Thursday, April 24, 2008

A look at how radicalism has forced the Republican Party to retreat.
By Sidney Blumenthal

Apr. 24, 2008 | On May 3, 2007, ten Republican candidates aspiring to succeed George W. Bush as president debated at the Ronald W. Reagan Library, where they mentioned Reagan 21 times and Bush not once. By raising the icon of Reagan, they hoped to dispel the shadow of Bush. Reagan himself had often invoked magic -- "the magic of the marketplace" was among his trademark phrases and he had been the TV host at the grand opening of Disneyland, "the Magic Kingdom," in 1955. Evoking his name was an act of sympathetic magic in the vain hope that its mere mention would transfer his success to his pretenders and transport them back to the heyday of Republican rule.

Bush's second term has witnessed the great unraveling of the Republican coalition. After nearly two generations of political dominance, the Republican coalition has rapidly disintegrated under the stress of Bush's failures and the Republicans' scandals and disgrace. The Democrats have the greatest possible opening in more than a generation -- potentially. They should pay strict attention to how Bush has swiftly undone Republican strengths as an object lesson.

On September 10, 2001, Bush was at the lowest point in public approval of any president that early in his term. It was a sign that he seemed destined to join the list of previous presidents who had gained the office without popular majorities and served only one term. After the terrorist attacks of September 11, Bush's fortunes were reversed, and he was no longer seen as drifting but masterful. Now he appeared to take his place in the long line of Republican presidents who had preceded him. He acted as though his astronomical popularity in the aftermath of September 11 ratified whatever radical course he might take in international affairs and vindicated whatever radical policies and politics he might follow at home...

...Karl Rove believed he could engineer a political realignment by recreating his work in Texas where he marshaled money and focused campaign technology in order to destroy the Democrats. But the analogy of the nation as Texas writ large was faulty from the start. In Texas he had the wind at his back, regardless of how elaborate and clever his machinations. The transformation of Texas in the 1980s and 1990s into a Republican state was a delayed version of Southern realignment. Yet Rove came to Washington believing that the example of Texas could be transferred to the national level. With the attacks of September 11, this seasoned architect of realignment believed he possessed the impetus to enact his theory. It apparently never occurred to Rove or Bush that using Iraq to lock in the political impact of September 11 would ever backfire. In his First Inaugural, Bush spoke of an "angel in the whirlwind," but the whirlwind was of his own making. For all intents and purposes Rove could not have done more damage to the Republican Party than if he had been the control agent for the Manchurian Candidate...[Open in new window]


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