March 26th, 2007at 11:15am Posted by Eli

Sweet, sweet music:

[A]t this point 2004 looks like an aberration, an election won with fear-and-smear tactics that have passed their sell-by date. Republicans no longer have a perceived edge over Democrats on national security — and without that edge, they stand revealed as ideologues out of step with an increasingly liberal American public.

…In 2002 equal numbers of Americans identified themselves as Republicans and Democrats, but since then the Democrats have opened up a 15-point advantage.

Part of the Republican collapse surely reflects public disgust with the Bush administration. The gap between the parties will probably get even wider when — not if — more and worse tales of corruption and abuse of power emerge.

But polling data on the issues, from Pew and elsewhere, suggest that the G.O.P.’s problems lie as much with its ideology as with one man’s disastrous reign.

For the conservatives who run today’s Republican Party are devoted, above all, to the proposition that government is always the problem, never the solution. For a while the American people seemed to agree; but lately they’ve concluded that sometimes government is the solution, after all, and they’d like to see more of it.

Which is ironic indeed, considering that no administration has ever done such a convincing job of casting the government as the root of all evil. Perhaps it’s only Republican government that’s the problem…

Consider, for example, the question of whether the government should provide fewer services in order to cut spending, or provide more services even if this requires higher spending… [I]n 1994, the year the Republicans began their 12-year control of Congress, those who favored smaller government had the edge, by 36 to 27. By 2004, however, those in favor of bigger government had a 43-to-20 lead.

And public opinion seems to have taken a particularly strong turn in favor of universal health care. Gallup reports that 69 percent of the public believes that “it is the responsibility of the federal government to make sure all Americans have health care coverage,” up from 59 percent in 2000.


So what does this say about the political outlook? It’s difficult to make predictions, especially about the future. But at this point it looks as if we’re seeing an emerging Republican minority.

After all, Democratic priorities — in particular, on health care, where John Edwards has set the standard for all the candidates with a specific proposal to finance universal coverage with higher taxes on the rich — seem to be more or less in line with what the public wants.

Republicans, on the other hand, are still wallowing in nostalgia — nostalgia for the days when people thought they were heroic terrorism-fighters, nostalgia for the days when lots of Americans hated Big Government.

Many Republicans still imagine that what their party needs is a return to the conservative legacy of Ronald Reagan. It will probably take quite a while in the political wilderness before they take on board the message of Arnold Schwarzenegger’s comeback in California — which is that what they really need is a return to the moderate legacy of Dwight Eisenhower.

Not sure I would ever have thought to Ike and Ah-nold in the same sentence, but I understand his meaning. Unfortunately for the Republicans (and everyone else, really), they’ve trapped themselves. They’ve built built a loud, powerful, and very hard-right media and megachurch apparatus to push an extremist right-wing agenda – so what happens if the GOP finally sees the writing on the wall and tries to tack left? Will they be Savaged by their own creations, or can they still exert enough control to get them to switch over to new talking points? Does anyone else have a hard time picturing Rush Limbaugh or Ann Coulter or James Dobson suddenly morphing into clones of Joe Klein or David Broder?

I think such a move would be terribly confusing and disruptive for Republican voters, and the party could well end up openly at war with itself. Or they could just stay where they are and continue alienating sane people until they become the right-wing version of the Green Party. I’m okay either way, really…

Entry Filed under: Democrats,Elections,Politics,Republicans

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