After a primary and election season that has already lasted longer than most of the good shows on Fox – I’m looking at you, “Arrested Development” – I’m sure that most of you have heard something about this “presidential election” we seem to be amid. I promise not to bore you with yet another “I think (insert candidate) should/will win!” column or the more entertaining, if equally useless, “I think (insert candidate) is (insert reckless demonization and exaggeration)!” piece.
No, I’m here to offer you what may be the one salient idea you read in reference to the election all week: No matter who wins the presidency, the Republican Party that we’ve all come to know and love in the past eight years has already lost. Badly.
That statement is likely to cause outcry from conservatives, but the truth is that in the past few years, Democrats have trounced Republicans at the voter registration game. Of the 28 states that register voters by party, Democrats have posted over 2.1 million newly registered voters, while Republicans have lost almost 344,000 in the last two years. Republicans have been leaving their party and registering as either independents or Democrats, and Democrats have been successful in their efforts to register and mobilize both traditionally liberal voters and independents.
Shifts in party registration are not unusual over the course of one or two years, typically with ittle effect on elections, but what makes this trend significant is that Democrats have now been outperforming Republicans for over four years. It is suggestive of a deep-seated change in America’s political make-up. We have a shrinking Republican base, an expanding of the Democratic constituency and a more prevalent block of independent voters for each party to try to woo every two years.
While Democrats are set to solidify their control in both the House and Senate this fall, that’s really just the tip of the iceberg. This change in the electorate will likely have a serious impact on the political leanings of local and state governments across the country for several election cycles. In essence, it signals a political environment that is friendlier toward the Democratic brand for the foreseeable future.
Now, I’m not saying that those in the GOP will not be able to win elections – God knows they’re better at it – but the point is that those running for office outside of conservative strongholds are going to be under pressure to march to the beat of a more moderate drummer. Even now, the platforms and campaign messages of many Republican candidates are trying to distance themselves from the Bush administration and its policies. If elected, you can expect that these politicians will act like politicians and try to please what will clearly be a more liberal electorate while in office.
If one needed any more proof of the impending march to the middle ground, look no further than Sen. John McCain. While he has certainly pulled the wool over the eyes of the Republican base, it’s painfully obvious to all but the mouth-breathers that he simply isn’t their man on a number of issues. Here comes the clue train, so everybody hop on board – he isn’t going to overturn Roe v. Wade, he thinks that global climate change is man-made, he’s reasonable on immigration and he isn’t opposed to developing alternative energy.
The long and short of it is that even if Republicans pull off a win with Sen. McCain, their dwindling representation among voters will force them to shed the very policies that made them conservative in the first place. Regardless of the winner, the only way to go is left.
The writer is a graduate student in American politics.