March 17, 2015

Help Wanted: major political party seeks national makeover. Conservative darling with fanatical following losing all attraction to moderates. Desired suitor should have allure that transcends angry white males and evangelicals. Any age, but should not turn off young, gays, minorities. HWP, tall a plus. Please believe in science, especially as it may relate to unusual weather events.

Last weekend I attended The American Election 2014: Contexts and Consequences conference at St. Anselm’s College in Manchester, NH. The papers were not just about 2014 but the future, particularly 2016. They touched on the Republicans advantage in winning congressional elections and how the GOP might lessen the Democrats edge in presidential contests (they won’t do it though, unless. . . ).

Professor Alan Abramowitz argued that redistricting is not a large factor in the Republicans’ House majority. Even before the 2010 redistricting the Republicans enjoyed an advantage due to the inefficient distribution of Democratic voters across House districts. (For example, in districts Obama won there were many huge advantages, such as in minority congressional districts. In districts won by Romney, there was a more efficient distribution of votes). But the largest factor was strong partisanship and the close relationship between presidential and House outcomes. Thus the increasing nationalization of House elections due to partisanship is the Democrats’ biggest obstacle.

So based on the 2014 results the GOP looks to be in great position for 2016, right? Not so fast. Professor Douglas Brattebo of Hiram College does not see the Republicans strong showing in 2014 as evidence of revitalization on the presidential level (Republicans have lost the popular vote in five of the last six elections). In order to revive their chances in national elections, the GOP would have to do three things: 1. Enact comprehensive immigration reform; 2. Endorse and pursue full and equal voting access for all Americans; and 3. Pass a budget that does not alienate the constituencies they need to grow their vote nationally - Latinos, African-Americans, Asian-Americans, singles, and young voters.

I know, you’re thinking the same thing I did – they’re not going to do any of that. So Professor Brattebo feels there must be some organization outside of the formal party, like Bill Clinton’s Democratic Leadership Council (an idea he borrowed from Margaret Thatcher) to push the GOP to be more inclusive. The turnout in 2016 will be in the high 50s or low 60s, not the 36.3 percent of 2014, and the electorate will be 3 percent less white than it was in 2012. Time for the GOP to pay attention. 

Gee, who could lead an outside effort like that? A moderate northeast governor maybe, someone who reaches out to minority communities, who can compete for women's votes, strong on gay rights, who doesn't alienate young people with outmoded religious zealotry? 

I'm stumped. Any ideas?

2016 elections, 2014 elections, Republican Party

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