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Will the Republican Party go the way of the Whigs?

You should all remember the Whigs from your American history class. The Whigs were one of the two dominant political parties in the US from 1832 to 1856 when they disintegrated over the question of allowing slavery in the territories.

Some are now saying the same could happen to the Republican Party. A recent Rasmussen poll on party identification has some demoralizing news for Republican partisans:

The number of people identifying themselves as Republicans has fallen to a new low. A Rasmussen Reports national telephone survey of 15,000 adults in April found that just 31.0% now say they belong to the Grand Old Party. That's down from 31.5% the month before and reflects a drop of more than six percentage points from the peak of 37.3% during Election 2004.

Republican fundraising is drying up.

The National Republican Senatorial Committee (NRSC) is facing many of the same problems it battled last cycle, raising about half as much money as its Democratic counterpart and failing to recruit a single major candidate nearly six months after the 2006 elections. Republicans say many of the plagues of 2006 are lingering into 2008, and that the criticism will start to flow again unless tangible progress is made. In the first quarter, the NRSC, currently led by Sen. John Ensign (R-Nev.), raised about half the money of the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee (DSCC), which eclipsed the NRSC's quarterly total in March alone.

And the recruiting for 2008 candidates is having dismal results:

The NRSC has yet to land one substantial candidate, while the DSCC has several candidates in Minnesota and New Hampshire, along with leading candidates and presumptive nominees in Colorado, Idaho and Maine.

Longtime conservative William F. Buckley offers a bleak assessment of the future of the party.

General Petraeus is a wonderfully commanding figure. But if the enemy is in the nature of a disease, he cannot win against it. Students of politics ask then the derivative question: How can the Republican party, headed by a president determined on a war he can't see an end to, attract the support of a majority of the voters? General Petraeus, in his Pentagon briefing on April 26, reported persuasively that there has been progress, but cautioned, "I want to be very clear that there is vastly more work to be done across the board and in many areas, and again I note that we are really just getting started with the new effort."

The general makes it a point to steer away from the political implications of the struggle, but this cannot be done in the wider arena. There are grounds for wondering whether the Republican party will survive this dilemma.

Our Constitution has a strong bias in favor of the two-party system. Once established, it requires a major crisis or dilemma to dislodge a political party from its position. For the Whigs, it was slavery. For the Republicans, it could be Iraq.

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Comments (9)

Paul Hamilton:

LOL! No, neither party is going away. In the time since the Whigs, the members of *both* parties have worked very hard to legislate the perpetuity of the two -- and ONLY two -- party system. The Republicans were in much, much worse shape in the 60s than they are now and came back strong. We write their obituary at our grave peril...


"Today, 36.5% say they belong to Nancy Pelosi's party. That's the lowest total in eleven months and represents a decline from 38.0% since the Democrats began running Congress."

Yeah, that 31.5% versus 36.5% difference is INCREDIBLY huge. No, wait, it's not, since that's only party identification, not intent to vote.

The Democrats must be doing really good things in Congress, since they only dropped 1.5% versus the Republican 1.5%...

As goofy and hackneyed as the Republicans would seem, the political right, as irrational as they are will only go some place. Every nation that has free elections has a right wing party of some sort.

But the Democrats still haven't complelely sold themselves to the public either, where Democratic Party numbers should be far higher yet. Democrats should outnumber Republicans by a 3 to 1 margin if Americans were really as class conscious as they should be.

After the Roosevelt election in 1932, smaller leftist parties such as the Socialists, Progressives and Communists were really forced to either compromise their views with the populist Roosevelt Democrats, or else continue to waste their votes on shrinking votes for third party candidates. If the Republicans face a challenge from the right with a strong right wing independent candidate, then they will lose the 2008 election, but certainly are not done for as a party quite yet.

I suspect Bush has damaged the Republican Party franchise enough that anyone running in any competitive district or state is going to start out with a handicap as a result of their (R).

Bill Buckley is a genius, and he's absolutely right about there being grounds for wondering -- but you don't need to look very far into the Republican base to realize that there are conservatives who will remain a "Republican" even when doing so makes no sense or is counter-productive to their cause. They are a stubborn as George - that's why they stand by him even when he's 100% wrong -- and like George these voters will do the wrong thing consistently "for the (R) cause".

Bank on it.

Paul Hamilton:

Lee: It's because they believe that even if the current bunch in charge of the party are by no means conservative, they still believe that sooner or later, the party will return to its conservative roots. And besides that, the Dems are actively opposed to conservative principles, so even if they aren't voting Republican to vote FOR someone, they can do so to vote AGAINST the Dems...

BTW, if you don't believe that the Pubs have been damaged by Bush, the Democrats in my home state of Indiana won all three contested congressional races last year. We now have a 5-4 majority in the congressional delegation, and that hasn't happened in AGES. We're a conservative state, but we expect our politicians to be honest and reputable as well, and the stench of George Bush is running mighty deep...

Larkin: The very best indicator of how an election will go isn't the polls, but it's the money. Starting last summer, the special interests started hedging their bets after being strongly Pub for a decade or so. By the time of the election, the tide had definitively turned and the money was solidly Democratic. So far, that trend is continuing. It seems that these folks believe that a Dem will win next November and they want to money where it's needed to cash in if that's the case.


Paul Hooson:

But the Democrats still haven't complelely sold themselves to the public either,

That's an understatement. The Democrats have, after all, lost the last two presidential elections...and yet, someone is actually saying the Republicans as a party are endangered.


One of the myriad of reasons the Republican party is not in danger, is the leftists and Democrats have relentlessly attacked George Bush, attempted to discredit, undermine, smear and impeach him. That's a president, not a party...don't get them confused.

Paul Hamilton:

Heralder: And how was this any different than the campaigns of 1998 and 2000 where *every* Democrat became Bill Clinton in the Republican campaign.

This is Lee Atwater at his best -- or worst, as the case may be -- and like it or not, it's effective campaigning and so both parties are using it.

And one more thing -- watch how many Republican candidates actively avoid association with Bush in the upcoming campaign. Their actions will speak more loudly than any Democratic propaganda.



My point was not to illustrate that Democrats are demonizing the entire party because of the acting president, but to remind Lee not to confuse Bush's apparent unpopularity as well as being targeted for endless attacks, as the dying of the Republican party.

watch how many Republican candidates actively avoid association with Bush in the upcoming campaign. Their actions will speak more loudly than any Democratic propaganda

And it hasn't occured to you that it may be a direct result of said propaganda? Mission accomplished indeed.


"This is Lee Atwater at his best -- or worst, as the case may be -- and like it or not, it's effective campaigning and so both parties are using it."

Lee Atwater has been dead since 1991.


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Editors: Lee Ward, Larkin, Paul S Hooson, and Steve Crickmore

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