The End of Rove's Dream

By Dan Froomkin
Special to
Tuesday, November 4, 2008; 12:43 PM

Karl Rove's dream was that George W. Bush's presidency would usher in a permanent Republican majority. But as with so many of the Bush White House's big ideas, things didn't exactly go according to plan.

We'll know for sure by tomorrow, but it looks more and more like the end result of eight years of Bush has been the discrediting of his party and the loss of its commanding position in American politics.

Turning the executive branch into a political arm of the Republican Party, stoking fear and division amid the electorate, trashing opponents without mercy, and casting national security as a wedge issue -- all these tactics had short-term benefits, and indeed won Bush a second term. But ultimately, they seem to have lost America.

As John Harwood wrote in the New York Times last week: "In 2004, after President Bush won re-election with expanded Republican majorities in Congress, academics, journalists and party strategists wondered whether his blend of free-market economics, cultural conservatism and hawkishness on national security might create long-lasting Republican rule.

"'Something fundamental and significant happened,' said Ken Mehlman, a former chairman of the Republican National Committee. On the eve of a second Bush term, he said, the Republican Party was 'in a stronger position than at any time since the Great Depression.'

"Today that Republican dream appears in shambles. The twin burdens of an economic crisis and an unpopular war have left Mr. Bush with, at 71 percent, the highest level of public disapproval for a president in the history of the Gallup Poll. Democrats see the chance on Nov. 4 to elect not just Senator Barack Obama but also House and Senate majorities large enough to enact his ambitious agenda."

Sidney Blumenthal writes in a Guardian opinion piece: "Today's election is poised to end the Republican era in American politics - an era that began in reaction to Lyndon Johnson's Great Society, the Vietnam war and the civil rights revolution, was pioneered by Richard Nixon, consolidated by Ronald Reagan, and wrecked by George W Bush.

"Almost every aspect of the Republican ascendancy has been discredited and lies in tatters - its policies, politics, and even its version of patriotism. . . .

"Now, certain factors that have dominated US politics for 40 years seem destined to recede to the far corners. In economics, supply-side panaceas and deregulation created the worst crisis since the Great Depression, requiring a conservative Republican administration to part-nationalise banks, something unimaginable under any Democratic administration. In foreign policy, neoconservatism led to the morass in Iraq and Afghanistan while undermining the western alliance. In social policy, the evangelical right battered science, the separation of church and state, and the right to privacy. Finally, the conservative principle of limited government has become a watchword for incompetence, cronyism, corruption, hypocrisy, and contempt for the rule of law."

Democratic activist Glenn W. Smith blogs for Firedoglake: "Karl Rove's deepest fantasy was that in the future, some lonely and ambitious young person would read of him as he once read of Mark Hanna, the political operative who guided President William McKinley's successful 1896 campaign. He saw himself as a right wing hero who had insured a generation of Republican rule. . . .

"This is the year America judges Karl Rove. It appears to be a harsh judgment. . . .

"For Rove, there's no exit from the hell he's created. America is at war in two foreign countries. America's reputation among the nations is at an all-time low. The economy is tanking. The Republican Party has been scattered.

CONTINUED     1                 >

© 2008 The Washington Post Company