Monday, December 8, 2008

Election Analysis - An Opportunity for Twenty-First Century Conservatives

This is the conclusion section of my full regression analysis of the 2008 election in terms of demographic variables; full text and figures here.

In the US, evangelical and Mormon populations are not growing well in the fast-growing, ethnically mixed, well-educated, and economically strong cities on the coast. The number of atheists in the US is growing (6% of over-30, 12% of under-30 are atheists). Population density, and the resultant admixture of people from different backgrounds, is increasing. The proportion of white voters in the US is dropping. Per capita income will (we hope) continue growing. Hopefully, Americans' average education will continue to increase as the economy increasingly depends on innovation in technical fields. The young voters who helped sweep in Obama will doubtless become more conservative as they age, but whether they will ever become as culturally conservative as their parents is in question. Note that I didn't deliberately set out to pick six demographic variables that are all changing in the Democrats' favor; I picked the six I thought were most clearly relevant to the election. This is not good news for the current incarnation of the GOP, either in California or anywhere else.

At a time when the global credit crisis is causing many inside and outside the US to doubt whether markets are the best mechanism to allocate wealth and promote growth, the GOP cannot afford to allow the Religious Right to continue steering. The market/strong-defense/evangelical alliance is broken, and one of the partners in that alliance has to go.

May I make the unsurprising suggestion to rank-and-file Republicans that you insist on throwing out the partner that, for the last eight years, has revealed itself as a kind of inept religious statist, that can sometimes win elections but has no real governing principles and in the end can't govern its way out of a wet paper bag. Until you do, I'm over here with the Libertarian Party, and a lot of other former Republicans don't know what to do, but they'll be damned if they'll continue voting on the basis of armband religion, as Kathleen Parker put it. The Southern Strategy is dead, it's 2008, and we need new ideas: we need somebody to speak up for the high tech economy that is America's strong suit in this new world, we need somebody to recognize the economic threat-cum-opportunity that is India and China, we need someone to take a principled stand on human rights abuses by our supposed allies and ourselves, and we need someone to show leadership on energy and market reforms and not just let lobbyists write legislation that benefits not just certain industries at the expense of taxpayers and troops, but certain companies. That our government should govern sounds radical, I know; but as an American, I demand the best government in the world. You want to hear it straight from the capitalist horse's mouth? In The Wealth of Nations Adam Smith said "The proposal of any new law or regulation of commerce which comes from [the owners of businesses], ought always to be listened to with great precaution, and ought never to be adopted till after having been long and carefully examined, not only with the most scrupulous, but with the most suspicious attention. It comes from an order of men, whose interest is never exactly the same with that of the publick, who have generally an interest to deceive and even to oppress the publick, and who accordingly have, upon many occasions, both deceived and oppressed it." From Book I.

We don't need any more cheap grand-standing over time-wasting minor social issues - which is about all the GOP seems to know how to do in 2008 - issues that at best are distractions and affronts to privacy and human dignity (like Terri Schiavo) and at worst threaten American business competitiveness (like restricting stem cell research. Notice all those breakthroughs happening in Asia and not here? Surprise!) The strongest Republican governor in the country right now is the governor of California - a centrist who has denounced California's new gay marriage ban as ridiculous. Too bad he wasn't born in the US or I'd already be selling "Presidator 2012" buttons. Religious Right: you broke the GOP and the rationalists want it back - American demographic trends are your worst electoral nightmare, and they're getting worse for you every day. Go off and form the twenty-first century Republican equivalent of the Dixiecrats and win votes in rural Arkansas and Oklahoma if that's your thing. Frankly, after the last election, it seems to be your only thing.

Sun Tzu said the battle is won or lost before it begins; demography is destiny; and David Brooks says the Religious Right will be able to hold onto the GOP's steering wheel at least until 2012. If Brooks is right, fellow moderates and fiscal conservatives, then the battle is lost, and Obama is already a two-term president. For the sake of the country, I hope he's wrong, because I want at least two real American political parties back in action, competing on the merit of their ideas for the next 219 years of the Republic, just as has happened in the previous 219. The party of ideas, the GOP of Reagan and TR and Eisenhower has a golden opportunity here - but if the withered old hands of the Religious Right keep dragging it back, then it's time to consider defection to the Libertarian Party for 2012, or splitting off into the twenty-first century Bull Moose GOP like Teddy Roosevelt did (and kicked Taft's ass, too). And if that's the plan, then we may already have somebody in the wings.

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