Tuesday, November 04, 2008


I don't know what is going to happen in today's election.

Judging by the most recent polls (the national polls have consolidated into a range of Obama +7 with Barack leading in all the Kerry states from 2004 and a good chance to take 8 Bush states from 2004), it could be a pretty big win for him.

Dems also look like they will pick up somewhere between 7-9 Senate seats and 19-29 House seats.

Back during the 2004 election, GOP strategist and Bush guru Karl Rove bragged about creating a "permanent Republican majority" after that election cycle that would keep Democrats in the minority for a generation to come.

Former House Speaker Denny Hastert used to brag about how the only bills that would pass his House were ones that were supported by "the majority of the majority." In other words, Dems need not apply for any part in the legislative process.

For a while there, after 9/11 when GOPers could be pull the "terrorism card" out of their front pockets and wave it to attract all kinds of voters - from rural southerners to suburban soccer moms to former UWS Jewish liberals now turned neo-cons - it looked like the Rove plan was going to work.

Republicans had streamlined the election process to their own advantage by stoking their base, turning off as many swing voters as they could with negative campaigning and Swift Boat ads and suppressing traditional Democratic voters with all kinds of election schemes including phone jamming of opponents GOTV effort and illegal purging of voter rolls.

Never mind that the Republican effort was essentially undemocratic and dare I say fascist in nature (and yes, suppressing your opponents' turn-out, demonizing your opponent as a terrorist, and stoking your own base with Orwellian-type "Moments of Hate" count as fascist in my book) - the point was to win narrow victories election cycle after election cycle.

After each win, patronage was doled out to keep the base happy and opponents were punished and silenced (think the U.S. attorney scandal when GOP attorneys were fired because they didn't play along with the Bush/Rove election tactics.)

And of course the mainstream media could be cowed into going along with all of this, selling the administration's plans and wars and all of that because Republicans know how mainstream reporters and news outlets hate to be called "liberal".

Plus the GOP house news organizations - FAUX News and the Drudge Report - could be counted on to pass the GOP spin off as gospel.

But then some strange things happened:

9/11 started to fade a little as a political GOTV card;

The Iraq war went on and on and on and casualties got worse and worse and worse and the reason given for the war - Saddam's alleged ownership of weapons of mass destruction - was found to be false and known to be b.s. by the administration even before the war started;

And Hurricane Hatrina drowned a city while President Bush vacationed and raised funds with John McCain in Arizona and people watched horrified as citizens of the United States of America were stranded and starving at the New Orleans Superdome and the federal government seemingly couldn't (or worse, wouldn't) do anything to help them;

And it all went downhill from there for the GOP.

President Bush tried to privatize Social Security but was beaten back by suddenly energized Dems.

The Abramoff and ancillary scandals took down a couple of GOP Congressman.

House Majority Leader Tom Delay had to resign his seat under indictment.

Dick Cheney's chief of staff Scooter libby was found guilty in the CIA leak case (and then pardoned by his president).

By 2006, when Dems swept to power and retook both the House and the Senate (albeit a slim, non-filibuster majority in the Senate), it became clear that Karl Rove's dream of a permanent Republican majority (and more importantly, a permanent Democratic minority) would not come to pass.

But I always figured Dems would have a hard time maintaining their majorities - after all, they had won House seats in many ruby red districts and the Iraq war was still a divisive issue that split some in their coalition (especially the conservative Blue Dog Dems) and most of the time what happens one election cycle gets reversed a bit the next anyway.

But that doesn't look like it is going to happen this year.

As Charlie Cook noted on MSNBC a while back, tidal wave elections happen only once every ten years or so - think 1974 for Dems, 1980 and 1994 for Republicans - but we are now witnessing two straight tidal wave elections that are sweeping Republicans out of power.

We may also be witnessing a minor realignment in the political body of the country.

Republicans are fast becoming the party of the anti-intellectual (i.e., "Joe the Plumber" and "Sarah the Governor"), evangelicals and southern rural voters.

Once New England was full of moderate and liberal GOPers - if Chris Shays (R- Conn) loses tonight, there will be not one Republican House member in New England. If John Sununu loses in New Hampshire tonight, only Susan Collins and Olympia Snowe of Maine will remain from the GOP/New England Senate contingent.

Note too that Arizona, John McCain's home state, seems to be in play this year because Hispanic voters are overwhelmingly supporting the Democratic Party - a consequence of the Republican Party's emphasis on immigration reform, border fences and deportation (it should be noted that McCain, Bush and Rove all opposed those policies, knowing full well what a growing Hispanic population could do to the electoral map in a few cycles.)

Note also that people under the age of 35 are overwhelmingly voting for Dems this year and consider themselves much more liberal than the Gen-Xers who came of age during the Reagan years.

Also note that after the Bush administration bailed out Bear Sterns, AIG, Fannie and Freddie and spent $2.25 trillion on the nationalization of the financial industry, the charges that Barack Obama is a "socialist" who is going to turn the country "red" hold water only with the dumbest of the dumb - namely the people at Palin rallies with Joe the Plumber signs.

If Republicans are not careful, they may become a "southern party" with their base of operations housed in Mississippi and Alabama - not a good place to be if you want to be come the majority party.

Now does this mean that Republicans are going to be a permanent minority for the next generation like the Conservative Party in Britian?

Of course not - if nothing else, Dems have consistently shown a wonderful talent for snatching defeat from victory and I would argue that no matter what happens this year in the election, most people are simply voting against the last eight years rather than anything else. The wars, the economy, jobs, inflation, disappearing 401(k)'s - that's what people are voting this year. So whatever happens this election year (and it is still not in the books yet), it certianly can be reversed next cycle.

But I would say this. Note that John McCain - a once-proud "maverick" senator who bucked his party on the Bush tax cuts (he voted against them in both 2001 and 2003), global warming (believes it exists, unlike Sarah the Governor), and religion (he once despised the Moral Majority types and they despised him in kind) felt the need to embrace tax cuts he doesn't believe in, oil drilling his doesn't support, and religious bigots he despises (think the Palin pick) in order to get the GOP base to rally around him.

Had McCain run as a real "maverick" - you know, the guy he was in 2000 - this election would be an even bigger rout than it already seems like it is going to be because the traditional GOP base - the evangelicals and the anti-immigration bigots - would have stayed home

So picking Plain and selling his soul garnered McCain some votes. But ultimately these very interest groups which McCain needed to have this year to stay respectable will become an anchor around the necks of the GOP in the future.

How do they appeal to suburban liberal moms who support gay marriage and abortion rights and also to the Sarah the Governor types who think Mr. Jesus is coming back on a white horse in the next few years to send all the abortionists and gays to hell?

How do they appeal to the Lou Dobbs and Tom Tancredo bigots who want to deport every brown person they see and make English the official language of the country and not scare away Hsipanic voters in the southwest?

Hell, with Hispanics almost 35% of the population in Texas, George Bush's home state could be a swing state in the next election cycle - never mind what Hispanic voters will do to politics in New Mexico, Colorado, and Arizona.

You can see why Republican Party apparatchiks seem so worried this year.

The Republican coalition put together by Reagan and extended through Gingrich has seen its death knell under Rove and Bush. Perhaps another domestic terror attack would allow the Repubs to exercise power again (and I believe I remember that somebody in the McCain campaign actually said something very similar a few months ago.)

But otherwise they have some sorting out to do. They have to rebrand.

Otherwise they will become the party of Mississippi and Alabama and few other places where they fondly look upon the Andy Griffith Show as "history".

Now it's not my job to help 'em do the rebranding, but I'm sort of hoping in the coming post-election/GOP civil war, the Sarah the Governor/Bill Kristol types beat out the more moderate Bobo Brooks types.

I mean, who wouldn't want to run against the woman who cites living next to Russia as foreign policy experience and calls herself a blue collar hockey mom while spending $150,000 on clothes from Saks and Neiman Marcus? Who wouldn't want to run against a politican so stupid she couldn't name one other Supreme Court decision outside of Roe v. Wade and thinks Social Security and national health insurance are "red" policies that most Americans don't support (polls say otherwise)?

Given the kind of popularity Palin has garnered in the GOP this year, I suspect she will have lots of fans in her party who push her as the leader of the party post-2008.

If that does happen, the Republican Party will be as beholden to their special interests (evangelicals/bigots/stupid people) as the old Democratic Party of the Mondale era was to theirs.

Now if I were them, I would look more toward the populism of Mike Huckabee than that of Sarah Palin - Huckabee refuses to demonize immigrants, doesn't bludgeon people with his religion and genuinely seems to be an inclusive sort of guy despite believing homosexuality is an abomination and creationism science. On the economy, Huckabee speaks to the worries and concerns of middle and working class Americans and refuses to shill for Wall Street.

But I just don't think Huckabee's brand of populism will appeal to that last branch of the GOP I haven't talked about just yet - the "socialists" on Wall Street at Lehman and Bear and AIG and WaMU and Wachovia and all those other Republican-friendly financial institutions that got bailed out by the Bush administration this year.

Those guys hate the Huckster and his brand of populism and that hurts his chances to lead the party (especially since they're the "money" guys and provide most of the campaign financing.)

And the other "leaders" of the party - St. Rudy (spent $22 million for 1 delegate vote), Mitt Romney (evangelicals think Mormons are "cultists") and Fred Thompson (is he still alive?) all seem too flawed to take over the reins of the Republican Party.

With Tom Delay under indictment, Denny Hastert and Bill Frist in retirement, George W. going back to the ranch to pick brush, DeadEye Dick Cheney going on a permanent hunting trip, Karl Rove at FAUX News and all the others flawed, it seems to me the leader of the Grand Old Party post-election becomes - Sarah the Governor.

Boy, won't that be something.

Maybe they can change the GOP emblem from an elephant to a dead moose?

Sarah the Governor likes moose hunting, doesn't she?
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