Sunday, November 13, 2005

The Republican Party is ripe for disintegration

Although the New York Times is still repeating the conventional wisdom that the Democrats will find it difficult to retake Congress next year, there's signs in the air - and elsewhere in their reporting- that suggeest otherwise, if funded and executed right:

This month's election results don't suggest when its collapse will occur, but they offer a few clues to how it might happen. Exhibit A is Virginia, where the Democratic governor-elect, Timothy M. Kaine, tore through the fragile Republican constituencies, winning almost every populous suburban county, even the conservative exurbs outside Washington and Richmond, and leaving his Republican opponent stuck with a rump coalition of rural diehards, Christian activists and anti-tax militants that lost by more than 100,000 votes.

Exhibit B is California, where Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, a Republican, tried to rally the majority that elected him in 2003, only to find that it no longer existed. Virginia was a Republican defeat; California was a humiliation. All four of Mr. Schwarzenegger's favored ballot measures, labeled as a package that would reform California politics, failed by substantial margins, driven to defeat not so much by the governor's tactical ineptitude as by his inability to construct a viable coalition of interests that cared about enacting it as much as the opponents, led by public employees, cared about defeating it.

But perhaps the most striking exhibit is Colorado, which passed Referendum C, a ballot proposition that suspends one of the Republican anti-tax movement's proudest national achievements: the 1992 state constitutional amendment forcing Colorado to return budget surpluses to the voters regardless of the fiscal climate or any perceived need for public investment.

Referendum C is the product of an alliance between the state's Republican governor (long a supporter of the amendment) and the Democratic House speaker. That partnership brought together organized education, Chambers of Commerce, suburban mayors, real estate developers and conventional labor Democrats, all of whom believed that the state couldn't meet its education and transportation needs while systematically emptying its treasury every year.

Left on the other side were a Christian right that didn't particularly care about the issue, some urban blue-collar populists and an anti-tax militia that lacked sufficient strength to be competitive.

Perhaps no one looked sillier in the aftermath of the Colorado vote than Grover Norquist, the head of Americans for Tax Reform, who barnstormed against Referendum C and declared after the vote that Gov. Bill Owens, the referendum's chief supporter, had forfeited his future in national politics. Mr. Owens responded that he didn't want a career in national politics.

Let's face, redistricted or not, folks still care about the mess that Republicans have made of things, and are willing to reverse their boneheaded ideas, and so it's not a stretch to think the voters might reject the Republicans themselves.

Perhaps most telling is that the traditional weapons in their aresenal, the negative attack ad, is finally starting to backfire.

No comments: