The Conservative Crack Up Thesis
The past few days have seen the emergence of what can be called the "Conservative Crack Up Thesis." In the latest New Republic, everyone's least favorite contrarian Andrew Sullivan offers "Crisis of Faith: How Fundamentalism is Splitting the GOP." Simultaneously, University of Oregon professor Garrett Epps delivered "Conservatives in Conflict." And yours truly has written early and often on the potential for the implosion of the conservative movement.
All of these pieces are variations on a theme. For Perrspectives, the growing chasm between economic and social conservatives, successfully papered over in 2000 and 2004, has reemerged with the Schiavo affair, threats to the judiciary, "Justice Sunday" and the ethics imbroglio of Tom Delay. For Sullivan, the hubris and over-stretch of the victorious conservative "party of faith" is leading to a backlash from the "party of doubt" both inside and outside the Republican Party. And Epps traces the renewed schism between the libertarian and authoritarian tendencies within the conservative movement. But while most observers see the potential for Republican fratricide as a definite possibility, few view it as inevitable.
A weakened President Bush, with plummeting poll numbers, only seems to exacerbate the problems for the conservative ascendancy. The President's Social Security privatization plan is wildly unpopular, even among Bush sycophants like Katherine Harris. The hornets' nest surrounding the Bolton nomination and Bill Frist's overly zealous pursuit of the nuclear option has GOP moderates worried, especially with the 2006 mid-term elections looming. No one should underestimate the conservative's ability to close ranks though, especially with enforcers like Bush, Delay and Frist.
As Perrspectives has noted before, the Republicans' potential for self-destruction is not necessarily an opportunity for Democratic reemergence. To return from the wilderness, Democrats must address some Achilles' Heels of their own. Until they regain credibility on national security issues, move beyond their image as the party of multiculturalism and identity politics, and become at least competitive among white male voters, their hopes for an "emerging Democratic majority" will remain just that - hopes.
For more on the prospects for conservative crack up and Democratic renewal, see: