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Why The Republican Party Is No Longer A True National Party

This weekend on FACE THE NATION, former Secretary Of State Gen. Colin Powell will address the outrageous comments of former Vice President Dick Cheney two weeks ago on the program when Cheney mockingly stated that he was surprised Powell was "still a Republican" and other personal attacks when Powell wanted to see the Republican Party broaden it's appeal to be able to win national elections again. Powell wanted to see the Republican Party to remain as potential second party in American politics. However, the reality is now that in many ways, the Republican Party has lost so much strength in various parts of the nation that it can no longer be considered to be a competitive second party in a position to win elections.

A very good example is what happened to the Republican Party in the state of Oregon.

Oregon had been a traditionally moderate Republican state throughout it's history until about 1976 when Gerald Ford just barely won the state, and moderate Republicans able to win statewide elections such as Clay Myers and former Governor Tom McCall began to become a little less representative of their party than the emerging smaller Reaganite Republicans. Ronald Reagan was able to carry the state in 1980 and 1984, but that was also with the help of some disillusioned Democrats. However the collapse of the Oregon Republican Party had really started.

Slowly as less quality moderate Republican candidates were available to run for statewide offices, the Republican Party became far less competitive statewide in elections. Most Oregonians could not vote for very conservative Republican candidates for office and the party started to become smaller and less relevant in Oregon politics.

The Republican Party began to field worse and worse and poorer quality candidates for statewide offices such as governor who were not really yet ready for prime-time. One losing Republican candidate for governor, Kevin Mannix, was a former Democratic legislator who was even a George McGovern delegate in the 1972, who switched parties mainly because he became a social conservative on a few issues such as abortion. Another failed Republican candidate was Bill Sizemore, an antitax advocate who was the subject of a racketeering lawsuit when his organization was brought to court for using fraudulent signature to make the ballot and other problems. Neither candidate was acceptable enough to be elected governor. Further Republicans began to have less and less electoral success statewide.

Now the Oregon Republican Party is in such a mess that it has no reasonable chance to win any major statewide office, and in fact holds none. U.S. Senator Gordon Smith, a Republican lost his bid for re-election, now Democrats hold both U.S, Senate seats. And Democrats hold four of five U.S. House seats as well, where only the seat of Greg Walden, a Republican appears to be in a securely Republican area.

What is happening in Oregon is also being mirrored in New England as well, where the number of offices in Republican hands including statewide and in the U.S. Senate and House are quickly shrinking away and the Republican Party is becoming a largely noncompetitive force there as well.

California was once a dependably good Republican state where both Richard Nixon and Ronald Reagan were able to mount their successful bids from that state. But this past year, the Republican Party has lost so much strength that John McCain lost the state by more than 3 million votes, which is an entirely noncompetitive figure by any means. Moderate Republican Arnold Schwarzenegger's election a few years ago when Democratic Governor Grey Davis was taken down from office was the last big break that California Republicans have seen in some time. But Schwarzenegger is now discovering how difficult it is to rule California, as his popularity really sags and five of six ballot measures last week intended to bailout education and state services miserably failed by margins that were not even that close as recession strapped voters said a loud "no". Schwarzenegger may be the last Republican Governor of this state for some years, as the the California Republican Party is certainly proving to have the same problems it is having in some other parts of the country. The party is not really a national party any longer, but largely a regional party in the South and parts of the West outside of the Pacific Coast region. Arnold Schwarzenegger.jpg

All of this leaves the Republican Party in a difficult position to be viewed as a credible second party in American politics in many areas of the country. Further, the angry attempts by Dick Cheney and Rush Limbaugh and others to exclude more moderate voters and to move the party to the right will only further shrink the base of the Republican Party, leaving it as a smaller and largely uncompetitive force in American politics. With only real pockets of strength in a few areas like the South, the Republican Party is hardly in a position to regain power in Washington anytime soon.

The fact of the matter is that Colin Powell is correct for those in the Republican Party who still want the party to remain as a viable second party in American politics. But the right wing ideologues like Cheney and Limbaugh continue to see this as some sort of battle for the "soul" of the party, which is only a path to a shrinking party much like the defunct Whig Party in American politics.

It is also true that moderates are a rapidly shrinking force within the Republican Party. However, unless they step up and assert their role within the party, then the Republican Party of the near future won't be in any electoral position to win enough elections to really be considered to be an authentic second party in American politics.

One thing I really value here at Wizbang Blue is a number of moderate or mainstream conservative Republicans who like to comment here and engage me in healthy issue discussions. Yet I wonder where they have to go in the future if some like Rush Limbaugh or Dick Cheney win some ideological battle within their party to pull it too far from their own mainstream and reasonable ideologies. The beauty of the two party system was that it was an unwritten aspect of democracy that was supposed to put a check and balance if one party should ever grow too strong.

Would democracy be best served with only one political party or not? These are some serious questions when one party appears to be slipping into a noncompetitive position in American politics and one party may have to become the home of most voters who range from liberal to moderately conservative, leaving only a tiny very orthodox and very conservative party as the only other, but mostly unacceptable, alternative to the voters.

We may be witnessing the death of the two party system in America.


Note: Wizbang Blue is now closed and our authors have moved on. Paul Hooson can now be found at Wizbang Pop!. Please come see him there!

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Comments (5)

Allen:

I used to look at the R party as more libertarian and budgetary conscious. That party does not exist in any way at all anymore. Its ruled by bigots and small minded people who want to deny people rights. The things the R's say they stand for would logically lead them to actually be proponents of gay marriage and ending the inequality. And if they are against fed's making rules everyone has to follow, why the attempt to get federal overriding of states rights to choose who and how to recognize as married? If the republicans are all about conservatism, why don't they believe in conserving the environment?

While you may not want to admit that the Republican Party is what it currently is - it doesn't change the fact that when they were in power they ruled in a way that is absolutely unconservative. While the R party may have been about conservatism at some time in the past, its time to give up that ghost. If there are conservatives left in the R party its likely down to 10%. So conservatives were so upset that Bush wasn't conservative they elected him again?

One party likes to tax and spend, the other party likes to borrow and spend. Its what they spend the money on that makes them different. In the end we all pay for it, one way or the other.

DaveD:

Noemie Emery authored an article in the Weekly Standard a couple of issues ago which was an interesting read for me. She discussed the difference between movements and political parties emphasizing - I believe if I understood her correctly - that the former is focused on a specific ideology (abortion, environment, etc.) and the latter in winning elections (power). The party is a coalition of movements and the movement may compromise it's rigid ideology to support a party to get maybe not all but at least some of its agenda satisfied. I am not necessarily disappointed that there is some upheaval in the Republican Party because I think it does need to make some hard decisions as to what it stands for. Allen suggests this in his post. This sentiment may not be well received here but if the Republicans have to go through some internal strife it is a good time because I do not see the policies of the current Democrat Party offering cogent solutions of long term value to the current problems the country is facing. On the flip side it would be nice if the Republicans could crystalize an agenda that the public could accept or reject in contrast to current Democrat policies. They will not achieve this until a viable, respected leader emerges who is young enough to have some staying power.

marc:

NEWSFLASH hooson - the dems are bleeding members just like the reps.

Paul Hooson:

Hello Marc. Independents don't field candidates for office in most cases. Further, the GOP is having great difficulty offering up quality candidates with a credible chance of election in some regions of the country.

I haven't seen it or read it, but TIME Magazine has a pretty good new issue out on the newstand about problems in the GOP. And I imagine the regional collapse of the party in many former traditional strongholds like Oregon, Washington and California or New England might be part of the discussion.

Could the GOP rebound back into becoming a competitive second party in American politics. Possibly. But numerically it is slightly mathematically difficult.

superdestroyer:

What the Republicans failed to remember is that they country does not need two big government, big spending, pork barreling, nanny state, social engineering party. If people want big government, they will always vote for the Democrats. Karl Rove thought that they Republicans could become the second big government party, he was wrong.

However, if you look at the unemployment rate in Oregon, you see what the future of the U.S. could be. AS Oregon has become a one party state with higher taxes and new regulations, there is not reason for the private sector to expand there.

As Oregon becomes a one party state, its unemployment has expanded and its private sector has shrunk. The problem with the one party state in Oregon is that there is no political solution for the policy problems.


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Publisher: Kevin Aylward

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

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