Election Postmortems Show "Divide and Conquer" Yielding to "Unite and Collaborate"
Columbus, Ohio: During the Age of Dinosaurs, the most feared of the giant lizards was the Tyrannosaurus Rex, whose vertical posture, swift and strong legs and powerful jaws stacked with tearing teeth made it the dominant hunter of its time. But those days of devastating dominance are over. T-Rex's genes have drifted downward over the millennium to the point where the once mighty carnivore is so small, toothless and tasty that local grocery stores routinely offer them roasted for about $6 bucks.
Sifting through the scores of election postmortems on America's voting electorate, arguments are being made that while Republicans aren't likely anytime soon to be skewered and roasted like modern day chickens, their once powerful and some say terrifying rein of terror has reached a point where their core principles -- small government, free markets, fiscal and social conservatism -- may be bordering on extinction. The ranks of new voters -- made up of the poor, minorities, women, youth, Latinos and seniors -- are swelling and swerving the nation left of center on issues like universal health care, energy independence, universal voter registration, fair but regulated markets, collective bargaining and war as the last not first resort in foreign relations. The Rovian age of divide and conquer has yielded to the Obama age of unite and collaborate.
From 1980, when California's Republican Governor Ronald Reagan christened the era of Republican rule by matriculating to Pennsylvania Avenue, to the recent White House years of two-term President George W. Bush, political mavens and prognosticators, including the mainstream media, thought the age of Republicans would continue forward, showing their "family values and core principles" would be the basis for a "permanent Republican majority." Illinois Sen. Barack Obama beat his rival Arizona Sen. John McCain nationwide by about eight and one-half million votes, in an election earmarked by huge voter turnouts in Democratic primaries that set the stage for what happened on Election Day, when about 123 million voters (or 67% ofeligible voters) cast their ballots. While white voters used to control elections, that is no longer the case. A decrease in white voters and a rise in black andLatino voters, among other factors, contributed to Obama's win even though the total turnout was not the record-setting dynamic many thought it would be.
But that notion was shattered on November 4, when American voters, whose conscience and pocketbooks had been beat down and battered by a president who campaigned on being a "compassionate conservative" but who governed as a warrior president who took from the middle-class and poor to give to the rich in the guise of tax reductions, rose up to "Just Say No" to a third term of Bush policies and "Yes We Can" to a new era of change that could signal the end of the age of Republican dominance.
One question political pundits are asking is whether the results of the general election mark the beginning of a political realignment that will present Democrats as the new dominant party? Will this year's election results be short lived or long lasting? Many political mavens like Stuart Rothenberg, editor and publisher of the non-partisan Rothenberg Political Report, say that despite the progress Democrats made in 2006 and this year -- winning at least a dozen Senate seats and at least 50 House seats and taking total control of Congress and the White House at the national level, and at the state level with 4,090 state legislators to the GOP’s 3,221 -- this year's election results don't convince him that a political realignment has not taken place. Democrats may still be short of doing doing to Republicans what Republicans did to Democrats over the last 38 years, when except for eight years of Bill Clinton, Republicans stalked the landscape with impunity like T-Rex did in its time.
But others, like Todd Lindberg, a fellow at Stanford's Hoover Institution and the editor of Policy Review, say the rise of Republicans, as Republican loyalists say will happen as soon as the mid-term elections in two years, is a myth. Writing in the The (Cleveland) Plain Dealer, Lindberg, an informal policy adviser to the McCain campaign, said the "decline of Republican strength occurs by having strong Republicans become weak Republicans, weak Republicans becoming independents and independents leaning more Democratic or even becoming Democrats." He said this is a "portrait of an electorate moving from center-right to center-left." But while he counsels Republicans to not count on Obama stumbling, leading to Democratic failure, he does advise them that the "right of center" electorate they think is still here has moved on to a "left of center' agenda.
But the bad news for Tyrannosaurus Republicans lies in the tens of millions of voters who have yet to make it to the rolls and why, when they do, they are likely to register as Democrats, as we saw happen this electioncycle when new registered voters by a lopsided margin went Democratic. Approximately 67 percent of the 202 million eligible Americans voted for president in 2008. Obama won 53 percent (66,882,230) of them to McCain's (58,343,671) 46 percent. That means that about 76 million more Americans could vote. If Democrats garnered about 75 percent of new voters, that means, potentially, that if efforts underway to bring universal voter registration to bear are successful, as some believe it can be, that means another 57 million votes will be electing Democrats not Republicans to high office. The staggering implications of this should be clear to both major parties.
In President-elect Obama's sweeping victory, from coast to coat with the exception of the stronghold of Deep South that Republicans have used to win seven of the last 10 elections, his Electoral College romping of McCain (365 to 162) shows just how receptive Americans are to the core tenents of his agenda. But the South, while it voted Republican again this year, isn't the trump card Republicans think it is. Obama showed that the West, with states like Nevada, Colorado and New Mexico going Democratic, can neutralize the power of the South. More importantly, if Republican states like Virginia and North Carolina can drift left of center, the meteorite thatundid T-Rex and associates could come in the form of the polarizing leadership qualities of a social and fiscal conservative of the timbre of Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin. If she becomes the GOP's standard bearer in 2012, it could be a long, bumpy ride for Tyrannosaurus Republicans.
About the author
John Michael Spinelli is a former Ohio Statehouse government and political reporter and business columnist. He now serves as the OhioNews Bureau Chief for ePluribus Media Journal. Find ONB archives here.
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