Friday, October 23, 2015

It's ba-ack: the imminent collapse of the Republican Party

The collapsing Republican Party, circa 2008, 2010, 2012, 2014, 2016...
Like clockwork, it appears. And always from some pseudo-intellectual "journalist" who imagines that they have espied something terribly significant that no one has yet espied. And it's always presented as an objective observation, though it oozes partisanship as a matter of course.

There. That's a sufficiently elitist-sounding opening, no? So what am I talking about? Simple, the trope that appears with increasing regularity during most every Federal Election cycle: the Republican Party is doomed, it's cracking up, falling apart, and it may not survive!

The latest purveyor of this silliness? William Greider of The Nation, who has written a piece that opens with the following:
Fresh chatter among Washington insiders is not about whether the Republican Party will win in 2016 but whether it will survive.
Got that? The Republican Party may not survive this election cycle! Ohmygodohmygodohmygod! Run for the hills! And this is serious stuff; Greider has a lengthy analysis to defend his thesis, centering on, of all things, the Nixon Coalition of 1968. I'm tempted to end this with just a facepalm emoticon, because Greider's analysis is so lame, it's not worth rebutting.

Beyond that, I'd note that "fresh chatter among Washington insiders" is actually self-important journalist code for "a conversation I had with some friends over drinks at a bar." And despite my playful approach here, I'm dead serious about this part. It's what our vaunted media elites do when they don't have any actual quotable sources to support an idea that they've had for a story.

But back to the imminent collapse of the Republican Party. Let's go back in time to November, 2012. From the New Statesman:
It is Charles Darwin who said “It is not the strongest of the species that survives, nor the most intelligent that survives. It is the one that is the most adaptable to change.” If the Republican Party is to survive, it must listen to Darwin's words. Its current choice is to evolve or die.
Evolve or die. That's pretty bleak stuff. True enough, the Republican Party didn't fair well in the 2012 elections, but it also didn't get creamed, top to bottom. In total, it lost two Senate seats and eight House seats, but maintained it's level of control in State legislatures and actually picked up one governorship.

Still, there was more talk of the Party's demise in the years that followed. Yet in the 2014 elections, the Republican Party gained control of the Senate and maintained control of the House. I don't know about anyone else, but I didn't see much evolution during this period, regardless of whether that was for good or ill.

There was actually similar talk around the 2010 elections, believe or not. Many pundits believed the tea party movement was going to cost the Republican Party dearly, that it would split votes or cause people to stay home, Obviously, those pundits couldn't have been more wrong. Not only did the movement lead to a reversal of control in the House, it also led to a rarely noted reversal of the balance of power on the State level. Going into the 2010 elections, Dems controlled 27 State legislatures, Repubs 14 (9 were split). Coming out? Almost a complete reversal: Dem control of 15, Repub control of 27, 8 with split control. Governorship control fared similarly, with the Dems going from 26 to 20 and the Repubs going from 23 to 29 (with 1 independent).

I'm going through all of this 2010 data to make a point: that election was something of a watershed moment for Republicans at the State level. Since the 2010 elections, the Republican party has continued it's dominance in this regard. It's control of State legislatures has increased to 31 (the Dems have dropped to 11) and of governorships to 31, as well (the Dems have dropped to 18). Regardless of the recent failings of the Republicans at the Presidential level, it's political power is not on the wane. And it's silly to claim that it is, in the face of this actual empirical evidence.

Yet the trope continues: the Republican Party is in danger of collapsing, of imploding from within.

But to deny the trope is not to say there are no challenges, nor is it to say the opposite: that the Democratic Party is somehow in danger of collapsing. Because clearly neither is the case (and the Democratic Party has its own challenges, to be sure, particularly at the State level). It may very well true that a collapse of either or both parties would be a good thing. But that's not happening. Because right now, our two-party system has pretty much all of the bases covered. This continued fantasizing from partisan journalists on the left about a Republican collapse is funny stuff, though,

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