One is that in the regions that grow in populations, the previous "polarity" may be erased by the newcommers, and it often is. E.g. new inhabitants of southern New Hampshire or northern Virginia are much less conservative than the previous ones.
The second thing is that GOP went overboard with wedge issues. Ca. 50 percent of the voters belong to "special groups": 25% are evangelicals who are still a reliable GOP constituency, and another 25% are non-religious, Jews, gays, Blacks, and Democratic subgroups of Hispanics.
The art of wedge issues is that they energize "your 25%", revolt "their 25%", while the middle is lukewarm to supportive. As a party defends the issues of "their 25%", it is branded as "special interest party, out of the mainstream". Stem cells were a good wedge issue -- for Democrats. Moreover, you can overdue on Christian conservative issues even in South Dakota.
The percentage of evangelical vote in the total GOP vote went up to 38%, and GOP is definitely in danger of being anti-science, anti-research, anti-sound health policies, anti-education etc. party. And pro-corruption, as extreme self-righteousness correlates with corruption. (Among others, non-religious and main-line religious do not believe that Satan personally tempts them to use cheap whores etc.)
Feingold took a number of courageous positions over his carrier, some remarkably courageous, but by no stretch of imagination he is a progressive in the mold of Welstone.
The other thing is that circumstances change, opinions change, and this is just normal. NAFTA looked like a very goood thing at its time, and for a while we had very good growth, including incomes of lowest quintile. Then it was not so hot, and Gore changed his opinion. Thinking does it to you, you know (banging head on the ground is not necessary).
Make no mistake: I regret that Feingold is not running, I regret even more that Gore is not running. Last time, on issues and consistency Kucinich was probably a superior candidate, but SOME consideration to electability has to be given.
I have a theory that we can be more competitice in "Alabama". The other day we discussed with Tony Barr who got 40% in PA-9, a huge district covering a swath of Allegheny Plateau and Ridge & Valley. In PA-10 and in NY upstate inroads were made into Appalachia. More should be possible.
Appalachian rural people are not suburban evangeligals who are mobilized by their mega-churches. They represent a richer variety of views and many are economically distressed (but stay away from their guns!).
At the very least, Democrats should be wittling down the GOP advantage in rural areas, forcing them to defend and sweat, like in WY-AL or ID-01.
The glass is half full, definitely, but it was empty.
Bush is still President, and there is enough DINOs in both houses that no progressive agenda can move forward.
But it can be discussed, the notions of "common wisdom" and "mainstream" are altered. Moreover, Republican "base" is dented, the Republican political machine -- fundraising, GOTV -- not everwhelming anymore, "netroots" had some victories.
I hope that in two years, America can be ready for a positive progressive agenda, and Democrats will be ready too.
namely, in urban area democratic voters have high concentrations, about 80%, while in the countryside and outer suburbs the republican voters have lower concentrations, about 60%, which would favor GOP if districts are drawn to be geographically compact.
On the other hand, rural voters are perhaps going away from GOP, so those "60% GOP" district can fall into "45-55% GOP" zone.
Some argue that gerrymandering allows total loons to be elected, and this is the most evil part of it, rather than raw numbers of GOP and Dem elected Congresscritters.
Today was a glorious day for a hike and I drove with a friend to Juniata Water Gap. On the way back, we drove on lesser highway through a number of villages, after seeing several Santorum signs -- to be expected -- I have actually seen more Democtratic signs, for Rendell (governor) and local races than Republican.
Rendel is too right wing to my taste, but I think what happens is that the countryside in NE and MW is ready to support what Republican Party should be and used to be -- meaning DLC-like Democrats, running as Democrats.
Central PA is bordering Western NY and I guess they may be similar. Declining manufacturing hits all these areas (add Ohio, Indiana) quite hard.
My theory is that Dems MUST put on their agenda all populist pieces which are clearly consistent with "good government", like pro-consumer banctuptcy reform, a degree of protection for manufacturing, availability of healthcare and college education to lower income middle class etc. Get rid of almost everything that offends hunters. Stand fast of individual rights (reproductive, sexual orientation, racial justice, no to torture) to keep the connection with social liberals (and because it is the right think to do).
What I see is a large group of voters with middling incomes who should be interested in such issues like the stability of Social Security, student aid, health care, and whose attention can be diverted with issues like abortion and gay marriage.
The truth is that GOP can deliver very marginal changes on gay rights and reproductive rights, so most of what they could do is to offer rhetoric assuring evangelical voters that "they represent our values". However, corruption of power is not particularly Biblical as a value, torture is questionable, and gas prices are rather painful if you commute a long distance in an SUV to your favorite mega-church.
So there is a potential that a segment of the population will return to Democratic Party.
Long time ago, it was estimated that ca. 45% of the electorate formed a "hard-core" support for Bush. Then gas prices crossed two dollars and did not stop before reaching 3 dollars, and as they were climbing, Bush's support was eroding.
To a bicyclist like me, or a Civic driver like my wife gas prices are not much of an issue, but for an exurban family with a fleet of vans and SUVs and substancial distances to drive gas prices are an issue, and an issue that even the most clueless of them has to notice.
In my area, the gas prices went down by 80 cents per gallon, almost to the level from the previous elections (when they were stuck just short of two dollars per gallon). I was really curious how "gas-sensitive" voters will react. Mind you, we are talking about borderline Bush supporters here.
One possibility is that either they think that Bush has nothing to do with the decline, or they think that he does, which proves that he supported price gouging all along, until the election time.