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Jewish World Review Nov. 11, 2002 / 6 Kislev, 5763

John H. Fund

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Sobering Thoughts: The GOP's cup runneth over? No, it's half empty. | Everyone's talking about the Republican sweep in Tuesday's elections. But while the GOP has much to crow about, there are also trends that should cause Republicans to worry.

In 1969, a young aide to Richard Nixon named Kevin Phillips wrote a prescient and original book called "The Emerging Republican Majority." Since then Mr. Phillips has made a quirky ideological journey to the left, but his basic thesis that Republicans were about to build a new majority based on the South and Sun Belt while shedding voters in ancestral Republican states in the North proved remarkably useful in analyzing the Republican takeover of Congress in 1994.

But the GOP dominance of the South, rural Midwest and Mountain states has come at a real price, one that was on clear display in this election. In 2000, George W. Bush won only one Northeastern state--tax-phobic New Hampshire--and that by a single percentage point. This year, Republicans managed to retain most of their governorships in the region, but in other races the Democrats continued to extend their dominance.

Gov. George Pataki's widely remarked move to the center--and sometimes beyond--won him a third term against the hapless Carl McCall, but his coattails stopped outside the threshold of his victory party. Republican John Faso lost the race for state controller and the GOP lost a House seat on Long Island--the third they have surrendered to the Democrats since 1996. New York City and its suburbs are now represented by 16 Democrats and only two Republicans. Fifteen years ago, the region had seven GOP congressmen.

Pennsylvania saw a clear victory for former Philadelphia mayor Ed Rendell in the race for governor, although a GOP gerrymander kept the Legislature in Republican hands. Ominously, one out of four registered Republicans in the Philly suburbs plumped for Mr. Rendell. Some of those party-switchers also voted for an incumbent Democrat who won an upset victory in a House seat that had been gerrymandered in favor of the Republicans.

California is now a Democratic stronghold in much the same way that Texas has become Bush country. Barring a change in a recount in the controller's race, Democrats won every statewide office for the first time in 40 years. The state's Democratic majorities in the Legislature and congressional delegation are locked in for the next decade. Only the prospect of a race for governor in 2006 by actor Arnold Schwarzenegger offers much hope.

Much has been made of the gains by Democrats in key governorships. Actually, Democrats were handed victories in several of those states by Republican administrations that had either run of gas or retreated on core party principles.

Michigan's Gov. John Engler had a splendid first two terms, but turned to notions of industrial policy and taxing the Internet in his third term. His lieutenant governor, Dick Posthumus, made the race close but couldn't buck the media's glowing coverage of Democrat Jennifer Granholm, a rising star for that party.

Illinois, a state President Bush's father carried in 1988, is becoming solidly Democratic. The scandal-plagued administration of Republican George Ryan left a sour taste in the mouths of voters. So Democrats will now hold the governorship and both houses of the Legislature for the first time in some 30 years. The state's surviving top Republican, Sen. Peter Fitzgerald, will be a prime Democratic target in 2004.

In Wisconsin, Republican Scott McCallum, who became governor when Tommy Thompson accepted a Bush cabinet post, was hapless from day one. Mr. McCallum, a former moderate who had once campaigned for the Senate to the left of Democratic incumbent William Proxmire, joined with irresponsible legislators this past summer to paper over the budget deficit by raiding the state's future revenues from the tobacco settlement. Democrat Jim Doyle won, but with only 45%, because a Libertarian candidate--Tommy Thompson's brother Ed--scored an impressive 10%.

In Tennessee, Republican Rep. Van Hilleary could not overcome the tax-raising legacy of departing GOP Gov. Don Sundquist and lost to Democrat Phil Bredesen. Mr. Sundquist had alienated both his party and average voters with his obsessive advocacy of a state income tax. Tennessee is only one of seven states without one. The lesson here is that Republicans lose when they are seen to abandon ship on the party's core animating principle: lower taxes.

So while Republicans continue to pop the champagne corks, they would do well to sober up soon. John Judis and Ruy Teixeira, two liberal analysts, have written a response to Mr. Phillips's 1969 book. It's called "The Emerging Democratic Majority," and while Tuesday's results leave room to question its central thesis, it still makes valuable points. White-collar professionals such as teachers, lawyers, doctors and engineers are trending Democratic, and they are turning formerly conservative strongholds like Phoenix into competitive territory. In 1988, President Bush's father carried Phoenix's Maricopa County with 65% of the vote. In 2000, his son won it by two percentage points. This past Tuesday, Republican Matt Salmon carried it by an even smaller margin and the GOP apparently lost a governor's race in the Grand Canyon State for the first time in 20 years.

As significant a victory as the Republicans have achieved, this is still the closely divided nation that political analyst Michael Barone describes. Republicans again have control of both houses of Congress, but by narrow and potentially precarious margins. Once the celebrations die down, the party would be well advised to focus attention on where it is losing votes as well as where it is gaining them.

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10/31/02: Blue Gray: California's governor answers a Nobel Prize winner with obscenities
10/14/02: Bad Hair Day: Did Montana Dems exploit antigay prejudice?
10/11/02: The kill-everything senate
09/30/02: Schroeder did what it took to win--but at what cost to Germany?
08/22/02: Buh-Bye Bob, So Long Cynthia : No amount of shouting could've saved Barr or McKinney
07/29/02: GOP: Get Over Panic --- Dems are vulnerable on corporate scandals, too
07/17/02: Not Just an Average Joe: A black GOPer may give Rep. Eliot Engel a run for his money
07/15/02: The McCain Mutiny-II
07/01/02: Opening the Schoolhouse Door: The politicians can't stop school choice now
06/20/02: The Body' Bows Out --- American politics will be duller without Jesse Ventura
06/06/02: It's time for President Bush to stand up to California's senators
05/16/02: A Court Intrigue: Procedural funny business in a racial-preference case
05/14/02: Thin moral ice: New revelations from a skater's Stasi files recall an oppressive era
05/09/02: Newark, Zimbabwe!?
05/02/02: Will Terror Leave Us No Choice? Teachers unions try to use Sept. 11 as an excuse for bad schools
04/23/02: The New Nixon? Al Gore plots his comeback
04/16/02: 'I, Uh, I Have No Comment': A union plays dirty in opposing an antitax initiative
03/31/02: Don't Just Do Something, Stand There!: Filibusters can help the Senate GOP get things done
03/14/02: Red-Light District: It's time to draw the line on gerrymandering
02/21/02: Slippery Slope: Can Dick Riordan beat California's Democratic governor?
02/14/02: Reform School: The Shays-Meehan incumbency protection act
02/07/02: Arizona Highway Robbery: Politicians make a grab for campaign cash
01/31/02: Disfranchise Lassie: Even dogs can register to vote. We need election reform with teeth
01/17/02: Dr. King's Greedy Relations: Cashing in on a national hero's legacy
01/10/02: Oil of Vitriol
01/04/02: The little engine that couldn't--and the senators who don't want it to
12/24/01: E-mail and low-cost computers could be conduits for a learning revolution
12/13/01: How Gore could have really won
12/07/01: Let our students keep their cell phones
12/04/01: Why the White House gave the RNC chairman the boot
11/12/01: A Winsome Politician: She won an election in a majority-black district--and she's a Republican
11/01/01: Bush Avoids Politics at His Peril
10/30/01: Cocked Pit: Armed pilots would mean polite skies
10/24/01: Chicken Pox: Hardly anyone has anthrax, but almost everyone has anthrax anxiety
10/11/01: Will Rush Hear Again? New technology may make it possible
10/04/01: Three Kinds of pols
08/24/01: Lauch Out: Who'll replace Jesse Helms?
08/08/01: Tome Alone: Clinton's book will probably end up on the remainder table
08/03/01: Of grubbing and grabbing: Corporation$ and local government$ perfect "public use"
07/31/01: Affairs of State: The Condit case isn't just about adultery. It's about public trust and national security
07/14/01: The First Amendment survives, and everyone has someone to blame for the failure of campaign reform
07/12/01: He's Still Bread: Despite what you've heard, Gary Condit isn't toast --- yet
07/12/01: Passing Lane: Left-wing attacks help boost John Stossel's and Brit Hume's audiences
06/25/01: Man vs. Machine: New Jersey's GOP establishment is doing everything it can to stop Bret Schundler
06/15/01: A Schundler Surprise? Don't count out "the Jack Kemp of New Jersey"
06/06/01: Memo to conservatives: Ignore McCain and maybe he'll go away
05/29/01: Integrity in Politics? Hardly. Jim Jeffords is no Wayne Morse
05/22/01: Davis' answer to California's energy crisis? Hire a couple of Clinton-Gore hatchet men
05/07/01: Prematurely declaring a winner wasn't the networks' worst sin in Florida
04/23/01: How to fix the electoral process --- REALLY!
04/11/01: A conservative hero may mount a California comeback
03/30/01: Can the GOP capture the nation's most closely balanced district?
03/09/01: Terminated
03/06/01: Leave well enough alone
02/22/01: Forgetting our heroes
02/15/01: In 1978 Clinton got a close look at the dangers of selling forgiveness
02/12/01: Clinton owes the country an explanation --- and an appology
02/06/01: How Ronald Reagan changed America
01/16/01: Why block Ashcroft? To demoralize the GOP's most loyal voters
01/15/01: Remembering John Schmitz, a cheerful extremist
12/29/00: Why are all Dems libs pickin' on me?
Dubya's 48% mandate is different than Ford's
12/13/00: Gore would have lost any recount that passed constitutional muster
11/13/00: The People Have Spoken: Will Gore listen?
10/25/00: She's really a Dodger
09/28/00: Locking up domestic oil?
09/25/00: Hillary gives new meaning to a "woman with a past"
09/21/00: Ignore the Polls. The Campaign Isn't Over Yet

©2001, John H. Fund