MYTH: The losses Republicans suffered this election were no different than what you usually see in a President’s sixth year in office.
REALITY: Redistricting minimized what might have been a truly historic shellacking.
The numbers alone do look like a typical midterm loss for the presidential party: 28 House seats, with 10 races still undecided. Republicans have clung to this math hard in recent days, with even Karl Rove pointing to electoral history to prove that things could have been worse. But Republicans spent most of the year boasting about how the redistricting of the past decade had made them all but bulletproof. Absent those new district lines, says the American Enterprise Institute’s Norm Ornstein, “it could easily have been 45 or more.” And there are other results that break with past patterns, Ornstein adds. Democrats did not lose a single seat — a feat the party had not accomplished since 1922. Even in the Republican sweep of 1994, the G.O.P. lost four of its open seats to Democrats. What’s more, the wave swept all the way down the ballot — for instance, handing the New Hampshire House to the Democrats for the first time since 1922.
There are four others, all being held up by people who don’t want to acknowledge what really happened. There’s a sixth, and one that will become increasingly important — that the South will be the future battleground. Take it away Ezra:
Tom’s right. His non-Southern Strategy thesis drives people nuts. I know this because I alienated no less than three (3) separate people by mentioning it this weekend, and then finding myself unable to escape the resultant firestorm of offense and anecdote. You can’t focus your resources in the Interior West because that person grew up in the South (albeit in a university community), and they know, just know, that the South would greet Democrats as liberators, showering them with chocolate and flowers, if only they’d make a play for their affections.
Tom can ably argue against that impulse, and I’d like to see him go a bit more into the racial politics than he’s been doing. It’s worth noting that the South, as an aggregate region, disagrees with the Democrats on a variety of issues areas (mainly national security, civil liberties, and cultural issues), and it is not in any way irrational or immoral for southerners to vote based on those preferences.
But as a more general strategic note, the southernization of the GOP will have pretty massive effects on the Republican Party — effects Democrats will find fairly congenial. As a combination of Californian emigration, Hispanic immigration, and economic fluctuation continue diluting the Interior West’s libertarianism, the region will cease exerting its current pull on the Republican Party’s ideology. And as the Elephant becomes ever more reliant on the South, the concerns of the region’s dominant constituence — economically insecure whites — will continue permeating the top levels of the Republican coalition, eventually forcing a leftward shift as their base continues to demand entitlement security and public spending.