While the percentage of Americans identifying as Democrats has been in steady decline since President Obama’s inauguration, the number of Republicans has remained virtually unchanged. To be sure, there has been a substantial increase in Republican-leaning independents (and a considerable decrease in Democratic-leaning independents).
The trend lines for the GOP among independents provide a sign of hope for the party, but not yet where they need to be if the party wants to recapture the congressional majority next year (which, I believe, remains within the realm of possibility). The key issue for Republicans, as shown in that Gallup poll cited above, is why those independents leaning to the GOP have not yet declared themselves Republicans. (Maybe it’s only a question of time. Maybe it’s ideas.
And we need figure out how we can get those Democrats leaving their party to join the GOP.
They should start by sitting down with California Assemblyman John Arambula (I-Fresno). Initially elected as a Democrat, Arambula, “the son of migrant farmworkers,” had been a thorn in the side of party leaders. In 2006, “then-Assembly Speaker Fabian Núñez ordered Arambula to move into the Assembly’s ‘doghouse,’ a shoe-box-sized Capitol office often reserved for lawmakers in disfavor with their party’s leader.”
He has been most at odds with his former party over budget issues, refusing to vote for additional revenues until legislators “had done everything we can to reduce (state government) costs.” He has also faulted Democratic legislators for having to run everything by public employee unions. Like a certain successful Democratic presidential candidate, he’s expressed concern about the influence of special interests, but unlike that politician, he doesn’t seem to be beholden to them.
Still, he refuses to identify as a Republican. And before he retires from public service next year, Republicans need to find out why. Perhaps, it is his willingness to raise taxes should lawmakers make spending cuts. Perhaps, it’s something else.
At least in talking to him, Republicans can learn what the party needs to do to attract men like him, dissatisfied with the direction his former party has been taking.