November 12, 2004


In 2004, The Country Didn't Turn Right -- But The GOP Did (Jonathan Rauch, Nov. 12, 2004, National Journal)

Here is the abiding reality, confirmed rather than upset by the election returns: America is a 50-50 nation. According to the National Election Pool exit poll (the largest and probably most reliable such poll), voters identified themselves this year as 37 percent Republicans, 37 percent Democrats, and 26 percent independents. That represents a shift in Republicans' favor, from 35-39-27 in 2000 -- but it is, of course, a shift to parity, not to dominance.

The political realignment that Republicans wish for is real, but it has already happened. Karlyn Bowman, a public opinion analyst at the American Enterprise Institute, notes that Democrats enjoyed a roughly 20-point party-identification lead in the 1970s; that lead diminished to about 10 points in the 1980s and to single digits in the 1990s. Now the gap is gone. "If you see the closing of that kind of gap," Bowman says, "that is something very significant." The significance lies, however, not in either party's imminent domination but in both parties' inability to dominate.

Republicans do, obviously and importantly, dominate in Washington. That, however, has less to do with any tectonic shift in the country's partisan structure than with mechanical factors that have helped the GOP: the House gerrymander, the favorable 2004 Senate terrain, and Bush's two squeaker victories.

Kind of an odd perspective, which assumes that the shift from Democrat to Republican in the electorate ends at parity and ignores things like the 60% Republican governors, soon to be 60 seat Senate, and that even in 2000, when he lost, George Bush carried 60% of the House districts.

Posted by Orrin Judd at November 12, 2004 12:22 PM

Given the structural advantages enjoyed by the rural states under the Constitution, even a 50/50 split in party identification means advantage Republican in Congress for the foreseeable future.

Posted by: curt at November 12, 2004 1:58 PM

Not to give in to blog triumphalism, but every righty blog of which I am aware understood that the Democrats were just kidding themselves when they insisted that turnout and party identification in '04 would not change from 2000.

Every time I heard a Dem say, or saw one write, that everyone who voted for Gore would vote for Kerry, I knew they were heading for a loss.

Posted by: David Cohen at November 12, 2004 2:09 PM

He's right that the country didn't turn right. One day people woke up and realized that one segment of the political spectrum wanted to ban the Pledge of Allegiance, change the definition of marriage, remove all mention of religion from the public sphere, etc. The left's bizarre belief that people would acquiesce to anything some judge somewhere decrees shows their total lack of comprehension of America.

Posted by: brian at November 12, 2004 3:37 PM

Ya know, Rauch is a terrific thinker, as are most native Phoenicians. However, the gay marriage issue has pulled him into the orbit of ASullivan's Pout, a shrine for the normalization and celebration of all aspects of homosexuality. This has, in my opinion, begun to degrade some of his articles these last few years, but he wrote a pretty fine book about everybody's culpability for the special interest gridlock in D.C., "Demosclerosis." I predict a golden age of Rauch after the gay marriage issue is finally settled.

Posted by: JimGooding at November 12, 2004 3:51 PM

In California, an electoral district is considered dominated by Republicans if they have 45% of the party registrations, while Democrats require 55% or so. Apparently, Republican turnout is more loyal and consistent..If this is even partially true nationally, Republicans have a huge edge.

I would also point out that Democrats do rather well among segments of the population likely to die of natural causes in the next four years.

Posted by: Kevin Colwell at November 12, 2004 4:32 PM

Kevin: It's also true that reliable Republican voters are somewhat less willing to be identified as registered Republicans. Many "Democrats" and "Independents" are actually Republicans.

Posted by: David Cohen at November 12, 2004 5:29 PM


The Wife got in a "discussion" with a couple fellow doctors at the VA the other day. They were Kerryites who couldn't understand how anyone voted for the idiot. After adminstering a ritual drubbing to them, folks were quietly coming up to her and telling her how happy they were to hear a Republican speak up.

Posted by: oj at November 12, 2004 5:51 PM

Party registration is a lagging indicator which overstates Democrat strength in the country, because they were the majority party and still remain the only game in town on the local level in Louisiana, Arkansas, etc. Independents also trend GOP and have for decades.

Posted by: Bart at November 12, 2004 6:54 PM

For that matter, I registered Republican out of sheer bullheadedness. I can't vote in the Democratic primary, which in Massachusetts means I have no vote short of governor.

Posted by: David Cohen at November 12, 2004 9:50 PM

OJ: Are they walkin' funny?

Posted by: David Cohen at November 12, 2004 9:51 PM

"According to the National Election Pool exit poll (the largest and probably most reliable such poll)"

Start with a premise like that and you can come to any conclusion that you want. Any. Unicorns? Fairies? Trolls? You name it.

Posted by: Robert Schwartz at November 12, 2004 10:01 PM


They seem to duck into doorways when they see her coming. Then again, so do I...

Posted by: oj at November 12, 2004 11:47 PM