"Dedicated to exposing the lies and impeachable offenses of George W. Bush"

Pity -- almost -- the GOP true believers
Seattle Post-Intelligencer
November 19, 2006

WASHINGTON-- I almost feel sorry for conservative Republican true believers. Almost, mind you. They were so cocky and self-assured that it didn't occur to them they were going to lose, and their figureheads still can't accept it.

Rush Limbaugh, among the worst, is insisting that the conservative movement is alive and well because the new Democratic majority is stuffed with non-liberals who are against abortion and favor the right-wing playbook's cultural constraints. Dream on, Rush.

The new Democrats may not be clones of the old Franklin Roosevelt liberals, but they are not your ideologically-obsessed GOP brothers and sisters either. This is a new era, one marked more by pragmatism than ideological rigidity.

The country wants to move on. And ahead.

White House genius Karl Rove is still in denial, giving interviews in which he says the Democratic victory is no big deal. His battle plan of concentrating on a right-wing base and ignoring moderates, independents and Democrats, worked for three elections. But finally folks got wise. Nobody likes to be ignored.

Rove saw the 2004 re-election of President Bush as proof of a "rolling realignment" of the American political system behind the Republican Party. He dreamed of a "permanent" GOP majority, fortified by gerrymandered districts and pots of special interest money.

It was a grand vision, and for awhile it seemed possible, perhaps even probable. That was then, and this is now.

It fell apart because, as Lord Acton said famously, power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely.

Bad policy decisions are made in secure partisan bubbles and the temptation of easy money overcomes ethical instincts.

Rove sees no such "rolling realignment" in the reversal of his narrowly-focused strategies although Democrats gained at least as large a margin in the popular vote in the House races as Bush had in winning two years ago.

Democrats whacked into core GOP constituencies, gaining among white men, married people and some religious voters. They also did well with Hispanics and blacks.

The center that Rove had disdained held, to put it plainly. Democratic candidates won huge chunks of independent or moderate voters who went for Bush two years ago; red states elected Democratic governors, giving the party control of 28 of the 50 governorships.

It took an unpopular war, an unpopular president, an astonishing array of scandals and offensive policies like keeping severely brain-damaged Terri Schiavo breathing to do it. The Republicans overestimated the wool they could pull over voters' eyes. The politics of fear no longer trumped everything else.

Rove uttered dismissive comments about the significance of the independent and moderate vote. But more than one-third of American voters now call themselves independents; they went overwhelmingly for Democratic candidates. Rove himself should get the sack except that the president is stubborn about admitting reality. He can't fire Vice President Cheney, but he did fire Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld.

If Rove were to be dismissed, the president would start receiving a different brand of political advice. That would have to be good for the president, and the country. It could even lead to better relations with a Democratic-controlled Congress.

That is, of course, if Bush really wants better relations. Despite a lot of cozy talk, the first thing he did was demand that the Senate confirm controversial United Nations ambassador John Bolton, whom he could not get through the confirmation process earlier, forcing him to resort to the end-run of a recess appointment. That appointment expires with the 109th Congress and the incoming chair of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Sen. Joe Biden of Delaware, has already declared a new Bolton nomination dead on arrival.

On Iraq, most Democrats are pressing for some sort of early redeployment and the president is sticking to his theme that this would be a disaster. Everyone is waiting for the bipartisan Iraq Study Group recommendations due next month, but what kind of crazy strategy is it to let a commission decide your military policy?

The Democrats, for their part, are cautious about dealing with a president who has tried for years to paint them as unpatriotic. And there's an old, but enduring joke about the middle-aged son who inherits his late fathers' extensive harem of beautiful women. He sighs. "So much to do, so little time."

Indeed, the Democrats might similarly sigh as they confront their new congressional majority, with narrow margins and only a few months to operate before the complications of the 2008 presidential campaign set in. How well can they control the political harem? We'll soon see.
Marianne Means is a Washington, D.C., columnist with Hearst Newspapers. Copyright 2006 Hearst Newspapers. She can be reached at 202-263-6400 or means@hearstdc.com.

Original Text