Monday, May 15, 2006

California: Independent registration up, trouble for major parties

Bad news for majority party

Dan Walters Tracy PressMay 15, 2006 ...Do we see a pattern here? Democratic politicians may comfort themselves with the fact that during that 12-year period, the party has maintained strong majorities in the congressional delegation and the Legislature, and won both U.S. Senate seats and almost all other statewide offices - but that stems largely from Republicans' self-destructive tendency to field right-wing candidates unacceptable to independent voters.
The fact remains that the Democrats' share of the electorate has skidded downward from 57-plus percent three decades ago to scarcely 40 percent today, and continues to shrink.
Republicans haven't directly benefited from the Democrats' decline. The new data confirmed that the GOP's share remains virtually fixed at just under 35 percent - almost exactly where it was 30 years ago when Democrats were flirting with 60 percent. But that also means that the margin separating the two parties is the lowest it's been since the 1930s. It also means that the ever-growing ranks of independents - up from 10.3 percent in 1994 to 18.3 percent today - are increasingly decisive in any seriously contested elections, such as this year's duel for the governorship. ... If, however, Democrats don't staunch the hemorrhage of voters and the gap between the two parties' registration continues to narrow, someday they will simply not have enough core voters to continue their political hold - just as General Motors saw its dominance wither - especially if the Republican Party continues its recent drift to the middle. ..

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