29 April 2009

Northeast GOP Withered

Kos has done what I had been about to do, a detailed factual analysis of how many electoral votes and elected offices Republicans hold in the Northeast in the wake of Arlen Specter's party switch to the Democrats.

Presidential: 5 of 119 electoral votes

West Virginia was the only state to give its electoral votes to John McCain. The closest any of the other states came was New Hampshire, where Obama won by an easy nine points.

Senate: 3 of 24 seats

Two in Maine, one in New Hampshire. That NH seat will flip (D) in 2010. The two Maine senators, now alone in a hostile GOP, are candidates for future party switches. Especially Sen. Olympia Snowe.

House: 18 of 95 seats

Seven of those are in grossly gerrymandered Pennsylvania, and five in grossly gerrymandered New Jersey.

Governors: 3 of 12 states

Voters in liberal Connecticut, Rhode Island, and Vermont have elected Republican governors in large part as a check on the hugely Democratic state legislatures.

State Legislatures: 1 of 24 chambers, 815 out of 2,347 total seats

House 114D-37R
Senate 24D-12R
House 114D-37R
Senate 25D-16R
House 96D-54R-1I
Senate 20D-15R
House 104D-36R-1I
Senate 33D-14R
House 143D-16R
Senate 35D-5R
Assembly 107D-41R-2I
Senate 32D-30R
House 224D-174R
Senate 14D-10R
Assembly 48D-32R
Senate 23D-17R
House 104D-98R
Senate 30R-20D
House 69D-6R
Senate 33D-4R-1I
House 95D-48R-7I
Senate 23D-7R
House 71D-29R
Senate 28D-8R

So of 24 chambers in the region, Republicans only hold the grossly gerrymandered Pennsylvania Senate. In fact, count all the seats in the region, and Democrats hold 1,532 total seats compared to just 815 for the GOP.

Republican Party:

In the latest edition of the Daily Kos/Research 2000 weekly poll, Republicans fared as follows in the Northeast:

Republican Party
Favorable 8
Unfavorable 85

Congressional Republicans
Favorable 8
Unfavorable 80

Kos understates, I think, the extent to which upstate New York and Western Pennsylvania (particular in Pennsylvania's piece of Appalachia) are genuinely conservative, rather than merely gerrymandered, and the extent to which Appalachian West Virginia is much more conservative than its slate of Democratic Party elected officials suggest on an important subset of political issues. The long primary fight between Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama, more than anything else reflected this divide even within the Democratic Party. The 2012 election, after redistricting in the wake of the U.S. Census, will reveal how much the outcomes in those states were impacted by gerrymandering.

But, he also understates that extent to which a good share even of those Northeastern Republicans who remain in the U.S. House and as Governors are moderates in their party, far to the left of the Republican mainstream. On key votes and issues, these moderates can often be persuaded to vote with Democrats, although they generally vote with their party on procedural issues and issues of less importance.

On the other hand, as my Bostonian brother explained to me, in Massachusetts and other states where the Democratic Party is the dominant party, many fairly conservative candidates choose to affiliate with the Democratic Party because it is the politically opportune thing to do. Outside of New York State, where candidates run under multiple party banners at the same time, these ideological distinctions escape cursory review of party affiliations.

If the Republican Party were not so far out of the ideological mainstream of the Northeast, it would be politically viable in much of the Northeast. But, instead, as noted by a diarist at Colorado Pols, the prominent members of the public face of the Republican political movement are urging the ouster of the few moderates or apparent moderates that remain in the GOP -- even 2008 GOP Presidential nominee John McCain -- in the name of ideological purity. As previous noted at this blog, about half of Texas Republicans aren't even interested in remaining in the United States.

In sum, the GOP and particularly the conservative wing of the GOP, is in real trouble in the Northeast, despite the fact that the Northeast was a core of Lincoln's Republican Party, which continued to remain vibrant and competitive on a partisan basis at least until Goldwater ran for President (in the late 1960s). This trend shows no sign of reversing itself, and is spreading to most of the country outside the South, including Colorado. The state of the Republican party is bad nationally too: "The number of Americans identifying themselves as Republicans has slipped to a quarter-century low of 21 percent."

It is also worth noting that Democratic Party strength in the Northeast involve majority or near majority support among non-Hispanic whites, many of whom are quite affluent. The Northeast has a disproportionately high white Catholic population, and these days abortion is the only issue keeping even many "independent" Catholic voters on the fence between the Democratic and Republican parties.

In contrast, in many Republican strongholds in the South, the Democratic party receives less than 10% of the non-Hispanic white vote, while the Republican Party receives almost no support from Hispanics and from non-whites. Likewise, in the places where the GOP is strongest, conservative Christianity is at the heart of the reasons that supporters stick with the Republican Party. Where Republicans remain strong, it is because they are engaged in tribal politics, rather than debating over ideas within particular ethnic and religious groups.

I wonder what would happen if the Republican elected officials of the Northeast were to band together to form a new political party, the Lincoln Republicans, or some such.

While the simple member district plurality voting system overwhelmingly used in partisan races in the U.S. inherently favors a two party system in any given geographical area, the examples of Canada and the United Kingdom illustrate that those two parties do not have to be the same in any particular geographic area. A system in which the South had one leading conservative political party, while other regions had a different leading conservative political party, would be stable in our electoral system.

It would certainly be more interesting if our nation evolved into a three or four party system, with just two dominant political parties in any one state, rather than the current two party system.

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