Tuesday, November 20, 2012


The re-election of Barack Obama as President of the United States is cause for a great deal of soul-searching by Republicans at all levels.  Most of the discourse has, so far, been centered on the composition of the electorate (older and whiter for the GOP, younger and more ethnically diverse for the Democrats), and those policies that might be preventing the Republicans from making themselves and their candidates more attractive to a larger group of voters (immigration, social issues, etc.).  But a look at the raw numbers in historical context brings up another explanation, one much harder to address by any change in policy.

First, the raw numbers for every presidential election since the end of the Cold War;

D - 63,679,412 (50.73%)     R- 59,769,964 (47.61%)

D-69,499,428 (52.87%)       R-59,950,323 (45.60%)

D-59,028,439 (48.27%)       R-62,040,610 (50.73%)

D-51,003,926 (48.38%)        R-50,460,110 (47.87%)

D-47,400,125 (49.23%)        R-39,198,755 (40.72%)

D-44,909,806 (43.01%)         R-39,104,550 (37.45%)

As you can see, the Democrats have won the popular vote in five of the six elections held since the Berlin Wall fell in 1989 and the Soviet Union collapsed in 1991.  By contrast, the GOP won the five out of six held between 1968 and 1988.  The total for the entire Cold War period (1948 to 1988) was seven wins for the GOP (1952, 1956, 1968, 1972, 1980, 1984, 1988) and three for the Democrats (1948, 1960, 1964).

Correlation is not causation.  But is it not possible that the existence of an existential threat may have given the Republicans an advantage when choosing a President who is, after all, the man in charge of our war-making capabilities?  It has often been argued persuasively that the Democrats are perceived as the party of domestic, bread and butter issues while the GOP is the party seen as strong and robust on defending the country against foreign threats.  It seems to me not simply a coincidence that the one election won by the Republicans in the post-Cold War period was, in fact, the 2004 election, an election when memories of the 9/11 attacks were still fresh and our soldiers were only recently engaged in large-scale combat in Iraq, seen by many (correctly or not) as a part of the "War on Terrorism".  By 2008 the war, while still ongoing, seemed less relevant, especiall without another major domestic attack.

It may be that all the speculation about how the Repoublicans can revise their policies or re-make their image is sound and fury signifying nothing.  It may simply be the case that domestic concerns being predominate in the minds of the electorate in this historical era has given the Democrats the advantage.  When the wheel of history brings war or the threat of war back on the horizon, the Republicans may be seen as the party best suited to provide the leadership necessary to guide us through those troubled waters.                


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