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Mark Shields
Mark Shields
6 Feb 2016
Cracking the Code of Campaign-Speak

"Do you ever get the feeling," asked humorist Robert Orben, "that the only reason we have elections is to … Read More.

30 Jan 2016
Is There Only One True Progressive?

Mark Shields is off this week. The following is a column by Joe Conason. In our polarized politics, the … Read More.

23 Jan 2016
The Man Who Drowned Democracy With 'Sewer Money'

Mark Shields is off this week. The following is a column by Joe Conason. This week marked the anniversary of … Read More.

Forget McCain and Palin -- the GOP Has Deeper Problems


The cheap shots being aimed almost hourly at Alaska governor and former VP candidate Sarah Palin from anonymous John McCain staffers prove once again that too many losing campaigns sooner or later resemble a civil war in the leper colony.

It is true that when asked on Election Day if "Sarah Palin is qualified to be president if necessary," three out of five voters answered no and that of the half of the electorate who believed that, if elected, "McCain would continue George W. Bush's policies," a full 90 percent of them voted for Barack Obama. But the problems of the Republican Party are deeper and more serious than disenchantment with the 2008 nominees or even with the lame-duck Bush.

Republicans are an aging party. While Ronald Reagan attracted a generation of young voters to the Grand Old Party, eight years of Republican White House rule —along with six on Capitol Hill — has resulted in the alienation of the nation's youngest voters.

In 2000, voters between the ages of 18 and 29 voted for Democrat Al Gore over Republican George Bush by the thin margin of 48 percent to 46 percent. Four years later, Democrat John Kerry won the under-30 vote by 54 percent to Bush's 45 percent. On Nov. 4, 2008, the Democratic presidential ticker of Obama and Joe Biden won 66 percent of the voters between 18 and 29, while McCain and Palin received just 32 percent. As a reflection of the Democrats' growing appeal to all younger voters, while in 2000 and 2004 voters between the ages of 30 and 44 had twice voted Republican, in 2008, they voted Democratic by the decisive margin of 54 percent to 44 percent.

Actually, the only age cohort of voters who supported the Republican presidential ticket in 2008 was the 16 percent of voters who are over the age of 65. If demography is destiny, the Republican outlook is as bleak as the Democrats' is rosy.

While the younger generation is voting more and more Democratic, the Republicans most loyal supporters are aging fast.

To put it bluntly: Democrats are moving from a room of their own to an apartment of their own on the way to a home of their own; Republican voters, by contrast, are moving from their own home to the retirement home to the nursing home and the funeral home.

Add to this the growing changes in the face of the American electorate. In 2000, presidential voters were 81 percent white. In 2004, the white share of the total was down to 77 percent. In 2008, just 74 percent of all voters were white. Since 2000, Latino voters have grown from 7 percent to 9 percent of the whole. But more disturbingly for Republicans, their party's support from that growing constituency fell from 44 percent in 2004 to just 31 percent in 2008. So as Latinos matter more and more, they vote Republican less and less.

Finally, exit polls in the last three presidential elections all have asked voters whether government should do more or do less. In 2000, by a 53 percent to 43 percent score, voters wanted government to do less not more. Voters have done a complete turnaround to the Democrats' direction in eight years, with a 51 percent majority today in favor of a more activist federal government and 43 percent opposed. This means that even before the October financial crisis, voters had moved beyond the era of deregulation toward support of a more aggressive federal role to prevent rip-offs of citizens and corporate abuses.

George W. Bush, who, as has been observed, came into office as a social conservative and is leaving office as a conservative socialist, will soon be vacating the Oval Office. But he will not be taking his party's problems with him. Because in the changing composition of the American electorate as well as in voters' changing attitudes and priorities, the Republicans are now on the losing side.

To find out more about Mark Shields and read his past columns, visit the Creators Syndicate web page at




8 Comments | Post Comment
Mark Shields, Sir;... Great metaphore about the homes. Too bad we are all moving into the poor house or cardboard boxes... And something else... If you think people have to be alive to control you; look around... The dead hand of the past has us in a strangle hold. My brother says he fears we will move to a federalist society, -not like the federalist society that has dictated so many federal court decisions, but one where the federal government is THE government in this land... I could only hope as much... Now, Capital can flee a demanding work force in one part of the country to seek a compliant work force elsewhere, and leave many obligations behind. They can leave behind brownfields and social problems and move to green pastures... Apart from the federal government preventing this flight of capital, and the whipsawing of state governments over taxes, and the whipsawing of workers over wages, the federal government allows, and even encourages such behavior... It is one thing to talk of repairing infrastructure; but for who??? If business and jobs are gone, why fix the bridge that business found useful, but never bothered to maintain??? There has to be a federal solution to federal problems... People will find that they cannot support their societies on home property taxes, and capital has arranged affairs so it does not have to bear the burden it creates. Many, if not all states are in trouble... Do we need the state system if it does not offer people protection, but as, in the days of slavery, is a threat to union??? We are finding out how hollow we are as a country... It is not just the bubble of property values which has broken, and broken us... There are a lot of so called moral values on the breaking point too... Where is the morality in luring jobs to your state if it means you are luring jobs away from another guy with a family to support??? Where is the moral value in denying segments of the populaton rights in your state when societies should be built around the defense of rights and not their negation???If we do not have enough to go around, who better than the federal government to tell us so??? If we are over built, and under maintained, who better than the federal government to decide what cities, and what regions shall be abandoned to rust and rubble??? We have so few productive jobs supporting such a large population doing service, that something has to give... We need a federal plan and approach even to see if we can support ourselves, and our needs if capital and our economy has to become national... The economic anarchy we have allowed in the name of profit may have put us at the mercy of many international events beyond our control... Can this people live with that??? Shouldn't we find what portion of our productive capacity still remains in this land??? Thanks...Sweeney
Comment: #1
Posted by: James A, Sweeney
Sat Nov 8, 2008 5:37 AM
Sir;... Two things... You have done a great job covering the election on PBS, and especially on election night... And; Mrs. Palin is done... I do not think she will run for re-election, and if she does; she will not be elected... She is good at polarization, and will go to work for focs or some such organization, and she will be good for gotv, but once you have proved what you don't know it is hard to dsprove what you have proved no matter what you learn... And I think she might find she is spending more time with the inside of some books for no purpose and no political gain... I bet she will be like that guy I got in a fight with as a young man, which was a bloody, muddy, sweaty affair after a rain storm in, over, and around a huge mudpuddle, that was mostly a draw... The guy was a lefty, and he tagged me a couple of times on the mouth, so the next day I offered to pick it up where we left off.. He declined, and we shook on it, and were done... But later on; I learned that the guy ran miles and miles trying to get ready for a rematch that never happened... It was all about nothing and for nothing, but I hurt that man more in a draw than he could have hurt me beating me to pieces, because all those miles he had to love the pain and for no real gain was my victory... Sarah Palin opening a book will be a victory for America, but it will gain her nothing... In my opinion.. She is already done...No majority of Americans will ever take her seriously... Thanks...Sweeney
Comment: #2
Posted by: James A, Sweeney
Sat Nov 8, 2008 7:38 AM
Mark, I can't help but linger over the huge question implied by your article: Now that the pendulum has swung so sharply in the other direction, can the Democrats, with their concentrated power, take a lesson from the manner in which the Republicans did it to themselves? Hegel is surely watching with keen interest from above. I agree with Mr. Sweeney the Ironworker--your observations and commentary have been a real asset to PBS's coverage of the election and just about everything else. I always look forward to what you have to say.
Comment: #3
Posted by: Masako
Sat Nov 8, 2008 10:01 AM
Re: Masako;... Sir... I may have let on that I worked iron; but Please don't call me an Ironworker... They put me out like the dog I am, yet after thirty years they let me retire... My father was an Ironworker; a real master who helped build the Mighty Mac bridge, and he has even been on discovery , and what is more, like many of his generation, he is a gentleman... I was nothing more than a journeyman, as the Normans said: day labor. And I wouldn't recommend it to anyone I cared about.. Perhaps you might understand if I told you it is a special job for special people...And God bless them and keep them safe; but I am not one of them, and I don't know that I ever was...Thanks....Sweeney
Comment: #4
Posted by: James A, Sweeney
Sun Nov 9, 2008 1:00 PM
Mr. Sweeney, those who work the iron and steel, whether you call them Ironworkers or not, are tops in my book. Cheers.
Comment: #5
Posted by: Masako
Mon Nov 10, 2008 8:39 AM
Re: Masako;...Sir.... They are tops in mine too. I have never belonged to any group as democratic and as proud with as much reason for pride as the international ironworkers... We have Native Americans, and not in great numbers, but because, among them, courage is the supreme virtue, as it is with myself because no human endeavor is possible without courage...The only piece of Iron I could not walk, Goodleaf Montour of the Mohawk Nation from Kanawaka could walk. But if I might illustrate a point, which is that the stress of the job is constant, and the ups and downs of our rollercoaster economy warps people, and breaks many, so that mental illness is as common among us as the sports injuries which sooner or later gimp us all.. So, John Bushinski, a good ironworker, hard working, with as generous a spirit and as forgiving a nature as fitted any Catholic for his eternal reward, said: I would get my kid into the trade, but I would not subject him to the (Ass)holes... And another man I leave unnamed, told me of recieving marriage counseling from a psychologist... And she said: You know, I have had several other ironworkers in here for counseling, and from my experience, ironworkers do not form relationships; -they take hostages... That was a smart lady.... And I want to tell you, I did my best for my brothers, and might have handed them my life if they had asked, but the best thing they ever did for me was to put me out because it saved me thousands of dollars in union dues that I would have gladly paid just to call my self an ironworker...It is, after all, just a job... Those who have the greatests problem with ironwork look at it all shined up with some romantic glow... There is not the first romantic thing about it... It is hard, dangerous, demanding work that brings out both the best and the worst in people.. And it is just a job, and no matter how much it takes out of you today, you have to find something inside you for tomorrow.... People called my father a good ironworker... He is a bridgeman, one of the best. .. He said he was good by default, and it is because so many great ironworkers were, and are, left as human wreckage on the path of life.... Thanks...Sweeney
Comment: #6
Posted by: James A, Sweeney
Mon Nov 10, 2008 11:27 AM
Mark--Great election coverage throughout the campaign. I implore you and others to read the profile of John McCain in Rolling Stone. It's available online at Rolling Click politics, scroll to news and search Make Believe Maverick. I found it illuminating and chilling. It was written by a journalist who actually switched to the Republican Party to vote for McCain in the 2000 primaries.
Comment: #7
Posted by: bill edwards
Thu Nov 13, 2008 12:02 PM
Stats on the last election don't predict the future. If they did, Hillary's health care plan would have done better and Bill would have smoked his cigar by himself.

The reality is that people are pissed at government, and know that Democrat politicians are as bad as Republicans. Mark, you yourself said that John Edwards "lacks charisma". Is that how we pick presidents? Obama has said that he opposes tax breaks for those who send work offshore. He ran an ad saying that he does not listen to lobbyists, he listens to the workers whose job might be offshored. Well, he listened to lobbyists wanting H-1B visas to bring in low wage middle class workers, teachers, nurses, accountants, biochemists, and programmers, promised them more green cards and got $7.8 million in campaign contributions.

to read about Obama's stand on your being replaced by a foreign worker: <>

To read about the fake shortage of high tech workers Obama says he is responding to, read an article published in Nature at: <>

And to see how easy it to replace programmers with a lower wage worker (and remember, Obama has said he is against tax breaks for those who outsource, he is NOT against your employer bringing that worker to the USAS and replacing you here, he is for expanding that program, just as George Bush is. In fact, Alan Greenspan says that replacing workers in the USA with lower wage immigrants is a good way to drive all middle class wages down) <>

The truth is that we can not press the education button to get more scientists if we are not willing to hire those who get a degree, and right now we graduate 50% PhDs in computer science than the industry can hire. So long as the IT industry can pay off with green cards rather than pay stubs, US citizens will study business rather than math and science.

We need more than charisma in a president, we need a system free of lobbyists paying off candidates, and Obama did not promise to end bribes.

This is what we don't need:
Obama calls himself a desi
Obama reaps big bucks at S.F. fundraisers
Comment: #8
Posted by: hpicot
Fri Nov 14, 2008 8:28 PM
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