Elephant Down: Republicans are Leaving Their Party in Droves, Especially in the Midwest


  • flickr.com/photos/amanda kay riley
It is hardly breaking news to note that Republicans here and across the country have been shedding their party like a chrysalis for quite some time now. But what is extraordinary is the sheer volume of the desertion.

A new Gallup Poll shows that the precipitious decline among the number of people who identify themselves as Republicans is shrinking among nearly every demographic group -- churchgoers, moderates, married people, older white voters, college graduates and nongraduates, Southerns and Midwesterners.

In fact, according to the poll, released last week, the number of self-identifying Republicans stands at 21 percent. That is the lowest standing the Party of Lincoln has seen since the fall of 1983, when the nation was mired in a deep recession, albeit, not anywhere as severe as our current financial turmoil.

The poll also reveals that those jumping ship in the greatest numbers are young voters (18 to 29) -- and Midwesterners. In 2001, 46 percent of those polled in Midwest states -- long a reliable GOP bedrock -- called themselves a Republican. Now, it has shrunk 9 points, to 37 percent.

  • Gallup
Of course, there are many reasons to explain why toss-up demographic groups eight years ago are moving en masse in Democrats' favor: John McCain's dreadful campaign, the ongoing economic freefall, the disastrous Bush presidency and its eight years of a Manichaean ethos, and, perhaps, the fact that the leadersless and adrift GOP seems an exhausted volcano, utterly bereft of promulgating anything beyond tax cuts.

Writes Tim Dickinson in his article, "The GOP Jihad," in this months's Rolling Stone:

As [Arlen] Specter's forced march down the gangplank makes clear, the GOP is in the midst of a reactionary spasm -- one that threatens to marginalize the party for a generation to come. Rather than acknowledging the party's failed policies and reaching out to new constituencies, the GOP's dominant faction is retrenching around the anti-government, free-market, fundamentalist strain of Republicanism last championed by Barry Goldwater -- who steered the party to one its most crushing defeats in 1964.

Dickinson goes on:

Indeed, the Republican jihad has reached such a fever pitch that, to these ideologues, excommunicating one of the party's most powerful senators and handing the president a potentially unstoppable majority actually marks a positive development for the GOP.

The Daily RFT yesterday afternoon caught up with the Lloyd Smith, the folksy 57-year-old executive director of the Missouri Republican Party, to get his thoughts on the Amazing Shrinking Republican Party.

Unsurprisingly, Smith offered a dewey accessment. "Our data, here in Missourah, shows party identification almost equal," he said. (He could be right on that score, considering that McCain won the state by 0.14 percent, with less than 4,000 voters separating him from Barack Obama, the closest race of any state.) "We don't look at Gallup as a true barometer for Missourah. We don't look at the national picture."

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Asked whether he's worried that the national defection could spread to Missouri and perhaps hand the U.S. Senate seat next year to Robin Carnahan, Smith replied, "You know, I grew up on a cotton farm in southeast Missourah. And when you chop cotton, you learn to hoe your own roe and not worry about anyone else's."