Wednesday, March 30, 2005

Grand Rove Party

A great, if wholly depressing, column on the architect of the current GOP majority, Karl Rove (thanks to Andrew Sullivan, who's been surprisingly spry in his "retirement"). It notes that Rove has positioned the GOP so it can lose the battles while winning the war. For example, on Social Security, it looks like Private Accounts are going down in flames. Good news for Democrats? Well, let's see: Democrats get to go into next election saying...they preserved the status quo. Lovely. Terri Schiavo? Same thing, and I expect an outburst of support for the keep-her-alive side when she finally dies. Two years from now, most Americans will forget both issues. The partisans, however, will not forget, and the far right is far more invested in both Social Security and Ms. Schiavo than is the far left.

The thing about Rove is that he really doesn't care about "traditional" conservative values. He's willing to use them as cover fire to achieve other ends (Social Security taking the hits while an atrocious bankruptcy bill passes unscathed), or utterly suppress them so they don't fracture his precious coalition (Immigration "reform" a la Tom Tancredo). As the article notes:
Here in Blue America, Rove is typically caricatured as an ideologue, a hard-right-winger of the Cheney-Ashcroft genre. But as those who've closely followed his career will tell you, he is in fact a pragmatist, an apostle of patronage with a keen sense of factional politics and the spoils system.

Politics for Rove isn't about principles. It is about winning, and dispensing rewards to favored constituencies in the process. Unfortunately, as the GOP drifts further and further away from anything remotely resembling a principle, they become harder and harder to check. The virtues of small government and the protest against the patronage system--one of the few noble aspirations of the Gingrich revolution, have been utterly abandoned by Tom DeLay, who has emerged as the elected incarnation of what Rove does behind the scenes. As the DeLay congress continues to undercut procedural constraints, and Rove and his pragmatist disciples strip away ideological constraints, there is no telling where the GOP will go. Daniel Drezner's noticed, as has die-hard conservative Bill Quick (though obviously he wants the GOP to go in a different direction than I do). On the left end of things (relatively speaking), The New Republic nobly asks DeLay to quit it for the good of the country--while admitting that his continued presence in the House is a walking campaign ad for anti-corruption Democrats. Bull Moose slightly less nobly hopes that the GOP continues to back DeLay, et al, on the grounds that overreach will eventually kick the Republicans out of power.

Power unchecked by scruples. That is the future (and arguably present) of the Republican Party.

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