Republicans Limited to South, A National Party No More

The Washington Post reports on the Democratic gains in the west, noting changes in attitudes:

Last month’s elections, though, may signal the end of Republican dominance and fierce resistance to many conservation measures. Profound demographic and economic change seems finally to be asserting itself across the region. Westerners cast votes suggesting that the protection of their natural surroundings is not a negotiable condition for living well.

“Self-interest has intersected with reality,” said Limerick, chair of the board of the Center of the American West at the University of Colorado at Boulder. “To have open spaces and nice places, people realize, they cannot be a bunch of individuals pursuing self-indulgence. They have to act collectively.”

To that end, much of the West rejected ballot measures that could have shredded state and local land-use rules limiting growth, controlling sprawl and ensuring open space. Voters in Idaho, Washington and California soundly defeated “takings” measures, intended to compensate individual owners whose land is devalued by land-use or zoning laws. Arizona voters approved their law. Courts had earlier tossed out the measures in Montana and Nevada.

At the same time, Democrats consolidated gains from 2004, picking up the governorship in Colorado, a Senate seat in Montana and two House seats in Arizona. Democrats already controlled governor’s seats in Arizona, Montana, New Mexico, Oregon, Washington and Wyoming.

This leaves the Republicans with just the south. The Economist turns Zell Miller’s attack on Democrats against the Republicans, noting that it is now the Republicans who are A National Party No More:

The extent of the southernisation of the Republican Party is astonishing. The party was all but wiped out in its historic base, the north-east. There is now only one Republican in the 22-strong New England House delegation. New Hampshire kicked out its two Republican congressmen (and gave Democrats a majority in both state houses for the first time since 1874). Massachusetts ended 16 years of Republican occupation of the governor’s mansion. Rhode Island decapitated Lincoln Chafee despite his moderate record. New York installed Democrats in every statewide office for the first time since 1938.

The Republicans also suffered big losses in a region that voted solidly for Bush in 2004—the Mountain West. Three Republicans lost house seats. Conrad Burns lost his Senate seat in Montana (59% for Bush in 2004). Democrats now control five of the eight governorships in the region, compared with none in 2000.

The only place where the national tide had little impact was in the South. The Democrats made a few inroads in the periphery—winning a Senate seat in Virginia and House seats in North Carolina, Florida and Texas. But deep southern states such as Georgia and Mississippi remained unchanged. Exit polls showed that only 36% of white voters in the South voted for Democratic House candidates; it was 58% in the north-east.

The problem for the Republicans is that a regional stronghold can become a prison. The South has one of the most distinctive cultures in the United States—far more jingoistic than the rest of the country and far more religious. Fifty-eight per cent of deep southerners identify themselves as either evangelical or born-again compared with a third of non-southerners (the figure in Mississippi is 73%). But for every non-southerner who waxes lyrical about southern charm there are many more who associate the South with racial bigotry and cultural backwardness. The 2006 election—which saw social conservatives such as Rick Santorum and Kenneth Blackwell go down to humiliating defeat—suggests that non-southerners have grown particularly impatient with the South’s brand of in-your-face religiosity.

It would be premature to write off the Republicans, considering how many were doing the same to the Democrats just two years ago. The Republicans still have two potent Presidential candidates between John McCain and Rudy Giuliani, and the party will be less closely tied to Bush’s failures.

While a personality such as these can still win the White House, it will be harder for the Republicans to rebuild as a national party. So far they are showing a tendency to retreat towards their base, which ultimately limits them to the South. Their backwards ideas which are divorced from reality and which have been repudiated by most thinking Americans do not provide a good basis for rebuilding.

Abstinence Based Education Called a Myth

The British government is more realistic than the Bush administration. The Telegraph reports:

Sexual abstinence as an effective tool in reducing teenage pregnancy is a complete “myth”, the Government’s advisory body on the issue claimed yesterday.

The Independent Advisory Group on Teenage Pregnancy said that research from the United States showed that contraception was the way to bring down rates. Researchers from Columbia University and the Guttmacher Institute examined the relative roles of abstinence and contraceptive use in the “remarkable decline” in US teenage pregnancy rates, which dropped 27 per cent from 1991 to 2000. They said that 86 per cent of the decline in teenage pregnancy was due to improved use of contraception.

Only 14 per cent of the drop amongst 15- to 19-year-olds was linked to reduced sexual activity, according to the study, published in the latest edition of the American Journal of Public Health.

Gill Frances, the chairman of the British advisory group, said: “Providing young people with good information, advice and contraceptive services, is the way to reduce teenage pregnancy.

“It is a myth that abstinence is a better approach and this US study confirms it.”

SciFi Friday: Time Travel Edition

The theme this week is time travel, with the most significant occurrence being on Heroes. If there is anyone who watches this show only intermittently, this is an essential episode. As we saw previously, Hiro goes back in time to try to warn Charlie the waitress from going to work the day she is to be murdered. He winds up six months in the past, giving the two plenty of time to fall in love, but it turns out that Hiro cannot change the past. Apparently he is limited to returning from the future with messages such as “Save the cheerleader, save the world” but is limited in what he can actually accomplish in the past.

What was particularly ingenious about the writing of this episode is that besides seeing what Hiro did six months ago while in the past we also saw the other characters and learned a lot about many of them. The most interesting was how Chandra inadvertently caused Gabriel the watchmaker to take the name Sylar (off a watch) and begin killing many of those on his list.

While Hiro could not change the past, we learned that reality can be changed on Daybreak, which is sort of a cross between 24 and Groundhog Day. The protagonist relives the same day in which he is framed for murder, but each time he lives the day he investigates different clues and learns more about the people in his life. This week’s episode showed that how he interacts with others can even affect how they behave subsequent times the day is relived.

How I Met Your Mother isn’t technically science fiction, but it takes place in the future as the stories in our present are told as flash back (even if Ted does tell far more about his dating life than most of us would ever tell our kids). Last season ended with Ted using his force of will to get the universe to make it rain in order to advance his plans with Robin. That’s all enough for me to classify it as sci fi/fantasy, but the criteria here is a bit lax. I’m including this week’s episode since we get a glimpse of the future (or past from the perspective of the narrator).

How I Met Your Mother takes place in a parallel universe where Neil Patrick Harris, rather than being gay, is obnoxiously straight as Barney. This week we meet Barney’s brother James who is both gay and black. We never learn how Barney has a black brother (not buying the explanation based upon flavor of ice cream his mother ate while pregant) but that isn’t the real mystery. James has many of Barney’s attitudes despite never experiencing the life changing experiences seen in a previous flash back of Barney’s life.

Perhaps this came from Neil Patrick Harris, but the episode had a great line to turn around the usual attacks on gay marriage. Barney is upset to learn that James is planning to marry because, “Once the gays do something, everyone will start to do it.” He fears that gay marriage, rather than harming the institution of marriage as right wingers claim, will harm the singledom he worships. James marriage sets up the view of the future. We see the characters one year later at the wedding and learn that Marshall and Lilly are married. Ted and Robin dance together, but are they still together? They show too much single stamina (explained earlier in the episode), and when asked if they are going home they answer separately.

Getting back to Heroes, there are a couple of interesting additions to the cast planned. George Takei (Star Trek’s Mr. Sulu) is going to play Hiro’s father and Christopher Eccleston, who has played time traveler Doctor Who, will also become a regular. Speaking of Doctor Who, Captain Jack, who has been given his own spin off, will be returning briefly.

Lots of SciFi fans wish they could practice time travel to at least view next year’s episodes of several shows. Jericho has followed Lost’s lead in going on hiatus until winter after managing to throw multiple cliff hangers into the last few minutes of this week’s episode. Heroes is doing the same after next week.

Olbermann Responds To Newt Gingrich’s Attack on Freedom of Speech

Keith Olbermann had a Special Comment last night responding to Newt Gingrich’s comments on freedom of speech (previoulsy discussed here). He warns that following such advice to restrict our liberties would destory America as we know it:

Within the frame of our experience as a free and freely argumentative people, it is almost impossible to conceive that there are those among us, who might approach the kind of animal-wildness of fiction like that — those who would willingly transform our beloved country into something false and terrible.

Who among us can look to our own histories, or those of our ancestors who struggled to get here, or who struggled to get freedom after they were forced here, and not teer up when we reed Frederick Douglass’s words from a century-and-a-half ago: “Freedom must take the day”?

And who among us can look to our collective history, and not see its turning points — like the Civil War, like Watergate, like the Revolution itself — in which the right idea defeated the wrong idea on the battlefield that is the marketplace of ideas?

But apparently there are some of us who cannot see, that the only future for America is one that cherishes the freedoms won in the past, one in which we vanquish bad ideas with better ones, and in which we fight for liberty by having more liberty, not less.

“I am seeking to create a movement to win the future by offering a series of solutions so compelling that if the American people say I have to be president, it will happen.”

What a dark place your world must be, Mr. Gingrich, where the way to save America, is to destroy America.

Full transcript is below the fold, and video is available at Crooks and Liars.

John and Teresa Kerry Writing Book; Gingrich Believes Kerry Can Be Among Front Runners

John Kerry was on The Situation Room yesterday. It was pretty much the standard questions and answers but there was one bit of news. Newt Gingrich was quoted as saying, “John Kerry had a bad fall. He said a dumb thing. If he would go away for six months, then find two or three things that really matter to the American people, he could be among the frontrunners.”

While Kerry is not going to “go away for six months” it appears he is following the other half of Gingrich’s recommendations. John and Teresa Kerry are writing a book on the environmnet, including global warming, to be released in a few months.
Full transcript under the fold. (more…)