10/14/2005

MyDD :: The Dismantling of the GOP

The Dismantling of the GOP
by Scott Shields

During George W. Bush's first term as President, it became clear that the coalition that put him in office was not viable. The corporate capitalists and the religious right were able to come together in a way that was only dreamed of by the Goldwater Republicans of the sixties. The coalition had been growing and solidifying into the Republican base for some time, but a variety of circumstances -- namely the Clinton scandals, cultivated and promoted by the GOP for expressly this purpose -- came together to create something of a perfect storm for Bush. Even though this coalition was not really successful in 2000 -- they weren't able to put together a popular vote majority against Gore -- the bully pulpit of the White House and the attacks of September 11 were enough to convince enough voters over the next 4 years that only the Republican Party could keep them safe from danger. In other words, the new Republican majority activists like Grover Norquist worked so hard to build was at best a shaky coalition bolstered by fear just long enough to put Republicans in charge of the White House, the House, and the Senate. Their project was certainly a success, but nothing close to the permanent majority they were hoping for. In fact, if not for 9/11, it likely would not have been a success at all.

By the 2004 election, the Republican coalition was nearly at its breaking point... Unfortunately, the fear mongering of the administration was still enough to sway some moderates to Bush. (I remember speaking to one co-worker after the election. A typical white, suburban, upper-middle-class mom, she explained to me that she voted for Bush out of fear of terrorism and with the faith that he would not really appoint judges that would overturn Roe v. Wade. 'Stay the course' was ultimately a more effective message than I think anyone expected.)

Almost immediately after the election, I sensed that things were about to change. The viability of the Republican coalition had bothered me for a long time. Could it really hold up? I was optimistic that it could not...

Three days after the election, I wrote the following at my website:

Bush and the right wing GOP are totally going to blow it, overreaching more than their more intelligent supporters can even comprehend. Any and all mistakes made by the government are now the sole responsibility of the Republican Party. The Democrats will be left to pick up the pieces and remake America however we have to.

To the extent that I was wrong about anything there, it was the fact that the key Republican overreaches had already occurred -- fixing the intelligence on Iraq, DeLay's misdeeds in the redistricting of Texas, etc. More to the point of the Republican collapse, I wrote this about a week later:

After Bush, how does this coalition survive?
. . .
I'm hearing a lot of talk about a permanent Republican majority. Forget it. The far right believes they -- not the President -- have a mandate. They've completely bought into the idea that all of Bush's votes came from evangelicals. Forget terror. Forget war. Forget tax policy. Forget likability. The Christian Right believes that their agenda was on the ballot. Karl Rove told them so -- he needed them to win. It wasn't really true, though, so they're in for a big shock. And so are the Republicans who believe they're going to win every election from now until the end of time.

It's incredibly gratifying to see my predictions coming true. Bush's approval ratings have hit rock bottom. The generic congressional ballots have swung hard to the Democrats; harder, in fact, than they swung to the Republicans in 1994. At MSNBC.com, Howard Fineman details the fracturing of the Republican coalition, from the neocons who claim their war was mismanaged, to the religious right's outrage over Miers, Wall Street's anger at the failures of their 'CEO President', and the paleocons' frustration with foreign adventurism. At TPMCafe, the DLC's Ed Kilgore notes that, with so many of the powerbrokers under indictment or investigation, there's no one left to hold the coalition together.

[BUT] We can't expect that the wins are just going to fall into our laps now.

MyDD :: The Dismantling of the GOP

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