Liberals who want to push the Republican Party in a liberal direction have come up with their own party line on the November 3rd elections. They claim there was a heavy turnout of blacks and union voters for the Democrats, and that if the Republicans have any hope of turning this around in the future, they will have to drop conservative issues and themes and “moderate” their views. At the same time, they claim that the success of allegedly nonideological Republican governors proves that the conservative message doesn’t sell.
In a variation of this theme, the Washington Post claimed that the election results showed that the American electorate had “moved squarely back to the middle after shifting far to the right in the seminal election of 1994 . . . ” This was the year when the Republicans took control of the House of Representatives by picking up 53 seats.
In fact, there is no evidence that blacks and union members, who traditionally vote Democratic, turned out in larger numbers. As Dennis Farney put it in the Wall Street Journal, ” . . . exit polls show black turnout didn’t increase on a national basis; in fact, black voters accounted for an estimated 10% of the total national vote this year, down from 11% in the last off-year election of 1994.”
On the matter of the union vote, the media themselves had to backtrack. Based on exit polls, the Washington Post and other news organizations had reported that the proportion of union voters had increased this year compared with 1994. Now, the Post says only that it “may” have increased. The confusion stems from the way questions were asked on exit poll forms, and whether all the forms were filled out.
So if blacks and union members didn’t turn out in larger numbers, what happened? The evidence shows that the GOP primarily lost because it got fewer votes from white males and conservatives. If you search hard enough in the stories about the election results, you will find this evidence. In USA Today, Jessica Lee and Maria Puente noted that, “One reason for the unexpected outcome . . . is that some conservative voters felt they were being taken for granted . . . ” They quoted Randy Tate of the Christian Coalition as saying one-fourth of its male membership deserted the GOP. The coalition’s exit polling data shows that in 1994, 67 percent of religious conservative voted Republican. In 1998, only 54 percent of religious conservatives voted Republican.
In a separate story by Richard Benedetto, he noted that erosion among three groups—white males, conservatives and middle-agers—fueled the Democratic resurgence. Here’s how he put it: “By failing to pass tax cuts and giving in to Clinton on numerous spending issues, the GOP failed to energize conservatives and members of the religious right as strongly as they had in the last two elections. While both groups voted strongly Republican, as expected, their turnout was down: From 17% in 1994 to 13% for the religious right, and a slip from 37% to 31% for conservatives.” If the election results demonstrate a turn toward the middle, it’s because the conservatives didn’t turn out.