Obama Wins Nebraska Electoral Vote

Back in September the race in the electoral college looked close and there was a scenario where it could even come down to one vote. This led to consideration of picking up a single electoral vote in Nebraska, which is possible as electoral votes are distributed by Congressional district. I subsequently noted that Obama had opened a field office in Nebraska. This has paid off. For the first time ever Obama has picked up an electoral vote in a state which splits its votes. Both Nebraska and Maine do this, with Obama winning all of Maine and now picking up a single electoral vote in Nebraska.

Obama now leads John McCain in electoral votes 365 to 163. Missouri’s eleven electoral votes are still up in the air.

Which Direction for Republicans?

While Republicans dreamed of a permanent majority, it was inevitable that they would lose power. Demographics were against them and, perhaps more importantly, the general trend of history has been towards greater freedom as opposed to the authoritarian views of the right. The Republicans’ extremist views on economic and social issues are being rejected, especially by the young. The debate over the future for Republicans be seen in two recent posts from David Frum and Ross Douthat.

Frum sees Sarah Palin and Joe the Plumber as the base of the GOP but realizes that this is not enough to achieve a majority. He notes that George Bush won the working class by twenty-three points but, “This year, an economically squeezed Joe did not come through for the GOP.” He doesn’t realize that this is because the policies of the GOP did not come through for the working class. They are limited to the support of those like Joe the Plumber who believe Republican rhetoric without realizing how harmful Republican policies are to them.

Frum considers Joe the Plumber to be the future of the party but he is willing to move away from Sarah Palin to attempt to attract new voters:

A generation ago, Republicans dominated among college graduates. In 1984 and 1988, Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush won states like California, Pennsylvania and Connecticut – states that have been “blue” for a generation. (America’s least educated state, West Virginia, went for Michael Dukakis in 1988.)

Those days are long gone. Since 1988, Democrats have become more conservative on economics – and Republicans have become more conservative on social issues.

College-educated Americans have come to believe that their money is safe with Democrats – but that their values are under threat from Republicans. And there are more and more of these college-educated Americans all the time.

So the question for the GOP is: Will it pursue them? To do so will involve painful change, on issues ranging from the environment to abortion. And it will involve potentially even more painful changes of style and tone: toward a future that is less overtly religious, less negligent with policy, and less polarizing on social issues. That’s a future that leaves little room for Sarah Palin – but the only hope for a Republican recovery.

This is the key problem for Republicans. A growing portion of the population is economically conservative and socially liberal. As Frum points out, Democrats have become more conservative on economic issues and Republicans have become more conservative on social issues. Republicans have also moved further to the right on economic matters so that their policies not only do not help Joe the Plumber but are also not beneficial for most college graduates. Besides, the Democrats under Barack Obama are already receiving the votes of those who are socially liberal and economically conservative. While I hope that the Republicans do become more moderate on social issues they may have already lost the support of the young due to their recent move to the extreme right. Democrats filled the vacuum the Republicans left when they moved to the far right.

Frum’s ideas regarding giving up conservative social views are unlikely to be accepted by many conservatives, especially as many Republicans think that the GOP lost because of the moderates.

Ross Douthat takes a different view from Frum:

If you follow the model Frum recommends in his column, on the other hand – call it “upper-middle reformism” – and pitch your message to the Obama-voting, ex-Rockefeller Republicans making $150,000 a year, then you’re talking to a “post-material” group of people who worry less about day-to-day economic concerns and more about causes like global warming – making Frum’s vision of a pro-choice, pro-carbon tax GOP a more plausible fit. (Frum has also proposed a fat tax, which is likewise something that seems most likely to appeal to the healthy, wealthy voters at the upper tail of the income and education distribution.)

Again, I don’t think this is a completely either/or matter for the GOP. A party that restores its reputation for competence and policy seriousness, as the Republicans desperately need to do, will win back voters across the income and educational spectrum, no matter what specific positions it takes. But insofar as there’s a choice to be made, I think building a coalition of social conservatives and social moderates from the middle of the income and education distribution makes much more political sense than trying to hold together a coalition of social conservatives from the middle of the distribution and social liberals from the upper end. Joe the Plumber and Joe the Office-Park Employee make much more plausible political bedfellows than Joe the Plumber and Joseph the Hedge Fund Guy.

Restoring a reputation for competence and policy seriousness is important for the Republicans to recover but this is a minimum expectation from any party. Douthat is right about the difficulties in rebuilding a coalition with college educated social liberals as this will only be possible if the Republicans are willing to give up their extremist views on social issues. However Douthat would face similar problems even in building a coalition of social conservatives and social moderates considering how extreme the Republicans in the GOP have become.

Andrew Sullivan disagrees with Douthat in briefly stating, “I don’t think political programs should emerge from the shape of political coalitions.” Maybe the Republican need to come up with some good ideas (along with competence and policy seriousness), and then see which groups they are attractive to.

Brit Hume Stepping Down as Fox Anchor

NPR’s All Things Considered reports that Brit Hume plans to step down as an anchor at Fox. Wanting more free time is understandable, but one of the reasons he gives is unexpected:

…Hume says he’s lost his enthusiasm because of “this poisonous atmosphere in Washington over the last 14 or 15 years. … Sparks are what make news — there’s dissent and disagreement, intense feelings and so on, which all contribute to an untidy and at times ugly, but nonetheless newsworthy, atmosphere.”

Fox News is itself a home for all kinds of rancor. President-elect Barack Obama, for example, has publicly questioned how he’s been characterized by commentators on Fox. So I asked Hume whether Fox News bore any responsibility for the increasingly contentious nature of political discourse that he deplores.

“We’ve certainly been a forum, as everybody else has, for the arguments of the day,” Hume replied. “We are more a reflection of it, I think, than a cause.”

No Brit, Fox is a major cause of the poisonous atmosphere.

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