Life must be bleak for Andrew Sullivan these days.
One thing has struck me these past few years about the right in America. As it has slowly abandoned its own principles – limited government, individual freedom, balanced budgets, federalism – it has been forced to resort to three fundamental issues to keep itself alive. The first was the war on terror, the second fundamentalist Christianity, and the third, hatred of the left. The first has waned somewhat, not because we aren’t still at war and in great peril, but because it is manifestly obvious that this administration is stunningly incompetent in its execution of the war. There’s only so much you can do to defend it at this point. The evangelical base whose support for Bush is entirely for religious rather than political reasons – the theocratic heart of the GOP – will never stop believing, as long as the Supreme Leader refuses to show any doubt and keeps preventing vaccines from being developed, puts pro-lifers on the Court, and keeps up the pressure on gays. But the rest – and they’re critical – are motivated entirely by being anti-left.
The most depressing aspect of this was the vile “Swift Boat” attack on John Kerry in the last election campaign. But you only have to watch O’Reilly or read Powerline or listen to Sean Hannity or David Horowitz to know that the only thing that really gets them fired up any more is loathing of liberals.
This has been obvious for a long time, at least to everyone but the Right. Righties like to think they’re the ones with the “ideas.” Can anyone remember what those “ideas” might be? Oh, yeah … cut taxes, shrink government, cut taxes, promote corporate welfare, cut taxes, cut social programs, cut taxes, praise Jesus. And cut taxes. The same zombie ideas they’ve been dragging around since Goldwater. Even neoconservative foreign policies are leftovers from the Cold War.
Republicans Have No Ideas
According to top Republicans, what agenda item will motivate their supporters to the polls this year?
More tax cuts for the rich? More drilling in environmentally sensitive areas? Less help for the poor?
Since Republicans in Washington arenâ€™t really into passing legislation anymore (when was the last time they passed something?), thereâ€™s no issue for their supporters to get excited about.
So what do Republicans have left? From the NY Times:
“Impeachment, coming your way if there are changes in who controls the House eight months from now,” Paul Weyrich, a veteran conservative organizer, declared last month in an e-mail newsletter.
The threat of impeachment, Mr. Weyrich suggested, was one of the only factors that could inspire the Republican Party’s demoralized base to go to the polls.
With “impeachment on the horizon,” he wrote, “maybe, just maybe, conservatives would not stay at home after all.”
We’re hearing a lot about Democrats these days — from Republicans. Democrats are going to run Hillary Clinton as their presidential nominee in 2008. Democrats are going to try to impeach George W. Bush if they win control of Congress in 2006. It’s enough to send the Republican base into panic — which is, of course, exactly the point.
For the last four years, the Bush White House has kept the American public in line by warning that the terrorists are everywhere and fixing to “hit us” again at any minute. That argument isn’t working anymore, at least not to the president’s benefit. The public has begun to disapprove of the way that George W. Bush is handling national security; only 30 percent still think that Bush’s “central front” in the war on terror — the war of choice he launched in Iraq — is actually making Americans safer.
But when all you’ve got is fear, you’d better hope that everything looks like a monster: So if Osama bin Laden isn’t scaring Americans into the president’s camp these days, the Republicans have to hope that Russ Feingold will.
Got that? We’re the new Osama.