Thursday, August 20, 2009

Not Your Daddy's Republican Party

Harold Meyerson writes about the GOP:

The problem is that the GOP is no longer a truly national party in its
geographical composition or its ideological breadth. Throughout U.S. history,
our two major political parties have usually contained multitudes and
contradicted themselves accordingly. For much of the 20th century, the Democrats
were the party of the white South, the immigrant north and labor unions. The
Republicans were the party of Wall Street bankers, Main Street merchants,
professionals and Sun Belt cowboys.

But today's Palinoidal Republicans have lost most of the professionals,
much of Wall Street and an increasing chunk of suburbia. What they can claim is
the allegiance of the white South and the almost entirely white, non-urban parts
of the Mountain West. Of the 40 Republican members of the Senate, fully half --
20 -- come from the old Confederacy, the Civil War border states where slavery
was legal or Oklahoma, which politically is an extension of Texas without
Texas's racial minorities. Ten others come from the Mountain West. The rest of
the nation -- that is, of course, most of the nation -- has become an
ever-smaller share of Republican ranks.

All parties are home to distinct subcultures with distinct beliefs.
What's different about today's GOP is that increasingly, it is home to just one,
and a whole sector of the media -- Fox News, talk radio -- makes its money by
emphasizing this subculture's sense of separateness, grievance and alarm, and by
creating its own set of "facts." Asked in late July whether they believed Barack Obama
was born in the United States, 93 percent of Democrats and 83 percent of
independents said yes, but just 42 percent of Republicans agreed. Behind those
numbers, 93 percent, 90 percent and 87 percent of Northeasterners, Midwesterners
and Westerners, respectively, said yes, but just 47 percent of Southerners said
they believed the president was born in this country. Obama, the Republican base
is saying, personifies an America that is increasingly alien to them. It's
multiracial, as they are not. It puts Sonia Sotomayor, who sure doesn't come
from their America, on the Supreme Court. Increasingly, the Republicans have
descended into white identity politics.

Republican ideology has shrunk alongside its geography and
demographics. Where once its view of the role of government ran the gamut from
Rockefeller activism to Goldwater libertarianism, today the party largely
adheres to the religiosity and the anti-statism of the white South. (In its
ideological uniformity, today's GOP looks -- O, the irony -- more like a classic
European party than an American one.)

In short, the Republican Party with which Democrats could make
deals no longer exists. The GOP is too narrow; the gap between the parties, too

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