September 27, 2004

9-11 CAN'T EXPLAIN 1994:

Bush Benefiting From Divided Nation's Unity on Security (Ronald Brownstein, September 27, 2004, LA Times)

Has Sept. 11 tipped the 50-50 nation toward the GOP?

Less cryptically, is a political environment centered on national security issues allowing the Republican Party to break the partisan deadlock that has characterized U.S. politics for the last decade?

That's the ominous question facing Democrats as Sen. John F. Kerry of Massachusetts and President Bush prepare for a debate on foreign policy Thursday night that could represent Kerry's best opportunity to regain the initiative in a presidential race defined primarily by war and terrorism.

For the last decade, the parties have been as evenly balanced as at any time since the late 19th century. In 2000, Bush won the second-narrowest electoral college victory ever. Voters in 2000 returned a Senate divided exactly in half. Probably not since 1880 had a national election, measured from all angles, finished so close to a tie.

Our recent partisan standoff was built on a political landscape shaped almost entirely by economic and cultural concerns. National security was probably less relevant to the elections of the 1990s than any since the 1930s.

In an environment where cultural and economic views drove most decisions, neither party had a clear or lasting advantage. The unusual Republican gains in the 2002 congressional elections, and Bush's lead now, raise the possibility that when security looms largest, the balance may tilt slightly toward the GOP. Or at least it does if Democrats can't convince voters they will do as good a job safeguarding the country.

Security was the Democrats' downfall in 2002, when Bush became only the second president since the Civil War to see his party win both House and Senate seats in the first midterm election of his White House tenure.

As much of a comfort as it is to the Left (and neocons) to think that GOP dominance is exclusively a function of 9-11, that's a fanciful notion given that the congress has been Republican for ten years now and the long term drift of statehouses from the Democrats to the GOP. The authoratative study on this can be read here: Terror, Terrain, and
Turnout: Explaining the 2002 Midterm Elections

Posted by Orrin Judd at September 27, 2004 9:45 AM

I myself favor the explanation that Democrats have been aborting their future constituency.

Posted by: Ptah at September 27, 2004 9:54 AM

Remember a little over a month ago when the dogged opinion shapers at ABCs The Note couldn't find a single Gore voter who intended to vote for Bush but found many, many Republicans who were voting for Kerry? Apparently, Ron Brownstein found them.

Posted by: Melissa at September 27, 2004 10:32 AM