Home | Opinion | Columnists | Markos Moulitas

Hard fall, hard recovery

In the wake of two electoral blowouts in a row, Republicans are casting about for answers to their woes.

The problem is, the answers aren’t pretty.

Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty, who should’ve been John McCain’s running mate, nails it: “We cannot be a majority governing party when we essentially cannot compete in the Northeast, we are losing our ability to compete in Great Lakes states, we cannot compete on the West Coast, we are increasingly in danger ... in the Mid-Atlantic states, and the Democrats are now winning some of the Western states. That is not a formula for being a majority governing party in this nation.”

It’s certainly not a winning strategy — not when Republicans’ divisive tactics have cost them long-term support among African-Americans, Latinos, Asians, gays, youngsters, Northeasterners, Californians, non-churchgoers, Muslims, urbanites, union members, arugula eaters, latte sippers, Volvo drivers and women. Subtract those targets of scorn, and there’s not much left but a smattering of voters in Appalachia and the Deep South.

“We’ve become a regional party, basically become a white, rural, regional party, and not a national party,” said House Republican Tom Davis (Va.), perhaps the smartest Republican in the conference. (No surprise that he’s leaving Congress in January.) And Davis’s rump of a party has gotten its electoral ass handed to it the past two elections.

In addition to Barack Obama’s landslide presidential victory, Democrats have already gained a combined 11 Senate seats in 2006 and 2008. Alaska will soon slot into their column as well, pending the final vote count, while the Minnesota race remains a dead heat heading into a full recount of the 3 million ballots cast in the race. And while the December Senate runoff in Georgia narrowly favors Republican incumbent Saxby Chambliss, all bets are off thanks to the unpredictable whims of special-election turnout. Democrats will ultimately reach 12 to 14 pickups — with Democratic gains in every corner of the nation, from Alaska to the Southeast.

In the House, Democrats picked up 50 seats in the last two elections, and pending recounts and a runoff election in Louisiana could tack on another four. Democrats will hold at least an 80-seat edge in the House.

During the GOP’s supposed national ascendancy this past decade, the biggest Republican edge in the House was 30 seats — a margin greatly aided by ridiculously pro-Republican gerrymanders in states like Michigan, Pennsylvania and Texas.

But the GOP’s redistricting games failed to hold the House in the face of the Democratic onslaught, and that gerrymandering is likely to be reversed after the 2010 census, thanks to major Democratic gains at the state level. In 2000, Republicans controlled 17 state legislatures, Democrats 16, and 16 were split (Nebraska is nominally nonpartisan). This year, Democrats control 27; Republicans control just 14. And while Republicans held 29 governorships in 2000, it’s the Democrats who now hold 29.

These nationwide Democratic gains haven’t just bolstered the party’s majorities — they’ve diminished the influence of conservative Southern Democrats, as they’ve become a smaller percentage of the overall caucus. These aren’t your father’s Democratic majorities. This is, quite simply, the most progressive Congress and White House in generations. Meanwhile, about half of the GOP’s congressional representation comes from the South — pushing their already marginalized party even further to the right than the nation at large.

With Obama and his party decisively winning the battle of ideas over taxes, national security, healthcare and energy, as well as claiming victory in key demographics and in every region of the country, there are no easy answers for Republicans seeking a road back to national power.

Moulitsas is founder and publisher of Daily Kos.

More in Markos Moulitsas

Markos Moulitsas: Don't draft Warren

Read more »