Ruy Teixeira’s new demographic study [pdf] is getting some attention. His main thesis is that Democrats are in pretty good shape, but Republicans need to move to the center on social issues, pay more attention to better-educated whites, and come up with solutions that “go beyond cutting taxes” and saying “no”.

I don’t know why Republicans would want to pay attention to a study funded by the Center for American Progress, and I doubt that they will. Leaving that question aside, it looks like there’s a real-life example of Teixeira’s advice in action: Charlie Crist. Crist has moved leftward on social issues, and he’s not afraid of appearing in public with Obama or of bucking the Republican position on the oil spill. He’s surging in the polls and raising money from Democrats.

If the national Republican party were more Crist-like — a little more socially liberal and a bit more pragmatic about which corporate battles were worth fighting — it’s hard to see how Democrats could retain their current majorities. It’s not going to happen, but he’s an interesting example.

46 replies
  1. 1
    gwangung says:

    And the sun rises in the east…

  2. 2
    Asshole says:

    And if my aunt had a mustache, she’d be my uncle.

    You deal with the opposition party you have, not the opposition party you wish you had. The GOP’s not toning down the crazy any time soon, they’re ramping it up and hoping the world gets bad enough that the general public starts to like the sound of crazy themselves.

    It could work, if things get worse instead of better. Desperate people fall for bullshit much more readily than non-desperate people. Fascism, Communism, and theocracy are all movements born of desperation. The GOP would do well to heed the words of Lenin: “For us, worse is better.”

  3. 3
    Michael says:

    That would require an interest in governing and accomplishing real goals that improve the lives of actual constituents, something that the GOP has abandoned by taking up the Southern model of policy.

    Here’s how it works – Conservative policies get adopted. When those policies create barely mitigatable disasters, they then lose to pragmatic minded Democrats. While the pragmatists address not only the consequences of the Conservative inspired disasters but also the Conservative recklessness that led to disaster, Conservatives whine that they’re grabbing power, just like Hitler.

  4. 4
    Redshirt says:

    I’ve been saying this for years: I should be a Republican. In theory, I want to be. But not this Republican party, and in no Republican Party in my lifetime (Nixon on).

    I really do believe in the very basic principles of: Social liberalism (i.e. get out of my business if I am not harming anyone else) and fiscal conservatism (spend within your means).

    It seems so simple, yet the Republicans are nowhere near this – in fact, they’ve inverted it: Socially conservative, fiscally liberal (and hypocritical).

    I get stuck in many arguments defending Democrats, and I always try and point out I’m not a Democrat and really don’t give a damn about their party. BUT! They represent the only bastion of sanity left, and so I must side with them.

    And I am also an Obot. But that’s personal. He’s a great leader regardless of party or ideology.

  5. 5
    El Cid says:

    I think this clear contrast in strategies has been sitting out there for a while.

    There seems to me a good general, hypothetical incentive for electoral strength for old fashioned business moderate conservatives (i.e., moderate Republicans in the Northeast of yesteryear) by posing as just that.

    However, they now have to oppose a party taken over by the neo-Confederates & Western anti-regulatory fetishists to whom Republicans have depended on so heavily since the 1980s.

    The nation would be better off with a significantly saner conservative opposition, but I don’t know if there’s any bottle left in which to put those djinns.

  6. 6
    El Cid says:

    I know a lot of people who have mortgages and car loans who think they believe that they should spend within their means.

  7. 7
    The Dangerman says:

    So, the answer for Republicans is to adopt policies that would make their batshit crazy base take a walk (perhaps more appropriately fly away)? I don’t think so, but I’m drinking decaf this morning.

  8. 8
    NonyNony says:

    If the national Republican party were more Crist-like—a little more socially liberal and a bit more pragmatic about which corporate battles were worth fighting …

    Then they’d be Democrats. The things that really distinguish the Republican Party from the Democratic Party are that they are socially conservative to the point of being crazy and they aren’t afraid to go balls out to the mat defending any kind of corporate shenanigans from government regulation or oversight. The former gets them votes, the latter gets them funding. If they loosen up on either of those things then they’re no different from the Democrats.

    Now, I personally would like to see them do that because if the GOP became a somewhat sane conservative party it would open up breathing room for the Democratic Party to move leftward. But I don’t see it happening – the GOP has to have something that differentiates them from Democrats, and what Democrats right now fill the pragmatic centrist niche.

    The GOP does need to drop the racism – unlike the rest of their social conservative agenda there’s no gain in holding on to the racism in this day and age. But they’ve entwined the racism into their social conservatism so much that I’m not sure they can even do that until the folks who were alive and of age to vote for Reagan are all dead and buried.

  9. 9
    John W. says:

    This sort of Republican Party would be a problem to have, but a sort of good problem from the view of the entire country.

  10. 10
    Punchy says:

    For fantasy purposes, I only care what Ruy’s brother Mark says and does.

  11. 11
    MattF says:

    It’s not rocket science– the candidates that get more votes will win. My own feeling is that the winger demographic problem is less important than its geographic problem– always getting the most votes in places that have the least dense population is a recipe for long-term losing. In my neighborhood (in the Washington DC suburbs) there are Republicans, but they’ve become a permanent minority.

  12. 12
    Sue says:

    Hell, I’d be happy if the Dems did that.

  13. 13
    Steve says:

    Charlie Crist is basically running the mirror image of Joe Lieberman’s independent campaign from 2006. The Democrat in the Florida race isn’t making much of an impression (unfortunately), so Crist is positioning himself as the default choice for Democratic voters who want to stop the hard-core conservative Rubio. Similarly, the CT Republican candidate in 2006 was a joke so all the Republicans voted for Lieberman.

    Having said that, we’re talking about a very rare set of circumstances where this opportunity presents itself.

  14. 14
    beltane says:

    But what would happen to all those poor little tea party patriots if the GOP stopped pandering to their every little belch and fart?

    My Democratic grandmother and mother-in-law in Florida both love Charlie Crist. They see him as a “nice” Republican, unlike Jeb Bush who they couldn’t stand. See also Jim Douglas in Vermont; he smiles a lot, avoids social issues like the plague, and has repeatedly been reelected in one of the most liberal states in the country.

  15. 15
    Michael says:

    Here’s a fine example of Conservative governance in the Conservative utopia, South Carolina (whose governor is always presidential material, you betcha, ‘coz John King says so).

    Infant Mortality:

    South Carolina has the third highest rate in the nation.

    Poverty rankings:

    South Carolina is number 10 for the highest poverty rate, but is only within a couple of points of number 5. Number 1 is the other Conservative utopia of Mississippi.

    Education ranking:

    Conservative Utopia South Carolina is number 48 in the percentage of its students which graduate high school.

    South Carolina ranks 50th (dead last) in “promoting power,” a measure of the percentage of 9th grade students who progress to 12th grade in three years. Only 61% of freshman rise to become seniors on time.

    Yeehaw – Conservatism does so much for places like South Carolina and Mississippi. I’m eagerly looking forward to the Barbour/Haley ticket in 2012, because they can tell us how Conservatism has been such a success in their jurisdictions.

  16. 16
    Davis X. Machina says:

    That would require an interest in governing and accomplishing real goals that improve the lives of actual constituents, something that the GOP has abandoned by taking up the Southern model of policy.

    Libertarians talk about the ‘night-watchman’ state. The Southern Captivity of the GOP has brought us the ‘night-rider’ state.

    …..they aren’t afraid to go balls out to the mat defending any kind of corporate shenanigans from government regulation or oversight

    And then there’s the wing of the party who maintain that the only legitimate function of the state is to provide a police motorcycle escort for the getaway car.

  17. 17
    beltane says:

    @John W.: It would be nice to have a center-right party and a center-left party, but the problem is that a significant percentage of Americans have been so thoroughly propagandized by Fox News et al that this is not something we will be likely to see anytime soon.

  18. 18


    Exactly. They are hoping things get much worse, and they know that fear works better for right-wing pols than lefty ones (hence FDR’s Litany Against Fear — yeah, he was allied with the Bene Gesserit ;-).

    I keep ticking off Nader fans by explaining that:

    1) the GOP is one of the biggest funders of Nader and the Greens, giving them just enough dough to allow them to be spoilers, and

    2) the old “Nach Dubya, Uns!” trick (where the American populace was supposed to rise up in revolt against Bush and Gore and then turn to Nader to lead them, which is why Nader wanted Bush to win) didn’t work for Ralph, just as it didn’t work for the German Communists in the early 1930s with Uncle Adolf.

    There’s no way to create a new major political party that isn’t a total joke in this day and age, not unless you own at least one major TV and one major radio network (cost for startup/purchase: $10 billion), plus have around $5 billion burning a hole in your pocket for organizing and ads on the networks you don’t own. (By the way, the Tea Party Nation isn’t a separate political party, not any more — its party platform states that all its candidates must back the GOP platform to get funding.) It’s a lot easier and cheaper to create and organize voting blocs rather than third parties.

  19. 19
    El Cruzado says:

    On the other hand, if Republicans were more like that we wouldn’t mind so much if they were in power every once in a while.

  20. 20
    Joe Buck says:

    In times like this, the voters traditionally turn the governing party out of power. The thing that will save the Democrats from massive defeat this year is the crazy factor: in many cases, an incumbent who deserves to lose is up against a crazy person (hello, Sen. Reid).

    The Dems are still going to lose seats, but it’s looking like it won’t be a massacre. Thanks, Tea Party.

  21. 21

    @Davis X. Machina:

    This is why the RedStaters and other movement Republicans freaked out like vampires biting into an aioli-covered neck when Michael Steele admitted that, far from having been born and buried with Nixon’s presidency, the Southern Strategy has been in the GOP playbook for four decades.

  22. 22
    LarsThorwald says:

    If there were 20 more Charlie Crist-types in Congress, and a handful in the Senate, this country would be a better place.

    The problem is that the Republicans right now — all across the board — are fucking insane. They are less interested in governance and government than any party since the Know-Nothings, and I mean that sincerely. There are days when I hear Republicans say some thing or another, and they are barely discernible from LaRouchies or Limbaugh, and that is scary.

    I have voted for Republicans in the past, but I can say right now with full vim and vigor that unless and until the Republicans pull themselves back from the brink — and I mean way, way back — then I will never, ever even considering voting for a Republican again, no matter how moderate or reasonable they seem, no matter what office. They can’t be trusted now, and every single vote in their direction encourages them.

    The Republican party is batshit nuts right now, and if they control Congress, it will make the disasters visited by Bush — who is seriously arguably the second worst President, only after Buchanan, and it’s a close race — seem less in comparison.

    Fuck that. Let them eat themselves. Let them suffer long term defeat. Let them spend years in the wilderness until they pull their heads out of the madhouse and start thinking sanely.

  23. 23
    Redshirt says:

    What really concerns me is formerly sane Repugs – the Maine girls, for example – have waded into the crazy part of the pool as well. And I have no idea why, because that does not represent the views of the people of Maine. All I can guess is Party Loyalty trumps all, even reason, fairness, common sense.

    What happened?

  24. 24
    Violet says:

    This. All of this. I should be a Republican in theory too, but I can’t be. You are so right that the Republicans have inverted things: they’re socially conservative and want to get all up in my business, and they’re fiscally profligate and spend like the world’s ending tomorrow and money doesn’t matter. That’s the exact opposite of what I’d like to see in my government.

    So I side with the Democrats, because they’re the only bastion of sanity left.

    And I’m an Obot too. Because the man is a brilliant leader and I feel we are exceptionally lucky he’s in charge.

  25. 25
    catclub says:

    @The Dangerman:
    “So, the answer for Republicans is to adopt policies that would make their batshit crazy base take a walk (perhaps more appropriately fly away)? I don’t think so, but I’m drinking decaf this morning. ”

    Actually, yes. There are more sane people than batshit crazy
    ones. Appealing to the BSC set is driving away the moderates.

    Of course, I am a hopeless optimist(!?) that there ARE more sane than crazy.

    If more are crazy than sane, does sane just get re-defined?

  26. 26
    catclub says:

    Hey that’s the Haley/Barbour/Nikki/Haley ticket!

    All hail the Haley’s!

  27. 27
    Chat Noir says:


    And I’m an Obot too. Because the man is a brilliant leader and I feel we are exceptionally lucky he’s in charge.

    Me too, Violet, and I agree with your sentiment regarding Obama being an excellent leader. Which is why I don’t understand this “lack of leadership” regarding the oil gusher in the Gulf. NBC News just released it’s new poll and Obama’s job approval numbers were something like 46% approve/49% disapprove. Quite a bit, per Savannah Guthrie last night, is that people don’t think he’s doing a “good job” regarding the oil gusher. Again, I don’t understand! What more should he be doing?

    Needless to say, it’s making me a little nuts. He inherited a shitpile of problems and an opposition party that is batshit insane.

  28. 28
    Alex S. says:

    Just imagine Charlie Crist after a full term in the Senate as a crucial dealmaker. He’ll be a formidable presidential candidate in 2016.

  29. 29

    @LarsThorwald: They can’t. They’re too wedded to the Southern Strategy.

    Let me explain.

    The whole point of the SS was Corporate America’s deliberate adoption of race-baiting policies as a way to trick white working-class Americans (especially males, and especially in the South) to vote against their own best interests by starving the Federal government of tax revenues on the idea that this would hurt blacks more than whites — and of course giving rich people and corporations big-ass tax breaks and tax cuts.

    Or as Reagan advisor Lee Atwater put it back in 1981:

    ”You start out in 1954 by saying, ‘Nigger, nigger, nigger.’ By 1968 you can’t say ‘nigger’ — that hurts you. Backfires. So you say stuff like forced busing, states’ rights and all that stuff. You’re getting so abstract now [that] you’re talking about cutting taxes, and all these things you’re talking about are totally economic things and a byproduct of them is [that] blacks get hurt worse than whites.

    ”And subconsciously maybe that is part of it. I’m not saying that. But I’m saying that if it is getting that abstract, and that coded, that we are doing away with the racial problem one way or the other. You follow me — because obviously sitting around saying, ‘We want to cut this,’ is much more abstract than even the busing thing, and a hell of a lot more abstract than ‘Nigger, nigger.”’

    The problem is that the moral and intellectual vacuity needed to sustain this sort of thinking tends to rot at the foundations of the group promoting it. It’s cognitive dissonance on steroids. But the greed imperative is too strong for the few remaining sane ones to back off even a tad from it. Sow the wind, reap the whirlwind.

  30. 30
    Alex S. says:


    Well, you make it sound as if the Democrats are not socially liberal or fiscally conservative enough for you. But in my opinion, the Democrats have become the “new” Republicans, or actually, they’ve alyways been. There’s the myth of the reasonably liberal Republican Party out there, a party that only existed during the Eisenhower administration. Yes, there were the New England Republicans, but they were the way they were because the two-party system demanded it.
    With the exception of Wilson and Roosevelt (they had their reasons), every Democratic president of the last 100 years has been the fiscally conservative, socially liberal president that, for some reason, people expect to find in the Republican Party.
    And when it comes to the fringe of the Democratic Party, I’d prefer that over the fringe of the Republican Party any day. And their fringe has been crazy since Roosevelt (Father Coughlin, John Birch, Joe McCarthy,…).

  31. 31
    bobbo says:

    So the Republican as a party won’t take Teixeira’s advice. But Dems should view this as an opportunity to peel off some Republicans who want the party to move to the center but know that it won’t. See, e.g., Specter.

  32. 32
    KG says:

    @Redshirt: it has nothing to do with party loyalty. As my high school government teacher explained, “the first priority of any politician is to get reelected.” The distinguished Senators from the great state of Maine are worried about getting reelected. A key to getting reelected is to avoid the primary challenge – I don’t have the numbers handy, but I recall that there is pretty strong evidence that an incumbent who faces a credible primary challenge typically loses in the general. So they say (and do) crazy shit because that will help them avoid a primary challenge. Of course, if the Democrats in Maine run credible challengers, then it presents a double edged sword.

  33. 33
    WereBear says:

    @Alex S.: Yes, along those lines, I’d rather go for the lefty fringe.

    We might have to wear our underwear on the outside, but at least we’d have some.

  34. 34
    Davis X. Machina says:

    One more time: Snowe has the safest Senate seat in the country. Last time she ran, she received a majority of Democratic votes. If she were primaried, there is a substantial group of (nominal) Dems who would literally change regisistrations (Maine has walk-up & same-day registration) to keep her from getting tea-bagged.

    Her plan is to wait for all this teabaggery to burn itself out like a fever, after which she will rule the world — or at least her little corner of it — unruffled, forever.

    Collins is playing a longer game. She is also waiting for the fever to burn out. After the crazies drive the GOP into the ditch in ’12, she is going to ride to the rescue in ’16, doing everything Teixera suggests — she’s a woman, not a fundie, pro-choice, non-southern, not a fag-baiter, etc. etc. Even her horrible public speaking skills are a plus — they scream “I’m not really a politician!’

    Her staff has her aiming at VP at a minimum in 2016.

  35. 35
    dj spellchecka says:

    i have this strange idea that the true believer dixiecrat white-power wing of the gop will shrink to the point of irrelevancy followed by the blue-dogs leaving the democrats, hooking up with various socially conservative minorities and becoming a second national party

  36. 36
    Redshirt says:

    Back in 1998 I worked with Senator Collins and her staff on phone “slamming” legislation, and they were just great. I mean, I was really please by all the interactions with her, and her staff.

    So it’s been quite a shock for me to see the events of the past few years. I like your analysis Davis X. Machina, but I’m not sure its entirely accurate.

    I almost see the Repugs these days as a Mob, or Gang, and loyalty trumps all, and there’s a price to pay for disloyalty.

  37. 37
    liberal says:

    @Phoenix Woman:
    I don’t think the problem re no third parties is money. Rather, it’s because we don’t have proportional representation, and we do have first-past-the-post.

  38. 38

    Nobody is saying Democrats will “retain their current majorities.” Every short-term (now til Nov.) trend is going against the Dems – mainly the mid-term loss of President’s majority party. The point made is about long-term strategy. The second 538 post sees the trees in even more detail – not surprising for a numbers cruncher – completely missing the forest.

    it can sometimes be a good strategy to stand firm and wait for the pendulum to swing back to you.

    The pendulum isn’t swinging back, demographically. Long term, the Rubios will disappear, because they won’t be able to win elections. The GOP will field more Crist-like candidates (avoid the cheap joke, avoid the cheap joke ….) because they will be the only ones who can win general elections.

  39. 39
    Woodrowfan says:

    But they know their Bible and that’s all that counts!

  40. 40
    Davis X. Machina says:

    @Redshirt: Source is former student & debater working on in-district constituency service now, plus buzz from the May state GOP convention, via two former students working hospitality as bartenders.

  41. 41
    QuaintIrene says:

    Ha. In today’s atmosphere, any Republican who attempts to do that will be immediately branded a traitor and a RINO. And by the screamers who candidiates believe is their ‘base.’

  42. 42
    grandpajohn says:

    avannah people don’t think he’s doing a “good job” regarding the oil gusher. Again, I don’t understand! What more should he be doing?

    That because a goodly number of the American public are so stupid from watching reality tv or indulged in a fantasy land of make believe entertainment that they no longer have any concept of what is actually possible in the real world or the basic reasoning skills to make any judgments concerning what is possible and what is science fiction. they expect Obama to place a call to superman to come with his xray supervision and simply close all the leaks.
    Either that or they have fried their brains from overexposure to the toxicity of faux news.

  43. 43
    mike in dc says:

    It will take a major electoral shock–like an Obama blowout win over an all-wingnut ticket in 2012, or Ds winning statewide in Texas(for Governor and/or Senator)–in order for the GOP leadership to get serious about cutting loose from the birthers, birchers, et al. They have to discover that not only will they not be able to win at a national level, but they will begin to lose more and more power around the country, if they stick to their current script.

  44. 44
    JMC_in_the_ATL says:

    @Violet: Same here. I grew up in a Rockefeller Republican household in southern New England. Growing up gay made me an independent. Living in the South made me a Democrat.

  45. 45
    New Yorker says:

    It’s not going to happen, but he’s an interesting example.

    It will eventually happen, but the teabagger generation is going to have to croak first. Take my wingnut uncle: he’s 60 and in reasonably good health, so if he’s any inidcation, it’s going to be another 20-25 years until the GOP base that defines the party as against anything that isn’t white, rural, evangelical, etc. is gone and the GOP can try to attract Latinos, secularists, gays, people with doctorates, etc.

  46. 46
    Cynickal says:

    If the national Republican party were more Crist-like—a little more socially liberal and a bit more pragmatic about which corporate battles were worth fighting—it’s hard to see how Democrats could retain their current majorities.

    We’d call them Blue-Dogs

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