Let’s Get It Together

A moment of historic drama is unfolding in American politics. Its roots stretch back over 40 years, to when Lyndon Johnson buried Barry Goldwater in a landslide in 1964, and liberals thought conservatives were finished, their ideas bankrupt, their politics decrepit. But with bright lights like Bill Buckley and Milton Friedman leading the way, conservatives began a long, laborious trek out of the wilderness. It was one of the most amazing comebacks of any political movement in our history.

Over the next two decades, southern whites-alienated by LBJ’s civil rights bills-joined the conservative ranks, followed by urban Roman Catholics and other ethnics, and then evangelical Christians. They became popularly known as the foot soldiers, composing an army of volunteers for campaigns. Conservative intellectuals, supported by burgeoning think tanks, also went on the offensive and created a host of innovative ideas that political leaders like Ronald Reagan could ride to power. Democrats seemed dazed and brain-dead. But as popular as Reagan was, he never completed the “Reagan Revolution”: Republicans actually lost seats in Congress while he was president. Bill Clinton tried to create a counterrevolution, but as popular as he was, he too saw his party lose seats while he was president. As the century ended, our politics were deadlocked-we were a fifty-fifty nation.

The great political enterprise that George W. Bush and Karl Rove brought to Washington was to break out of the deadlock and create a durable Republican majority that would dominate the country for 30 more years. That was mostly what William McKinley did as president, and by golly, so could Bush. Bush and his team, as it has turned out, are often horrendous at policymaking, but in politics they are formidable. Consider that only two Republicans in a hundred years have served out two consecutive terms in the White House, both legends: Eisenhower and Reagan. Bush is about to become No. 3. More to the point, Republicans have actually gained seats in every election since Bush was elected in November 2000, totaling 11 in the House and six in the Senate. No president has had such success since FDR, the champion party builder.

So, hopes have been growing among conservatives. Rising phoenixlike from the ashes of Goldwater, conservative Republicans now control all three branches of the federal government, a feat not seen for three quarters of a century. Self-identified conservatives outnumber self-identified liberals by 2 to 1, and conservative voices often smother liberals on the airwaves. Heading toward the end of the Bush era, conservatives have had reason to hope that the tide would continue running in their direction and that they would soon have enough power to carry out the rest of their agenda, transforming America-and perhaps the world.

Moment of truth. Come now the midterm elections, just a few weeks away. And BOOM! The conservative movement may have hit the wall. The incredible string of mistakes in Iraq has caught up with politics; so has the unevenness of economic growth, which has created comfort at the top but left many working families struggling to pay bigger bills. President Bush skillfully generated some GOP momentum just after Labor Day, but that has been reversed with the double whammy of Bob Woodward’s book and the Mark Foley scandal. Chances are now growing that, absent a new, intervening event, Democrats will recapture the House and possibly the Senate.

Still, this Election Day won’t end our larger political drama. Instead, it will bring a moment of truth. Republicans will see that they are not invincible, that the tide could now reverse and their long march end. Democrats will see that they could finally regain ascendancy. But the test won’t be which party is able to jockey more effectively for political advantage in 2008. No, the test over the next two years will be to prove to us, the voters, whether either is prepared to govern seriously at a time when America desperately needs wise, responsible leadership.

If Democrats gain power over one or more chambers next month, they must show they can do more than launch investigations and block GOP initiatives. They must show they will share in making the tough calls that are coming in Iraq, Iran, and North Korea. Otherwise, they won’t deserve the White House in 2008. The Bush administration and its congressional allies must abandon their highhanded ways, bringing Democrats into their decision-making circles and seeking more bipartisan solutions, or they will deserve to see their revolution come to an end. If neither party is prepared to do anything more than fight for position over the next two years, to hell with both of them. Let’s bring on a new drama: the creation of a third, middle party that can finally unite our country again.

–By David Gergen

US News, Sunday, October 8, 2006


~ by anick on October 8, 2006.

2 Responses to “Let’s Get It Together”

  1. agree man

  2. ford model

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: