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