Democratic strategist James Carville warned on Monday that if the Republican Party were to abandon its decades-old alliance with the Christian Right, it would only cement major losses in party identification and vote totals for the GOP.
In an interview with the Huffington Post, the longtime Clinton confidant proclaimed that recent overtures among Republican officials to rethink their social issues platform would not have the big-tent benefits some envision.
"I don't think they can do that because their party would crumble," said Carville. "It would be like at a time when people were saying you have to move away from African-American voters or something, right? Their party would crumble. That is not an option really available to them. They can talk about other issues and do other things, but once you have a Republican nominee, or serious Republican leaders who are pro-choice or pro-gay marriage, they are going to lose a lot of their voting base. These people will break off. And I don't think that's a real open discussion among people that really know what is going on in the Republican Party."
The remarks certainly aren't music to Republican ears, even if they come from a partisan opponent. The basis for Carville's predictions, after all, come from data, reporting and conversations he conducted for his upcoming book, "40 More Years: How the Democrats Will Rule the Next Generation," co-authored by longtime aide, Rebecca Buckwalter-Poza.
In a excerpt provided to the Huffington Post, the man known as the Ragin Cajun notes that the voting power of the Christian Right has declined precipitously over the past forty years even as the GOP's reliance on the coalition has risen.
"Over the past few decades Republicans have come to rely heavily on, and cater to, the Christian right as a key voting bloc, but they now face a problem we might term diminishing electoral returns.... In the 1950s, about four in five voters were married white Christians. Now only two in five voters are married, white, and Christian."
And yet, even as their numbers dwindle, Christian conservatives still are defining the GOP. Citing data from pollster Alan Abramowitz of Emory University showing that Republican identification among conservative married white Christians increased from 64 percent to 90 percent during the past 30 years, Carville concludes that "there's nowhere to go from 90 percent, and Republicans aren't winning moderate and liberal Christians."
The data points to a larger Carville conclusion: that Democrats are on the precipice of a forty-year era of political dominance. He provides multiple rationales for this prognostication. Carville notes:
* The Republican Party now relies heavily on a few regions for all of its seats in Congress. Of the 41 Republican- held senate seats, 20 are southern, and of 178 Republican House seats, 86 are in the south.
* Latino and Hispanic voters increased their vote share by a percentage point from 2004, from 8 to 9 percent, representing an increase of hundreds of thousands of votes--that went primarily to Obama
* In 2004, African- Americans made up 11 percent of the electorate. Four years later, they accounted for 13 percent of all voters in the presidential election. The 2-point increase in vote share is tremendous.
* Young Americans are dramatically Democratic and newly politically active. In 2008, voters ages eighteen to twenty- four gave Obama a 38-point margin, 68 percent to just 30 percent for McCain.
Presented with these trends, the GOP has often noted that politics is inherently cyclical. Power will return to the minority just as it did with Democrats in 2006 and 2008. But Carville argues that history proves those cycles are generally longer. "Forty-year cycles are pretty typical in American politics," he said. "If you start and look at 1896 to 1932, that was a very Republican era. You only had one Democratic president. From '32 to '68 was real Democratic dominance, the only Republican president was Eisenhower. Then in '68 to 2008 that was a real cycle for Republicans: 28 years for Republicans and 12 for Democrats. Just look at the charts."
In private, he adds, Republicans won't contradict him.
"Before I wrote this, by the way, I went to any number of Republican wise people and said 'tell me where this is wrong?' And they said, 'I can't.' Their conversation is always: we've lost a generation. Reagan brought a generation in. Remember, Reagan used to do better with younger voters than he did with the rest of the population and they're gone."