30 April 2016

What if the Republican Party is Simply Obsolete?

Republicans continue to fantasize about a last-minute candidate emerging from the Republican convention who the country will love. As if they didn't have quite a smattering of strong candidates among their original 17.

The problem is not that they don't have good and decent people with proven legislative and governing experience. The problem is that the policies that excite them are going the way of opposition to women voting and regulating pollution.

What beliefs define Republicans? Belief that the rich need more tax breaks and the poor need less help. Belief that women should not be the ones to make a decision about whether to terminate a pregnancy or even use contraceptives. Belief that climate change is a huge conspiracy. Belief that businesses are unduly burdened by regulations that make it difficult for them to pollute. (Cruz wants to eliminate the EPA.) Belief that the government should be cut by about half, made less effective at educating a workforce as education is becoming increasingly important, made less effective at offering a social safety net as the population becomes older than ever and as the economy becomes more risky than ever. Belief that American bombs and boots on the ground are the solution for so many of the problems facing regions like the Middle East that are going through huge and often violent change. Belief that morality is inseparable from religion.

Now you might share all of these beliefs and convictions. If you do, you're likely old and will likely vote in only two or three more presidential elections. The Silent generation (now age 69 to 86) tilts Republican by about 4 points. By contrast, the Millennial generation (age 18 to 33) tilts Democrat by 16 points. Every presidential election, 2016 to 2020 to 2024 ... this will make it harder for Republicans to win.

To raise voter turnout, Republicans have made an even bigger deal about their beliefs in recent elections. Higher turnouts helped them to elect and re-elect George W. Bush but it also solidified their position as the party with these beliefs. Both in branding and execution. When the Bush / Cheney tax cuts failed to create jobs, their de-regulation failed to make the economy more robust, and their military invasions  failed to create a shining example of democracy in the Middle East, those beliefs were called into question. Napoleon gets credited with the quip, "Tell me what the world was like when you were 18 and I'll tell you your worldview." Polls suggest that Millennials were not impressed with the world they came into as young adults, or the beliefs that shaped it.

So the question is, does the Republican Party have a hope of changing their beliefs and their image for Millennials Or more precisely, will it be easier for them to make this change than it will be for a new party to emerge. Because no matter how strongly you believe in the beliefs of the party represented by Ted Cruz and Donald Trump, you are in a dwindling minority. The only question is whether the Republican Party of 2032 will have become a regional party with just pockets of success in the south and midwest or whether it will look radically different than it does now, espousing very different beliefs than those that Cruz and Trump are using to rally their followers.

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