Jewish World Review Nov. 6, 2003 / 11 Mar-Cheshvan, 5764

Jack Kelly

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Realignments


http://www.NewsAndOpinion.com | Republicans easily won this week races for statehouses in Kentucky and Mississippi that currently are held by Democrats. With the California recall election, the number of Republican governors has increased by three this year.

Democrats could regain a governor in Louisiana Nov. 15. But Republican Bobby Jindal is leading in the polls, and has picked up the endorsement of the Democratic mayor of New Orleans.

By themselves, these off year elections don't mean much. But they fit into a larger emerging pattern.

Writing in the Weekly Standard after California's recall election, Fred Barnes declared that the GOP is now the nation's foremost political party. Barnes is wildly premature. We won't know until after the elections in 2006 whether or not realignment has really taken place.

But the viciousness with which Democrats attack President Bush suggests they fear that what they face in 2004 is not merely the loss of an election, but the end of an era.

Typically, realignments occur less because voters change their allegiance than because new voters vote differently than their parents did. Recent polls indicate younger voters are more likely to support President Bush than older voters are.

A poll taken by Harvard University's Institute of Politics Oct. 3-12 found that 61 percent of college students approve of the job President Bush is doing, about 10 points higher than the president's approval rating in the general population.

A Gallup poll taken Oct. 24-27 found that 62 percent of Americans aged 18-29 approve of the President, compared to 53 percent of Americans 30 or older. An ABC News poll found that a third of adults under 30 are Republicans, up from about a quarter two decades ago. Democratic identifiers among young people have fallen to a quarter from a third in the same time period, ABC News found.

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In the population as a whole, Republicans and Democrats are now split evenly, with 31 percent each, ABC said. In 1983, Democrats claimed the allegiance of 39 percent of Americans.

Rising Republican strength is reflected in state legislatures, the minor leagues of politics. In 1990, Democrats controlled 24 more of the 99 partisan state legislative bodies than Republicans did. (Nebraska's unicameral legislature is nonpartisan.) Today, Republicans control 5 more than Democrats do.

In our two party system, elections are decided by how the ideologically moderate and the politically independent break. The rise of South Park Republicans, Coleman Republicans, and Sept. 11 Republicans indicate moderates are more inclined these days to support the GOP.

South Park is a prime time cartoon featuring four foul-mouthed fourth graders who make fun of stodgy adults and political correctness. It's the highest rated program on Comedy Central. "I hate conservatives," said one of the show's creators, 32-year-old Matt Stone. "But I really f***ing hate liberals."

Stephen Stanton coined the term "South Park Republican" to describe young people who are patriotic and fiscally conservative, but libertarian on social issues such as abortion, homosexuality, and drug legalization, and who have a good time at parties.

The Jewish newspaper Forward coined the term "Coleman Republican" to describe a surge of fiscally conservative, socially moderate Jews seeking public office as Republicans. Norm Coleman, a Jewish Republican, was elected to the Senate from Minnesota in 2002.

Sept. 11 Republicans are traditional Democrats who are appalled by their party's squeamish approach to the war on terror. "In my heart, I guess I sort of want to be a Democrat, primarily because all of my friends are," wrote one to web logger Andrew Sullivan. "But I can't. Not with the raving lunacy that has captured the Democratic party."

According to the ABC News survey, about 40 percent of Americans consider themselves to be moderates. A third are conservatives, only a fifth are liberals. The ranks of the South Park Republicans, the Coleman Republicans, and the Sept. 11 Republicans are likely to swell as the Democratic party lurches ever farther left.

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JWR contributor Jack Kelly, a former Marine and Green Beret, was a deputy assistant secretary of the Air Force in the Reagan administration. Comment by clicking here.

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