of progressive controlled education and the influx of illegals may be too much to overcome.


7 posted on 02/10/2013 6:16:42 PM PST by nascarnation (Baraq's economic policy: trickle up poverty)
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To: neverdem

As if I am interested in taking advice from people on the left who “want to help me win elections.”


8 posted on 02/10/2013 6:21:47 PM PST by Maine Mariner
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To: skeeter
What always happens in a bimodal saddle situation (which is forced by the cold, hard facts of the single member district) is new coalition partners are found within the ranks of the other pole of the equation who are tired of not getting any of their guys into the top slots in the party elections.

Remember it takes 50%+1 vote to win! People don't care to be losers, nor do they care to be a little cog in a big machine that never lets any of them get to pull the levers of power.

It's virtually impossible to get so many voters to support your cause that the other side totally disappears.

9 posted on 02/10/2013 6:23:01 PM PST by muawiyah
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To: skeeter

That and control of the media, which is a huge advantage in every election, especially the Presidential ones.


10 posted on 02/10/2013 6:23:35 PM PST by FreedomPoster (Islam delenda est)
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To: neverdem

I think this is historically fairly accurate, but to put it into Pol Pot terms, history is quite possibly being rewritten before our eyes. If indeed the Dems have successfully mixed up their sordid soup of underinformed, perpetually dependent “gimme” voters, while ginning up hatred against the evil rich white folks who put the country into whatever state is the gripe of the week, then this could go on for a long time. Who knows, it could still be GWB’s fault 20 years from now. I can’t predict, and I know that almost nobody else can, either.

Yeah, it’s the economy, but more specifically, the *perception* of the economy. The economy of redistributing astronomical riches so unjustly snaked away from those deserving it the most...the poor...the underserved, the recent immigrant class...then the abstract appeal of freedom and the ideals of independence will dry up, wilt, and become cute little remnants of a once-great country in the shadow of the coolness of Beyonce.


11 posted on 02/10/2013 6:25:06 PM PST by Attention Surplus Disorder (This stuff we're going through now, this is nothing compared to the middle ages.)
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To: umgud
-- This fellow makes a pretty good historical case, but we have one condition today that is different and relevant. --

I was thinking that the primary difference, today, is that "the economy" is different for the takers, who vote for the government givers (the DEMs).

"The economy," for that voter, is not whether or not a job is coming, or a rising tide floats all boats. That voter is self centered, and is sensitive to promises form more handouts, better care, etc. As long as the DEMs can blame the GOP for failing to handout, the takers will rule.

This was predicted long ago, and is a historically repeating pattern. It is the reason democracies always always always fail.

12 posted on 02/10/2013 6:28:46 PM PST by Cboldt
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To: FreedomPoster

Reagan won two elections in an era where the dems had the media and there was no other media.


13 posted on 02/10/2013 6:31:19 PM PST by Perdogg (Mark Levin - It's called the Bill of Rights not Bill of Needs)
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To: neverdem

“Weekly Standard’ is an EXTEME RINO/GOP-e “Publication”!


14 posted on 02/10/2013 6:32:39 PM PST by US Navy Vet (Go Packers! Go Rockies! Go Boston Bruins! See, I'm "Diverse"!)
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To: neverdem; ding_dong_daddy_from_dumas; Gilbo_3; NFHale; Impy; AuntB; stephenjohnbanker; ...
RE :”All of this raises the key question: Can the Democrats keep these groups happy and grow the economy? The evidence to date suggests the answer is no. Witness the Democratic opposition to opening up domestic energy production, which would have been a no-brainer 50 years ago. Witness the party’s stimulus bill of 2009, which focused more on political patronage than economic growth. Witness the party’s continued efforts to push for a cap and trade system, which would kneecap economic growth. And above all, witness Obamacare, a vast regulatory system that saddles businesses with even more burdens. The Democrats have proposed all of these things since 2009, when they were voted into office to jump-start the economy.”

Obama needed a GOP controlled House to get re-elected.
Democrats can continue to push the freebees because they can always blame the bad economy and the deficits on the GOP House.
In 2010 they couldn't get away with that.
Or in 1994.

‘Obama cares for me and is trying to fix things. That's all that counts’

15 posted on 02/10/2013 6:54:28 PM PST by sickoflibs (Losing to Dems and Obama is not a principle! Its just losing.)
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To: nascarnation

However, consider that if Europe continues its slide into the abyss, we may have an influx of immigrants from Greece, Italy, Spain, and Ireland. The balance of power may shift again if we can get our messaging right.


16 posted on 02/10/2013 7:00:37 PM PST by Viennacon
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To: Cboldt
The fellows making all those predictions didn't have much knowledge of democracies ~ at that time. They didn't know if they failed ~ in fact, in their consideration of democratic process they imagined a permanent majority would pop into existence and begin looting the republic.

Actually, the single member district and it's 50%+1 long term winning standard pretty much eliminates that problem. Alas for the Founders, they didn't have much knowledge of democracy so they blew it. In fact they thought men of property and education would always elect good men to office so they didn't really think that far ahead to the time when there'd be no slaves, and everybody could read and write.

17 posted on 02/10/2013 7:03:17 PM PST by muawiyah
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To: Viennacon

I hope you’re right.


18 posted on 02/10/2013 7:07:54 PM PST by nascarnation (Baraq's economic policy: trickle up poverty)
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To: umgud; nascarnation
The Latino population in the USA is far larger and growing rapidly...

Not according to the author of this piece, Jonathan V. Last, which is linkrd below. Last also said on C-Span's BookTV last week that the fertility of Latinas in the USA is also dropping fast.

Fertility and immigration: Global demographics, not domestic policy, will control who comes and who goes.

The result is that from 2005 to 2010, the U.S. received a net of zero immigrants from Mexico...

Michael Barone also wrote within the last year that net migration from Mexico was zero. It's our booming economy, not. The number coming is the same as the number going home. IIRC, Mexico's annual GDP is about 5 %.

19 posted on 02/10/2013 7:14:53 PM PST by neverdem ( Xin loi min oi)
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To: neverdem

I’ve seen those stats also. Not sure of the validity, but certainly possible.

One example here in the midwest was that many non-union construction jobs (largely single family home construction and repair) were held by Mexicans, and most of that work is gone.


20 posted on 02/10/2013 7:17:58 PM PST by nascarnation (Baraq's economic policy: trickle up poverty)
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