Sunday, May 24, 2009

Who Ruined the Republican Party?

In the news these days all you hear about is how the Republican Party is a marginalized party, a regional party. A party that is all but dead, but it just doesn’t know it yet.

Did that really happen? Is the Party of Reagan, the Party of Lincoln, going the way of the Whig Party?

I think the answer to that question is still a few years off. I can’t imagine that in this day and age a party that has been around for 150 years simply goes away, or morphs into another party with a new name.

But since the conversation is taking place, a question that can be asked and answered right now is “Who ruined the Republican Party?”

There’s this guy, Mike Whitney, who contributes to the website “Online Journal” who thinks he knows who ruined it, and it isn’t George W. Bush.

It’s Karl Rove.

One guy, Karl Rove, ruined an entire political party.

I’m serious. That’s what he says, and after reading his explanation, I think there is some sense in all of that.

First, he explains why George W. Bush didn’t, or rather couldn’t be the culprit.

“But Bush wasn’t as important as people think. He was chosen for the job because his supporters thought they could stitch together another Reagan and because he could be counted on to follow orders without question. But Bush wasn’t steering the ship o state, not really.”

Now, why Rove:

“…it was probably Rove who did the most damage through his backroom maneuvering, his ham-fisted public relations operations and his political arm-twisting. Rove’s bullyboy antics produced a number of short-term triumphs, but they cost the party dearly in terms of credibility. Just look at the Terry Schiavo fiasco; an emotionally-charged issue of personal morality which the administration turned into a circus sideshow. The poor husband was blasted as the devil incarnate for simply carrying out the explicit wishes of his stricken wife. Michael Schiavo was ripped to shreds by a feral media that had become the propaganda-arm of the White House. The incident had “Karl Rove” written all over it.”


“His scorched earth, “take no prisoners” approach galvanized the base, but alienated decent conservatives who were not comfortable with his win-at-all-cost shenanigans. Ultimately, the party of Lincoln became the party of Rove, slipping its ideological moorings and abandoning all claim to moderation. By the time Rove left, the party was in ruins.”

But in the end, I think the editorialist gives too much credit to one man. One fat, ugly bald white guy. Actually I think two other fat, ugly bald white guys must have had a hand in dealing the Republican Party out.

Newt Gingrich and Dick Cheney probably helped Karl Rove a little.

Dick Cheney is undoubtedly the man behind torture and a war of choice. The talking heads in the media are now starting to say that these two are actually intricately intermeshed. And now with him in the media defending and justifying things left and right, to the horror of those in his own party, Cheney is right now delivering the coup de grĂ¢ce on his own party while it slowly strangles itself.

And I think Newt Gingrich started the ball rolling. Remember back in 1994 when the Republicans came back with their “Contract with America?” That was the beginning of the beginning. Politics changed. Republicans got shrill, ugly, and hyperpartisan. Back then I personally held no strong political beliefs at all other than in a few social issues like abortion. But the politicization of the conversation got me riled up. People call me biased and too political now, but guess who did that? Newt Gingrich.

Newt Gingrich made me the partisan political creature that I am today.

And where there’s one there must be more. And there must be moderate conservatives out there that were similarly affected and turned off by a party that they had called home for years and years.

Newt Gingrich did that, and effectively cleared the way for Karl Rove to work his magic.

But I was talking about this Mike guy’s op/ed piece, wasn’t I.

He finishes his argument with something that I just don’t believe at all. He says that the Democrats didn’t win the election; it was the Republicans that handed the country over on a platter.

Obama didn’t beat the Republicans. The Republicans beat themselves. It was a self-inflicted wound. The party had become too ideologically rigid and self-destructive. Besides, how much mileage can a party get on a platform which only contains two planks: War and tax cuts? That’s not a vision of the future; it’s the fast track to disaster.

All good points, but more was won than just a presidency, More, like a Democratic majority in both houses of congress. True people who were turned off by what Republicans were doing from coast to coast started voting Democratic as early as 2006, but I like to think that at least some people vote Democratic because their beliefs are more in line with Democratic principles.

And maybe just a little tired of being scared into voting for Republicans.


Teddy Wilson said...

I would tend to agree that Karl Rove may have ruined the entire Republican Party, and I tend to agree because I have studied Rove. The downfall of the GOP has its seeds in Texas, when Rove pushed through judges on the wedge issue of tort reform. Rove didn’t create dirty politics, but he took it to a whole other level.

There are things that Rove did that where pioneering, and there where things that he did that where just fucking unethical. The biggest problem for Rove is that he is unable to evolve, which is why you will probably never see him manage another political campaign.

Newt Gingrich does deserve much of the blame for the downfall of the GOP, and I find it interesting that apparently he is attempting to recreate Nixon’s comeback. As for Cheney, well I tend not to blame Cheney for the downfall of the GOP. Although, I do find it interesting that Cheney was in the White House for what amounts to the two single greatest abuses of power by the executive branch in the history of the United States.

Anonymous said...

Pure bunk, both major tax supported parties in the current monopolized political industry have developed into a nasty caricature of themselves and only hype a few misdirection issues to divide, while playing to the political industry they feed and the crony-capitalism that is our system and not the free market democracy most are deceived into believing exists here. Individual liberties were voided long ago by a small handful of large elite corporations given entity status in a country that once valued the individual.

Conservatives and liberals are nothing more than corporate toadies wearing hats and waving banners that are meaningless representatives of their empty diatribe. Most don't even comprehend what it is to be a true C or L.

Anonymous said...

Can anyone tell me why Cheney thinks he explain away and defend the Bush-Cheney's deplorable administration?

Why is he doing this? Does he really think the rest of us will change our minds about how his awful leadership after the fact?

Hal said...

Frankly, Anon, I am glad you asked that question. It has been haunting me for some days now.

Frankly, Anon, I think that Dick Cheney, and his daughter, acknowledged lesbian daughter, are defending those positions, because they suspect that the national attention will one day be on Cheney.

This is where I cannot fault his daughter. She is just being loyal to her father. I think we can all get behind that.

But in the end, Cheney must be accountable, just as he asks that teachers be accountable. If America is less safe now because of his subversive policies, made government policy under the Bush Regime, then he needs to answer to that.

And pay the price.

Anonymous said...

Rove is a bad guy, this is true. But what allowed the Republicans to be so pliable? What allowed them to get to the point of pseudo-moral insanity they are at now? I'm probably going to anger some people with this, but I blame Reagan. When Reagan championed the Republican party he began injecting religion into the political arena. Which is questionable in itself under our constitution. But furthermore, was extremely destructive, as we've seen lately. They've allowed the real fiscal conservatives to be marginalized, and drummed out of the party as "republicans in name only", etc. The party isn't about being wise with our cash anymore, it's about abortion, gay marriage, and numerous other morality issues. We need to get back to the real guts of the machine of Conservatism, and forget about this social nonsense. People in the Republican party now aren't conservative. They're simply social zealots.

Anonymous said...


I agree. You cannot fault a daughter or a son for being loyal to a parent. However, there does come a point, when enough is enough.

Liz Cheney is still at it. It has become too often, too much, and over the top.
Moments ago, I just read on Huffington Post that Liz Cheney restates that her father disavowed Irag-9/11 link and becomes testy with the interviewer, Andrea Mitchell for disagreeing with her.

Why? Why? Why?
I do not comprehend.
I know you explained why Hal, but I'm still confused as to why Liz and her daddy would think that we all have amnesia about his behavior.

It seems too little too late to try and reconstruct Cheney's image and legacy. I could have sworn that he did not care about what the rest of us thought about him. Was he not the same guy who said, "So?" when a reported commented to the fact that some action enacted by the Bush-Cheney administration was not in keeping with what the average American citizen desired and Cheney response was, "So." And so, now, he cares.

I never thought that I would say that Bush has class, but he actually does have more class than Cheney. He has ridden off into the sunset and is respecting the fact that a new sheriff is in town. I guess “old” money has a way of "still" peeping through, after all.