Why the Democrat Party Cannot Survive

After the election two years ago, Time Magazine questioned whether the Elephant had become an extinct political animal. The most recent election raised questions as to whether the Donkey should be deemed an endangered species. Questioning either party’s ability to survive is reasonable and it helps sell news. However one or two elections are not sufficient for life-death assessments.

Political parties are not immortal. They are born and eventually die. Survivability is dependent upon Darwinian adaptations rather than a genetically-determined life span. Actuarial analyses can be reasonably attempted if they are based on longer periods.

Enormous change in the American landscape is coming. The “pendulum theory” of politics — one party disappoints, is removed and then returned when the other party disappoints – is too simplistic to capture major trends. Peggy Noonan’s recent take is an example of such analysis.

The Democrat Party is unlikely to survive. This outcome is affected by Obama but not directly caused by him. Likewise, the latest election results are confirming rather than causal. The Party’s amazing success since the 1930s contained the seed of its demise.

The Meaning of the Recent Elections

In the two most recent elections, each political party was soundly, sequentially rejected but for different reasons. Simply and bluntly:

  • The Republicans were tossed out because they did not govern according to their principles.
  • The Democrats were tossed out because they did govern according to their principles.

One party lost because it misbehaved; the other because it revealed itself.

Obama’s election was erroneously interpreted as a mandate for radical change by left-wing Loonies. In spite of his uniqueness, Obama’s election was more a vote against Republican spending, hypocrisy and general misbehavior than a vote for Democrats. Socialist Obama unwisely tried to impose his vision on the country.

His overreach scared many and unleashed the coerciveness that George Washington warned about:

Government is not reason; it is not eloquent; it is force. Like fire, it is a dangerous servant and a fearful master.

Government arrogance and arbitrariness initiated a groundswell of concern that coalesced into the Tea Party movement. Ridiculed by the elites in both major parties, the Tea Party provided an outlet for voter rage, a point still not grasped by either party.

The last election was a referendum on Obama and his extremist policies. The Democrat raw grasp for power ensures they will not do well in the next several elections. This is troubling, but not enough to destroy the Party.

Party Principles

The alleged principles of both major parties need to be understood. “Alleged” is a necessary modifier because these principles are little more than marketing props that appear when useful and disappear otherwise. Groucho Marx probably best captured the flexibility of both parties when he said:

Those are my principles, and if you don’t like them… well, I have others.

Republican principles are closer to George Washington’s view of government — government is necessary but dangerous. Hence, it is best kept small and weak. Republicans claim to stand for limited government because it allows for maximum individual freedom. These principles require a governing model that focuses on less tax, less spending and less regulation. The key word is “less” as in less government.

Democrat principles are based on government being a force for good. Government is presumed necessary to help individuals and ensure “social justice,” (a term impossible to reasonably define).  This philosophy leads to bigger government as in more spending, more taxes and more regulatory control. For Democrats, the key word is “more” as in more government.

Elections

Getting elected (and then re-elected) is the primary political motivation. But getting elected and governing are two different activities. Party principles have to serve both functions. Often they serve one better than the other. Content from an email cleverly illustrates the difference:

Two third-graders are running for class president. Johnny’s platform includes a detailed program to improve various school matters and a commitment to work hard. His opponent, Mary, promises free ice cream for everyone. Mary is elected by an overwhelming margin.

Johnny’s election campaign is similar to Republicans while Mary’s is similar to Democrats. Republican principles are not as effective in an election campaign when competing against free ice cream. Sacrifice, abstinence and/or self-reliance are a form of political “root canal” when compared to “freebies.”

[Original Incorrect: Not surprisingly, voters have chosen ice cream more often than root canals. In the 66 years from 1945 forward, Democrats controlled both houses of Congress and the Presidency for 12 years; Republicans, 2 years. Democrats controlled both houses for 23 years; Republicans 6 years with five of those since 1995.]

Corrected: “In the 66 years from 1945 forward, Democrats controlled both Houses of Congress and the presidency for twenty years, and Republicans six years. Democrats controlled both Houses for 44 years, and Republicans fourteen years, with ten of those since 1995.” [Thanks to reader SBVOR of http://sbvor.blogspot.com/ for the correction]

The ice cream strategy was implemented by Franklin D. Roosevelt in the 1930s. Arguably, this strategy created the modern Democrat Party. It rescued a floundering party and enabled it to become dominant. From a political standpoint, the strategy was pure genius. From an economic standpoint, it produced a slower growth path for the country.

Flaws in the Democrat Strategy

One problem with the “ice cream” strategy is that you cannot promise ice cream to everyone. As a result the political base for Democrats developed as a motley collection of beneficiaries “bought” at various times. These include minorities, government employees, big labor, trial lawyers, teacher unions, gays, radical women’s groups and environmentalists amongst others.

Another problem is the lack of commonality. Whatever is provided to one group means less is available for another. An underlying tension between groups must always be managed. This surfaced when Dems tried to attract Hispanics. Blacks looked at this as a threat to their importance.

Governing presents another problem. Interest group politics, while perhaps a good election strategy, is not conducive to effective governing.

The fatal flaw in the strategy, however, is the dependence on the continuing flow of goodies. Once you run out of ice cream, you can no longer buy or maintain your “clients.” As Margaret Thatcher famously said:

The trouble with Socialism is, sooner or later you run out of other people’s money.

Thatcher’s end point has arrived. For eighty years government grew as did the welfare state. The Democrat strategy was dependent upon this flow of largesse. Funds are no longer there and the Democrat strategy is now bankrupt.

The Ice Cream is Gone

Welfare states around the world are insolvent. Welfare State R.I.P. discusses the debt burdens. Governments will begin defaulting on promises and obligations. It is mathematically impossible to honor all promises. The ice cream is gone and so is the key to 80 years of Democrat success.

Voters know government is insolvent. That knowledge was the driving force behind the Tea Party movement. While no one wants their goodies reduced or removed, a majority recognizes the problems and is willing to vote to at least stop the growth in government.

This new reality is devastating for Democrats. They are dependent upon a diverse, disjointed collection of groups who were pieced together over the years by ad hoc, quid pro quo tactics. Holding a disparate coalition together was tenuous when benefits were available. Holding them together when benefits are being cut is unlikely.

The Democrats have no coherent message other than bigger government and more benefits. Both parts of that message are now obsolete. Is it possible for them to develop a meaningful strategy that can keep them alive? I think not. Their coalition is too fragmented to hold under a governing rather than electing strategy. Furthermore, the groups are so conditioned to “more” that it is unlikely that they can be maintained under the “less” strategy that is in store for the country.

It is not impossible for the Democrat Party to survive, only unlikely. If there is a strategy that they might successfully adopt, it is apt to be that we will give you less than you got before but more than the other guys. With so many voters sucking on the government teat, it is possible such a strategy could be implemented with some success.

My guess is that the Republicans will become the party of the left, although not much left of where they are today. A new party will evolve to the right of the Republicans, probably based on an original interpretation of the Constitution. Many Democrats will migrate to the Republican Party while many Republicans will migrate to the newly formed party.

This realignment, which will take place over a decade or two, will formalize a major shift rightward in the politics and policies of the country. Similar adjustments will occur in other social welfare states.

This post originally appeared on American Thinker.

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12 Comments

  1. If Wikipedia is to be believed, then the following is factually incorrect:

    “In the 66 years from 1945 forward, Democrats controlled both Houses of Congress and the presidency for twelve years, and Republicans two years. Democrats controlled both Houses for 23 years, and Republicans six years, with five of those since 1995.”

    and, needs — at a minimum — the following corrections:

    “In the 66 years from 1945 forward, Democrats controlled both Houses of Congress and the presidency for twelve years, and Republicans four years. Democrats controlled both Houses for 37 years, and Republicans twelve years, with ten of those since 1995.”

    According to Wikipedia, Republicans controlled both houses during:

    The 80th Congress — 1947-1948.
    The 104th Congress — 1995-1996.
    The 105th Congress — 1997-1998.
    The 106th Congress — 1999-2000.
    The 108th Congress — 2003-2004.
    The 109th Congress — 2005-2006.

    Readers can do their own research to confirm that Dems controlled both houses of Congress for 37 of the past 66 years.

    1. SBVOR,

      Thanks for catching my error. The data I used is listed below:

      Updated 5 January 2009 Year Congress President Senate (100) House (435)
      2009 111th D D – 55*** D – 256
      2007 110th R D – 51** D – 233
      2005 109th R R – 55 R – 232
      2003 108th R R – 51 R – 229
      2001 107th R D* R – 221
      1999 106th D R – 55 R – 223
      1997 105th D R – 55 R – 228
      1995 104th D R – 52 R – 230
      1993 103rd D D – 57 D – 258
      1991 102nd R D – 56 D – 267
      1989 101st R D – 55 D – 260
      1987 100th R D – 55 D – 258
      1985 99th R R – 53 D – 253
      1983 98th R R – 54 D – 269
      1981 97th R R – 53 D – 242
      1979 96th D D – 58 D – 277
      1977 95th D D – 61 D – 292
      1975 94th R D – 60 D -291
      1973 93rd R D – 56 D – 242
      1971 92nd R D – 54 D – 255
      1969 91st R D – 57 D – 243
      1967 90th D D – 64 D – 247
      1965 89th D D – 68 D – 295
      1963 88th D D – 66 D – 259
      1961 87th D D – 64 D – 263
      1959 86th R D – 65 D -283
      1957 85th R D – 49 D – 232
      1955 84th R D – 48 D – 232
      1953 83rd R R – 48 D – 221
      1951 82nd D D – 49 D – 235
      1949 81st D D – 54 D – 263
      1947 80th D R – 51 R – 246
      1945 79th D D – 57 D – 242

      Yellow years mark Presidential inauguration.

      Sources: Senate, House, Janda

      * There were 50 Ds and 50 Rs until May 24, 2001, when Sen. James Jeffords (R-VT) switched to Independent status, effective June 6, 2001; he announced that he would caucus with the Democrats, giving the Democrats a one-seat advantage.

      ** Independent Sen. Bernard Sanders (VT) gives the Democrats a one-seat majority.

      ** Two Independents and two vacancies (IL and MN)

      Unfortunately, I counted the periods as one year periods when in fact each represents a 2-year block of time.

      So in almost all cases, my numbers were half of what they should have been. The one exception is where I adjusted for 2010, which was not shown in the table.

      Thanks for catching the error.

      1. Thanks for the response.

        I am happy to have been able to help. I trust the main body of the post will soon be corrected both here and at American Thinker. I tried to alert American Thinker to the issue, but ran afoul of their unbelievably silly commenting rules. It got worse from there when they attempted to defend their silliness via e-mail.

        You might find this post from my blog somewhat relevant to your post. That post has much to do with how I knew something was amiss with the numbers.

      2. Sorry, I botched my previous comment. Please publish this one instead.

        I doubled checked your source against official data for the House and Senate.

        I found two errors in your source, only one of any consequence. It appears that the Republicans actually controlled both the House and the Senate through 1953 and 1954.

        Ergo, my final tally is:

        “In the 66 years from 1945 forward, Democrats controlled both Houses of Congress and the presidency for twenty years, and Republicans six years. Democrats controlled both Houses for 44 years, and Republicans fourteen years, with ten of those since 1995.”

        1. SBVOR,

          Thanks again for catching this error. I made the correction on my site and reported same to AT as follows:

          In my last article, Why the Democratic Party Cannot Survive incorrect data was included. The incorrect and corrected versions are below:

          [Original Incorrect: Not surprisingly, voters have chosen ice cream more often than root canals. In the 66 years from 1945 forward, Democrats controlled both houses of Congress and the Presidency for 12 years; Republicans, 2 years. Democrats controlled both houses for 23 years; Republicans 6 years with five of those since 1995.]

          Corrected: “In the 66 years from 1945 forward, Democrats controlled both Houses of Congress and the presidency for twenty years, and Republicans six years. Democrats controlled both Houses for 44 years, and Republicans fourteen years, with ten of those since 1995.” [Thanks to reader SBVOR of http://sbvor.blogspot.com/ for the correction]

          I don’t believe the corrected data is material to the conclusions of the piece, but I now show both versions, as above, on my blog.

          I leave it up to you as to what you might want to do, if anything.

          Sorry for the error.

          1. My reply did not appear to post — if this is a duplicate, please delete it.

            Monty,

            Thanks…
            I agree, the correction is not material to your case. But, it’s always good to be factually correct.

            I have already updated my post to reflect the fact that the error no longer exists.

            I appreciate the courteous, honest and forthright manner in which you handled this. I also appreciate the hat tip.

            Your blog was added to my blog list even before the error was corrected and I very much look forward to reading more of your work.

            Thanks Again,
            SBVOR

  2. For all of my life, now in its 8th decade, I have always considered the Democrat party a criminal element set loose in our country. It has been the most devious, pandering group of politicians that were akin to the practices of Bernie Maddoff. They love the Ponzi scheme as as a fly takes to Bravo Sierra. It has been their principle as they have seduced the American people with the false promises of Socialism. I fear the end will not be pretty. Where has the end for a Socialist government ever been pretty? History suggests a despotic, inflaationary ending followed by a military government that we can only hope revives our Connstituion and the Republic. Where else can it now go? The IMF has just issued a paper indicating that the net present value of our unfunded liabilities are in excess of $200T, or 14 times our GDP. There is no way that we can inflate, tax, or grow our way out this. The Faustian bargain we have been living may be about to conclude. And, it did not have to be so!

  3. President Barak Obama is the greatest person he’s ever met, and we are the worst thing that ever happened to us. This is where the Democrat Party stands today; full of themselves and generally just plain full of it. We have been a nation living through polarizing polices for many decades. Those policies, culminating in the PC movement, have reached their limit. Our Great Nation must now decide to which plan we will pledge our lives and fortunes. It will be socialized welfare or constitutional republic. Both cannot and will not live under the same roof. They will not break bread and they will not stand united. I hear the government public ads promoting diversity and am immediately reminded of the old war strategy ” Divide and Conquer”. For those of us casual students of political science, we are reminded that painful episodes in history are best read about as oppossed to participated in. It is my sincere hope and prayer that this political party will indeed pass-on, without too much grief, and we can, with God’s help, restore our Nation.

  4. Monty

    Your best political article that I have read. I have differed with your equation of the Republicans and Democrats in the past, which does not accurately describe the situation. While both parties have contributed to the growth of government, the current Democrat Party verges on a Marxist revolution that is being done secretly, right in front of us. The Republicans are guilty of big governmentism, but they are not Marxists.

    This article describes reality very well, and also provides hope that an informed electorate can change things. The Republicans will either become the home of conservatism and truly implement it, or they will succumb to a third party based on conservative principles. It is hard to conceive of the Democrat Party actually dying. Our public education system has produced a lot of people who don’t know much, but do like ice cream, even if it is provided only in fantasies.

    Again, thanks for your excellent website.

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