What drew my attention was the current lead of Democratic presidential candidates over Republican candidates, with Ds getting 3 dollars for every 2 dollars donated to Rs. This is noteworthy because fundraising in the last ten years has been utterly dominated by Republicans, traditionally by very large margins. This is not nearly because Republicans tend to have wealthier supporters. It is also because Republicans traditionally have been more pasionate supporters and more willing to give.
Fundraising, if one may recall anceint history from 2004, was one of the things that was supposed to be the ticket to the permanent Republican majority. It was a driving force behind the K St. Project, wherein one of the key goals was to ensure that corporations wanting favors from Republicans ceased giving to Democrats at all rather than giving equally to both parties. Indeed, depsite popular disatisfaction with the Republicans in 2006, the Republican Party enjoyed such an enormous fundraising advanatge that many assumed they would hang on to their majorities.
It is easy to pass over the current reversal as a triffle. The Republicans have a rather lackluster field, whereas Democrats are energized about their respective candidates. Supporters of Hilary Clinton, Barak Obama, John Edwards and Bill Richardson by and large see their upport for specific candidates as important and are mobilizing early. Repblicans console themselves with the thought that once the party selects a candidate and the Ds provide a suitable target to rally the troops, the money spigot will resume.
I think not. But then, I'm a contrarian. Since the Bush Administration began its aggressive attempt to reshape the body politic after 9/11, I have mantained that Republican collapse was inevitable. Needless to say, particularly after 2004, this was a contrarian opinion. But, contrary to the criticisms of some, I did not arrive at this view through some polyannish notion about human nature and justice. Rather, the collapse of the Republican party was an invetitable result of the internal contradictions that made the rise to power possible. While one can point to specific events such as Katrina and the utter failure of Mideast diplomacy as the proximate causes, they are in fact merely the necessary outcomes of the internal contradicitions.
Mind you, if Bush and his crowd had been smarter or more charismatic, it would have been another story. A real Nehmia Scudder, gifted with charisma and with advisors capable of creating the needed bureaucracy to exert control in the modern age, could have siezed the moment to create a true theocratic dictatorship. But this Administration lacked either the necessary gifts or the necessary vision. Gifted with short-term political genius and a field mercifully free of competent opponents, they lacked a real understanding of the mechanisms of government which they combined with an utter insistence on party loyalty over competence. This they then combined with completely contradictory economic policies and an almost religious belief in the power to define reality by force of will.
Consider, as a rhetorical matter, the Republican party is supposed to be the party of "small government." But exercise of control of social issues as demanded by the conservative base demands large government. Satisfaction of industry demands requires significant federal preemption of state rights. Worse, industry demands are inconsistence. Republicans have adopted the mantra of Libertarian economic philosophy as the bumper sticker by which they purportedly make decision. But while industry lobbysist love to talk about "free markets", the reality is otherwise. Businesses do not willingly compete, especially when they can leverage access to their advantage.
The result, as small business owners who once formed a solid Republican faction have discovered, is that competition does not happen. A host of Libertarian ISPs have been swept away by the Republican deregulation that eliminated access to the underlying network. As a byproduct, the elimination of copper loops and other FCC rules has lead to the wholesale reduction and elimination of alarm companies and other small businesses which, since the FCC forced open the AT&T network in 1971, is leading to a significant decline of these businesses as the incumbent phone networks simply cut off their access and take thier customers.
Similarly, the utter refusal of the administration to address healthcare has forced costs onto small business owners and employees. Many of these still cling ideologically to the notion that the Republicans MUST be better than the party that supports a minimum wage and anti-smoking legislation. But the Republicans cannot offer a "healthcare solution" that is consistent with their market ideology. Worse, as a practical matter, they hamstring themselves by creating endless government programs to provide politically necessary benefits, made tremendously more expensive and complicated by the necessity of appeasing business interests. Thus, the party of small government, fiscal responsibility, etc., etc. creates the monstrosity of Medicare Plan D, which requires a monstrous bureaucracy to administer. But the internal contradicitions of the administration, it distrust of civil service, its determination to use contractors, its refusal to audit said contractors, make the system as utterly dysfunctional.
Finally, the political leadership counted on the ability to shape public reaction through constant polling, developed messaging, and control of the mass media. The problem again is the failure to consider that this is ultimately self-defeating -- although it appears to work for awhile. What these political geniuses ignored is that while you can continue to eak out enough of a margin of victory for a short time, and distract people in the short term, people are not idiots. Long term patterns get noticed, and efforts to keep people from talking to each other about it and to create sufficient ideological rigor break down in the absence of a specific credible threat and in the face of too many cotnradictions. Bluntly, the Administration simply could not control the flow of information enough to prevent the need for constant restatements and readjustments. Over time, credibility erodes.
So I predict the Republican slide will continue. They have lost credibility on every front, including national security. The small business owners and upper middle class are deserting in droves, as the Republican party rule has actually increased their state of economic anxiety. While we have more millionares produced in the U.S. every day than anywhere ese in the world, that benefit is not broadly distributed. Increasngly, even people well ff find themselves dancing painfully close to the edge, aware that a catastophic illness or economic realignment will send them tumbling down with no safety net to catch them.
This does not translate into Democratic support. It simply translates into Republican collapse. But as new voters enter the body politic, they are overhwelming chosing the party not responsible for the current mess (even in the absence of any real solution). Young voters are trending as more politically active and far more likely to vote Democratic (although far more Americans generally identify as independent).
End musings. Will check back 6 months from now and see where we are.