In recent years, “Blue State/Red State” maps have become a ubiquitous, shorthand way to describe our political landscape.
Unfortunately, and much like how a carnival hypnotist employs a soothing and repetitive motion to transfix his victims into behaving absurdly, many Republican pundits appear to have become so mesmerized by seeing “Red States” as “Republican,” that they have failed to recognize — much less understand — the significant demographic and political changes that have taken hold within those state; changes that have rendered traditional notions of political analysis largely ineffective.
You do not have to be a high-paid political consultant to see this.
As I traveled the country for business and pleasure in recent years — visiting “Red States” like Texas, Iowa and Montana (including, of course, my home state of Georgia) — I saw (and continue to see) example and after example of state and local “Republican” officials respond to voters’ desires to improve their “safety” and “quality of life,” by increasing spending and services.
Even in traditionally Republican enclaves, voters are electing and re-electing officials who are eager to meet those desires, by raising taxes, “fees” and public debt, and by placing further controls on businesses. All this in an effort to satisfy largely suburban voters’ demands for everything from parks to aquatic centers and billion-dollar sports arenas.
In such an environment, it is only a small step for voters to choose candidates for office who are ever more willing to meet their desires for expanded and “improved” government services; in short, to vote Democratic.
Republican elected officials, their political consultants, and conservative media “talking heads” all seem to have lost sight of the forest for the trees; focusing on the “Big Picture,” and overlooking the erosion of conservative principles of governance where the rubber meets the road – at the local level.
The result is a pronounced leftward drift in virtually all aspects of life at the local level. Taxes increase as Republicans acquiesce to multi-million-dollar bond initiatives for pet projects like sports stadiums and movie studios. Massive tax incentives are freely offered to companies in return for vague promises to create “high-paying jobs” down the road.
Increasing business regulations, licensing requirements, and zoning restrictions make it harder for budding entrepreneurs to launch new businesses or expand current ones. Anti-smoking regulations and even gun-control measures are being shepherded by Republicans under the guise of “public safety” and “quality of life.”
The impact of this philosophical shift cannot be dismissed, as seen clearly in this month’s high profile races in Georgia and Texas. That the GOP could very nearly lose a Senate race in Texas or a gubernatorial race in Georgia, should be a blaring wake-up call to Republicans that the electoral color of a state, or the letter next to a candidate’s name, no longer means what it used to mean; and certainly nothing that can be taken for granted.
Deficit spending continues unabated. Meanwhile, little interest is shown by Republican leaders in Congress to move legislation that would appeal to minority and independent voters in particular, and which also are firmly rooted in traditional principles of conservative governance; this would include such measures as criminal justice reform and loosening federal restrictions on adult use of marijuana.
The problem for the Republican Party goes far deeper than a national coloring book with red and blue crayons. If the Grand Old Party does not quickly and seriously work to reclaim and reinvigorate its philosophical high ground, there will be none left to claim.