January 28, 2008


A Surprising General Election Opening for Republicans? (Stuart Rothenberg, 1/28/08, Real Clear Politics)

As this cycle began, Democrats looked united and prepared to take advantage of deep divisions in the Republicans' ranks. But the increasingly bitter and personal attacks exchanged by Sens. Barack Obama (Ill.) and Hillary Rodham Clinton (N.Y.) suddenly raise the possibility that the eventual Democratic nominee will have to heal wounds that are as deep as those in the GOP.

Could Democrats, who are unified in their dissatisfaction with George W. Bush and have been pleased with their presidential field, really become so divided that they give a surprising opening to the eventual Republican nominee? Yes.

The brilliance of Bill Clinton--and it is a terrible mistake for Republicans not to recognize said--was that he made the Democrats a party of ideology again. While the disastrous 70s and the Thatcher/Volcker/Reagan recovery put paid to the Second Way and drove a stake through the heart of the old statist/socialist ideology, his Third Way/New Democrat platform unified Democrats around the idea of beating Republicans at their own game by using free market (First Way) means to achieve Second Way ends--a fairly high level of government-mandated and/or guaranteed social security. This was, of course, not original with him but borrowed from Augusto Pinochet, New Zealand, Margaret Thatcher, Anthony Giddens, Newt Gingrich, etc., and it was subsequently co-opted by leaders across party lines throughout the Anglosphere: Tony Blair, John Howard, George W. Bush, Stephen Harper, Kevin Rudd, etc.. Unfortunately for all concerned however, it was promptly dropped by the Democrats as his term ended, to the point where even his own vice president ran against it.

And so the Party reverted to being just a coalition of special interests with entirely parochial political ends pitted in a continuing contest against one another because those ends are so often in conflict. It is always difficult to unify such amalgams of different interests, both because it's unlikely the majority--even when your party has some power--will do much for the discrete minorities and because the resentments against the other party that you whip up to keep each tribe in line inevitably end up getting turned against the other tribes in your own party.

It's easy enough to keep blacks hating on Republicans, who have frequently been at least insensitive on racial matters and Latinos angry about the GOP's racist immigration ravings and seculars, queers, Jews, pro-abortionists, etc. riled up about a party dominated by conservative Christianity, and so on and so forth. But, unless you offer them something else besides, you run the risk that the blacks will recognize that open immigration is handing political power in the cities to Hispanics, that Latinos will realize that they are the Christians and "breeders" who the atheists and Malthusians despise, that the majority religious blacks and Latinos will realize that the social program of the Party is antithetical to their own faith, etc.. The fewer ideas your party is discussing and running on -- the less what? there is to the party -- the more time people have to spend thinking about who the party is. And the truth is, the various cohorts don't have much in common and don't necessarily like each other much.

Which brings us to 2008, wherein the Democrats offer two candidates who are most noticeably tribal and idea-free. The choice of a black man or a feminist woman, occurring as it does in a policy vacuum, essentially reduces the race to a contest to see who gets to be at the top of the totem pole and whose priorities get shoved towards the bottom. Under these circumstances it was always unlikely that the Democrats were going to be the party that elected a person of color or a woman. It's far easier for the GOP, where faith and the Founding present a universal set of ideas that cut across racial, ethnic, and gender lines. But, by abandoning Clintonism, the Democrats have probably made it impossible for themselves, particularly if Republicans nominate someone like John McCain, who is not despised within their own party. He offers a viable alternative for those alienated by their eventual nominee.

The Rainbow Coalition Evaporates (Steven Malanga, 1/28/2008, City Journal)

Terry Anderson is angry. From his KRLA-AM radio perch in Los Angeles, the black talk-show host thunders, “I have gone on the streets and talked to people at random here in the black community, and they all ask me the same question: ‘Why are our politicians and leaders letting this happen?’ ” What’s got Anderson—motto: “If You Ain’t Mad, You Ain’t Payin’ Attention”—so worked up isn’t the Jena Six or nooses on Columbia University doorknobs; it’s the illegal immigrants who allegedly murdered three Newark college students last August. And when he excoriates politicians for “letting this happen,” he’s directing his fire at Congressional Black Caucus members who support open borders and amnesty for illegal aliens. “Massive illegal immigration has been devastating to my community,” Anderson, a former auto mechanic and longtime South Central Los Angeles resident, tells listeners. “Black Americans are hit the hardest.”

Though blacks have long worried that the country’s growing foreign-born population, especially its swelling rolls of illegal immigrants, harmed their economic prospects, they have also followed their political leadership in backing liberal immigration policies. Now, however, as new waves of immigration inundate historically African-American neighborhoods, black opinion is hardening against the influx. “We will not lay down and take this any longer,” says Anderson.

The Case for McCain (EDWARD GLAESER, January 28, 2008, NY Sun)
Ideally, a new Republican party would keep the best parts of the Reagan revolution — a torch for freedom that limits government at home and presses for freedom abroad — but would also embrace new constituencies left cold by Tom DeLay. The environment has become too important to leave up to the environmentalists. It is time for the Republicans to return to Theodore Roosevelt and lead in this area. The party must once again make the case that its economic policies offer the brightest future for middle income Americans. The most important tasks of the next president lie in foreign affairs. Since that is not my area of expertise, I don't know whether Mr. McCain or Mr. Giuliani or Mr. Romney would be the best president. I think that Mr. McCain would do the most to transform the G.O.P. into a party that would appeal to a broader spectrum of Americans. A recent Wall Street Journal poll suggests that while Mr. McCain would beat Senator Clinton, either Mr. Giuliani or Mr. Romney would lose by more than 15 percentage points. Mr. McCain offers the most radical break with the recent Republican past, which explains both why he is disliked by those who look backwards and why he is most likely to create a more robust G.O.P.

Posted by Orrin Judd at January 28, 2008 8:42 AM

The problem is that the country (not necessarily active Dems) wants to vote other than a Republican. look at votes cast in the primaries. Even in SC, Dem primary voters outnumbered Reps by 90,000. So, there is an opening but its probably not big enough.

Posted by: JAB at January 28, 2008 10:50 AM

Well put OJ.

Of course the Republicans could run the table IF the likely nominee, McCain, proposes a Third Way agenda (Third way tactics to achieve First Way ends).

Strangest thing is it has not yet happened.

Posted by: Luciferous at January 28, 2008 11:43 AM

Jeb is the one with the ideas.

Posted by: oj at January 28, 2008 12:00 PM

Yes, Jeb is Stupid so he's a natural. McCain isn't Stupid, but you'd think that as an ambitious politician he would see the screamingly obvious opportunity and exploit it. Odd.

Posted by: Luciferous at January 28, 2008 1:25 PM

JAB: "The country" would be happy to vote for "A Democrat" for President but that's not how the system works. And Hillary! is just not electable. I firmly believe that part of the viciousness within the GOP electorate these days is because deep down all sides "know" that they'll prevail in November because Hillary! just can't win.

Posted by: b at January 28, 2008 1:32 PM

The problem is that the country (not necessarily active Dems) wants to vote other than a Republican.

If true, that means McCain has a good chance of winning.

Posted by: Ralph Phelan at January 28, 2008 2:51 PM

I doubt if total votes in any primary is an indicator of how the state(s) will go in November. It wasn't in 2004.

Posted by: jim hamlen at January 28, 2008 6:11 PM