Saturday, August 11, 2007

Karl Rove Is Leaving the White House

As the endless sump of the Bush presidency finally evaporates in the hot sun of world history, reassessments by a reawakened press are bound to start appearing, like this really fascinating profile of Karl Rove in The Atlantic, trying to understand how "The Architect" of Republican world domination steered his national party into the ditch.

It's good reading, also, for its historical insights into "realigning elections" in our nation's history:
Fifty years ago, political scientists developed what is known as realignment theory -- the idea that a handful of elections in the nation's history mattered more than the others because they created "sharp and durable" changes in the polity that lasted for decades....

Academics debate many aspects of this theory, such as whether realignment comes in regular cycles, and whether it is driven by voter intensity or disillusionment. But historians have shown that two major preconditions typically must be in place for realignment to occur. First, party loyalty must be sufficiently weak to allow for a major shift -- the electorate, as the political scientist Paul Allen Beck has put it, must be "ripe for realignment." The other condition is that the nation must undergo some sort of triggering event ... a "societal trauma" -- the ravaging depressions of the 1890s and 1930s, for instance, or the North-South conflict of the 1850s and '60s that ended in civil war. It's important to have both. Depressions and wars throughout American history have had no realigning consequence because the electorate wasn't primed for one, just as periods of electoral unrest have passed without a realignment for lack of a catalyzing event.
Certainly Bush's appointment to the presidency in 2000 was NOT a realigning election, but Rove set about to make that first term the catalyzing event that he thought would usher in a new thousand-year Republican dominance. And Bush's first term -- pre-9/11, mind you -- became a reflection of Rovian ambition and technique:
Instead of modest bipartisanship, the administration's preferred style of governing became something much closer to the way Rove runs campaigns: Steamroll the opposition whenever possible, and reach across the aisle only in the rare cases, like No Child Left Behind, when it is absolutely necessary. The large tax cut that Bush pursued and won on an almost party-line vote just afterward is a model of this confrontational style. Its limitations would become apparent.
Then came 9/11, which gave Rove his greatest cudgel to beat up his political opponents:
In a coincidence of epic dimensions, 9/11 provided, just when Rove needed it, the historical lever missing until then. He had been presented with exactly the sort of "societal trauma" that makes realignment possible, and with it a fresh chance to pursue his goal .... neoconservatives in the administration recognized that 9/11 gave them the opening they'd long desired to forcefully remake the Middle East. Rove recognized the same opening.
There's much, much more, a marshalling of facts on our recent history that's been sorely lacking.

No comments: