I've been thinking today about several of the GOP's choices of course throughout the last 5 decades that have won them elections, but have sent them into shrinking demographics. Just a quick list today intending to provoke discussion. Maybe more or a rewrite on another day.1)
Nixon's Southern Strategy - This is the granddaddy decision that set the course for the modern GOP. The decision to consciously appeal to whites who were against (or at least uncomfortable with) the civil rights movement substantially shifted the GOP base South and to the more reactionary. It worked, they won the election, but saddled the GOP with a core constituency that would shrink with time.2)
Reagan's dragging the "Christian conservatives" into politics. Prior to Reagan, fundamentalist were fractured and fairly non-political. It was Reagan's campaign that attempted to unify them and turn them into a force. It won elections at the time, but it also created a "Christian conservative" movement which has now taken over the levers of control of the party, forcing Republicans to pledge fealty to social positions that are distant from the majority of the country. (Do you believe in evolution?
The anti-60's "immoral arguments." During the Clinton years, the Republicans dragged out a collection of "morals" arguments which were really not much more than a harnessing of the fear/rejectionism of the liberalization of the late 60's and 70's. Twenty years down the road, Republicans finally figured out how to harness "the angry white male" and his reaction to feminism (Remember feminazi?
,) the broadening cultural base (the railing against political correctness,
) and the supposed immorality and naivite of the Democrats who were teens/twenties in the era. (Where the Clinton sex outrage came from as well as the point at which "libera"l became an epithet
This was the era of Rush Limbaugh, and although those angry white males were feeling their oats, one of the reasons they were so angry is that demographics were already working against them.4)
Two decisions of the Republicans under George Bush, gay marriage and the non-Bush anti-immigrant zeal. You know both of these by now, but they fit into this broader pattern I'm trying to paint.
In each of these decisive choices for immediate political gain, Republicans have tapped into
a reactionary anger in their "base" to try to score politically, but, by doing so, they've been alienating large demographics, blacks, Hispanics, women, gays, the non-fundamentalist population.
Admittedly, each of these groups has been too small to effectively fight back and thus they make good targets, but in all, they constitute a large percentage of the electorate, and, more importantly, these demographics which now dislike the Republican party are now the groups that are growing either in their numbers or in their political activity and power.
Way back in Nixon, a decision was made to win an election that recreated the Republican base as white, male, and reactionary. Because of that decision, the Republicans are now tied to that group, that demographic, and all of those other choices have flowed from that, narrowing the base, and alienating the rest of America.
I'm not one of those who believes the Republican party is dead. Right now they're at a particularly low ebb, but they will bounce back to some degree. The question is whether they will find some way to draw in some of the growing demographics, because if they don't they are dead. An old, white, male party goes against the broader direction of our liberalizing, multiculturalizing country.What they need is not necessarily new ideas, but a way to get their white, male, reactionary base willing to accept a message that appeals outside that white reactionary base to include more Hispanics or gays or women.Can that happen?
In theory, Republicans could appeal to Hispanics, for example, through an economic message of small business and opportunity, or they could appeal to gays through a reinstatement of libertarianism, but the crazy elements of the party would have to let go of anti-immigration or "gays are bad" both of which are bedrock to the reactionary core of thecurrent GOP.)
(This is just a quick one off draft version. I may rewrite, repost, or god knows what. It's just a quick riff on what's been on my mind for months.