The 2006 elections will be a test of the audacious Karl Rove-George W. Bush plan to launch a long-term Republican Era. They foresee an alliance of corporate interests and religious conservatives, with the South as its home base. Business provides the money. Middle-class traditionalists furnish the troops.He then talks about the three instances where the issues have not gone Bush and the Republican's way in 2005.
But the alliance always threatens to disintegrate because its wings have very different priorities and competing values. Moreover, conservatives can't win elections on their own. They need moderate votes, and significant support outside the old Confederacy. Bush's carefully cultivated image as a strong, trustworthy leader in the war on terrorism brought around enough middle-of-the road voters to create the Republican monolith that is now our national government.
The 2006 elections will determine whether Rove's brilliantly constructed machine has staying power or falls apart in the face of adversity. And there was adversity in abundance during 2005.
Bush and Rove's careful management of the politics of moral issues -- show the religious conservatives you're with them without alienating moderates -- collapsed during the Terri Schiavo controversy. The administration and its allies turned out to be well to the right of the national consensus on end-of-life issues and were widely perceived by moderates as pandering to the religious right.You can't win without the middle.
The president's Social Security privatization proposal reminded many blue-collar and middle-class voters why they had once voted Democratic. Such voters did not trust the free market enough to agree to cuts in their benefits.
The increasing unpopularity of the war in Iraq has struck at the heart of Bush's appeal to the center. The controversy over how we got into Iraq has undermined the president's reputation for trustworthiness. The continuing violence alongside political instability in Iraq creates doubts about Bush's capacity as an effective leader. And much of the country listens to the president's promises with far more skepticism. The messy occupation without an end in sight flies in the face of the administration's happy talk before the war about a peaceful, prosperous Iraq that would be a model for the Middle East.
Note that each of these issues upsets the careful balance Rove had to achieve to get Bush to 50.8 percent in 2004. Three strikes and you're out: The social-issues right can't help Bush if its support drives away too many moderates. Pro-business economics can't help if it drives away many in the middle class. And the war on terrorism doesn't help if Bush is seen as managing it badly.He then breaks with conventional wisdom and says the Democrats don't need a message to win in 2006.
It is customary in columns of this sort to say somewhere around now that the Democrats will need to come up with a plan, a message, a program, etc., etc. I'm all for such things. But in 1958, 1966 and 1978, the out party gained ground largely by exploiting the failures of the party in power and exacerbating the contradictions in its coalition. If the Democrats prosper in 2006, it will be because whatever program they come up with achieves those goals.
And he doesn't even mention the real wild card in the mix.
Abramoff May Plead Guilty This Week, Snaring Lawmakers in Probe
Republican lobbyist Jack Abramoff, who is under criminal investigation, may agree this week to cooperate with federal officials in a move that former prosecutors say would put U.S. lawmakers in legal jeopardy.And if you don't think that means Tom DeLay there is this from the Houston Chronicle.
To get a reduced prison sentence, Abramoff would have to implicate lawmakers in a related probe of his lobbying activities, said Melanie Sloan, a former federal prosecutor and head of Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington.
DeLay and Abramoff went on two trips together that have been reviewed by investigators, one to Britain in 2000 and one to the Northern Mariana Islands during the New Year's holiday of 1998. Also, Abramoff clients made donations to DeLay political organizations.Some kind of message from the Democrats would be nice but the only one they may need is we are not Republicans. As Dionne said:
The two men are also linked through several former DeLay staff members who eventually became wealthy working with Abramoff.
But in 1958, 1966 and 1978, the out party gained ground largely by exploiting the failures of the party in power and exacerbating the contradictions in its coalition.