Oblivion

I’m usually pretty skeptical of claims that political parties are on there way to oblivion. The current 2 party system has endured since the Civil War, and it was just 4 years ago, after all, that a lot of righties were certain the Democratic Party was on its way out for good and now, well…

But the wrinkle Marc Ambinder notes here has me thinking:

To the extent that geography correlates with ideology among congressional Republicans, a major sweep by the Democrats could really be in a position to completely break the gluons that bind the broader party together. The GOP will lose a disportionate number of seats in the Northeast, Midwest and West and keep a disrportionate number of seats in the South. So the remnant of the party, as it were, will be right-wing Southern conservatives…. even more so that it is now.

This is a very good point. Congressional Republicans are already white and disproportionately concentrated in the Old Confederacy, another major Democratic landslide in this election would increase that dramtically. And the Southeast is, to say the least, pretty dramtically different from much of the country in its voting patterns and ideological demography. In other words, it’s not exactly the best place from which to launch a broad electoral strategy nationwide.

And I’m not really sure there’s a precedent for this in recent history. Even through the recent period of Republican control of the whole government, the Democrats weren’t stuck in deep minorities, they were after all able to return to the majority in a single election, nor were they disproportionately concentrated in one geographic area. You’d have to go back to the era from the New Deal until 1948 of Democratic domination of all branches for something similar, but 2 more or less unrivaled crises, the Great Depression and World War II, make that period a bit, shall we say, unique.

Will the Republican Party face permanent oblivion? Probably not. But anything is possible. Ambinder uses the example of the Whigs as a benchmark, but I think the path of the Federalists is much more likely. The Federalists rendered themselves extremely unpopular during the Presidency of John Adams because of the Alien & Sedition Acts, then went into a period of deep minority prior to the War of 1812, in which they were a viable party nowhere outside of New England. When “Madison’s Little War” was in high swing, the Federalists actually convened a conference in which to discuss the secession of New England from the union, and a subsequent treaty with Britain. The plan failed, the Federalists were embarrassed, and they basically ceased to be a viable political party afterwards. Could the GOP follow this path? Probably not, but it’s not impossible to see how an embittered party regarding their opponents a literally un-American whose already reduced to screaming about “socialists” and their opponents being in league with foreign enemies could react to such a deep, far reaching, defeat by becoming increasingly unhinged, to the point of really jumping the shark and shattering their credibility once and for all.

And it certainly doesn’t help that the “young leaders” in the Republican Party, like Bobby Jindal or Mark Sanford, more or less all hail from the right-wing of the party and, yep, the South. That doesn’t really bode well for regrouping a party from a minority the likes of which the GOP is about to find themselves in. On the other hand, Barack Obama had just burst on the national scene this time 4 months ago, and now he’s on the precipice of the Presidency, so it’s certainly not beyond the realm of possibility that the Republicans future standard bearer is as yet completely unknown to most of the country.

In any event, something that’s lasted for 150 years is more likely to endure than not.