Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Rove'd And Rambled

I came across this little bit of news analysis from the Canadian Broadcasting Co's website. Read a bit of it. I'll meet you on the flip:
Karl Rove had no real expertise in foreign or domestic policy, but he knew how many votes it would take to win an election and, just as importantly, he knew what his Republican voters needed to hear to get them out to the polls.

He was not content simply to get George W. Bush into the White House. He wanted to turn the Republican party into a political force that would dominate the executive, legislative and judicial branches of government for a generation.

He believed he could do that with a Republican base made up of social conservatives, the Christian right and supporters of lower taxes, small government and a muscular foreign policy. The entire policy thrust of the Bush/Rove White House was directed at keeping those people happy and motivated.

At the same time, Rove could do the math. He understood that his Republican base was too narrow to ever make up a majority of American voters. He knew that most American voters were politically indifferent, waiting to be given a reason to get excited.

Enthusiasm is catchy. Neighbours influence neighbours. Energize your base, whip them into a frenzy of political activity, get them to donate their time and money to the cause, and others would follow in their wake. As George W. Bush demonstrated in both 2000 and 2004, you don't have to win by much to occupy the White House, you just have to win.

As for the other half of the country — the so-called blue states in the red-blue carve-up of the nation's interests — well, Karl Rove had little time for them. Other administrations may have tried to reach out to their political opponents, to build a big and welcoming tent as the saying goes. Uniting the country was generally seen to be a goal worth pursuing.

But Karl Rove had no illusions about attracting Democrats and left-leaning independents to his side. So why bother trying?

That way, if you don't care about reaching out to people on the other side of the political divide, and if your priority is winning elections, no matter how narrowly, then there is really nothing standing in the way of practising politics with the gloves off.
Much has been made in Blogtopia (© Skippy, the Bush Kangaroo) of the politics of the current crop of Democratic contenders and how they should be more vicious, going after Republicans more rather than talking about "inclusion" and "bi-partisanship".

Reading this, you begin to get a sense as to why the Democrats have backed away, somewhat, from those tactics (they did use the moral scandals of the GOP in 2006 to great benefit).

There's a strategy at work here, and one suspects the long term goal is to create a Democratic dynasty. Rove was onto something in that the country is ripe for one party to dominate the political landscape for a long time. It's just a sense I get that there's a brass ring just around the corner to grab.

Rove was successful at politics of division, that no one can or will deny. The question is, what did it cost the party and the American people, that he beat up on Ann Richards, John McCain, Al Gore, Max Cleland, and John Kerry so viciously?

A lot. And the 2006 elections showed, I think, just the first thrust of the backlash, which will be long and brutal for the GOP. Why?

Because if you're going to demonize the other guy, you'd better damned well make sure you're a saint. From before September 11, when Bush's poll numbers were floundering in the low 40s, through Katrina, the Scooter Libby indictments, Katrina, and mostly, the Iraq debacle, Rove has been unable to get this administration to prove its mettle just when Rove needed it most. For his dream of a Republican dynasty to take shape, he would have needed the perfect President.

What he had was the perfect candidate: malleable, affable, and idiotic. Simple, which for American voters translated into safe.

You really can fool all of the people some of the time, in other words. Bush could not actually run the country, and the people around him were too busy suckling at the teat of the administration to pay attention to Rove's political vision.

If this sounds like a paean to Rove, to a point it is. As a political junkie, he took a bushel of lemons and made a yellow liquid that could have been lemonade, but for the fact it wasn't. He paid attention to about 25% of the American people and made them feel like they were in charge.

Which explains the deep feelings some in the blogosphere feel for this administration, despite the fact that it will go down in history as the single biggest disaster to befall this nation since the British invasion of 1812. Buyer's remorse doesn't apply, because they didn't buy Bush, they sold him, and that creates an even deeper attachment. Ask any salesman.

We liberals owe Rove a debt of gratitude as well. See, Rove is like a forest fire in an old growth forest: he's burned up the little weeds and twigs at the roots, but never really got hot enough to take out the entire forest. All he's done is given us more nutrients to live off.

For nearly thirty years, liberals have watched as the progressive agenda-- an agenda of tolerance, of equality, of taking care to make sure everyone benefits from the bounty that is this land-- had been whittled away, a slice here, a sliver there.

Rove took an axe to it.

Already, massive grass roots movements have sprung up in response to the "frenzy of political activity" Rove created in the 25%. And those movements will march forward, slowly at first, but in greater numbers, and more strongly. 25% of the nation couldn't possibly hold back the tide of change. It will come. It is coming, and thanks to Rove, it will be more progressive and more liberal than ever before.

And the seeds of his failures are very apparent:
Rove's relentlessly polarizing tactics and his over-the-top use of government power for political purposes, critics say, were bound to wear out their welcome with a fundamentally pragmatic and moderate electorate.

"Karl will always be known as a brilliant political operative who has a great tactical sense," said Tony Fabrizio, a Republican pollster, "but tactics only get you so far. Did they change politics forever? No."

Fabrizio asked: "At the end of the day, is the party better off today than it was when it was taken over six or seven years ago?" He believes Rove's strategy has alienated middle-of-the-road voters and left the party in worse shape.

How Rove's approach could misfire in the evolving political climate was illustrated when Bush, after his reelection, sought converts to the GOP cause by pushing to create private investment accounts in the Social Security system.

In the Rove playbook, the proposal -- with its call for a new "ownership society" -- would attract younger voters distrustful of government and fearful that Washington would not deliver on promised retirement benefits.

The campaign failed. Democrats charged that Bush and the Republicans would weaken or destroy the whole Social Security program.

Rove also played a major role in advocating an immigration-law overhaul that would have offered some illegal immigrants a way to become citizens and would have tightened border security. Hard-line congressional Republicans deserted the White House on the bipartisan effort, which had embodied many of Rove's ideas.
There's much more to come. The long national nightmare is over.

Or to put it more succinctly,