2008 and the realignment of the GOP

Whoever wins the White House on Tuesday, we will see a realignment of conservative politics in this country. The pendulum of the country is swinging leftward as George W. Bush’s policy has effectively ended the momentum of the Reagan era. 

Ronald Reagan’s presidency represented at rightward shift in American politics to a pro-business, anti-tax, pro-military, pro-imperial American presidency and American conservatism. This realignment largely pleased the electorate and Reagan remained, despite scandals like Iran-Contra, an incredibly popular president. In short, his policies realigned the political landscape of the nation rightward. Even Bill Clinton’s presidency was centrist, far from the leftward idealogue he was painted as during the campaign.  Alan Greenspan called him “the best republican president” he’s ever worked with. 

Look to today’s political landscape and you are seeing the reverse trend. It’s what happens when the party in power is in office too long. For evidence, we need look no further than the GOP presidential nominating process and how we arrived on John McCain. 

Remember when they had their first debate and those who believed in evolution were asked to raise their hands? That was fun. But let’s remember who we were talking about…

Rudy Giuliani-incredibly conservative when it came to national defense and homeland security. Tax cutting history. But when it came to cultural issues he was pro-choice and pro-gun control. Between those issues and his strangely run campaign Rudy wasn’t going to make it. 

Sam Brownback-Well, Sam was conservative enough…never knew why this guy didn’t catch fire. Oh that’s right he had no support. 

Jim Gilmore-Who?

Duncan Hunter-Hated mexicans, can’t remember much else.

Mike Huckabee-Despite his revolutionary tax code (remember the Fair Tax? I liked it) he was seen as a liberal spender in Arkansas, a “feel your pain” conservative Huckabee was a tax raiser. Culturally he won the social conservatives’ hearts and forced McCain into a war of attrition. 

Ron Paul-Caught fire with a small portion of the electorate, his voice of libertarianism and what many see as true conservativism was a welcome breath of fresh air in debates constantly trying to resurrect Reagan. But actually reducing the size of the military, actually getting government out of the way of industry instead of in bed with it? These ideas weren’t going to fly in the real GOP. 

Mitt Romney-Romney is the guy lots of “real” conservatives, i.e. Rush and Hannity wanted to see win this thing. He sought to take up the mantle of Reagan. Mostly by, you know, completely changing his stand on major policies, like universal healthcare. Voters smelled a rat, and got rid of him. His being a mormon didn’t help with the Christian right either. 

Tom Tancredo-No to evolution, no to Mexicans. Period. 

Fred Thompson-I was surprised he didn’t go further. If you could ever keep him awake long enough he might have had a good campaign. 

Tommy Thompson-You remember him, right?

And so the GOP selected John McCain. At the time villified by Rush and Hannity who have since pivoted to support him, because of his willingness to work in the middle on issues like global warming (which he like Al Gore believes in). McCain is seen largely as a moderate and while this has created a lot of strife among “the base” it’s the direction the party is headed. Look at the men above, none of them could be what the GOP electorate wanted because they stood or tried to stand to the right of John McCain. McCain won (to the consternation of the talking heads) by being leftward of his opponents. 

This lead to what was the great mistake of the McCain campaign. Instead of dancing with the girl that brought them, and being the real moderate, McCain instead decided to run toward Bush’s base without embracing Bush himself. He was the guy cheerfully admitting he had voted with Bush 90% of the time instead of talking up the other 10%. McCain sought to please the Fox News watching part of the country instead of being authentic. That’s what drove the Palin-pick. That’s what drove the celebrity ads, that’s what’s driven all this Bill Ayers nonsense. 

But the problem for the GOP runs deeper than that. McCain could still win the White House (though his electoral path is dwindling). However, congress will surely get even more blue this election. We just don’t know by how much. Why? Because in district after district the country watched as Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama fought their campaign, and while trying to beat each other, they propped up liberal policies that sounded good to most Americans. While the markets are in turmoil and the economy is contracting Americans are looking to the policies of those damned liberals and seeing them as not so bad. Does that make all Americans that don’t agree with Rush, Hannity, and Jarvis silly, or duped by liberal campaigns? I don’t think so. 

I think the essential problem is this. Since 1980, the year Reagan was elected government has only gotten bigger. Yet for all the expansion in spending Americans wages haven’t risen (remember trickle down economics), they haven’t been made safer (remember 9/11), they haven’t won a war (Iraq I, Iraq II, Afghanistan), they can’t afford healthcare, they can’t afford to send their kids to college, and now they can’t afford their houses. In short, just as undaunted liberalism had faltered at the end of the 1970’s, unfettered conservatism is faltering now. The nation knows it and its time for the pendulum to swing. The question is, how far will it swing back?


7 Responses

  1. […] and the realignment of the GOP Posted in November 2nd, 2008 by in Uncategorized 2008 and the realignment of the GOP Whoever wins the White House on Tuesday, we will see a realignment of conservative politics in this […]

  2. […] 2008 and the realignment of the GOP The pendulum of the country is swinging leftward as George W. Bush’s policy has effectively ended the momentum of the Reagan era. […]

  3. As stated on Bill Mahr, the GOP used to have a Patrician feel to it but has somehow become the party which is championed by the uneducated, highly religious right. How is it that the intellectual spheres in this country have been demonized? Why is it a bad thing to be intelligent? The Republicans used to stand for more than “hate the other guy”. James you touch on some really interesting points in your post, and I’m hoping that the Republicans lose and learn a major lesson from this election. Sometimes we learn more from our mistakes than we do from our successes. If the GOP should, in fact win this election, it will set a dangerous precedent in American politics. It will show that a major party can win an election without providing a platform outside of fearmongering and xenophobia. I’m holding my breath for Tuesday.

  4. Good article, James. I love it when liberals try to define who we are. The bad part is, you’ve succeeded to certain extents. The Republican party is in shambles because they’ve allowed themselves to become responsive to liberal ideas. Meaning, they’re not coming up with anything themselves, they’re always on the defensive.

    What you need to keep in mind is that the Republican party and Conservatives are not the same. We are the core of the party, the very far right. But as a whole, the party has shifted towards the center. I can absolutely assure you that we’re still here and we’re not going anywhere.

    Reagan continues to be our beacon of hope, in that he is the model we want others to follow. You labeled several people as conservatives above, but in truth, there are only two on that entire list that we ourselves would label as such. Fred Thompson and Mitt Romney.

    Incidentally, those were my choices in the primary, in that order. McCain was dead last. Ron Paul is a recycled Democrat, and a nutjob. He only aligned himself with the elephants because he thought he had a better chance on that ticket.

    You’re also right in that the country has shifted to the left. What I can assure is, if Barack Obama is elected President in two days…by 2012, this country will see the fastest 180 in history. People are going to get Jimmy Carter’s second term, only worse. They just don’t know it yet.

  5. The future cannot be predicted. What we do know is 8 years ago conservatives got the president they wanted in George W. Bush and it didn’t work out so well.

  6. You haven’t read anything I’ve written, have you? Not one single word.

    George W. Bush is not a Conservative. Being a Republican does not make one a Conservative. Your entire logic is flawed.

    Bill Clinton was from Arkansas.
    Bill Clinton was a Democrat.
    All Democrats are from Arkansas.

    You’re following the same pattern here, James.

  7. ok step one Jarvis. I read every word and nowhere in them did you say George W. Bush was not a conservative. So while I realize you like to lecture. But exactly who voted for W in 2000 and 2004? The 51% of the nation that calls itself “right of center” now I realize they might not all be conservatives by your definition. But if you want to paint anyone that doesn’t agree with you a “liberal” then I suppose I can be a little broad in my use of “conservative”

    The point is others that would call themselves “conservative” did vote for Bush.

    So now I have a formula for you.

    Bush=two-term president

    Both call themselves conservatives

    President>Blogger= Bush=conservative

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