Monday, December 22, 2008

This train only stops in Dixie

Lately it seems like every time I think of a political, social or economic trend that I want to write about, a quick search of the Internet demonstrates that the article I was going to write has already been written.

Such is the case this week with the National Journal article by Ronald Brownstein, A Dangerous Imbalance for the GOP. The Republican Party enjoyed a minor civil war this month as its Dixie Senators derailed a bipartisan plan in Congress to save the Big Three automakers from bankruptcy, and President Bush responded by digging into the $700 billion Troubled Asset Relief Program to give Detroit the money that Congress would not.

There are two reasons why the GOP Senate caucus chose to scotch the original deal in Congress. One, union-hating Republicans would love to break the back of the United Auto Workers, as they continue to spread the myth that Detroit autoworkers are better paid than those in the non-unionized south. Two, today's GOP is strongest in the sunbelt/Old Confederacy states which just happen to be the hub of manufacturing for America's foreign-owned auto manufacturers, including Toyota, Honda, BMW and Volkswagen.

Brownstein in his article reaches the same conclusion that I did regarding this mess, at least in terms of the politics involved. That is, that the Republican Party is acting in a very shortsighted way if its long-term goal is to build strength nationally. The GOP is currently dead or dying in the northeast, midwest and on the west coast. It's treading water in the northern plains, and still strong only in the southeast. Brownstein observes that,

"it's telling that so many Republicans from reliably conservative places were willing to attach the party to a policy that could economically devastate Rust Belt states where the GOP is already declining. That gamble shows how the party's loss of regional and ideological equilibrium can reinforce itself. Because Republicans from swing and Democratic-leaning states now constitute such a distinct minority in the party caucus, they lack the numbers to prevent it from adopting positions unpopular with their voters. The caucus majority can impose a direction that solidifies the party where it is already strong but further endangers the minority."

To summarize, the longest journey begins with a single step. The GOP's first step towards becoming a majority party in America again begins with taking actions that will build support where it is not already strong. The Democratic Party endured this same painful process after the 2004 election. Thanks to Howard Dean's leadership at the DNC in 2006 and the Obama campaign in 2008, the 50-state strategy employed by the Democratic Party paid huge dividends in making it victorious in places where people doubted it every could be.

Can the Republican Party break out of its downward spiral in the foreseeable future? I certainly hope not. In fact, I hope they just keep singing the same tune, and leave the rest of us alone. I'll even give them the song (with thanks to Mr. Johnny Cash),

Hey porter! Hey porter!
Please open up the door.

When they stop the train I'm gonna get off first

Cause I can't wait no more.

Tell that engineer I said thanks a lot,

and I didn't mind the fare.

I'm gonna set my feet on Southern soil

and breathe that Southern air.

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