The primary season now underway will be crucially important for the direction of the U.S. And yet Americans’ loyalty to political parties is at historic lows, according to a Gallup survey. A significant majority of Americans — six in 10 — say a third party is necessary for adequate representation, according to an earlier Gallup poll in September 2015.
More than four in 10 U.S. adults identify as political independents. Only 29 percent identify as Democrats, down from a high of 37% in the 1950s through the 1980s, and 26% identify as Republicans. In addition, “Americans’ favorable ratings of each party are on the lower end of what Gallup has measured over the past few decades.”
The high point in Democratic strength was in 2008, a time when President George W. Bush was highly unpopular in the midst of the prolonged Iraq war and the emerging economic recession. That year, Democrats had a 12-point advantage in party identification and leaning.
The Republican Party could split apart over immigration, outreach to Hispanics, free trade, lower taxes on the wealthy, less regulation of Wall Street, the budget deficit, income inequality, climate change and health care reform, The New York Times has reported.
The GOP faces a potential demographic debacle on the national level:
Mitt Romney carried just 29 percent of Hispanics and 7 percent of blacks in 2012, while the minority share of the electorate only continues to grow.
But as Ross Barkin noted in The New York Observer, demographics aren’t entirely against the Republicans.
Even in the throes of a supposed decline, whites are expected to be 70 percent of the electorate this fall.
And the Republican Party on the state level seems relatively secure.
Seventy percent of state legislatures, more than 60 percent of governorships, 55 percent of attorneys general and secretaries of state are all under Republican control. …Single-party Republican rule now exists in 25 states. Democrats control seven.
If the Republican Party somehow unifies for the 2016 election and wins the White House, Barkin notes, they could repeal the Affordable Care Act, roll back an historic climate change agenda, and dismantle other parts of President Obama’s legacy.
Public employees, pro-choice activists, organized labor, the gun control movement and environmentalists should be terrified.