Tuesday, November 09, 2004

Here we go again
[Author's note: this post will likely become the framework for an upcoming column I plan to write over the next week or so. I'll let you know when and if it happens].
The web is currently filled with traditional and pajama-clad pundits who are proclaiming the death of the Democrat Party (Here, for example). I have predicted the same thing, though not necessarily on this page. The problem is that everyone said this after the 2000 election too.

Remember the claims that the Democrats would spin off into obscurity because of their lack of uniting issues? The thought was that Gore's loss to Bush would send the Party into a death spiral that could last a decade or longer. What happened to rejuvenate them instead, surprisingly enough, was September 11, 2001.

Now, I know that everyone says Democrats are weak on National Defense issues. And it's true that after 9/11, when the President's support number soared, it looked like there was nowhere for the Dems to go but into obscurity. We routed the Taliban (or so it seemed at the time) in Afghanistan, and we looked hot on the path to capturing OBL. The Democrats, meanwhile, were busy filibustering perfectly qualified nominees to the judicial branch, and looking stupid doing it. (Remember Tom Daschle? The soon-to-be former Senator?) And then the second wave of 9/11 came along to swing them to the rescue: Iraq.

The Bush Administration's decision to pursue terrorism and terrorist-sponsoring states by focusing next on Iraq had my support at the time, and still does. I think it was the right move, at the right time. (The sanctions were failing, yada yada--I've covered all of this before.) And, though they'll never admit it, the Democrats are grateful for it.

You see, the Dems were floundering. They got trounced in the midterms--that doesn't happen when your Party is out of the White House, for those who don't know. But Iraq gave them an issue to coordinate a large amount of people with a lot of emotion. It recharged their efforts at campaigning, gave them a coherent base, and another shot at the White House. Of course, it's what ended up keeping them out of the White House, but in the meantime it has effectively bought them another two years, and who knows how many more they'll have after this.

But that wasn't supposed to be the point of this post. What I was going to point out is what these columns, while prophetically declaring the death of the Democratic Party, consistently forget is the fact that the Republican Party, though they kept the White House resoundingly, are in trouble just as deep.

The Republican Party today consists of two primary coalitions, and several smaller constituencies. These two controlling groups, to be sure, have several important overlaps that at the moment are holding them together, but they can't last for too long. The overlaps are strong at the moment: hawkish foreign policy, lower taxes, minimal gun control, and a few others. These create for strong uniting issues, and they showed up significantly in this last campaign. Unfortunately, they are supported both by the libertarian conservatives, and the social conservatives, who on some other issues stand at opposition to each other. Gay marriage, which I pointed out would come back to haunt the Democrats in this election, will hurt Republicans in the future.

Let's take me as an example. I am tentatively opposed to gay marriage. My faith tells me that a homosexual marriage does not equal the love between a man and a woman. But I am fervently opposed to a constitutional amendment that restricts marriage to heterosexual cases. The key is that my faith defines marriage, not the government. I'm not opposed, in fact, to eliminating governmental marriage altogether, and issuing civil unions to any and all couples that want them. I haven't yet figured out what that will do to entitlements and the government's ability to pay out what is promised to a recognized marriage if we open the floodgates. But marriage is between two partners and their god, not between them and the government. The social conservatives rapidly amending their state constitutions to forbid same-sex unions will never support this position, and I will never support theirs.

While I'm not a strict libertarian, on this and many other issues, there is a conflict between the more libertarian sects of the Party, and the more socially active members. I think that in the next 10-20 years, this will come to a head, and we will struggle as the Democrats are now.

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