Demographic Shift and Political Futures

Based on the miserable way in which the Democrats handled the last presidential campaign, and the party's continuing arrogance in the face of defeat, I haven't been alone in prognosticating an eventual death for the party. My caveats are that the GOP doesn't seem to have a candidate after George W. Bush that would be able to keep together the same sort of coalition. There are few other Republicans that are so well-known, and Dick Cheney is certain not to run (nor do I think would he win, should he run, thanks to his ailing ticker).

Nonetheless, if the Democrats continue their name-calling, and there's no real sense of unity (and with Bush gone, it'll be harder to find a convincing bogeyman for everyone to unite in hating), they will continue to be in the minority. This is, of course, assuming that the GOP at the very least maintains its current strengths (a large portion of which is, undoubtely, Bush). Indeed, it may not be beyond contemplation that the Party of Jefferson could cease to exist altogether. After that, there could be a brief period of Republican supremacy, followed by the rise of a new party which would combine the moderate elements of both currently existing parties.

However, this is all incumbent on things staying rather much the way they are. James Taranto argues (first item) that the Republicans need to be wary of a victory on some of their pet issues:

One of the most interesting political questions in the coming decades will be the effect of "values" voters, or the so-called religious right. This constituency is riding high at the moment, having been instrumental in Bush's two elections and in electing the most conservative Senate in recent memory. Turnover on the Supreme Court could give these voters a long-sought chance to affect policy on the issues most important to them, above all abortion.

But if the Supreme Court were to overturn Roe v. Wade, it would dramatically change American politics, which in this respect has been stable for a quarter century. We've argued that the absence of Roe would be politically problematic for Republicans, because it could force them to choose between moderate voters and pro-life absolutists, whereas they can appeal to both groups now by favoring the modest restrictions that Roe permits.

Possibly this problem could be avoided by a return to the status quo ante Roe--that is, for Congress to refrain from passing sweeping legislation on abortion and leave its regulation to the states. It's conceivable that practical-minded pro-lifers would pursue such a strategy on the ground that it is easier to get things done in the state capitals than in Washington. Yet in this case, just as the end of the Cold War diminished national security as an issue pre-9/11, at the expense of the party that led America to victory the Cold War, the overturning of Roe would diminish abortion, depriving the GOP of its current advantage.

If the Republicans' goal today is to reverse Roe, they need to be prepared in the event of success. Standing still is an option only if the GOP doesn't expect to accomplish anything with its power.
Indeed. Good reminder for any of us who are content to rest on our laurels.

[Cross-posted at Between Worlds]

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