I see a lot of catcalling going on regarding Karl Rove’s inability to forge a permanent Republican majority, and I notice that a number of people are crediting Rove with tactical mastery and strategic inadequacy. Maybe, but in my opinion, the real problem is Rove and company’s complete reliance on gutter politics.
If you look back at every stinking pile of excrement pushed by this administration, in every debate, there had to be an opposition group, the outgroup, to villify in order to push the agenda du jour (as noted in the comments, any disagreement in any form was considered to be treasonous). In every case, they were attacked viciously, with the full-fury of the Wingnuttosphere launching assault after assault until a modest 51% victory was achieved, and a mandate was declared. Anyone who spoke out of turn, or who opposed this administration was confronted by the Voltron formed of an unholy alliance of grass-roots organizations, party flacks, the blogosphere, and cronies in the ideological press (NRO and the Weekly Standard come to mind) as well as talk radio, and phasers were set on smear.
And it works great, especially when you are dealing with a portion of the population who really thinks the media is out to get them and who really are convinced Democrats are a bigger threat than Osama. A few times. Until you get to the point where everyone, due to the varying nature of ideological differences on issues, has felt the wrath of the Rove’s gutter politics. For some, it was earlier in the game. Had Schiavo come a few months earlier, I would have been a Kerry voter. Even before that, though, I was wary and disgusted with the Bush adminstration, and probably only kept somewhat inline with my support for the war in Iraq. For others, it came later. Hell, it wasn’t until this year that the anti-immigration wing got themselves put into the crosshairs, being tarred as hating Brown people (a charge which, in many cases, is accurate).
It is why to this day, Hugh Hewitt, a totally and wholly unprincipled party man, does not get the “unfair” attacks on Karl Rove, but why Michelle Malkin, who served as chief fluffer for most of this administration’s least conservative and least principled positions, can pretend that she has some level of independence from the Bush administration. Check out this Malkin post yesterday:
Not a word here about the Harriet Miers debacle, the botching of the Dubai ports battle, or the undeniable stumbles in post-Iraq invasion policies.
And not a word about the spectacular disaster of the illegal alien shamnesty, which will be the everlasting stain Rove leaves behind.
There are a lot of things that can be said about Michelle Malkin, and I have said many of them, but loyal Bush opposition is not one of them. She was there, cheerleading (literally), for most of the hideous things this administration has done. She was at the front of the intrusion into your marriage with the Schaivo legislation. She was one of the chief ‘conservatives’ for torture and government surveillance. By and large, her record is one of almost kneejerk support for this administration. But the very day Rove steps down, there she is claiming she is an outsider to the Rove way of doing things, and she is probably honestly stating her beliefs. How?
The answer is simple- because on those issues she did differ with this administration, her record of support didn’t matter- she got the full on smearing that anyone who opposes Bush and Rove inevitably recieve.
Instead of forging a permanent coalition, he destroyed the party from within with internecine warfare, and his gutter politics now leave behind a bitter and broken GOP, with differing factions that at best distrust each other, at worst, despise each other (I am actively rooting for a rout of the GOP in the Presidential election in 2008, and voted for Democrats in 2006). Rove’s key to success, his willingness to viciously attack his opponents, was also the key to his and the Republican’s downfall. If he and this administration had stuck to waging their nasty wars against only Democrats and people external to the GOP, I doubt we would be having this conversation. But they couldn’t, because they had no real principles- just issues to win the next little political victory as they moved onward, damned whoever gets in their way. As such, there is no real party left. All the alleged principles are gone- there are no core “conservative beliefs” left- those were all picked off one by one for some short term political victory or another.
All that is left is a broken GOP, an ascendant Democratic party, and an empty suit of a President with no track record of accomplishment and a disastrous war to manage. “Mission Accomplished,” I guess.