by Brien Jackson

A propos of the news that Arlen Specter is switching parties, Chris Cilliza is certainly right to note that the most striking number in the most recent Washington Post/ABC poll is that a mere 21% of respondents identified themselves as Republicans, an all-time low over recorded periods. That means that if you see 5 people standing in line at McDonald’s, odds are that only one of them is a Republican. 35% of respondents identified as Democrats, 38% as Independents.

On the other hand, Cilliza seems surprised that the GOP is becoming more conservative, which doesn’t really make any sense. Presumably the people leaving the GOP are the more moderate members that had identified with the party, meaning that the remnant would have a higher proportion of true-believer wingnuts. It might make sense for party strategists to try to chart a more centrist path to be sure, but it certainly follows that a rump contingent would be more extremist than a “big tent” party. What’s really interesting is that the GOP is basically trapped in a self-inflicted death spiral outside of the Southeast; as the party becomes smaller, it becomes more conservative, which makes it smaller still, and on and on and on. Events could certainly change their fortunes at any moment, but precluding some landscaping changing happening, it will be interesting to see how deep the GOP hole gets before it’s all said and done.