View From a Height
Commentary from the Mile High City
Wednesday, November 03, 2004

Regionalism & A Word of Caution 

There's been a lot of discussion of the collapse of the Democratic Party in the South. That's fair. The numbers are indisputable, from governorships to House seats to Senators to state legislatures. The lineup is making is structurally impossible for the Democrats to take back the House, difficult to be competitive in the Senate, and puts them at a large disadvantage in the Electoral College.

And yet.

Take a look at the Northeast. See any red? Me either.

Take a look at the margins in these states. Aside from Pennsylvania and New Hampshire, they weren't even close. In the upper midwest, with the exception of the Illinois Implosion, the party is still competitive, or newly competitive.

The party remains viable in most of those states. A number have Republican governors. Left-leaning or centrist Republicans can get elected to the Senate. Connecticut and New Hampshire can still elect Republican congressmen. But the parties have shown steady erosion.

Among state legislatures, the Republicans control only 6 chambers total in that blue region: New Hampshire and Pennsylvania outright, and splitting New York and Delaware. This is an even worse showing than the Democrats in the south.

Over time, voters will discover that they're happier voting for left-leaning Democrats than for left-leaning Republicans who lose their power to Southern conservatives and vote with a conservative caucus. More blue; less red.

There's a reason that George Pataki and Rudy Giuliani will never win the nomination. They may be law-and-order, strong-defense Republicans. But neither really has much spending discipline, and both are pretty leftish on social issues. It's a reason that there are so few northeastern Republicans in leadership positions, and as Powerline points out, it costs us more than distinctive rhetoric.

Watching Giuliani reminded me of one of the costs of the party's decline in the Northeast. The party's leaders are now generally Southwestern and Midwestern; as such, their styles tend to be laconic and soft-spoken. Giuliani is urban, Italian and Northeastern to the core, and he needed those traditions to deliver the speech he gave last night.

This needs to be addressed. Just as smart Democrats are looking to reconnect with the south, so smart Republicans need to find a way to make their party acceptable to people in New York. A national party needs to have national acceptance. First of all, not everything that turned red last night will always be so reliable. Look at what happened in Colorado. Secondly, as the Democrats are finding out, the longer you're out of touch with one part of the country, the harder it gets to reconnect. It also becomes more difficult to govern that part of the country, to draw on its talents and resources when they're needed.

The President has put together a remarkable coalition, but like all political achievements, it's written on water. Probably sooner than we think, we'll either need, or regret not having, one or more of those states.

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