Reapportionment: Policy Matters

Christmas has come a few days early this year in the form of the decennial data dump from the U.S. Census Bureau that kicks off the redistricting scramble. The reapportionment numbers were not only hugely consequential for the makeup of the next Congress and the durability of the Republican majority, but even a cursory look at the state-by-state numbers one sees the clearest possible vindication of conservative ideas at the state level. Dare I say, this week's numbers were the most ringing endorsement of the Republican governing model since Rudy Giuliani towered over the vested interests in New York City. Not only did the South and West win -- which liberals will dismiss as a function of weather -- but low tax states consistently beat high tax states. Not only did conservative states beat liberal states, most tellingly, the winners were almost to a man conservatively governed. 

Consider this striking fact unearthed by political strategist (and former Giuliani adviser) Ken Kurson, posted on Facebook: 

    Avg tax rate in states gaining a Congressional seat: 2.8%
    Avg tax rate in states losing a Congressional seat: 6.05%
    People vote with their feet.

This finding is relevant to top marginal tax rates, which unlike property or sales taxes more prevalent in redder states punish creation rather than consumption, but the basic finding runs deep throughout the numbers. The big population winners did not just happen to red states with nice weather. They also had a deeply embedded Republican governing model. Consider who governed in the big population-gaining states this year. 

    Texas +4 (10 years of Republican governors, 0 Democrat)
    Florida +2 (10 Republican, 0 Democrat)
    Nevada +1 (10 Republican, 0 Democrat)
    Utah +1 (10 Republican, 0 Democrat)
    South Carolina +1 (8 Republican, 2 Democrat)
    Georgia +1 (8 Republican, 2 Democrat)
    Arizona +1 (2 Republican, 8 Democrat)
    Washington +1 (0 Republican, 10 Democrat)

Collectively, that's 58 years of Republican governance to 22 years of Democratic governance in the states gaining Congressional seats. And Washington State's impressive record -- alone among true blue states -- likely had more to do with the little matter that it lacks an income tax, and an initiative this year to impose one was beat back by 2-to-1. 

More than that, the leadership of these growing states has not only been Republican, but very much conservative: Rick Perry (whose approach to luring jobs from high-tax states is methodical and focused like a predator stalking his prey), Jeb Bush, Mark Sanford, and Sonny Perdue. 

Other gems abound in these numbers, providing us an acid test on the difference between good and bad policy. 

Michigan's prevailing wage union economy has wreaked more devastation than Hurricane Katrina did to Louisiana. Michigan was alone among the states to lose population, losing 0.6% of it. Louisiana (which had to deal with the destruction and relocation of major portions of its biggest city in this decade) gained 1.4%. 

The Northeast continues to bleed, especially its dying, secondary metros. New York state, which absurdly tried to levy an iPod tax under the hapless Gov. David Paterson, limped along with 2.1% growth (the national average was 10%). We don't have county numbers yet, but we can infer that the New York City area, and especially the suburbs, were the bulwark of any growth. Both New Jersey and Connecticut, which are roughly half New York City suburbs, outperformed the entire region (4.5% and 4.9%, respectively, to the Northeast average of 3.2%). This shows us that there is still a creative class and professional allure to major metropolitan areas that can partially counteract high taxation. But what happens to the remnant, secondary metropolitan areas out of reach from New York City or Boston? There, you have no creative class and sky-high taxes forced upon them by liberal city-dwellers. The bottom line: Goodbye Buffalo, Rochester, and Syracuse. A similar dynamic is at play in New England. High-tax, secondary metro Rhode Island performed worst (at anemic 0.4% growth) while the Boston bedroom communities of income-tax free New Hampshire lifted it to a region-leading 6.5% growth rate. The Granite State is like a miniature version of Texas up north: increasingly metropolitan and lightly taxed. 

The Midwest is also hurting, but good policy saves the day. The Midwest fared only slightly better than the Northeast at 3.9% vs. 3.2% growth, but here one begins to see the difference policy makes. The damage here was done by both Democrats and weak sister Republicans. Michigan, which stubbornly refused to change under eight years of Jennifer Granholm, has the nation's worst economy and population growth. (Let us hope, for the sake of the survival of that state, that Governor Rick Snyder and his Republican majorities in the House and Senate can deliver a Right-to-Work law.) Ohio has the second worst, under the consecutive administrations of the corrupt, tax-raising Bob Taft (a Republican) and Ted Strickland (a Democrat). Like Snyder, John Kasich has the opportunity to emerge as a hero of the recovery. But aside from tiny South Dakota, the state in the region with the best population growth at 7.8% -- 4 points higher than neighboring Iowa and 2 points higher than neighboring Wisconsin, was Minnesota, where Tim Pawlenty held the line on taxes and spending for two solid terms. (Disclaimer: I help with Gov. Pawlenty's Freedom First PAC.) Likewise, there is no real reason that industrial Indiana should have performed any better than neighboring Illinois or Ohio other than its distinctively Republican orientation and the budget-cutting leadership of Gov. Mitch Daniels. Illinois, the state whose political leadership this decade consisted of Rod Blagojevich and Barack Obama, turned in a mediocre growth rate of 3.3%, lower than all of its neighbors. 

For the First Time, the South Leads the Nation in Growth. Past Censuses showed the nation's growth tilted West. For the first time, the South took the crown this time, with an overall growth rate of 14.3% to the West's 13.9%. That's a turnaround from 2000, when the West led with 19.7% growth to the South's 17.3%. It's also perhaps a sign of the waning power of immigration as a driver of that growth (it tilts west, though heavily Latino Texas is considered part of the South). In many ways, this past growth was also because the West was the only truly "new" and underpopulated region for the better part of the last century. The 2010 Census shows the trend is definitely waning. The only state with a truly torrid growth rate was Nevada, at +35% -- but it was 66% (!) in the 1990s. The filling out of the interior and mountain West is also slowing. +24% and +21% growth in Utah and Idaho respectively show that it's not just about good weather, but those numbers represent declines of about 15 to 20 points from '90s growth rates. 

The Rise of Texas and the Decline of California. The blaring headline from the 2010 Census is, of course, Texas picking up 4 Congressional seats, landing at 38 total electoral votes. The last time a non-California state had this many was New York in the 1980s. At the same time, California leveled out at 55 electoral votes, the first time since the 1920 census that they haven't gained seats. Joel Kotkin has an excellent read on the California-Texas dynamic, stoked by Rick Perry who boasts of "hunting" for jobs every time he visits the Golden State. 

Texas's 20.6% growth off an already strong base shows its continued promise. California's 10% growth was the weakest in the West save for Montana (9.7%), showing again that even with its favorable geographic positioning, government for the public employee unions, by the public employee unions bleeds jobs and natives. Both states are bouyed by high immigration, much of it illegal (with Texas seemingly avoiding the social friction that characterizes the trend in California and Arizona). While Democrats wax hopeful that long-term demographic trends will ultimately save them (Democrats have been waiting in vain for a blue Texas since the days of Ann Richards), but they forget that many of these are nonvoters (hence the enduring push for amnesty). In California's case, counting illegal immigrants serves to prop up the state's Democratic electoral college block (without really changing the internal electoral dynamics of the state, in terms of new voters added to the rolls), while in Texas it helps add a few more Republican electors. The net effect of immigration is thus a wash in terms of national elections. 

The outflow from California can also be seen in the continued phenomenal growth of neighboring Nevada and Arizona. One telling story is that of Zappos, which moved its headquarters from San Francisco to Las Vegas this decade because the lack of a real middle class in the Bay Area made it difficult to find call center employees. 

The Curious Case of New Mexico. Here's another state where bad policy may be making a difference: New Mexico. Like its neighbors on the border, the state feels the impact of immigration. Yet its growth is a respectable but less than torrid 13.2%, almost half of Arizona's and a full seven points below Texas. Only Colorado's 16.9% comes close. Politically, New Mexico has been seen as a haven for corruption, is heavily dependent on government employers (the national labs), and has been ruled by Democrats including Bill Richardson. If there is any newly elected governor who's well positioned to make a difference with fiscally sound policies, it's Susana Martinez. 

New York Nearly Fades to 4th Place. If there's a cautionary tale California should heed, it's New York. 2010 was the year California topped out its power and influence on the national stage, and may face an actual decline in Congressional representation in years to come. New York has been in population free fall for some time now. Once the Empire State in both name and fact, Florida is now within 500,000 residents of overtaking it. New York's decline from 1st to 4th seems inevitable. 

Plum Picking

 Greg Sargent over at The Plum Line tweets:

New poll demolishes emerging BS meme on the right that Tea Party movement is politically "mainstream"

Which seems especially odd given this is a post about the new Gallup poll relased with the headline:

Tea Partiers Are Fairly Mainstream in Their Demographics

Sound fishy? I thought so. Turns out The Plum Line is cherry picking in the worst way. So desperate are these lefties to prop up their angry white men meme that they are forced to discard half the data from the survey they are referencing and go way over to the census bureau to mix and match their data. According to Sargent:

A whopping 79% of Tea Party supporters are non-hispanic whites. Only 65% of Americans were non-hispanic whites as of 2008.

That 65% figure came from the Census Bureau circa 2008. But Sargent didn't need to go all the way over there as you can see, RIGHT NEXT to the percentage of non-hispanic white Tea Partiers is the percentage of non-hispanic white persons in the general population, according to Gallup; 75%. Pretty pathetic. Especially since Gallup concludes:

In several other respects, however -- their age, educational background, employment status, and race -- Tea Partiers are quite representative of the public at large. [Emphasis Mine]

Greg didn't get everything wrong. He did correctly dispute the claim of a column stating that 4 in 10 Tea Party supporters were Democrats or Independents. In fact, according to Gallup, the figure is 51% or 5 in 10. 


Does the Republican Party Have a Future?

Old people vote. Because they vote, the Republican Party can win elections even when they are a minority of voting-age citizens. Republican presidential nominations frequently reflect the party's geriatric base: Ronald Reagan dreaming about an idyllic past, Bob Dole grumbling about the baby boom generation, John McCain looking very, very old. George W. Bush was young, but he got the nod based on being the son of a president, who got the nod from being vice president under Reagan.

The strategy works, sometimes...for now. Old people vote. Old people also die. The Republican Party resembles a country Episcopal parish: dignified, traditional, and filled with gray heads. Where is the future?

Consider this hefty glop of polling data from a long-running online political quiz. Liberals outnumber conservatives by more than 2:1. Admittedly, the data is noisy. Some people play with it and take it more than once seeing the results of different answers. The population is large (over 60,000 people) but self-selected. The population is Internet-savvy, young, and interested in taking a political quiz. In other words: the future.

Perhaps the quiz itself is biased. Take it for yourself and decide. The author of the quiz claims to have deployed it at gun shows and found conservatives to outnumber liberals. So it's not all test bias. The quiz gives a real signal, and its prognosis for conservatives is grim.

But not as grim as the 2:1 numbers indicate. Young people age. When they get married and have kids, they have more concerns about drugs, security and sexual morality -- and they have less time to play with online political quizzes. More importantly, the quiz finds plenty of libertarians, more libertarians than liberals even. This is in part bias: many libertarian sites link to said quiz, and Libertarian Party members cluster at the radical libertarian apex. But even with the radicals (8.9%) filtered out (which thus excludes most LP members), we get more libertarians than liberals, and way more libertarians than conservatives.

To have a future, the Republican Party needs its libertarian wing. Instead, it listens to its aged conservatives, because of the party's seniority system for nominating presidents. As a result, the Democrats have the presidency and both houses of Congress, and our nation is sliding towards moribund European style welfare state status.

The Republican Party needs to listen more to its libertarian wing, but it still needs the rest of the conservative coalition; it cannot become merely a moderate libertarian party and win. The party needs its security minded seniors and its upright rural folk who live in the real world thus having better things to do than take online political quizzes.

How can the Republican Party appeal to its traditionalists without alienating its libertarians? Currently, the Republican Party is too divided to rule. It is good at grumbling in opposition, but not so good at putting through its agenda when in power.

The conservative coalition is not only too disunited, it is too small. As such the Republican Party depends too much on remoras and uncommitted swing voters. We saw this during the second Bush years: crony capitalism, sole source military contracting, incompetent appointments and a new Medicare entitlement. The first Bush gave us "read my hips" and the Americans with Disabilities Act. His reelection bid was an embarrassing pork fest.

In the coming months I shall suggest ways to better cohere the conservative coalition. I will point out overlap between Christian and libertarian values, and how to further liberty and security simultaneously. I will also explore ways to broaden the coalition, how to be "kinder and gentler" without sacrificing core values.


Notes on the Virginia/North Carolina losses

A lot of commentary has been focusing on the fact that the GOP lost Virginia for the first time since 1964 and North Carolina since 1976. This is treated as absolutely unprecedented, and to a certain extent it is.

But consider the demographics. The last Republican loser, Dole, won Virginia by a tiny 2 point margin while McCain lost it by 5.5. However, in 1996 the Virginia electorate was 81% white and 16% black while in 2008 it was 70% white and 20% black. Dole won white voters 53-39 while McCain won them 60-39--a substantial improvement. The problem was, of course, that the black vote in 2008 was larger and more monolithic than in 1996. The same lesson applies to 1992, where the elder Bush won the state by 4 points while obtaining an identical margin among whites than McCain did.

Similarly, in North Carolina whites were 80% in 1996 and Dole won them by 24 points, carrying the state by 5. McCain did better at 29 points but barely lost the state because whites only constituted 72% in 2008.

The point is that we lost these former Republican strongholds not necessarily because parts of the state have more white liberals, but rather because the white share was lower (and the black share correspondingly higher) than in the past elections we lost. We can look forward to these states being purple for as long as these turnout trends hold up.

The Palin demographic: "Winchester Women"

In thinking about the Palin pick, I was thinking that there is a demographic group out there which has been often overlooked by political strategists, but which she is pretty much a "bulls eye" for.

I've seen women voters categorized as feminists, soccer moms, et al. But much of this description seems frankly, too "pink" for a large segment of today's women voters.

I'm thinking about woman entrepeneurs, woman blue collar tradespeople, female hard rock fans, woman bikers, and sportswomen. Girls who listen to country artists like Gretchen Wilson or Carrie Underwood who certainly don't "stand by their man" in their songs.

For some reason, I've seen a lot of pickups with door signs identifying a woman proprietor, and I'm not sure Wellesley grad Hillary Clinton is really her role model. These folks are post-feminist in that regard and distant from yuppie society.

I think there is a great opportunity for the Republicans to lock in a new demographic group "Winchester Women"---self-reliant rural/exurban women under 50---due to the Sarah Palin pick.  

Think the spouses of last cycle's "Nascar Dads". I suspect that this group had heavy voter falloff from '04 to '06, but has the possibility to exceed the Bush percentage this year if properly motivated.

The Obama camp may have already started on helping us out, as attacks on Palin's experience and zip code are going to come off haughty and elitist to these voters. 

I imagine the RNC has already focus grouped and polled this demographic. If not . they should, since I think reliance on sisterly solidarity with a wronged Senator Clinton might miss the mark for these voters. 


Book Review: The Big Sort

Over the last 15 years Americans have physically sorted ourselves into cultural enclaves that share strikingly similar tastes in everything from cars and clothes to churches and politics.  Bill Bishop isn’t the first observer to point this out, but his new book The Big Sort is the deepest analysis of the phenomenon’s origins and political effects so far. 

One of the first big discussions we had on this blog was a debate over the roles of targeted micro messages and unifying macro themes and this book breaks down the demographics behind that debate. Americans have retreated into enclaves of “image tribes” as divided by geography as they are by ideas and tastes and according to Bishop, there’s very little common dialog left.

Rethinking the 19th Amendment

Are GOP political fortunes held hostage to the will of white women?

Allow to me to explain.

The so-called "gender gap" first came into the public mind during the Reagan years when it was noted that women were 16 percentage points less likely than men to support Reagan over Carter, compared to no difference in 1976, quite possibly due to Reagan's stated opposition to big government. Since minority women already voted (and have continued to vote) for the Democrats heavily in these elections at pretty much the same rate as minority men, the phenomenon has mainly been noted as a substantial gap between white men and white women.

For a while, the gender gap was irrelevant to the ultimate outcome of the elections. Both men and women voted for Reagan twice, then Bush in 1988 , then Clinton in 1992.

Then 1996 rolled around. For those who don't know what happened, I'll summarize: Bill Clinton and the Democrats took some Chinese money to help finance their campaign and then proceeded crush Senator Bob Dole by an 8.5% margin. Clinton did three points better than he had done against George Bush in 1992. Yet at the same time he managed to lose, or come close to losing the male vote to Dole, meaning that he actually performed worse among men in 1996 than 1992. His increased margin was entirely due to more support from women: in 1992 they backed him by 7 points, in 1996 they backed him by 17 points.  Specifically, while white men backed Dole 49-38, white women supported Clinton 48-43. 

So why does this matter to us?

Well, it's no secret that George W. Bush's infamous "compassionate conservatism" rose about largely because of his campaign's need to appeal more to white suburban women who didn't like the GOP's anti-government actions in Congress. Republicans in Congress like Newt Gingrich had been painted as mean conservatives who wanted to cut funding for, well, just about everything.  Bush wanted to indicate that he wasn't like that, in fact he would increase spending even as he cut taxes and add even more inefficient government oversight to areas such as education.

Politically, Bush's pro-government message worked--barely. According to CNN Exit Polls, he managed to tie or beat Al Gore among white women in 2000 while maintaining a 24 point lead over white men. In 2004 his lead over white men was about the same while white women backed him by a substantially larger 10 points.

If the election was held today and only men voted, John McCain almost certainly would defeat Barack Obama. The challenge for conservatives and Republicans is to figure out how to erase the gender gap so we never fall into the same trap that Bush and the Tom Delay Congress did by acting as if they could win by acting like somewhat less generous Democrats.

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