A Pure Minority Is Still A Minority
Note: I had published this thoughts previously and hoped that perhaps as time passed it would become outdated. I don’t mean to suggest that anyone in the GOP or conservative movement leadership was going to listen to lil ol me, but that perhaps they’d change their minds after failures.
With a decent chance for the GOP to lose two key races in NY and NJ next week I thought it was worth reposting, even though I wish it wasn’t.
Ever since the election last fall we have seen an ongoing debate in the Republican party over which direction it should take in the future. Hard liners in the party have stated that they need to swing hard to the right to become as ideologically pure as possible. Web sites like Redstate.com and Polipundit.com regularly rail against so called RINO’s for being insufficiently pure.
In recent weeks however another voice has emerged as leading Republicans call for the party to be more of a big tent organization. Calls for the party to tone down social issues like gay marriage and abortion have been met with contempt by the web sites above.
Well I’ve got a message for those hard liners, being ideologically pure may be a nice idea but if you are in the minority it doesn’t do you very much good since you lose almost every vote. I certainly understand the desire to have people in office who you agree with on all of the issues, but the fact is that absent a situation where I become King of the World this isn’t going to happen very often.
If the GOP is going to succeed in the future they need to consider the impact of the hard line attitudes being pushed by the evangelical right.
Let us first consider the advantages of having a party that is ideologically pure, only allowing those who follow the party line 90-100% of the time to be members. On the bright side you are, as a hard liner, going to be happy with the way your party caucus votes most of the time. You can count on a 90-100% satisfaction rate.
But there is a problem when it comes to actually winning elections and getting policies implemented. I think it is fair to say that right now about 40% of voters will tend to support Republican/conservative views, about 40% will tend to support liberal/Democratic ones and about 20% will shift from one side to the other.
We can debate demographic trends but I’m not sure that it will change too much from this in the future. Even in our most one sided party periods there was a pretty solid middle set of voters that held the balance of power. I’m someome who likes to play with numbers so I ran up the following calculations.
So if you restrict your party to only the hard liners that are GOP/Conservative oriented voters, you’re gonna win about 40% of the votes, which means you are not going to control much more than 40% of the seats. This means you might be able to pull off wins about 10%-20% of the time at most.
So taking 90-100% satisfaction and factoring in 10-20% success on legislation and you end up with a ‘victory quotent’ of about 10%-20% of the time, and that isn’t very good.
On the other hand if you work to a broader coalition in your party, reaching out to those 20% of swing voters and maybe even some of those on the other side you will probably lower your satisfaction figures from 90-100% down to 70% or 80%. But you raise your success rate to 80-90% because you are winning elections.
This gives you a victory quotent which could approach 75% which is a whole lot better than the 15% or so that you had before. You might not get success on all of the social issues or the harder line domestic and foreign policy debates but you do win most of the time.
To put it another way, while I understand that subjects like abortion, gay rights, etc might be important to you and you might not like the inability to get your agenda passed. But the fact is you are not going to get that agenda passed no matter what.
Either you’re going to be in the minority and fail or you’re going to be in the majority and have to give ground.
When it comes to these kind of polarizing topics majority or minority status isn’t going to matter, whether you are on the right or on the left. But when it comes to the other 90% of the agenda, being in the majority is quite important.
In addition the future is only going to exacerbate these conditions.
Younger voters are far more libertarian in their attitudes towards social issues. This is unlikely to change as they get older. But when it comes to domestic and foreign policy issues there is much more room for movement, and in there the GOP has an opportunity.
I’m not saying you should give up your core beliefs. There is nothing wrong with the Republicans having a strong pro life element, but there is also nothing wrong with including voters who agree on most other issues, but happen to be pro choice. There is nothing wrong with having a strong evangelical contingent in the party but it should not be able to dominate.
During the 60?s and 70?s the Democratic party forgot the rule of broad inclusion and the result was a serious of major defeats. So far the
Republicans have suffered two Presidential losses in a row and if they do not change things they are likely to see many more defeats.