October 17, 2004


Rove Trims Sails but Steers for Victory (Mike Allen, October 17, 2004, Washington Post)

A few months before the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, Karl Rove held clinics for White House officials in which he laid out what amounted to his early game plan for reelecting President Bush in 2004: improving the party's performance among blacks, Hispanics, Roman Catholics, union households and the "wired workers" of the technology world.

Bush had won about 8 percent of the African American vote in 2000, and Rove insisted that number needed to be pushed higher.

His Office of Strategic Initiatives, a creation that is known around the West Wing as "Strategery," handed out colorful laminated cards so that aides could remember their goals.

Those PowerPoint presentations in the infancy of Bush's presidency were an early indication that, although his 2000 campaign had many architects, Rove alone among staffers would bear ultimate credit or blame for the outcome of the 2004 election.

Back then, Rove did not strive simply to produce a convincing victory but to create a permanent Republican majority.

Now, two weeks before the election, the Bush-Cheney campaign would be happy to eke out the barest, skin-of-the-teeth majority, and aims to cobble it together by turning out every last evangelical Christian, gun owner, rancher and home schooler -- reliable Republicans all. It looks like the opposite of Rove's original dream. [...]

Rove had to trim his hopes for realigning party politics because of the way the president handled Iraq, and because Bush made little effort on issues, such as the environment, that might have attracted more traditionally Democratic constituencies. Instead, Bush catered to conservatives on everything from support for a constitutional amendment to ban same-sex marriage to constant talk about tax cuts. The main critique of the Rove strategy, from inside and outside his party, is that the White House governed in a divisive way, when Bush could have used his popularity after the terrorist attacks to reach out to swing voters and even to African Americans.

It is because of issues like gay marriage and abortion and school vouchers that Republicans will eventually make inroads among blacks and because issues like these and privatizing Social Security divide the nation 70-30 or 60-40 that the Republicans will become the permanent majority.

Posted by Orrin Judd at October 17, 2004 10:02 AM

OJ. I agree 100%. Another way of putting it is that the R's have ideas, period. All they need to do is sell them to culturally conservative minorities that now vote Dem. Not easy, but simple.

The hypothesis that the Dems are the 'emerging majority' assumes that that these ideas have no appeal and cannot be sold that that discredited Dem policies will remain attractive.

Unfortunately all of your observations can be true and W can still lose due to a perfect storm of bad luck, media bias, fraud and the candidates own failings.

Posted by: JAB at October 17, 2004 10:30 AM


Sure, anything could happen in a time of war, but it would only be a temporary setback in a historic process.

Posted by: oj at October 17, 2004 10:45 AM

Agreed. Unfortunately 'anything' includes W's iffy communications skills, media bias and distortion and the fact that he's pursuing a geopolitical strategy that cannot be fully announced and explained if it is to work.

Still, the heartening thing is that Rove seems to get it in the long term.

Posted by: JAB at October 17, 2004 10:56 AM

Libertarians, much reviled around here, could be allies in this process with a little creativity and compromise. For example, simplify the corporate tax code by eliminating corporate subsidies ("corporate welfare" to the left) while cutting tax rates.

Posted by: PapayaSF at October 17, 2004 3:25 PM


Yes, and all they'd demand in return is the right to incestual marriage and an end to the drug war.

Posted by: oj at October 17, 2004 3:32 PM

No, because simplifying and cutting taxes is already a libertarian position. Finding common ground means you don't need to bargain like that. How many political groups would say "Don't give me what we want on issue X, because you're not giving us what we want on issues Y and Z"?

And the incestuous marriage thing is a straw man. No doubt some libertarians support it, but I'm sure it's very much a minority position.

Posted by: PapayaSF at October 17, 2004 4:53 PM


Libertarians say that.

Posted by: oj at October 17, 2004 5:04 PM

Papaya: The steel tariffs are a perfect example. They were moderate, limited and temporary. The market lifted the price of steel, after the tariffs were lifted, to about double the long-term historical price. Meanwhile, imposing the tariffs got the President trade promotion (fast-track) authority and, using it, he has negotiated six free-trade agreements (including Bahrain, which I don't think is signed yet). The US only has 11 ftas in total, including those President Bush has signed. Right now, we're negotiating with Thailand, Panama, the Andean nations, and the Southern African Customs Union. Talks are also underway to create the Free Trade Area of the Americas (i.e., the entire Western Hemisphere) by 2005. Senator Kerry, on the other hand, bloviates about fair trade and outsourcing jobs.

What do I see whenever I surf to a libertarian website: that the President is awful on free trade.

Posted by: David Cohen at October 17, 2004 9:29 PM

School vouchers and privatizing SS will pay political dividends for the GOP in the short term, but long term, people will take those for granted, and other domestic issues will come to the fore.
If the GOP is to be a "permanent" majority, then it'll have to be on the popular side of most future issues, or at least convince enough people to come 'round to the GOP's way of thinking.
That can be done, but it won't make a lot of people here happy, since it'll require a more moderate Republican party.

For instance, a majority of Americans support the availability of abortion, so the GOP would have to be OK with that in most states.

The end to the drug war should be desired by all rational people, a group that the economic conservative wing of the GOP likes to claim that they're members of.

Note that ending the drug war doesn't have to mean legalizing drugs; it could mean shifting from a failed crime/punishment model of fighting drug addiction to a treatment model.

Spending an average of $ 50 billion a year, for the past fifteen years, has given us what success in eliminating drugs ?

Kids still get cheap marijuana any time they want it, and cocaine's cheaper now than it was in the late 80s.

Continuing to throw money at a problem that hasn't been improved in the past by spending more money is an indication of an emotional problem, not of rational decision-making.

Incestual marriage is coming without the Libertarians having to give any quid pro quo, as Orrin has long realized.

Posted by: Michael Herdegen at October 18, 2004 11:49 AM


Abortion will be restricted almost everywhere but probably legal in about twenty states. It won't be an important federal issue.

We've won the drug war, that's why it's so popular.

Posted by: oj at October 18, 2004 12:24 PM

If Bush wins 54% or higher, he could stand and say, "We have the largest percentage of the vote in 20 years. We have united, not divided. I ask for the help of all who are willing". He only needs to say it once, but oh, how the Democrats would choke.

Posted by: jim hamlen at October 18, 2004 1:00 PM


Coming around to Ken's "1984" methods of expression, eh ?

Failure is Victory !!

Hey, if it makes you feel all warm and snuggly, have at.

Don't confuse it with actually impacting the number of drug users, or the amount of drugs available.

Posted by: Michael Herdegen at October 18, 2004 3:45 PM

Drug use is socially unacceptable and the jailing of an enormous number of young men has vastly reduced crime rates. That's a win.

Posted by: oj at October 18, 2004 3:50 PM