I have seen several people on twitter pointing out that Republican primary and caucus participation is at record levels while Democratic participation is lower than in 2008 (the last contested Democratic nomination.) That is true, but yet it should not obscure major problems.
The South Carolina exit polls did not find enough voters under thirty to get a statistically useful sample, and the voters were overwhelmingly white. A party with an activist base that is bereft of the young and the nonwhite is headed into trouble.
But it is more than that. The 2008 Democrats divided along racial, ethnic, and class lines, but they agreed on policy. They all wanted to raise taxes on high-earners and not raise taxes on anybody else. They wanted something like what turned into Obamacare, and the only difference was Obama’s demagogic and temporary opposition to the health insurance purchase mandate.
Today, the Republican consensus has utterly collapsed when it comes to policy. Trump’s instincts, to the extent they can be discerned from his behavior, are left-corporatist. Left entirely to his own devices, his first-choice among health insurance appears to be single-payer.
When Cruz is asked about what would happen to the people who are dependent of the Obamacare’s subsidies and Medicaid expansion for their health insurance, he says some things about interstate purchase of health insurance, and health savings accounts, but let me translate what Cruz is saying: if you are getting your health care through Obamacare, you aren’t voting for me anyway, so no soup for you.
Rubio has tried to address the concerns of wage-earners with his proposals for wage subsidies and using tax credits for health care, but he make a huge tactical mistake after the 2012 election. He sided with the Washington establishment on the one issue that most bitterly divides the Republican Party’s elites from its populists. Rubio isn’t the guy who wants a larger tax credit for middle-class parents. He is the guy who wanted upfront amnesty and vastly expanded guest worker programs.
Rubio talks about how he stood up to the establishment, but it is on such important principled matters as “Should the ambitious Marco Rubio or the ambitious Charlie Crist be the Republican nominee for Florida senator?” When he had a chance to stand up for Republican-leaning wage-earners on policy, Rubio went back on his election commitments.
Ideologically, it is all a big mess. You have a big government, Planned Parenthood enthusiast. You have another guy whose conservatism seems disconnected from real life. You have a third guy who seems like he will fold to the interests of those elements of the GOP who have contempt for wage-earners.
Rubio might be able to ride the consolidated support of America’s chambers of commerce and their sponsored elected officials all the way to the nomination, but it will be a very close call, and the party’s internal divisions are not going anywhere.