Monday, November 10, 2008

Divide or Unify

I think I only have one or two more days of election reaction posts. That's the problem with only writing once a day. It was either cram it all into one really long post or stretch it out over a week. So here comes more of the never-ending analysis.

With the Democrats firmly in control of both houses of Congress and the presidency and with a seeming mandate to run with a very progressive agenda, there's been some talk in the press of a major party realignment that marks the start of a liberal Democrat controlled era. If that's true, so much the better. However, I'm not certain. It seems like not too long ago we were hearing about a permanent Republican majority. You can see how that panned out.

It is instructive to notice, though, the differences between the 2004 Bush/Rove realignment and the 2008 Obama/Axelrod version. We know that the 2004 "permanent" realignment lasted for all of two years. So hopefully that's a big difference between the two scenarios.

Another point to consider is how the majorities were created. The Bush/Rove campaign was one of mobilizing the base at the expense of the rest. It was a 50 plus 1 strategy for control. Especially in 2004, there was no great effort to reach out to the middle. Rather, it was an effort to activate the hard core Republicans and get them to the polls.

In contrast, the Obama/Axelrod campaign (which had a large amount of base activating also) wass focused on reaching out to new voters and red states to build a coalition. That's why you saw Bush in 2004 mainly focus on holding the states he'd won four years ago. Obama on the other hand, turned several swing states and several traditionally Republican states (Indiana, North Carolina, almost Montana). The Democratic method for realignment is to bring everyone together. The Republican method was to pick wedge issues (gay marriage ban amendments), mobilize the hardcore base, and work on depressing turnout for the other side.

I'm in no way saying that the only strategy the Republicans can use for building majorities is this divide and conquer strategy. Ronald Reagan is an obvious counter-example in recent memory. However, that was the strategy that the Republicans did use. It's certainly nice to see that the other way works too.

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