Friday, November 07, 2008

Whither Realignment? (Why Palinism Won't Work)

I read a great line this morning:

"College educated Americans have concluded that their bank accounts are safe with the Democrats, but that their values are under assault by the Republicans."

It seems to me that this gets to the heart of things. The Reagan coalition depended on supplementing free-market capitalists with Reagan Democrats who wanted a return to muscular patriotism.

The Bush 2 Administration somehow managed to reverse Reagan's alchemy--it dramatically enlarged the Federal government, and its tendency to paint its opponents as friends of terrorism struck most as McCarthy-esque rather than patriotic.

Reagan helped everyone--Democrat and Republican--feel better about being American. Bush 2 made everyone feel worse. Then along came Obama with a Reaganesque charisma and a message of hope.

In the 80s, the Democrats couldn't understand how Reagan managed to convince the Reagan Democrats to vote "against their economic interests" (a debatable point; Reagan's changes to the tax code may have helped rich voters most, but they almost certainly helped the Reagan Democrats as well--I'm firmly of the opinion that I'd rather do better on an absolute basis than on a relative basis). Their reaction was simply to restate their message in shriller tones; only Bill Clinton's triangulation strategy managed to win the White House for them, and that only because of the Perot effect.

Now in 2008, certain Republicans can't understand how Obama managed to convince the Obamacons to vote against their economic interests and elect a redistributionist. "If we just restate our old positions more strongly," they reason, "People will eventually come to their senses."

Palin is still fighting the last war, much like the Democrats during the Reagan era. Time to move on.


Foobarista said...

Unfortunately, small-government Republicans got swept aside by those who got used to the comforts of Washington. "Compassionate Conservatism" didn't help. Even people like me, who thought the WoT - including Iraq - were necessary had a hard time dealing with Bush's general incompetence in all things domestic.

He kept Congress funding Iraq by rolling over on everything else, which will likely end up being far more expensive to the country than the war itself.

Now, given the choice between social-con big government and live & let live big government, any who isn't a bible-thumper chose the latter.

Now, the biggest danger for Republicans is to go for the Mike Huckabee "God, Guns & Butter" strategy, which will leave the large Leave-Me-Alone coalition in the Democrat camp for lack of anywhere else to go.

Obama may still overreach with his "communitarian" stuff like mandatory "volunteerism", etc and drive the Leave-Me-Aloners away, but I suspect he's smarter than that.

Chris said...


I have to agree with your take, even though it's a pretty grim one.

The Republican party had carefully nurtured a reputation for fiscal responsibility and foreign policy competence...both of which Bush 43 flushed down the toilet.

alice said...

If the Republicans don't figure out how to "get it" and move into the future, they will be left behind. The most modern campaign won. A revived republican party will need to focus on bringing the best ideas from its ideoogical history forward into the new world. McCain/ Palin totally ignored that, weirdly.

MLO said...

I'm old enough that I remember the homelessness and despair of the actual reign of Reagan.

He talked a good game while doing his best to imitate Nixon without getting impeached.

And, before you think this is partisan, I think the Democrats are just as bad and just as corrupt.