The Alan Sondheim Mail Archive

January 2, 2009

Fri Jan  2 02:29:54 EST 2009
The Moon is Waxing Crescent (28% of Full)
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Cut Text  m^mC Cur Pos   ;1Hm^mX Exit      m^mJ Justify   m^mW Where is
m^mV Next Pg   m^mU UnCut Textm^mT To Spell  1H1H35Hm[ New file ]35Hm
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breath transformations in and out of consciousness, focus, history.

---------- Forwarded message ----------
Date: Fri, 2 Jan 2009 21:00:33 -0500
From: moderator@PORTSIDE.ORG
Subject: The Republican Collapse Is Bigger Than Bush

Bigger Than Bush

January 1, 2009

As the new Democratic majority prepares to take power,
Republicans have become, as Phil Gramm might put it, a
party of whiners.

Some of the whining almost defies belief. Did Alberto
Gonzales, the former attorney general, really say, "I
consider myself a casualty, one of the many casualties
of the war on terror"? Did Rush Limbaugh really suggest
that the financial crisis was the result of a
conspiracy, masterminded by that evil genius Chuck

But most of the whining takes the form of claims that
the Bush administration's failure was simply a matter
of bad luck - either the bad luck of President Bush
himself, who just happened to have disasters happen on
his watch, or the bad luck of the G.O.P., which just
happened to send the wrong man to the White House.

The fault, however, lies not in Republicans' stars but
in themselves. Forty years ago the G.O.P. decided, in
effect, to make itself the party of racial backlash.
And everything that has happened in recent years, from
the choice of Mr. Bush as the party's champion, to the
Bush administration's pervasive incompetence, to the
party's shrinking base, is a consequence of that

If the Bush administration became a byword for policy
bungles, for government by the unqualified, well, it
was just following the advice of leading conservative
think tanks: after the 2000 election the Heritage
Foundation specifically urged the new team to "make
appointments based on loyalty first and expertise

Contempt for expertise, in turn, rested on contempt for
government in general. "Government is not the solution
to our problem," declared Ronald Reagan. "Government is
the problem." So why worry about governing well?

Where did this hostility to government come from? In
1981 Lee Atwater, the famed Republican political
consultant, explained the evolution of the G.O.P.'s
"Southern strategy," which originally focused on
opposition to the Voting Rights Act but eventually took
a more coded form: "You're getting so abstract now
you're talking about cutting taxes, and all these
things you're talking about are totally economic things
and a byproduct of them is blacks get hurt worse than
whites." In other words, government is the problem
because it takes your money and gives it to Those

Oh, and the racial element isn't all that abstract,
even now: Chip Saltsman, currently a candidate for the
chairmanship of the Republican National Committee, sent
committee members a CD including a song titled "Barack
the Magic Negro" - and according to some reports, the
controversy over his action has actually helped his

So the reign of George W. Bush, the first true Southern
Republican president since Reconstruction, was the
culmination of a long process. And despite the claims
of some on the right that Mr. Bush betrayed
conservatism, the truth is that he faithfully carried
out both his party's divisive tactics - long before
Sarah Palin, Mr. Bush declared that he visited his
ranch to "stay in touch with real Americans" - and its
governing philosophy.

That's why the soon-to-be-gone administration's failure
is bigger than Mr. Bush himself: it represents the end
of the line for a political strategy that dominated the
scene for more than a generation.

The reality of this strategy's collapse has not, I
believe, fully sunk in with some observers. Thus, some
commentators warning President-elect Barack Obama
against bold action have held up Bill Clinton's
political failures in his first two years as a
cautionary tale.

But America in 1993 was a very different country - not
just a country that had yet to see what happens when
conservatives control all three branches of government,
but also a country in which Democratic control of
Congress depended on the votes of Southern
conservatives. Today, Republicans have taken away
almost all those Southern votes - and lost the rest of
the country. It was a grand ride for a while, but in
the end the Southern strategy led the G.O.P. into a

Mr. Obama therefore has room to be bold. If Republicans
try a 1993-style strategy of attacking him for
promoting big government, they'll learn two things: not
only has the financial crisis discredited their
economic theories, the racial subtext of anti-
government rhetoric doesn't play the way it used to.

Will the Republicans eventually stage a comeback? Yes,
of course. But barring some huge missteps by Mr. Obama,
that will not happen until they stop whining and look
at what really went wrong. And when they do, they will
discover that they need to get in touch with the real
"real America," a country that is more diverse, more
tolerant, and more demanding of effective government
than is dreamt of in their political philosophy.


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