Kevin Drum argues that demographic trends and political priorities are both conspiring to doom the Republican party to electoral defeat and that this helps explain the disarray of the Republican presidential campaigns so far. To the contrary, Matt Yglesias argues that Republicans control most of the levers of power already and that Republicans have structural advantages that will entrench Republican power for the foreseeable future. Yglesias argues that the “Democrats are in denial. Their party is actually in deep trouble” because the Republican party could easily take over monolithic control over US government in the next election.
Drum is correct that demography is helping the Democrats because Americans are getting more liberal and less white every year. And on the issues, he is correct that Republicans are the victims of their own success. They have been cutting taxes for so many decades that that issue is no longer salient even for many Republicans. Drum argues that even Republican voters are split about further restrictions on abortion, immigration, gun control, and health care and he says that Republicans are tired of hawkish foreign policy that could lead to more foreign wars. One wedge issue Drum does not list is climate change which also divides Republicans and unites Democrats. Moderate Republicans are increasingly worried about the issue whereas more conservative Republicans think it is a myth. As more Americans come to believe in climate change, it is becoming a more difficult issue for Republicans to deal with. They can either lose their base if they placate Republican moderates or vice versa.
But Yglesias is correct that Republicans dominate in almost every branch of government except the presidency and look set to continue this domination for many years despite changing demographics. Republicans control all branches of the federal government except the presidency controlling the Supreme Court (5-4), Senate (54-46), and House (247-188). Obama barely won a slim majority in the last election, and the next presidential election is expected to be another close one. There is almost no chance that the Democrats could get majority control of the Supreme Court, Senate or House in the next four years, but if a Republican wins the presidency in 2016, there will undoubtedly be two more Republican Supreme Court Justices which would give the Supreme Court a 7-2 Republican majority.
Yglesias also notes that Republicans utterly dominate state governments: “The vast majority — 70 percent of state legislatures, more than 60 percent of governors, 55 percent of attorneys general and secretaries of state — are in Republicans hands”.
This control over state governments is one important reason why Republicans have a structural advantage according to Ian Millhiser at Think Progress, and he argues that if the Republicans win the presidency they will appoint a 7-2 Republican Supreme Court which will give more ways to strengthen the structural political advantage that Republicans enjoy.
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