Sunday, November 05, 2006

George Bush is killing the Reagan coalition. (Good!)

George Bush has taken two years to undo the Reagan coalition which was decades in the making. (At least we can thank Mr. Bush for that.) According to Professor John Kenneth White of the Catholic University, Ronald Reagan asked the public in 1980,

"Can anyone look at the record of this administration and say, ‘Well done?’ Can anyone look at our reduced standing in the world today and say, ‘Let’s have four more years of this?’"

The question was simple and not posed as a choice between candidates but as a referendum on approval of the incumbent. Posing this question as a referendum to the electorate this year and in 2008 will determine the success of the Democrats. As dismal as the Bush domestic policy has been, the Bush foreign policy has been a disaster. The Reagan Democrats are coming home thanks to Mr. Bush.

White writes,
It took thirty years to build the Reagan coalition. It has taken George W. Bush just two years to destroy it. Polls taken by Reuters/Zogby International on the eve of the 2006 midterm elections confirm this analysis. In each of the Senate and House races surveyed, key groups that once formed the backbone to the Reagan coalition -- i.e., men, born-again voters, married, those with children under age 17 living at home, Independents, and those earning between $35,000 and $50,000 -- either favor the Democrats, or have forced the races to a draw.

Presidential coalitions endure because their agendas remain unfulfilled. Thus, when communism ended, the Reagan coalition began to decay. In politics, there is an important axiom: Success kills party coalitions. The fall of communism presented the Reagan coalition with its first crisis. Bill Clinton took advantage and won the presidency because of Reagan’s success.

George W. Bush sought to revive the Reagan coalition. First, he energized Christian conservatives who were repulsed by Clinton’s behavior during the Lewinsky affair. Second, he revived the Reagan tax cuts. But it was the war on terror that gave Bush his best hope for success. By reminding voters of September 11, Bush Republicans could offer themselves as the only barriers between safety and imminent holocaust.

There is a second rule of politics that is being reaffirmed this year: Failure guarantees the end of a party coalition. Dissatisfaction with Iraq is so high that Republican candidates have become stand-ins for Bush. Despite the burdens Democrats carry into the midterm contests, they are likely to win thanks to the successful enactment of a Republican tax cutting agenda at home, and the abject failures of the GOP’s foreign policy. This is reminiscent of 1968, when Democrats lost the presidency because the New Deal succeeded at home while the Vietnam War had become a colossal failure overseas.
The result is a terminal shrinking of the Reagan coalition….

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