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Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Election Post-Mortem, Part III

Posted By on Wed, Nov 5, 2008 at 4:56 PM

Okay, I keep harping on this idea that Pennsylvania's increasing Democratic margin is masking a "red-shift" out here in the west. I'll let it go soon, I promise. 

But MSNBC notes that despite "Obama’s impressive 11-point win in Pennsylvania ... McCain’s Western PA strategy worked. The problem? There weren’t enough votes out there."

The site notes that McCain managed to win some southwestern Pennsylvania counties -- Beaver, Washington and Fayette -- which John Kerry won in 2004. But all told, there were only 227,000 votes cast in those areas -- less than Obama got all by himself in some eastern parts of the state. 

Meanwhile, how are Republicans taking this? Just as you'd hope: They are concluding that the problem is that THEY WEREN'T CONSERVATIVE ENOUGH. Here, for example, are the blast e-mailed thoughts of Lowman Henry, a former state GOP official who works for a conservative think tank, the Lincoln Institute:

"[Republican] party moderates have opined time and again that a more middle-of-the-road Presidential candidate could win Pennsylvania. McCain was touted as that candidate. He lost by 11% – far worse than the George W. Bush losses in either 2000 (5%) or 2004 (3%).

This election provides conclusive proof of what happens to a party when it abandons its core values...
 
The fact of the matter is the GOP has become an unprincipled, undisciplined, ineffective shell of its former self. It has a party structure controlled by lobbyists and special interests, unable to excite even its own base ...

The good news is this vindicates conservatism. When the Republican Party both talked and walked the conservative line -- think Ronald Reagan -- it enjoyed an unparalleled period of success and prosperity both nationally and within Pennsylvania. But, as Specter-style moderation took hold the GOP moved away from those principles with the resulting electoral carnage." (Emphasis mine.)

We progressives can scoff at the idea that an electoral ass-whooping is somehow a "vindication" for conservatives. And having faced this sort of quandary ourselves not long ago ("did we walk away from our values, or did everyone else?") it's obviously a lot more fun to watch the other side wade through it. There's also an argument that in some ways, Reagan was more moderate than either side gives him credit for. Consider his willingness to -- gasp -- raise taxes for purposes of saving Social Security, for example.

But you can see where Henry and his ilk are coming from. As Paul Krugman predicted prior to the election, some of the few remaining moderate Republicans went down in flames yesterday. New England moderates -- once a bulwark of the GOP -- are all but a memory, as the party's reach has headed southward. There's a similar trend taking place on the state level: Philly's suburbs were once Republican, and had a history of elecing more pragmatic, less cretinous conservatives. But those areas have trended increasingly Democratic ... which means the GOP will have to shift westward if it is to survive.

For those of us in the western part of the state, this may prove exceedingly irritating. After all, it means that the face of the GOP may end up resembling the doughy features of Daryl Metcalfe, the anti-choice, anti-immigrant state Rep. from Cranberry. (Metcalfe, by the way, cruised to a re-election victory last night.) Pennsylvania as a whole may be turning a deeper shade of blue, but in the west, we're likely to see more slack-jawed pols in paler shades of white. 

In the bigger picture, though, I couldn't be happier to see the GOP decide that it has to be more conservative. In fact, here are some issues I fully recommend the party adopt for future policy platforms:

-- A renewed push to privatize Social Security, so that we can put our money in the stock market.

-- More anti-choice provisions of the kind that just got defeated IN SOUTH DAKOTA. For the SECOND TIME.

-- More Metcalfe-style immigrant bashing. If  the GOP wants to cater to whites in rural Pennsylvania, I can think of no better way for them to do so than antagonizing Latino voters everywhere else. Including most of the states where the population is actually growing.

Good luck with all that, fellas. 

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