June 18, 2006


The Submerging Republican Majority (JAMES TRAUB, 6/18/06, NY Times Magazine)

During the 2000 presidential campaign, Karl Rove, the political mastermind George W. Bush called Boy Genius, was wont to draw an analogy with the election of 1896, in which the Republican William McKinley drubbed William Jennings Bryan. McKinley's election ushered in a 35-year era chiefly characterized by G.O.P. dominance; so, too, Rove argued, would Bush's hasten the progress toward an era of virtual one-party rule. [...]

It is not hard to see why Rove fastened on McKinley as Bush's precursor. McKinley was an amiable governor around whom Mark Hanna, the Karl Rove of the day, could raise enormous sums of money from industrial and financial circles. But Rove also insisted on a more far-reaching parallel: with the Civil War a fading memory, the Republicans of 1896 could no longer run as the party of the Union and needed to forge a new politics. McKinley, "the advance agent of prosperity," as he was known, offered himself as a tribune not only of the new business class but also of an emerging industrial society, as against Bryan's appeal to agrarian values and to the dispossessed. McKinley made Republicans the party of the future. And he brought new voting blocs to the Grand Old Party. Rove noted in a 2002 speech that McKinley "attempted deliberately to break with the Gilded Age politics" he had inherited by appealing to "Portuguese fishermen and Slovak coal miners and Serbian ironworkers," all of whom he made a very public point of receiving at his Ohio home in the course of his "front-porch campaign."

Rove postulated that Bush, like McKinley, had arrived at a moment when the old politics no longer applied and the new had yet to be formed. By offering himself as a pro-immigrant, pro-growth, "compassionate" conservative, he would attract the new voters of the day, including Hispanic immigrants, as well as workers in the postindustrial economy, while at the same time mobilizing the party's conservative Christian base. He would be the candidate of growth and the future while casting his rival, Al Gore, as the embodiment of an exhausted big-government credo. And this strategy worked: in 2000, Bush made gains among Hispanics and carried 97 of the country's 100 fastest-growing counties. Of course, Gore won the popular vote and, by some accounts, the election. And yet since that time, the Democrats have come to look like the party of the underprivileged and the highly educated and scarcely anyone else.

So why doesn't 2006 recall the G.O.P.'s glory years?

Because the GOP won't lose the seats in '06 that it did in 1898?

Posted by Orrin Judd at June 18, 2006 3:50 PM

You are probably correct that we will win seats, but the fact is that it only took Rs 12 years to become as corrupt as the Dems.

Yes, we still have more intellectual vibrancy on the right, but the pigs feeding at the trough may well end up blowing for us.

Posted by: Bruno at June 19, 2006 12:17 AM

So the Democrats are pure because they're out of power and Republicans were when they were out of power? That's just silly, but it does reveal that your real problem is with responsibility replacing ideology.

Posted by: oj at June 19, 2006 12:28 AM


No one ever said the "Dems were pure." They are corrupt as ever, and still brain dead.

Further, there is nothing "responsible" about the level of Congressional spending. If you find earmarks, Katrina Fraud and farmbills evidence of "responsibility," then we are operating on different definitions.

A "responsible" Republican party would be backing Bush on Social Sec. reforms (and the like).

No one is asking that the Republicans lose power (though if they do, it will be their own doing). Some of us are merely less sanguine about the level of corruption that permeates every level of Government.

Posted by: Bruno at June 19, 2006 10:55 AM

Exactly, the GOP is no more corrupt than it was.

Congressional spending is quite constrained.

They do. It's Democrats he's failed to persuade and until he gets enough to pass any Republican in a swing disctrict would be abn idiot to get out front.

Yes, if they had no power they could return to ideology and be pure.

Posted by: oj at June 19, 2006 11:57 AM

"Of course, Gore won the popular vote ... " Of course, we don't know who won the popular vote because millions of absentee ballots were never counted and absentee ballots tend to favor Republicans.

Posted by: erp at June 19, 2006 12:00 PM

No, we know he won the popular vote--it just doesn't matter in the Republic.

Posted by: oj at June 19, 2006 12:07 PM

What is this "popular vote" that always gets mentioned? In the US, there isn't such a thing as a nationwide popular vote. Each state has a popular vote for electors that are pledged to vote for a certain candidate in the Electoral College, but the totals of all the state's popular votes has no direct bearing on who becomes President. The only purpose I see in quoting a popular vote total is to make losers feel better. You can't even use a popular vote total to try judge the effectiveness of a campaign, much less improve one.

Posted by: Jay at June 19, 2006 3:07 PM

There is such a thing, it's just insignificant.

Posted by: oj at June 19, 2006 3:10 PM

oj. I beg to differ.

Posted by: erp at June 19, 2006 4:30 PM

... about the count that is. I agree it doesn't matter what the popular vote count is.

Posted by: erp at June 19, 2006 4:31 PM