Democrats like to think that the political tide is running their way. African-Americans and Hispanics are a growing proportion of the population. Young people are more liberal than older people. Public opinion is slowing shifting toward a liberal position on gay marriage and abortion rights.
But this may not translate into political power, at least not anytime soon. The map above shows which political parties control state legislatures, before and after the 2014 elections. The map below also shows how Republicans won most 2014 elections for governor, senator and representative.
I would have thought that the manifest failure of Sam Brownback in Kansas, Scott Walker in Wisconsin and Bobby Jindal in Louisiana would have caused voters to turn against the Republican Party, but this didn’t happen.
The reason is, as Matthew Yglesias pointed out in a recent article, is that the Republicans are more united as a political party, and more pro-active, than the Democrats.
Republicans have unified control of 25 states. Along with the usual set of tax cuts for high-income individuals and business-friendly regulations, the result has been:
- An unprecedented wave of restrictions on abortion rights
- The spread of union-hostile “right to work” laws into the Great Lakes states
- New curbs on voting rights, to further tilt the electorate in a richer, whiter, older direction
- Large-scale layoffs of teachers and other public sector workers who are likely to support Democrats
He said the Republicans are likely to control the House of Representatives for the indefinite future. The distribution of voters, with Democrats more concentrated in cities, favors the Republicans to begin with. Control of state legislatures enables the Republicans to gerrymander districts so as to give them an even greater advantage.
There are two sources of political power in the United States, money power and people power. The Republicans have both. No matter how much certain Democrats cater to big business, the Republicans will always be able to out-do them. But the National Rifle Association, the right-to-life movement and other conservative causes give the Republicans grass-roots support as well.
As Yglesias pointed out, there is no state, not even Vermont, in which corporate business is not influential. And, I would add, no politician, not even Bernie Sanders, who could or wants to eliminate business as a factor in American politics.
Organized labor, on the other hand, is strong only in certain states, and the Republican Party has a feasible strategy for eliminating labor.
Yglesias went on to say:
Winning a presidential election would give Republicans the overwhelming preponderance of political power in the United States — a level of dominance not achieved since the Democrats during the Great Depression, but with a much more ideologically coherent coalition.
Nothing lasts forever in American politics, but a hyper-empowered conservative movement would have a significant ability to entrench its position by passing a national right-to-work law and further altering campaign finance rules beyond the Citizens United status quo.
The Republicans, and the conservative movement within the Republican Party, got to where they are through decades of effort. It’s unlikely that it will be reversed overnight. It will take a concerted effort such as Howard Dean’s 50-state strategy on a permanent basis.
Democrats base their hopes on Republican failure. But that will only give them temporary victories. The political party that achieves a lasting majority will be the party that advocates policies that will achieve peace and prosperity, convinces the public the policies will work, and makes a good-faith effort to implement the policies.
Democrats are in denial. Their party is actually in deep trouble by Matthew Yglesias for Vox.