A penetrating examination of the Republicans’ permanent campaign—and the Democrats’ still-formidable disadvantages—from Washington Post senior political reporter Edsall.
Globalization and the civil-, women’s- and sexual-rights movements have polarized the electorate. Residential enclaves reinforce cultural values, consumer choices and religious convictions, leaving only a sliver of undecided voters. (One consequence: Republicans have come to rely more heavily on religious traditionalists, while secularists comprise a larger proportion of Democratic voters.) This means that since 2000, Republican strategy has switched from reaching out toward centrists to mobilizing the base. Judging from the massive evidence presented here, Karl Rove & Co. excel at politics as narrowcasting, with advertising targeted with a sophistication that has rattled Democrats. Unfortunately, the Democrats’ well-educated, affluent, tech-savvy elite emphasize culturally libertarian norms at the expense of their “disadvantaged and disproportionately minority” rank-and-file, who, Edsall observes, are badly served by Republican economic policies that stress individual risk-management. The author predicts that victories resulting from disgust with the Jack Abramoff scandal or even the Iraq war will prove ephemeral unless the Democrats improve their organizational infrastructure and neutralize “wedge” issues such as gay marriage that have helped the GOP achieve slim but decisive electoral victories for 40 years. Though not without ideological bias (e.g., are GOP loyalists really more likely to be driven by “anger points” than Democratic diehards?), Edsall presents a compelling analysis detailing the enormous institutional advantages enjoyed by the party in power. In contrast, Democratic special-interest groups have forced John Kerry, Joe Lieberman and Dennis Kucinich to back off positions on affirmative action and abortion that clash with liberal orthodoxy. An intra-party insurgency, à la Goldwater and Reagan in the GOP, might be the only way to disrupt the Democrats’ ossification, Edsall speculates.
Impressive political analysis, anchoring electoral trends in the larger demographic, social, business and moral environment.