1. I’ve been meaning to get around to saying a few things about Bill Voegeli’s great diagnostic article linked by Joe below.
2. The first point concerns its perhaps (we’ll see) justified pessimism about the immediate future. If the country had had the demographic of 1992 in the 2008 election, McCain would have won. The biggest change was the decline in the percentage of white, non-college men. McCain WAS the candidate of relatively old, white, unsophisticated men. He was the candidate of my country in fairly rural GA--where he won 23K to 10K. There’s no chance in heck this demographic trend is going to turn around, of course.
3. So while I’m glad to see Fox beating the heck out of CNN in viewership (as Steve H shows us below), I sure would like to see the demographic of its audience before having a party. And because I’ve said already things about the limited appeal of Rush, Newt, Hannity, etc., I won’t repeat them--and I certainly mean nothing personal about the capabilities or intentions of those men.
4. Bill V. reminds us of the immigration debacle in President Bush’s second term. There’s plenty of blame to go around, and the issue is hugely complicated. But the outcome is undeniable: The Hispanic voters (who are rapidly growing as a percentage of the electorate) came to see the median Republican as much more racist than they used to. So middle-class, admirable, family oriented, church going etc. Hispanics voted much more like African Americans of the same description. Perceived racism trumped socially conservative concerns. Bush and McCain, whatever their practical shortcomings, shared the opinion that Republicans can’t win without holding, say, 40% on the Hispanic vote. That will likely be more true in the elections to come than it was in 2008.
5. I fear the appointment of Sotomayor was a brilliant move on Obama’s part to solidify the Hispanic vote. I appreciate the courage of the African American Shelby Steele in condemning the president for preferring "identity politics" to purely meritocratic, post-racial considerations. But it’s also true enough that presidents have often used Court appointments to further political goals. And she does have a very credible resume for the job and all that. Certainly white, male experts fell into the president’s trap by using "racism" to describe her or her views. (The president’s appointments of Republicans McHugh [Army] and Leach [NEH] were even better, of course. They were calculated to peel away even more upscale, white sophisticates away from the Republicans, and they can both certainly be justified on meritocratic grounds.)
6. There’s probably nothing stupider than the advice by Frum etc. that the Republicans should try to become more competitive by abandoning their identity as the more socially conservative, pro-life party. Social conservatism in some sense, for one thing, will somehow become the party’s way of winning a decent percentage of Hispanic and African American vote--although maybe not real soon. And the country and young people especially, all the studies show, are becoming more pro-life. Religious and moral considerations will continue to have singular power in country in trumping race, class, gender, and all that. What’s wrong with Kansas and various other states is that people have more elevated and noble view of their self-interest than any economist can explain.
7. Huckabee, who does nothing for me now, was right after all early in his strange campaign in noticing that middle-class Americans are afflicted with both moral and economic anxiety--even before the economic crisis that nobody understands but affects us all. The Republicans can’t hope to beat eloquent Democratic empathy on the economic front, although they should do everything they can to show that the best way not to be disoriented is to be personally responsible. So they have to include, in their appeal, concern for the excesses of relativism, creeping and sometimes creepy cultural libertarianism, etc.