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Wednesday, May 17, 2006

Conservative Battle Fatigue? The "What If" Issue

More bad news for the GOP in today's edition of The Washington Post as 56 percent of the respondents to the latest Post/ABC News survey say they prefer Democrats in control of Congress.

There is a distinct, though not quite as deep, bias against the GOP in the demographics as 34 percent of those surveyed identified themselves as Democrats, 28 percent as Republicans and 33 percent as independents.

Even so, there are two vitally important qualifiers on this survey's results that figure directly into the consideration by conservatives of the likely consequences of a GOP defeat come November.

So, as the discussion incited around the Blogosphere by Bruce Kesler's "Conservative Battle Fatigue" post continues, let's sqaurely face the What If issue:

What if present trends continue and the GOP loses control of one or both chambers of Congress? This prospect has been the hole card argument of the Republican Establishment for decades - "Yes, we've made some mistakes but look at all the terrible things that will happen if you conservatives stay home and let the Democrats take over."

First, the worst possible scenario is that the Democrats win veto-proof majorities in both the Senate and House. The situation would then be quite analogous to the first post-Watergate Congress after the GOP lost 74 House seats and the Democrats ran roughshod over President Gerald Ford.

No doubt with Democrats in such complete control, the War in Iraq would be lost, the Bush administration's successes in the War on Terror would be reversed, there would be disastrous tax and spending policies enacted and few if any conservative judicial nominees would be confirmed.

But is such a nightmare scenario likely today? I doubt it for two reasons. First, there is the built-in GOP advantage stemming from the nation's increasingly suburban and Sunbelt (remember this term?) demographics. The increasingly populous and conservative South and West provide a cushion against electoral disasters such as are conjured up every two years by GOP Establishmentarians.

Second, even in 1994 when Congress last turned over, the GOP did not win veto-proof majorities. The depth of current dissatisfaction is quite similar to that seen in the final weeks before the 1994 election and that election was conducted under the previous reapportionment regime, which clearly favored the Democrats.

There are other considerations here but these two factors ought to be sufficient to make the nightmare scenario little more than the Washington Establishment's perennial bogeyman. Worried conservatives who rightly recoil at the prospect of such an outcome ought to step back, take a deep breath and look at the situation realistically rather than allowing themselves to be swept away by like Roman children hearing their mothers warn that "Hannibal is at the gate!"

A far more likely outcome is Democrats in control but not quite able to overcome a Bush veto that is aggressively threatened and mercilessly delivered. Divided government would be the result. Let's not forget that during most of the 90s when the GOP had similarly slim majorities that forced Bill Clinton to accept things like welfare reform, spending increased at a dramatically lower rate than has been the case under Bush and the GOP since 2001.

But there is another factor here and that is the effect on the Moonbat elements of the Democrats of being out of power for more than a decade but finding themselves hamstrung by the continued presence of the hated Bush (finally!) using his veto pen in the White House.

There would be lots of talk about insanities like impeachment, congressional investigations, repealing the Bush tax cuts and the like. But the lack of actual results would drive the Moonbats into venegeful desperation and a general revulsion among independent and conservative voters, with a bloody and perhaps permanently crippling splintering of the Democrats to follow.

It would in short be the perfect setup for a stengthened conservative majority to return in Congress in 2008, most likely with a White House occupant wise enough to recognize that the "emerging Republican(i.e conservative) majority" had become a reality.

Historic things would be happening within and around the GOP during this period as well and it is to those events that next we turn.


Have you read today's editorial in The Washington Examiner? It's titled "Stubborn" and it explains why President Bush's stubborness - a virtue on issues like the War on Terror - is proving to be his biggest political problem on immigration.

UPDATE: Jim Geraghty is a wise man

He responds to the arguments made above and quickly gets to what I see as the (potentially) weak link in my case - a Democrat flood in November might not quite produce a veto-proof majority consisting only of donkeys but what if it does result in a veto-proof majority of donkeys and RINOs?

That is a scary prospect indeed. Obviously nobody can know in advance, but I think that it is equally possible that a Democrat flood would drown some of those RINOs. Big sweeps usually bring in some marginal candidates of the winning party who would not quite otherwise make it.

Since the RINOS are almost uniformly from otherwise reliably blue states, they would likely be the first to lose Democrat votes in November and some of them would lose enough such votes to go down. (And wouldn't it be their just reward for years of helping the Democrats subvert the conservative agenda!).

If that is how it came down, the vast majority of GOP survivors of such a November debacle would almost certainly be mainly conservative stalwarts who didn't depend upon crossover Democrats.

Republican Study Committee Chairman Rep. Mike Pence, R-IN, would then be the obvious choice for a two-year stint as House Minority Leader. And how about Sen. Jeff Sessions, R-AL, for Senate Minority Leader? Or Cornyn. Or Coburn. Or?

Jim makes other excellent points and concludes with a neat rhetorical twist of the blade. Read and enjoy but, most important, think about these things seriously and with an eye for the long run. And then let me, Jim and the rest of the world know your thoughts.

UPDATE II: Bruce Kesler is listening to his inner Marine

And I am glad he is, even though it leads him to conclusions contrary to my own regarding the future of conservatives and the GOP. Go here for his latest.

UPDATE III: Pa primary demonstrates Morrissey's strategy

Then there's the result of some primaries in Pennsylvania in which some high-ranking GOP muckety-mucks in the state legislator meet their Waterloo in contests with conservative alternative candidates.

Ed Morrissey at Captain's Quarters sees the Pennsylvania result as a clear demonstration of the efficacy of his view that the solution for dissatisfied conservatives is to redouble their efforts in the GOP primaries to challenge incumbents who don't share our principles or who have been coopted by the allures of power in the nation's capitol.

UPDATE IV: Thus Spake Tapscottustra?

Well, this has certainly been interesting. Scanning the comments on this post to date, I see that I am a "religious nut" with no credentials as a journalist, the "Republican equivalent of Howard Dean and the Daily Kos" and a "chump." Just another day in the Blogosphere, I guess.

Oh yes, I am also accused of being a Nietzschian in conservative drag. All I can say about that is it's the first instance I can recall from 35 years of public policy advocacy of somebody reading something I've penned and concluded that I have anything at all in common with the failed German philologist.

Cheap shots don't surprise me, but it does bother me when otherwise responsible and intelligent commentators mistate my views. Exhibit A in this discussion is The Anchoress, who says I live in "LaLa land" and "desire a loss in 06 in order to win in 08."

I doubt that any of my fellow residents of Sykesville, Md., consider the joint anything comparable to LaLa Land, but, come on, folks, at least accurately state my argument before taking it apart. Otherwise, you simply end up punching a straw man and what fun is there in that?

Let me be clear on this point: I don't desire, yearn for or otherwise pine after a GOP disaster in November, nor do I believe such a turn of events guarantees a win in 08. I'm simply observing that, given current surveys and recent political history, it seems fairly certain that many GOP candidates are going to have a rather unpleasant time come election night and we need to understand why.

My analysis seeks to first help understand why the GOP faces such a prospect - essentially, bad faith with its conservative base - and second to open a discussion of what conservatives should do as a result. Nowhere do I say I seek or welcome the prospect of a GOP disaster this November in order to guarantee a victory in 08.

I am using this forum to address the Anchoress because I don't know that individual and am unable to locate an email address for her.

Okay, I feel better now. Critics are free to return to loading and firing at will. :-)

UPDATE V: Now here's a man who understands!

Thanks Ed, much appreciated. A little balance is always a good idea.