A Party in disarray, a Movement discredited

As the Republican Presidential candidates gather tonight for their first debate, let's step back and reflect on what is now the most important political story of our day - the extraordinary political and intellectual collapse of the American right.  Consider:

  • Democrats won 53% of the national vote in 2006, their highest national share of the vote since 1982, and one their best performances in the post FDR-era.  In a recent Pew Center study, Party self-identification has swung from 43% - 43% in 2002 to a remarkable 50 % D - 35 % R today.
  • In the 1st quarter of this year the Democratic Presidential candidates out-raised the Republicans by 50%, and John McCain, their former frontrunner, raised as much as Governor Bill Richardson, considered a "2nd tier" Democratic candidate.
  • In a column in the National Review this week, William Buckley, an intellectual godfather of the modern conservative movement, raises the question on whether the Republican Party can survive the Bush era.
  • Each week seems to bring another high-level Republican resignation, investigation or scandal, so much so that they barely receive press attention when they happen.  In a piece I posted a few days ago, I make the case that it is critical that the nation openly discusses the profound moral and leadership failings of this disappointing era, an era that will become known as one of the most corrupt in our history. 

But of course what is driving all this is the total failure of conservative government to deliver for the American people.  Out of power for so long, these conservatives finally gained control of all three branches of government in 2003, and had the chance, without Democratic opposition or input, to show the country what they could do.  And what the American people learned is that these conservatives cannot govern; that their policies have left America much weaker than they found it; that they are among the most corrupt and morally bankrupt leaders in our long and proud history; and that faced with overwhelming evidence of their failings, they soldier on, blindly following discredited approaches, angrily smearing their opponents, and continuing to weaken the nation they claim to love, and were so desperate to lead. 

NDN has written extensively these past few years about what we call “the end of the conservative ascendancy.”  You can find this work in a section of our site at http://www.ndn.org/advocacy/conservativechallenge, and we recommend several essays in particular, a couple of which have been widely referenced in the media: A Defining Moment for the Bush Presidency, Defining Leadership Down, The End of the Conservative AscendancyA Day of Reckoning for the Conservative Movement, The State of Conservative Government, 2006 and Absolute Power Corrupts...

Is this all politics? The ravings of an angry lefty?  Perhaps, but think about it – the tragedy of Iraq, the return of the Taliban, the regrouping of Al Qaeda, our failure to halt nuclear proliferation, the weakening of our global alliances and standing in the world, the denial of climate change, the insult of their response to Katrina, the flouting of the Geneva Conventions, the breaking of our proud military, undisciplined spending, the shifting of the tax burden from the wealthy to the middle class, the purposeful under-funding of their education reform initiative, the lack of progress on trade liberalization, a decline in the incomes of average families, rising rates of those without health insurance, in poverty and with dangerous levels of household debt, the demonization of Hispanic immigrants and failure to solve the immigration problem, their lack of concern for the those caught in a failing health care system, their assault on a women’s right to choose and as discussed earlier their systemic corruption and deceit, all defining leadership down.   

So little went right during this era, so little went as advertised.  Their rhetoric has been compelling, their marketing and communications top drawer, but conservative government has been a farce.  We all must hope that the Republican leaders at the debate tonight, so desperate to align themselves with a different era of politics that they chose to gather in Reagan's shadow, have the courage to address the failings of this age, and help the American people usher in a new era of progress.