David Kirkpatrick

May 20, 2009

GOP purism and the incredible shrinking base

Filed under: Politics, Technology — Tags: , , , , , — David Kirkpatrick @ 3:49 pm

Before I get into the heart of this post, the shrinking of the Republican Party is not hard to understand given that this bit of stupidity is still making news:

Republican Party leaders are trying to avoid airing a family feud over a GOP effort to rename the Democratic Party the ”Socialist Democrat” party.

Here’s some new and daunting numbers from Gallup on GOP party identification.

This can be chalked up to a popular Democratic president:


But this is just brutal. The GOP is losing people who self-identify as Republicans across the board aside from weekly church attenders where the party remained flat. Just take a look at these numbers and start wondering when the GOP will regain a viable chance to win anything aside from hyperlocal elections and very, very safe national seats.

The Gallup chart:


There are many, many reasons for this dramatic decline and the first bit linked in this post is very indicative of the sheer brain-dead brain trust in the GOP.

Another place to look for people leaving the party is the idiocy and vitriol from national figures. Many traditional Republicans, particularly fiscal conservatives, no longer want to be associated with the GOP as the party has given over to stronger and stronger theocratic tendencies over time.

Another place is something I’ve blogged about before and somewhat blew off as a novelty and a fun distraction — right wing comment boards.

Here’s what I wrote last month:

The second area where the Internet has truly changed the electorate can be found on the forums, comment sections and user communities of partisan websites. I’m sure you’ve read about the “wing nuts” on the right and the “moon bats” or “nut roots” on the left. The latter is a takeoff from Netroots, the online political activism arm of the left.

The change these groups bring is the tone from both the right and the left. Much more raw, much more virulently partisan and much more attacking. If these sites are all you read, you’d think all political discourse in the U.S. has devolved into little more than petty spats and rumor-mongering. My take is the overall electorate is pretty sane and even-headed, whether partisan, or not. The net simply gives the fringe voice a very public, and loud, so-to-speak, outlet. At one point in time these voices might occasionally get a letter to the editor published in a local newspaper, but probably not all that often and the tone would be subject to editorial control.

Internet communities, particularly unmoderated forums and message boards, give this part of the electorate an unchecked outlet that reaches anyone online who chooses to visit the site and read the messages.

It’s empowering for the everyday voter, for certain, but the signal-to-noise level is so low I can’t help but wonder if the fringe of the electorate on both sides might not be having an inordinate effect on undecided and independent voters. Either through spreading baseless rumors – and both parties have been victims of this tactic – or through just distracting voters from the message the party is promoting.

I have to admit reading these forums offers a certain voyeuristic appeal, and culturally they are a fascinating phenomena. I’m just not too sure what value they are adding to political discourse.

One thing that changed my thoughts on this is for every rabid commenter, almost any political website will have many, many more readers that never make their presence known, but likely read the comments.

After reading views they hold render them RINOs who need to get out of the GOP to ensure party purity — and true conservatism, whatever that means. I’m convinced most of those railing about RINOs have no idea what political conservatism honestly means — decide that maybe those commenters hoping to enforce party purity are correct and the more independent-minded Republican becomes a right-leaning voter who no longer is a sure GOP vote at the ballot box.

There’s a lot of hand wringing in the GOP over the state of the party, but all those party leaders who publicly call out more moderate Republicans are fueling the comment section purity tests. And they might just end up getting their way — a GOP that matches their belief system perfectly, and matches the beliefs of about 20 percent of the electorate. Good luck winning any election with those numbers.