From Reagan-Schweiker to a Shrinking Tent

(Cross-posted from Think it Through)

Senator Arlen Specter, the former headline-chasing prosecutor from Philadelphia turned United States Senator from Pennsylvania is known as a loner in a club that values camaraderie above all else. But now Senator Specter has joined the largest political movement in the country in the last 12 months, the exodus from the Republican Party.  According to all the recentnationalpolls, from April 2008 to April 2009 over 17 million Americans left the Republican party.  Specter makes it 17 million plus one.

How many have joined the Democrats?  There has been no net increase in those calling themselves Democrats, according to most of the national surveys.  Democratic identification, depending on which poll you use, has either remained the same or even decreased slightly since last April.

Instead, the shrinking of the Republican party has coincided with the largest number of Americans identifying as independents - between 85 and 88 million Americans (38 to 40%), depending on the poll - in a generation.  Republican identification stands at 20 to 21% (about 42 million Americans) and Democratic  i.d. is at 35% in most polls (about 75 million Americans).

Where has the exodus been most robust?  A look at some  of our surveys at Belden Russonello & Stewart from April 2008 to April 2009 yields some surprises: men under  age 50, college graduates, and single people have been the most likely groups to bolt from the Republican party in the last 12 months.

For now, these Republican defectors are calling themselves independents - a group in which a majority approve of the way President Obama is handling his job.

When Senator Specter voted for the President's stimulus bill, we should have known what was coming.  By voting yes, Specter tore at the fabric of current Republican doctrine and joined the millions of Americans who have placed their faith in the country's new President and his new leadership.  An important part of that leadership includes a willingness to expand the role of government to repair the economy.

Specter's vote for the stimulus bill and his decision to leave the GOP is all the more meaningful when you consider the fact that he holds the seat of former Senator Richard Schweiker, a liberal Republican from Pennsylvania who served in the Senate from 1968 to 1980.  Schweiker achieved national prominence in 1976 when  Ronald Reagan, in his first unsuccessful race for President, announced his intention to name Schweiker as his vice presidential running mate at the Republican convention.  Conservatives were outraged.  President Ford edged out Reagan for the nomination, and that was the end of Schweiker's dance with national office.  After becoming President, Reagan named Schweiker Secretary of Health and Human Services in 1981.

That was when the Republican party lived in a considerably larger tent, when it was ideological but not inflexible, national rather than regional.  It was a time when Mr. Conservative Ronald Reagan saw value in choosing Mr. Liberal Richard Schweiker as a running mate on the Republican ticket.

Today, seventy percent of Republicans call themselves conservative and over four in ten live in the South, according to BRS surveys.  Today, Schweiker, like Specter, would be part of that 17 million person movement that is growing in America.

John Russonello is a partner with Belden Russonello & Stewart:Public Opinion Research and Strategic Communications in Washington, DC. He writes the blog "Think it Through."

Tags: party i.d., polling, Reagan, Richard Schweiker, specter (all tags)



Think of the Republicans

of the past who would no longer be welcomed in this GOP:

Jacob Javits
Charles Mathias
Bob Packwood
Edward Brooke
Mark Hatfield
Margaret Chase Smith
Nelson Rockefeller
Lowell Weicker
Millicent Fenwick

by Charles Lemos 2009-04-30 11:27PM | 0 recs
Re: Think of the Republicans

    Sen. Thomas Kuchel of California, defeated by a right-wing Republican in the 1968 primary.
     Mayor John Lindsay of New York City, elected to the House and Mayor as a Republican, defeated by a right-wing Republican in the 1969 primary; subsequently joined the Democratic Party.
     Sen. Charles Goodell of New York, defeated by Conservative Party candidate James Buckley in the 1970 general election.
     Sen. Clifford Case of New Jersey, defeated by a right-wing Republican in the 1978 primary.
     Sen. Jim Jeffords of Vermont, who voluntarily left the Republican Party in May, 2001, shifting control of the Senate to the Democrats.
     Former Gov. William Weld of Massachusetts, whose nomination as Ambassador to Mexico was blocked by Sen. Jesse Helms.
     Rep. Joe Schwarz of Michigan, defeated by a right-wing Republican in the 2006 primary.
     Sen. Lincoln Chafee of Rhode Island, who has become an Independent since he was defeated for reelection in 2006.
     Rep. Wayne Gilchrest of Maryland, defeated by a right-wing Republican in the 2008 primary.

    This isn't something that happened last week. This is the culmination of a 40-year effort by the right wing to purge moderates from leadership positions in the Republican Party, and it's been one of the most successful purges in American political history.

by Ron Thompson 2009-05-02 05:35PM | 0 recs
Re: From Reagan-Schweiker to a Shrinking Tent

Abraham Lincoln
Theodore Roosevelt

I sometimes wonder how welcome Ronald Reagan, Dwight Eisenhower or Richard Nixon would be in today's Republican party.

by Khun David 2009-05-01 05:48AM | 0 recs
Re: From Reagan-Schweiker to a Shrinking Tent

this was meant to be a response to Charles Lemos's post.

by Khun David 2009-05-01 05:49AM | 0 recs
Re: From Reagan-Schweiker to a Shrinking Tent

Ike would definitely bemade to feel uncomfortable.

by spirowasright 2009-05-02 09:58PM | 0 recs
Re: From Reagan-Schweiker to a Shrinking Tent

I don't think "Americans who have placed their faith in the country's new President and his new leadership."

I think it's far more they are willing to give them a chance as the past president and leadership's approach have completely not worked. That's why they're still indies, they are not at the stage where they see the expanded government as good but I think their position is closer to "How could that make things worse? Let's give it a shot."

by MNPundit 2009-05-02 10:05AM | 0 recs
Re: From Reagan-Schweiker to a Shrinking Tent
RPast epublcians who wouldn'tfit into today's GOP?
Sen. Charles Percy.
Rep. Tom Railsback (Who was primaried out in 1982, handing his Western Illinois House seat to the Dems).
Rep.Paul Findley.
Sen.Hugh Scott.
Gov. William Scranton.
Sen. George Aiken.
Maybe Sen. Everett Dirksen.
Maybe Sen. Howard Baker.
Sen.Margaret Chase smith (Hear that, Olympia Snowe?).
Gov. George Romney.
by spirowasright 2009-05-02 07:09PM | 0 recs
Re: From Reagan-Schweiker to a Shrinking Tent

Looks like someon already mentiojned Margaret Chase Smith.
Sorry for the repeat.
Just for that, here's another set of names.

Rep. John Anderson.
Rep. William Steiger.
Gov. Harold Stassen.
Gov. Richard Ogilvie.
Maybe Rep.Bob Michel.

by spirowasright 2009-05-02 07:14PM | 0 recs
Re: From Reagan-Schweiker to a Shrinking Tent

Ooops! Hi! Me again with more prominent GOP refugees:

Sen. Thurston Morton.
Sen. John Sherman Cooper (of Cooper-Church fame).
Gov. David Cargo.

by spirowasright 2009-05-02 07:33PM | 0 recs


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