Are Republicans Doomed to Minority 'Dixiecrat' Status?

After the 2006 election losses Republicans did some soul-searching. They held conferences, gave speeches, and went on talk shows. They concluded: we were not conservative enough.

In fact, in 2006 they did fine with conservatives but lost the independent vote by a two to one margin. Certainly the unpopular Iraq War (which then was a quagmire) and the Congressional corruption scandals played a part in their losses, but it was hardly too much moderation that was the nub of the problem.

Again, in 2008, Republicans took losses across the board. They got a fraction of the Hispanic vote, lost their last New England congressman, saw more western Senate seats flip to the Democrats and watched their share of the electorate drop to 28.7%. They lost the independent vote by 8%. Yet once again you hear the call to return to "conservative roots" or to adhere more strongly to "core principles." That seems to miss the mark -- by miles.

In fact, the problem is that the GOP is approaching Dixiecrat status -- not in belief, but in political reach. Tom Davis (R-VA) knows a thing or two about that. The congressman from affluent Fairfax, Virginia, a D.C. suburb, announced his retirement after seeing his wife lose her state senate seat in a wave of blue. He has witnessed his district vote in successive elections for two Democratic U.S. senators and the Democratic presidential nominee. In a recent interview he said, "We've become a regional party, basically become a white, rural, regional party, and not a national party. And we're going to have to retool ourselves."

That poses an acute problem considering that rural whites are an ever-shrinking proportion of the electorate. North Carolina is symptomatic of the Republicans' problems. Senator Elizabeth Dole lost, as did the GOP presidential nominee John McCain. A combination of transplanted urban professionals, young voters, and African Americans formed a coalition that turned this formerly very red state to blue. If the Republicans cannot win North Carolina, what is their future?