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‘The Economist’ on the Republican Crack-Up


In the current Economist the usual insightful analysis of American politics. Far better, in fact, than anything I’ve seen from any of the Beltway Bunch.

The right has dominated American politics since at least 1980. The Republicans’ electoral successes have been striking: five out of seven presidential elections since 1980 and a dramatic seizure of the House in 1994 after 40 years of Democratic rule. Even more striking has been the right’s success in making the political weather.

The Republican Party is only the most visible part of the American right. The right’s hidden strength lies in its conservative base. America is almost unique in possessing a vibrant conservative movement. Every state boasts organisations fighting in favour of guns and against taxes and abortion. The Christian right can call upon megachurches and Evangelical colleges. Conservatives have also created a formidable counter-establishment of think-tanks and pressure groups.

Yet today this mighty movement is in deep trouble…

The Republicans have failed the most important test of any political movement—wielding power successfully. They have botched a war. They have splurged on spending. And they have alienated a huge section of the population. It is now the Democrats’ game to win or lose.

I’m with them on the analysis most of the way down to the end–and there we part. I don’t see the plight of the G.O.P. going into 2008 as nearly so challenged. All the Republicans have to do to embrace the historical American conservative values which served the party very well in earlier administrations. The fundamental error in the Economist’s analysis is in suggesting that an administration that engaged in the most obscene deficit spending in the country’s history, that mortgaged the country’s future, that engaged in foreign military adventurism at the drop of a hat, and that—while lecturing us all about big government—grotesquely inflated the size of the state has any legitimate claim to the label “conservative.”

It’s absurd. We’ve had a group of radical kleptocrats in control. If the Republicans disavow them and return to policies in the range of Eisenhower, or even of Reagan, they won’t have that much to fear at the polls, even if the White House is delivered to the hands of their competitors for a while.

The United States needs a robust, healthy, two-party system. Right now I don’t know which party is ailing more. I’m disgusted with both of them.

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