Tuesday, January 08, 2013

House Divided

(Editorial cartoon by Kevin Siers / The Charlotte Observer (January 3, 2013) and featured at McClatchy DC.  Click on image to enlarge.)

The Republicans in Congress are still mouthing off that they intend to fight raising the debt limit until President Obama does some real deficit cutting.  Apparently they haven't learned the lesson from the last time they tried that trick.  An interesting analysis of the state of the Republican Party suggests why these kinds of fights continue.

The budget battles rocking the capital have exposed a deepening fault line within an already fractured Republican Party: the divide between the GOP's solid Southern base and the rest of the country.

That regional split became evident when members of the House of Representatives cast votes last week on a budget deal designed to avoid massive tax hikes and spending cuts: Almost 90% of Southern Republicans voted against the "fiscal-cliff" compromise. At the same time, a majority of Republican representatives from outside the South supported the deal, which was approved in large part because of overwhelming Democratic support. ...

The image projected by the battles in the House — the only part of the federal government controlled by Republicans — could influence public attitudes toward the GOP and its candidates heading into the 2014 midterm elections and the 2016 presidential contest.

In particular, the South's preeminence could pose challenges to national GOP efforts to broaden the party's appeal on social and cultural issues such as abortion and same-sex marriage.

"An increasing challenge for Northeastern Republicans, and West Coast Republicans, for that matter, is the growing perception among their constituents that the Republican Party is predominantly a Southern and rural party," said Dan Schnur, a former GOP campaign strategist who directs the Jesse M. Unruh Institute of Politics at USC. "There's always been a political and cultural disconnect between the South and the rest of the country. But as the parties have sorted themselves out geographically over the last few decades, the size of that gap has increased."   [Emphasis added]

The Republican analysts aren't so sure this is all that serious, and they do raise what I consider a legitimate argument:

Not everyone in the party agrees that its increasing concentration in the South poses a threat at the ballot box.

"No one in New Hampshire isn't going to vote Republican because our base is in the South," said Dave Carney, a campaign consultant based in New Hampshire whose clients have included Texas Gov. Rick Perry. "I don't think there's a disqualification because a majority of the party members come from below the Mason-Dixon line. What would be an issue is who the candidates will be at the national level and what their message will be."

Yet the South's dominance and internal politics have reinforced the tilt toward sharply conservative views.

In the House, most members of both parties represent districts that have lopsided partisan majorities. The threat of a primary challenge, often from a more extreme member of their own party, is a greater threat to many incumbents than opposition in the general election from the other party's candidate.   [Emphasis added]

The people from both parties at the state level have done their part by gerrymandering the districts to achieve just this outcome.  As a result, the Democrats still will have a steep climb if they wish to take over the House in 2014.  And don't think the Right Wing and Tea Partiers don't know it.

I predict a very contentious three months at least.

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