Thursday, March 21, 2013

Reactionaries Still Win

There has been a recent spate of triumphalism from Democrats that is more than a little disconcerting. It sounds too much like 2009: Republicans are hurting, they have offended far too many women, gays, and immigrants. Demographics are inexorably turning against the mostly white, anti-science, anti-everything, etc.

While I think that is mostly true, it's worth remembering that similar analyses were widespread after Obama won in 2008. And then the 2010 mid-terms got in the way and we got hit with a gaggle of the most ideologically-strident reactionaries to occupy the House in generations.

Liberals have a point, to be sure. Just a few years ago, Republicans seemed to be on the cusp of a permanent majority in Congress. Then came a voter backlash against Republicans in 2006, 2008, and in 2012, which seemed to send a message to Republicans that the politics of hate, fear, and exclusion had run its course.

And yet Republicans seem to be doing pretty well at exercising power, certainly when you consider their low approval ratings in most polls. They may be out of sync with voter preferences on many policies,  but there is more to winning elections than actually appealing to the voters, as common-sensical as that may seem to most Democrats. I have always argued that Republicans do unusually well in elections, winning seats and influence all out of proportion to what data on voter registration and party identification would suggest.

That trend seems as strong as ever. It may surprise some to see how many ostensibly blue states are dominated by Republican governors and state legislatures. As for governors, Michigan, Wisconsin, Pennsylvania, and New Mexico come to mind. People who gloat, or despair, over the Republican Party's poor showing in recent national elections, to Obama primarily, forget how well the party has done in the House of Representatives as well as in state elections.

One can argue that many Republican victories have more to do with money, gerrymandering, and voter apathy than it does with true popularity and fair elections, (except in the US Senate, which is constitutionally guaranteed to give a huge advantage to small, rural states have over large states, no gerrymandering required). But to focus on these realities will always be interpreted by the false equivalency crowd  as sour grapes.

Academicians and Democratic policy wonks may understand what is at stake, and do their best to draw attention to our deeply undemocratic system of government,  But in the end, and for whatever reason, Republicans continue to win numerous elections. The fact that they increasingly resort to various ploys, such as voter suppression or clever gerrymandering, is of little concern to them.  Republicans never give up and incessantly plan for the next election and how they can win. And if it looks as if they are constantly scheming for a legislative or legal advantage, it is because they are. Republican politicians learned long ago that winning elections is something quite different from good governance or effective policy. Authoritarian personalities in particular place little emphasis on fairness. All that crap about voter fairness and the will of the people is for principled losers and civics teachers.

As for unequal representation in the Senate, the pictures below provide a glimpse of the disparity.  The Republican Party is surely in trouble, but various built-in advantages, along with a fickle and confused electorate, make it likely that America's right wing will find a way to retain power.

This group of senators, 62 of them, represents about a fourth of America


 So does this group of 6

source: NY Times.

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