Thursday, December 15, 2016

The GOP's Political Hegemony

In 2008 pundits were declaring the Republican party to be all but dead. The future, we were told, is with the Democrats, particularly because the GOP base - old, white men - was dying off and the country was turning browner. Well, all of that may be true, but a strange thing happened during the last eight years. The country elected and re-elected a Democrat to the White House while simultaneously stripping Democrats of over 1000 elective offices across the nation, and, to rub salt into the wound, it doesn't look like things will improve in 2018, the year of the next major elections.

Throughout most of this recent election season we were given to believe that Trump would be a drag on the GOP ticket, especially the down ballot. Like so much else in this election, though, this prediction didn't turn out the way some prognosticators thought it would.

Here's Amber Phillips at The Washington Post with the gory details:
Republicans grabbed more of America's statehouses and governor's mansions during the Obama administration than at any time in the modern era. Republicans will still control an all-time high 69 of 99 state legislative chambers. They'll hold at least 33 governorships, tying a 94-year-old record. That means that come 2017, they'll have total control of government in at least 25 states, and partial control in 20 states. According to population calculations by the conservative group Americans for Tax Reform, that translates to roughly 80 percent of the population living in a state either all or partially controlled by Republicans.

Things are just as good for the GOP at the federal level, where Republicans have reached the trifecta. They just won the White House, they've kept their majorities in Congress and they have a chance to reshape the Supreme Court to a strong conservative ideological leaning.

Democrats, meanwhile, will go into 2017 without any significant gains in Congress and with total control of just five states. (Republicans managed to tie Connecticut's state Senate, but a tie breaks for Democrats thanks to the state's Democratic lieutenant governor presiding over the chamber. So technically the state stays in Democratic control.)
The WaPo article features some fascinating graphics:

Phillips adds this thought:
Democrats are still soul searching for what went wrong on [November 8th]. But there are a few reasons that help explain Republicans' steady march to dominance over the past eight years. The simplest one is President Obama.
Indeed, while it's normal for the "out" party to pick up seats in midterm elections, the GOP gain during the Obama years was particularly pronounced -- more than 900 Democratic state legislators were defeated.

To make matters worse for the Democrats, in the election just past Republicans had to defend 23 Senate seats to the Democrats 13. It was widely expected that the Democrats would pick up several of these, but they did not. In the 2018 midterms, the Democrats will be defending 17 seats more than the Republicans will have to defend, and at least five of these are in states Trump won.

Here's a graphic that illustrates the predicament they're in:

The red states are states in which a Republican senator is up for re-election in 2018, the blue states are those in which a Democratic senator is standing for re-election.

When people look back at President Obama's legacy a decade from now there may well be very little to see. It's likely that the Affordable Care act will be dismantled, the Iran nuclear accord will be largely eviscerated, his numerous Executive Orders will be mostly rescinded, his onerous regulations on business will be eased, and his attempt to flood the country with illegal immigrants will be stanched. What will remain will be the precedent of the first black president, a huge national debt, a feckless foreign policy, and the shell of a Democrat Party that, having fallen into the hands of liberal/progressives, was repeatedly repudiated at the polls until forced to retreat to the coastal left-wing redoubts of New York City, California and a few satellites.