Ronald Reagan’s “Big Tent” Republican Party is getting smaller every day. One wonders who the national Republican leaders expect to vote for them now and in the future.
Richard Nixon traded the Party of Lincoln for votes from former segregationists with his Southern strategy. The black vote post-Nixon is reliably delivered to the Democratic Party.
The fastest growing minority in America these days is Hispanic immigrants. It is certainly proper to deplore illegal immigration and demand that we secure the border. But harsh rhetoric and draconian state laws to harass anyone of Latino descent are delivering this huge potential future vote to the Democrats.
Gay bashing is also a popular sport among right-wing Republican candidates who seem to think gays are all Democrats and a small minority, so they can be trashed with impunity. What they don’t realize is that the younger generation has grown up with gay friends in school, in their family and at work, as more and more people decide to live openly. Young people are really turned off by gay bashing and it confirms their belief that the Republican Party is intolerant and behind the times. Yes, the young vote less than older people but they will get older and they will pay attention and they will vote. Will they vote for the Michelle Bachmanns of the world? Look at the number of young people who voted for the first time for Barack Obama.
The base of the Republican Party of late has been older white people. It works generally because they are the most reliable voting bloc. But Congressman Paul Ryan got all his Republican House colleagues to vote for a budget plan that calls for a drastic change in Social Security. Or, as the Democrats say, it was a vote “to abolish Social Security as we know it.” It has already won Democrats some special elections. Yes, Social Security needs reform. But tinkering with means testing and raising the age or other tweaks are one thing—privatizing Social Security is political suicide, it will not happen, and to run around carried away with right-wing rhetoric will be noted by the older voter. Even those who only get their information from Fox News.
The middle-class voters out here also see that nothing has changed on Wall Street. Jobs are scarce, wages are in decline. The gap between the very rich and the middle class grows wider every day. And when they see the Republicans as standing in opposition to closing tax loopholes or raising taxes on the very wealthy, they wonder who’s looking out for them. When Republicans quite rightly raise questions about an alarming debt, we are sympathetic. But we also remember that it was the Republicans who spent a trillion dollars on two wars and another trillion on a Medicare prescription drug entitlement without paying for any of it.
Since the Reagan days it has been the goal of conservatives to “starve the beast.” The theory being that if you reduce government revenue there is less money for overweening federal spending and wasteful programs. The Republicans have continued to cut taxes to starve the beast, but they let the beast continue to feast on borrowed money. They ignored the other side of the equation.
So when the Republicans have finally achieved their lemming-like goals and have convinced blacks, Hispanics, gays, young people, the elderly and the middle class that their party doesn’t represent them, who will be left?
There aren’t that many Wall Street brokers and bankers.
For now, many of the traditional Republican voters are still committed to the party. Mostly because the Democrats are even more feckless, leaderless, and ineffectual. There is also widespread antipathy toward President Obama. That’s enough to perhaps give them a victory in the short run. But how long can they depend on the mantra that the Democrats are worse?
Traditional Republican voters do have an option between the Democrats and the Republicans. They can stay home on Election Day.
The Big Tent is starting to look more like a pup tent every day.