In a fascinating article at National Journal, Jonathan Raucuh points to data showing that while more and more people identify themselves as conservative, conservatives are less apt to identify with the Republican party. The largest growing ‘category’ in politics over the last decade are ‘conservative independents’.
These are “Republican-leaners” — independents who look, sound, and generally vote much as Republicans do, but who reject the party label. According to Pew, early in the 2000s, the electorate contained one Republican-leaner for every three Republicans; by 2010, the ratio was one for every two. Indeed, among registered voters, debranded Republicans have been the only growth category in the past few years, Pew’s data shows.
The data also suggests that there is an increase in demand for serious conservatism.
From 1997 to 2010, opinion among Democrats and Democratic-leaners changed only a little, and not in a consistent direction. Non-leaning independents grew a notch more conservative. Republicans and Republican-leaners, however, grew much more conservative.
In fact, Republicans are not losing conservatives to the mushy center, but to the right. They sound like TAC readers:
According to Pew’s surveys, a solid majority of Republican-leaning independents, 55 percent, disapprove of the Republican Party’s leaders, a level that places them closer on the spectrum to Democrats than to Republicans. And they stand out from partisans on both sides for their fervent anti-incumbent sentiment.
These Republican leaning independents tend to be very pro-life but a little less fervent than partisan Republicans. They are concerned more with economic issues than typical Republicans, and almost as likely as Democrats to rate Republican leaders poorly. They despise current Democratic leadership in overwhelming numbers.
These voters are partly from the Tea Party, partly from the Liberty movement, and partly from other dissident conservatives groups. While the article says little about the foreign policy views of these debranded Republicans, in every respect that they have been measured they look like a big potential subscriber base for The American Conservative. TAC has been providing intellectual leadership to disaffected conservatives and Republicans for over seven years now, and with the growth of these disaffected Republicans, TAC can be not only the most courageous magazine on the scene, but a much more influential one.
Pew’s research gives us thousands of reasons why TAC‘s mission is as essential now as it was in the run-up to the Iraq War, or in the 2008 election. There are scores of thousands of dissatisfied Republicans and conservatives who want someone to speak to their interests and for their principles. But if TAC is going to provide that leadership it needs the continued support of its subscribers and patrons during this webathon. You may have discovered this magazine a long time ago, but many, many more will discover it in the future with your help.