Sunday, May 31, 2015

The New Kansas-Nebraska Acts

It's been an interesting week in the conservative heartland. Nebraska legislators overturned the governor's veto and abolished the death penalty, while in Kansas, the state legislature is thinking about raising taxes  because, well, that old conservative orthodoxy that says you can cut taxes and spur economic growth doesn't seem to be working. Even would-be conservatives like Governor Chris Christie are paying the price for slow growth, and Christie still wants to cut taxes.

But there's more. In a new Gallup survey, the number of people who consider themselves socially liberal has caught up to those who say they are socially conservative, a large jump from previous polls. Couple this with the news that younger Evangelical Christians are more socially progressive than their elders and you have the beginnings of the swing back to the middle this country so desperately needs.

The fever, it seems, might be breaking after all.

This was inevitable, as social and political shifts have been occurring approximately every 30 years. What began in the 1980s as a swing to the right, with Ronald Reagan's presidency, and gained momentum and roots with the conservative takeover of the Republican Party during the 1990s and early aughts, has evidently peaked and is now poised for a slow decline that will gain speed as a new generation of voters, who tend to be more progressive, participates in greater numbers. I certainly remember moderate Republicans and conservative Democrats in the 1960s and 70s, and I look for them to return sometime soon.

The main problem for the Republicans is that this new attitude might not save them for the 2016 presidential race. Social conservatives who vote in large numbers tend to be older than the new progressives, and they turn out for primaries. That's why somewhat more moderate candidates, such as George Pataki and Chris Christie will find it difficult to gain traction, but that movement away from the far right will also doom Rick Santorum and Rick Perry. Rand Paul could benefit, but my sense is that he's ahead of the GOP curve. By 2024, he could be the mainstream nominee.

What we are seeing is the beginning of a new alignment that will take a couple of election cycles to define itself. How each party reacts to this is key, but the benefits to the country will be real.

For more, go to or Twitter @rigrundfest 

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