The Republican Party this morning, on the day after losing an election, finds itself at a crossroads. It can blame external factors, like Hurricane Sandy or it can figure out if there is an internal problem. If you want to hear the former, just turn the radio dial today to any talk show. They’ll explain that in two years, the GOP will win the Senate and all will be peaches and cream again.
I’m more interested in the long term problem. As long as we have an electoral college, we’ll have a two party system. But, if one of the two parties finds itself far from the average voter nationally, they will lose consistently whenever a national election occurs. Look, for example, at what happened to the Democrats after 1972. If Watergate hadn’t happened, they would still be centered at the corner of Haight-Ashbury and Bleeker Streets. The GOP is now in a similar position. Because of federal gerrymandering of House elections, the Republican Party has a lock on the Congressional districts in the Deep South. Every state in the region gives one or two districts to African Americans; the rest go to the GOP.
Why is this a problem? The policy prescriptions are much different in this region than in the rest of the country. People tend to combine a set of economic and social policy preferences that are far different than typical voters elsewhere. Remember earlier in the campaign, Gallup or someone had a poll that looked at working class whites; they found that although the GOP was up overall in this demographic, the difference was almost completely contained in the South. In the rest of the country, the difference is pretty minimal. So, when the base of the party is located here, the policies advocated will be too far to the right to fit the other regions.
Think, for example, about gay marriage. Little emphasized among the other election results, gay marriage won in referenda in both Maine and Maryland. These places aren’t San Francisco and lower Manhattan. People under 50 in the rest of the country have figured out that letting other people get married doesn’t cause their own marriage to fall apart.
The GOP has a long term problem; every four years from now on, their base will become more geographically limited. By no later than the end of this decade, Texas will be a purple state politically. If the Republicans have to spend resources to defend the Lone Star State, then how can it win? Arizona will go the same path. Virginia and then North Carolina will become difficult to win.
So, what Republicans first of all should do is invite Marco Rubio, Susana Martinez, and any other Hispanics that hold major offices in the country to meet with the other political elites. Tell these people what policy choices they would recommend to increase the percentage of Hispanic voters. My guess is what they would recommend is move slightly to the left on some redistribution factors. For example, come out in favor of class affirmative action instead of basing it on race or gender. This helps the social conservative GOP base since these people have less income than the average person. It also causes a cleavage among the Democrats, since Obama claims that he favors this as well.