Wednesday, September 22, 2010

2012 Prediction Resting on Nice Analysis

Peter Beinart//9, 21, 10// The Daily Beast

Democratic presidential nomination and were stunned by a purist, George McGovern, the darling of the party’s newly dominant liberal activists.

Something similar is happening in today’s GOP. Between 2000 and 2008George W. Bush pushed American politics sharply to the right: cutting taxes, appointing highly conservative judges, and shredding government regulation. But the Tea Partiers aren’t inclined toward gratitude. In their minds, Bush was an accomodationist, a big spender. Like the McGovernites in the Vietnam-era Democratic Party, the Tea Partiers are taking over the GOP, state by state. And in all likelihood, they will select a party nominee who runs substantially to the right of both Bush in 2000 and 2004 and John McCain in 2008.

That candidate, whether it is Palin herself or a Palin wannabe, will, I suspect, be crushed in the general election. The one major advantage today’s Republicans have over the Democrats of the early 1970s is the economy: If it is actually worse in 2012 than it is today, all bets are off. But if it improves, even modestly, Republicans are likely in for the kind of rude awakening that Democrats experienced in 1972.

The reason is that in their fervor to make their parties ideologically pure, the Tea Partiers, like the McGovernites, have not noticed that the bulk of the country is actually moving the other way. In retrospect, the story of the Vietnam years is not the rise of the anti-war left; it was the rise of the suburban Sun Belt, that rapidly growing swath of the country that would elect Reagan, Gingrich, Bush, and DeLay. The McGovernites were so angry that Kennedy, Johnson, and Humphrey had compromised their liberalism that they didn’t notice that the fastest growing share of the electorate didn’t want any liberalism at all.

Similarly, the Tea Party is today garnering all the headlines, but the rising demographic force in today’s politics is not aging white conservatives, but Hispanics and Millennials, two rapidly growing portions of the electorate that are uncomfortable with any right-leaning ideology at all, let alone the right-wing purism of Palin and company.

Historically, it is only after a party loses two or three times that its activists come to terms with the reality that retaking power will require not ideological purity, but ideological compromise of the most wrenching kind. After McGovern lost 49 states, the Democrats nominated Jimmy Carter, who on economic policy was not merely to McGovern’s right, but to Humphrey’s. And after Mondale lost 49 states in 1984, they nominated Bill Clinton, who was even further to the right.

Like the McGovernites in the Vietnam-era Democratic Party, the Tea Partiers are taking over the GOP, state by state. It may seem odd to talk of a blowout Republican defeat in 2012, when the GOP is headed for a blowout victory in 2010. But it is precisely the over-interpretation of the latter that could produce the former. When the dust from this massive recession settles, it will be clear that America is not moving right; it is moving left because America’s fastest-growing demographic groups reside on the center-left. Hold on, Republican moderates; you may be poised for a big comeback in 2016

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