THE REPUBLICAN IMPLOSION….John Quiggin, commenting on that Pew poll that I highlighted the other day, offers an explanation for the Republican Party’s cratering support:
Republican support is contracting to a base of about 25 per cent of the population whose views are getting more extreme, not merely because moderate conservatives are peeling off to become Independents, but also because of the party’s success in constructing a parallel universe of news sources, thinktanks, blogs, pseudo-scientists and so on, which has led to the core becoming more tightly committed to an extremist ideology.
….The general liberalisation of thinking on social issues is unlikely to be reversed. Moreover, while American faith in military power bounced back after Vietnam, I doubt that the same will be true after Iraq. If you wanted a textbook lesson in why resort to violence is rarely a sensible choice, Bush’s presentation of that lesson could hardly be bettered.
This is interesting for a couple of reasons. First is John’s suggestion that the conservative infrastructure built up in the 70s and 80s has become one of the right’s biggest weaknesses. I’m not sure I buy this, but it’s an intriguing thought because American liberals have recently become pretty entranced by the success of all those right-wing thinktanks and radio bloviators John is talking about. If he’s correct that their very success has now backfired on conservatives, what lessons does this hold for the left as we go about the task of recreating much of that infrastructure for our own side?
Second, has American faith in military power really been permanently damaged? I doubt this very much, but I’d be interested in hearing more discussion. I’d like to believe John — that is, I’d like to believe that Iraq will serve as a permanent lesson about the limits of military power and what it can achieve, but I’m just not sure I do. This belief is very deeply embedded in American culture, after all, and I suspect that, just as with Vietnam, most people will simply conclude that Iraq was a bad war, not that it represented a fundamentally flawed worldview.
I hope I’m being too pessimistic, and Iraq really does lead to Americans taking a more sensible view of what we want to accomplish in the world and how we can most effectively accomplish it. For now, though, I’m skeptical. Comments?