Friday, November 19, 2010

Party Purity

Over at The Daily Beast, Samuel Jacobs seems to think the Democrats could well lose control of the Senate in 2012, just as they lost the House this year.  Why?  Well, for one, more currently Democrat-occupied seats (21) than Republican will be up for re-election.  But more important than the raw numbers are the candidates themselves.  For Jacobs, three "unorthodox" (his word for moderate) Democrat senators standout:  Montana’s Jon Tester, Virginia’s Jim Webb, and Pennsylvania’s Bob Casey Jr.

Their lack of liberal orthodoxy is no real problem for them within the Democrat Party.  But given what Jacobs expects to be a continuing backlash, within the general electorate, their conservative ideological shortcomings will be.  The net result is that the Democrats will likely lose seats and the party that remains will be even more ideologically pure, i.e., liberal, than it is today. (Is that even possible?)

It is precisely this kind analysis, but in reverse, that is usually applied to the GOP.  The result is that  Republican Party professionals start fretting about a shrinking tent, that is, they begin to worry that the Party and its candidates are too conservative to capture the votes of the independents who determine an election's outcome.

Liberal pundits and pols can be counted on to encourage this kind of thinking because it serves to water down the GOP's message and blur the distinctions between the parties.  They do this because they know that this is, and has been for some time now, much more of a political problem for Democrats than it is for Republicans.  On this point, Jacobs quotes former Representative Dan Glickman, who served as Bill Clinton's Secretary of Agriculture:  “If we are monolithic and liberal, then we won’t be the majority party.”

Assume, as a great deal of evidence indicates anyway, that this country is essentially center-right in its ideological orientation. (I think it's more so, but will make that case another time.)  What this means is that a majority of Americans consider themselves essentially conservative, while only a minority identify with liberalism.  If this is in fact true, then even if both parties, not just the Democrats, become more ideologically monolithic, then the numbers will necessarily fall out to the GOP's advantage.

Now, if we can just convince the GOP professionals to stop temporizing, to communicate a consistent and unapologetic conservative message, then we just may be able to build a governing majority that will last a generation or two.  Or at least, we pray, long enough to clean up this mess.

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