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Charles Laffiteau's Bigger Picture

Last update - Thursday, May 28, 2009, 12:29 By Charles Laffiteau

Last week I predicted that a new Democratic majority would probably be in power for at least a generation. Since then, a large survey of more than 7,000 American voters by Gallup was released which both amplifies and lends additional support to that argument.

To begin with, the Gallup poll found that the percentage of voters who identify themselves as Republican had dropped to 21 per cent, the lowest number in the past 25 years. Even more worrisome for Republicans is the fact that the same poll found that more than 53 per cent of voters now self-identify as Democrats. This is easily the highest number for Democrats in a generation.
But social conservative Republicans still don’t seem to understand what has happened to the American electorate. They continue to claim that the way back to power is to refuse to compromise with moderate Democrats and Republicans and instead focus on their opposition to abortion, gay marriage, gun control and increased federal spending. As such, they are not in alignment with the independent and swing voters they need to win national elections.
The most telling numbers in the Gallup poll are the ones that show Republicans losing significant support across all demographic groups except for church-going Christians, senior citizens and conservatives. There has been a decline in GOP support of 10 points among college graduates and 13 points among those with postgraduate educations. Support has also declined by nine per cent among those who identify themselves as moderates.
The longer-term problem is that most of the Republicans that remain in the House of Representatives represent the most conservative elements of the party. These congressmen identify far more with Dick Cheney and Sarah Palin’s rigidly conservative ideological wing than they do with the more moderate and pragmatic establishment wing represented by Governors Charlie Crist and Arnold Schwarzenegger. Conservatives effectively control what is left of the national Republican Party and they are not making any secret of their disdain for those few moderate voices that still remain.
As a result, some moderate Republicans have decided to throw in the towel rather than continue to swim upstream against the ever-stronger conservative current. Senator Arlen Specter, who recently jumped to the Democrats, is a case in point. 
This interesting bit of political reality neatly summarises the dilemma for the rest of the party establishment as well. Be they moderates or conservatives, established Republicans are confronted with a shrinking base of conservative voters who are more concerned with the ideological purity of Republican candidates than with winning national or state elections.
These establishment figures privately voice their concerns, but none of them will dare to stand up to Rush and his ditto-heads for fear that they will be regarded as enemies by conservative Republican base voters. As a result, those Republican moderates who would have a good chance of winning a general election campaign against a Democratic opponent have instead opted not to run for office.
Dark days lie ahead for the Republican Party until such time as its leaders decide to stand up against its conservative ideologues. As it stands now, Republican conservatives are winning the battles, but the Republican Party is losing the war.

Charles Laffiteau is a lifelong US Republican from Dallas, Texas who is currently pursuing a PhD research programme in Environmental Studies at Dublin City University

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