Nov 18 2006
To emphasize my point about Reps losing the independent middle, I must bring some history back into focus, and how much Republicans despised Reagan and Bush I. I use this example to show that the Far Right actually has a history of dumping popular Presidents and leaders due to their insatiable impatience. When they returned to form on the current George Bush the result was the same – Democrat wins. Last time they gave us Clinton, this time Pelosi and Reid. So let’s explore how the Republican party, driven by their unelected Gliterati (media talking/writing heads) has successfully snatched defeat from the jaws of victory once again. Because I think it is important for those who look down at us Bush Conservatives to face some facts: Bush is the Conservative defensive line right now. What we salvage will be up to him to defend. And if anyone thinks blaming Bush for Congress’ mistakes and self inflicted losses will gain them a voice at the new table, then they should think again. Who wants an angry loser around when the nation’s needs are at stake?
So what happened the last time the Republicans started their circular firing squad? Reagan had had a tough second term which included the Iran-Contra battles with the Democrat Congress, and the subsequent scandal. On top of that Reagan had to live with the prolific spending in Congress (sound familiar) that were in opposition to his policies of lowered taxes and smaller government. He did expand military spending in order to force the Soviet Union to capitulate the Cold War, but the fruits of his strategy would blossom after his term (sound familiar). He had suffered the 6th year election setbacks as well.
The low tax successes of his earlier term had turned into nothing special in the minds of the far right – who wanted more than was politically feasible. Of course we know the long term result was Clinton’s higher taxes. Which the current George Bush had to fight to turn back again. Every time the Republicans have a fit and lose ground it must be regained. Momentum is not a concept republicans seem to be able to coexist with naturally. Thankfully, at the moment, we have a Rep President with a veto to stop any significant backsliding.
Sadly, the Republicans are still shooting more at their own base than anything else and we could end up with another Clinton in the White House if this continues. And then we will have to work to gain America’s trust again and get back to the Reagan level of taxes again. A vicious circle of wasted time.
So with all this baggage and infighting Reagan supported the election of his Vice President, George HW Bush. This was the last straw for many Republicans who jumped ship to the Perot campaign. This included famous Reps like pollster Ed Rollins and Perot’s campaing manager Tom Luce. (Perot would later be very angry at Republican Tom Luce after he had his picture taken with George HW Bush). The electorate had tired of Conservatism as displayed by the Buchananites and other hard liners.
Side note: he media can be counted on to do one thing, and that is to put the spotlight in the most hardened right wingers while moderates (McCain being the exception) get little notice. This enhances the image of Republicans as too far out there. All the Republican Gliterati had more air time than Bush himself this round, so we can figure out where the bad reputation probably comes from. The Bill Kristol smirk when he skewers the right is a priceless reminder that the media has its useful idiots too.
Election results in 1992 showed Clinton held onto what was the normal Democrat vote. What happened was angry conservative males jumped ship to Perot:
For example we continued to hear much about the gender gap in this election, and once again the Democrats did significantly better among women voters (46%) than among men (41%). But the gender gap virtually disappeared for Bush. He received 38% of the vote from men and 37% of the vote from women. So if the conventional wisdom about the gender gap is accurate, the Republicans should be pleased.
Unfortunately for the Republicans the conventional wisdom has missed the point. Remember Republicans have been winning in elections where there was a gender gap, and the reason is that male voters have been reluctant to vote for Democrats. In 1988 Bush carried 50% of the female vote but he carried 57% of the male vote. In 1992 however, Bush dropped to 38% among male voters, and Ross Perot picked up 21% of the male voters. Clinton’s level of support among males remained unchanged, even with Perot in the race.
Even more striking is the vote of those who identify with one of the major parties. In 1988 the Democratic ticket maintained the support of 82% of Democratic voters, the highest level in the last four elections. In 1976, 1980, and the 1984, the Democratic Presidential ticket attracted 77%, 67%, and 74% respectively. But in this same period the Republican tickets dipped below 90% support of Republican voters only in the three way race in 1980, when the ticket still received 86% of the Republican vote. In 1992 Bush carried only 73% of the Republican vote, an 18% decline from 1988. Perot attracted 17% of Republican voters.
The Republicans threw Bush I under the bus basically. This phenomena was reported here and many other places. But why? Interestingly enough Perot was against the first Gulf War which meant he attracted the Buchananite wing of the Republican party. Those jumping ship on Iraq today also have no stamina for a real war. We all knew Iraq would be tough, but the establishment of a democratic ally in the Middle East is still well worth the effort to ensure success. Buchanan has been calling for surrender as much as Pelosi. The parallel between 1992 and 2006 are striking. The Perot disaster mimics the Republican Thumpin’ of 2006 in another way as well – immigration:
Perot also led the charge against Senate ratification of the North American Free Trade Association (NAFTA), designed to reduce trade barriers with Mexico and Canada. Perot stepped up his media campaign against NAFTA with his catchy “giant sucking sound” quip about American jobs being pulled to Mexico. Perot also authored a book (with economist Pat Choate), “Save Your Job, Save Our Country: Why NAFTA Must Be Stopped Now!”
Perot was a pro-choice, isolationist, small government candidate. So it is hard to call him a conservative magnet – he was a mixed bag at best. But his big draw was being against NAFTA and immigration:
Today, foreign professional workers can enter the US labor market, but only â€œtemporarilyâ€ & only if an employer gets a certification that a qualified US worker cannot be found. Also, the existing US immigration laws place a numerical limit on the number of temporary workers. Put another way, American workers have priority for American jobs.
NAFA radically alters this entire concept. Under NAFTA, Mexican and Canadian workers in 63 designated categories may be hired in the US, even if qualified American workers are available.
I see a recurring pattern here. The Buchananite wing of the far right threw its support to Perot and gave us Clinton. So let’s not simply take for granted the hard right is infallible. The fact is it is very fallible and has run to rash judgements more than once to upend conservative policies. In fact, the Buchananites tend to follow Buchanan in declaring themselves anti-Reagan as well as anti-Bush Republicans.
Except that in 1992, Pat Buchanan made clear that he was no longer a Reagan conservative. As you may recall, in his celebrated speech to the Republican National Convention that summer, not only did he make angry statements, but he spoke far longer than the time allotted to him, thus, delaying the speech of the man who was to speak later that evening, a man whose ideas Buchanan once claimed to have championed â€” Ronald Wilson Reagan.
By going over his time limit, Pat Buchanan bumped that great Americanâ€™s speech out of prime time. It would be Ronald Reaganâ€™s last address to a Republican National Convention. Any true Republican, knowing that he was speaking before Ronald Reagan, would, instead of extending his remarks (as Buchanan did), have cut them short, out of respect for the then-octogenarian Gipper. And acknowledged how humbled he was to be on the same platform as that great man.
I recall this time because I had voted for Carter in 1980 and learned my lesson to become a conservative independent by 1984 – rarely to vote Democrat again. All this anymosity towards Reagan was covered over after his death, but it was real at the time. As we pick the ashes of the 2006 debacle, we must face facts – history has repeated itself and it is at the hands of the impatient, far right that conservatism saw its losses. These hardliners have openly declared a willingness to fight conservatives if they do not get their way, and align with liberals if that is what it takes:
“If we have to make common cause with the more hawkish liberals and fight the conservatives, that is fine with me,” William Kristol has told the New York Times.
The Weekly Standard editor added that the neoconservatives may just abandon the Right altogether and convert to neoliberalism.
Kristol’s warning that the neocons could break with the Right and go to Kerry is an admission of what many conservatives have long argued. To neocons, Israel comes first, second and third, conservative principles be damned.
Granted, Kristol was aiming at Buchanan in this piece saying he would prefer Kerry to Buchanan, but what he also said clearly is he has no allegiance to the conservative movement if they oppose his wants and desires.
The point is Kristol runs a magazine, he does NOT represent conservatives in this nation. Yet he pontificates on Fox News as if he is one with the movement. But how could that be if he is willing to oppose the movement on a whim? In fact, he should be seen as an unstable, fair weather, loose associate of conservatism – as long as the movement suites his needs we can count on him.
Conservatism won in the 2006 elections. Protection of marriage as an institution between a man and a woman won handily in many states. The Embryonic Stem Cell measure went down in MO (I believe) and CA rejected numerous liberal spending measures. So conservative policies did quite well.
So what happened? Clearly the anti-Bush (previously anti-Reagan/Bush) Reps repeated their mistakes of 1992. What can we do? How did the Reps turn it around by 1994? The Reps in 1994 rejected the far right and found common ground with the broad American people. Bush and Reagan were elected by the people, yet many in their own party threw them under the bus because of that very same broad appeal that got them elected. This is not the first time the far right wanted to jam their agenda onto a coalition that only agreed on a limited portion of their agenda. The Buchananites and the Kristolites do not support the governing coalition, they use it to further their views. They are not open to debate and evolving ideas. They only see ‘useful’ and ‘not useful’ in terms of their agendas. That is why NRO and others spend days taking pot shots at their most successful conservative leaders – they are not out for common ground with Americans. They are agenda driven. And their agendas focus on specific solutions, not broad goals. That is why the Fence Only crowd paralyzed the Congress over the guest worker program. It was not on their agenda.
A lot of people commented on why I am a Bush Conservative and how ‘asinine’ that view is (as one person put). But I do have a long view in these matters, and with it I see the second far right disaster in two decades. In 1992 the anti-immigration nativists flocked to Perot who was no true conservative (pro choice, anti Gulf War???) outside their one issue. The result was President Clinton who dutifully ignored the warning signs of Al Qaeda while all his energies focused on the polls and creating (and later salvagin) his legacy. He also pushed for full amnesty and citizenship – another resoundingly bad idea. In 2006, the anti-immigration, nativists folks crippled Congress and refused to pass comprehensive immigration reform (which 2/3rds of the electorate support). As in 1992, the result was a fractured (in other words crippled) democrat party now in charge of Congress. And again the result will be losing focus on the threats to this nation while we are consumed by partisan investigations and the Democrat internal battles. Once again the hard line gambled all and decided if they could not have power, no conservatives would have power. They bet it all and lost. But this time we still have Bush who, unlike Clinton, is not concerned with his legacy but on protecting this nation. And that is why I stick with Bush and reject the Republican Gliterati. Those are my choices and the Bush wins hands down.
Once the long view comes into focus it will become clear what happened. And the first party to see what happened clearly will be able to adjust and grab the initiative for the next few years. That is what happened in 1992 after the far right threw the last Bush under the bus. We shall see if history will repeat itself on the upside as well as the downside. But be forewarned, it is just as likely the Democrats could finally see where things are heading and grab the initiative. Both parties are no fractured and relying on the independent voters to give them a chance to govern. Neither is party is looking very good. So small adjustments will look incredibly better.
Addendum: And who has been the loudest critics of Hispanic Sen Mel Martinez’s selection to head the RNC (a selection I was not keen on)? Well, you can guess it. The “Fence Only” crowd (at the Weekly Standard [Tripe] no less) took it as an attack on them probably because Bush is still trying to reach out to Hispanic voters – which makes them Citizens!:
BY APPOINTING Florida senator Mel Martinez to chair the Republican National Committee, President Bush sent a blunt message to conservatives: “Drop dead.” That’s the opinion of Mark Krikorian, executive director of the Center for Immigration Studies, who has lobbied hard against Bush’s “comprehensive” immigration reform package. Hyperbole, perhaps, but it highlights the GOP fissure on immigration–one deepened by the recent election.
Martinez, a Cuban refugee who fled the island in 1962, supports the Bush vision of a guest-worker program for future immigrants and a “path to citizenship” for illegal aliens. He is also a prominent GOP envoy to the Latino community. His elevation to RNC chief, says Krikorian, shows how “emotionally” invested Bush is in passing an “amnesty” bill. “This is something the president can’t let go.”
What the Fence Only crowd cannot let go is they are losing Hispanic voters. I reiterate – these are American citizens – not illegal aliens. And opposing a Hispanic US Senator because of fears the Fence Only crowd cannot control the agenda (that already happened in the House loss, but these new Buchananites can’t ‘let go’) is just the kind of broad insult which repulses people. Martinez is a US citizen and a US Senator. The fact he is Hispanic is the only reason these people are pushing the panic button. The Fence Only crowd is rapidly, and thankfully, isolating itself in a fit or purity. Not all conservatives are buying their fear mongering:
But not all conservatives agree about the House Republicans. Americans for Tax Reform president Grover Norquist thinks there has always been a functioning House majority for comprehensive immigration reform. So what happened last summer? “The radio talk-show hosts got out there and poisoned the atmosphere,” says Norquist, who worries that being overly harsh on immigration contributed to the GOP’s loss of Congress.
I know I have ruined my standing with Cons over this bitter medicine. But I, like Bush ,have much more important goals in mind than pandering to the far right when they are in a self destructive mood.
What if Pelosi does make common cause with Bush on immigration? How will House Republicans respond? “I think they’ll lay down on the railroad tracks in front of it, to keep it from going through,” says an aide to GOP congressman Mike Pence of Indiana, head of the conservative Republican Study Committee. “We lost the base a long time ago, and that’s why the House crumbled.”
Last Friday Pence lost his bid for minority leader to John Boehner, the current majority leader. Arizona’s John Shadegg also lost his challenge to incumbent Roy Blunt of Missouri for GOP whip. Both vote counts were lopsided. “I have never been so disgusted with my own party,” says another Republican House aide. “I find it astonishing that our leadership just seems to be skating through.”
Let them lay down on the tracks. The sooner we end this fiasco the sooner we can get right again. Pun intended.
Update: More evidence that Latinos and Hispanics left the GOP after all the success Bush had in bringing them INTO the debate on how to fix illegal immigration.