The upside for the Republican Party is that Karl Rove has had an excellent short term political strategy over the last six years. The downside is that it is a terrible long term strategy. I hope they enjoyed their "permanent majority" while it lasted.
Rove has three plays in his playbook:
1. Run to your base.
2. Create fear. Start a war. Rally around the flag.
3. Keep the companies and the crazies happy.
All three of these plays work. But they all eventually become untenable. Then they serve as an albatross around your neck for a long time to come. Let me explain.
1. Yes, if you energize your base, they will show up and vote. But when you do this, you risk alienating the rest of the country. You can play with fire for one or two elections, but eventually the rest of the country realizes they are not in your base, and hence, shit out of luck.
Then they get pissed.
Terri Schiavo might work really well with your base, but it gives 82% of the country the willies.
Generally, when you promise your base that you are going to interfere with the private lives of average Americans, it's a win-win for you because the base believes you and the rest of the country doesn't. But you create an unanswerable dilemma for yourself. If you don't deliver on your promise, your base becomes apoplectic. But if you do deliver, then the rest of the country realizes you really are nuts.
If you thought it got bad with the Schiavo debacle, wait till they actually overturn Roe. They'll be lucky to ever win another national election. The only reason they can convince some people in the middle to vote for them now is because they don't really believe the Republicans will be able to overturn Roe. If they do, they will win the battle and forever lose the war.
Roe isn't just about abortion. It's about a frame of mind. It's about liberty and safeguarding your private life. No matter how Americans feel about the specific issue of abortion, they have grown very accustomed to their private lives. It is sacred territory. If the government makes the mistake of crossing over that line, there will be hell to pay.
2. It is painfully easy to start a war. Unfortunately, Goering was right when he said:
"Of course the people don't want war. But after all, it's the leaders of the country who determine the policy, and it's always a simple matter to drag the people along whether it's a democracy, a fascist dictatorship, or a parliament, or a communist dictatorship. Voice or no voice, the people can always be brought to the bidding of the leaders. That is easy. All you have to do is tell them they are being attacked, and denounce the pacifists for lack of patriotism, and exposing the country to greater danger."
Doh! Every time I read that quote and then watch the news, I think Goering must be smiling in his grave. How many times are people going to fall for this?
Three. And then we're done. You can push your luck for only so long before people get pretty agitated at the disastrous path you have led them down. Just ask Mussolini.
People have a high tolerance for war. They have a low tolerance for needless, aggressive wars with no end. Yes, one justifiable war and you're in excellent shape. A second war that does not go well and you're on thin ice. You start a third war and you better start packing your bags.
If we attack Iran, my guess is that it might result in a temporary blip up for the Republicans because they will go back to their bag of tricks -- fears, jingoistic jeers and menacing leers. The pacifists are unpatriotic and are exposing the country to greater danger.
But tick, tock, tick, tock. That two trick pony is out of tricks. When gas hits $7 a gallon, people are going to run out of patience for your pre-emptive wars real quick and in a hurry.
This is a guarantee. If the Bush administration attacks Iran, gas prices will skyrocket and people will be furious. Add all of the other predictable and horrific consequences of a war we cannot handle and do not need, and you will have a Republican Party who will be out of power for at least another twenty years.
If they go to the well on Iran, they won't make it back. I'm a little amazed at how easy a time they are having in getting the media to play along - again - in stoking fears about Iran's non-existent weapons. It doesn't take too much effort to get people to acquiesce to war if you tell them their children and families might get nuked by a foreign madman.
But actions have consequences.
When I was kid, a friend of mine had a brilliant idea. He thought it would be fun to start a fire in my backyard. He was right. It was a lot of fun - until it started to burn out of control. I turned to my friend and asked him how we were going to put it out. And he said to me, "I start them, I don't put them out."
This is a literal story. Then he ran home. When Bush runs home, the fire we started in the Middle East will still be burning. And having been scorched by the Republicans, the American electorate will be profoundly reluctant to trust another clown with a match.
3. Yes, it is easy to appeal to the xenophobic base of the Republican Party (for that matter, it's pretty simple to do that in the Democratic Party as well). Yes, you can tell them you will throw all the illegal bums out. And you'll arrest them and their families while you're at it (to be fair to Rove, it is unclear which brilliant Republican originally had this idea). That might help you in the next election. But once you burn your bridge to the biggest growing ethnicity in America, what are you going to do when they vote Democrat for the next fifty years?
Yes, it's easy to secretly give corporations every tax break and subsidy you can find. And it's easy to provide them with cheap labor and not enforce any laws and regulations on them. But God help you if the American worker feels like you have betrayed them.
The Republicans just passed a law that allowed companies to bring back all the money they made "abroad" -- that's read Cayman Islands -- without paying the normal tax rate. They paid 5.25%, instead of 35%. This allowed these already enormously profitable companies to put an extra $104 billion in their pockets - tax free.
No one minds the capitalist system where companies try to make the most they can for their shareholders. But when you rig the system in exchange for political contributions, so they don't have to pay their fair share, you're going to make some people very angry (of course, this requires an opposition party that understands what a winning political issue is, but you figure eventually even the Democrats will figure it out).
In the short term, you might get the corporate contributions you're looking for in your next campaign. But in the long term, you've set yourself up against the interests of the American people. Thinking that won't eventually cause a problem is sheer arrogance. The kind of arrogance that leads you to make no post-war plans and that allows you to run up an $8.4 trillion debt.
Karl Rove might have seemed like a genius a couple of years ago as he laid down these well crafted short term strategies that allowed his boss to win two important elections. But when people realize he sold the house to pay for the party, they'll be pretty pissed about being left out in the cold. And then it will be the Republican party who will be left homeless, or I should say House-less.