When I first registered to vote, I registered Republican for three reasons. They were:
By the time I managed my first campaigns (seven years later), the Dems had moved to the center and the GOP was a laughing stock in Florida. They were outregistered 4:1 and had moved so far to the right that I felt compelled to give a GOP candidate I handled for state legislature the slogan “Reasonable. Responsible. Republican.” The situation was the same in a lot of other states.
In 1980, Ronald Reagan turned the whole structure on its head. His revolution not only led the GOP back to the White House for his reign, but also to the elections of Bush 41, congressional majorities and Bush 43.
While Reagan deserves credit for bringing the GOP out of the wilderness, the reality is that the GOP was able to succeed in the 1980s largely because the Dems grew smug and complacent during their winning streak in the 1970s. And even as recently as 2000 and 2004, many Dem party leaders failed to accurately apprehend the sea change that had taken place: i.e. the Dem party is no longer the party of the majority.
However: the GOP understood the situation no better than the Dems. Drunk with power and bloated from gorging on talk-radio candy, they deluded themselves into believing they had become the party of the majority. Then, during Bush 43’s second term, they committed the ultimate sin: supreme arrogance.
The GOP today has returned to its Looney Tunes persona and once again, is being led by extreme right-wing wackos, but this time, it’s on a national scale.
If the Dems make the same mistakes they made in the 80’s, the GOP will recover, regroup and return quickly. But the GOP’s hopes for a “permanent majority,” in the ironic words of Karl Rove, are unlikely to be realized any time in the future, near or far.
The reason is that neither the GOP nor the Dems represent a clear majority of voters. Because the number of independent voters has grown faster than either major party over the past decade, we have achieved functional parity. And that’s a sign that we’ve matured as a nation.