John F. Harris, a staff writer for the Washington Post considers whether or not the election was a realignment. This is not an especially deep article, but it is worth noting because the issue will continue to be raised in the MSM (and among academics), as it should. And there are few items to take note of: First, the election was a Republican party victory, not only a victory for the president (compare 1984), and party loyalty was built. Second, Bush and the GOP cut into some formerly deeply Demo groups, including Hispanics. Third, he points out that the GOP apparently used, and is using, programs to build new constituencies (e.g., Social Security) and this may attract new and (for political purposes) permanent constituencies. Fourth, the GOP is dominating the fastest growing areas in the country.
I am not yet certain that this election has meant that ordinary partisanship was turned into grand partisanship (e.g.,
one that shapes public opinion in a most profound way). Is the country divided enough yet? Is it polarized enough yet (in the same way in which FDR wanted to polarize the country, and did)? It is certainly true that since 1980, and most especially since 1994, the GOP has made massive gains at every level of government. Does this mean that there is now a real choice, and the division is over fundamental issues? I believe that part of the so called "values" discussions have to do--in a round-about way--with this issue. The answer tilts to "yes." And its not only over matters of, say, religion, but also questioning--for the first time in an operational way--the very idea of certain programs that have been tauight to be politically sacred; Social Security, the graduated income tax, etc. (I note in passing that the core of the Liberal welfare system was overthrown after the 1994 election).
And are the Demos ready to become the "me too" party of those who lose realignments (e.g., GOP in the 1950’s)? The actions of the administration and the GOP Congress are very much worth watching with these things in mind. Will they govern now without guilt or hesitation, like a majority should? And will they continue to build the party, as they have for the last four years, rather than just be concerned with a presidential victory? So the elections of 2006 will tell us much. Is it possible that the GOP will gain in a non-presidential year, and into a president’s second term? Even FDR didn’t do that in 1938 (the Demoscrats lost 81 seats in the House and 8 in the Senate; although they kept a decisive majority in both chambers).
The results in 2006 will not answer the question, but they will lead us toward an answer. Is the GOP majority
enduring? And will the Republicans be able to build the new grounds for a political consensus that will last for a generation, or more?
Also note this in the New York Times by Todd S. Purdum. He is grinding his teeth over whether the new Bush term, with early signs of "elephantine hubris" will end up "threatening one-party dominion over the life of the nation itself." Now this is a little weird, as well as disingenuous. Whenever there has been a Liberal lock on the electoral system (say, during the New Deal and Great Society), the MSM was not asking such questions like do checks and balances still work, etc. Now that the country has moved away from domination by the Democrats, the eggheads are worried about a one party tyranny; indeed, Purdum’s article ends with an apparent cautionary note. The last words in the article are two: Civil War. Really.
Michael Kinsley, the poor fellow, is just plain tired of trying to figure it all out, so he says "to hell with values"! He concludes his silly op-ed with this: "A country whose political dialogue is all about values is either a country with no serious problems or a country hiding from its serious problems. When I want values, I go to Wal-Mart." I almost feel sorry for the guy.