He suggests that each presidential election is about change, and both parties undergo crises and transformation along the path to a new governing era:
Why then the media's recent fascination with the supposed demise of the Republican Party? What are the reasons given for why, at least when it comes to the Republicans, "the party's over," as NEWSWEEK recently pronounced? First, we are told the GOP nomination has not been won "fairly quickly," as in recent contests. This is a horrible misremembering of history. The senior Bush took 45 days after the first contest to secure the nomination in 1988. It took Bob Dole 35 days to become the presumptive nominee in 1996. The current president took 45 days to clear the field in 2000. The first contest this year was on Jan. 3. Let's at least give the process until the middle or end of February before pundits start predicting doom because of how long it's taking. And if the Republican nomination not being settled is evidence of disaster, what does the Democratic nomination being up for grabs say? It's normal for both parties' nominees to be undecided at this point. The season is not moving too slowly. If anything, it is moving too quickly this time, with 38 contests in the first 33 days.I don't disagree with the analysis, so much as I wish there were more. Rove cites key MSM reports of conservative angst, but neglects this last week's controversy between McCain and conservative purists.
Second, we are told recently by Susan Page, also in USA Today, that "never before in modern times has there been such a muddle," and then by Jon Meacham in this magazine that the "chaotic nature of the Republican primary race" means "the party of Reagan is now divided in ways it has not been in more than a generation." Many who witnessed the primary battles of 2000, 1996, 1992 or 1988 might disagree. By their nature, primary races are chaotic. Then a nominee emerges, and the chaos recedes (most of the time). If spirited competition on the Republican side is evidence of a crackup, then what about the Democratic battle? It is focused more and more on race and gender, and Hillary Clinton has the highest negatives of any candidate at this point in an open race for the presidency. The Democratic House and Senate have plummeted to the poorest congressional approval ratings in history.
Third, we are told Democrats have raised more money. You will search in vain for a similar declaration of last rites for the Democrats in 2000 when Republicans outraised them. And having more money doesn't decide the contest. Consider 2004, when Democratic presidential candidates, committees and 527s outspent their Republican counterparts by $124 million—and lost. Besides, the RNC has nearly eight times the cash on hand as the DNC. Just a month has passed since voting began, and nine months remain before November. Let's see what happens to Republican bank accounts as the year goes on.
Maybe we are not seeing the crackup of the GOP. Rather, America is more likely to be at the start of an intense and exciting election. The contest will be hard fought, the actions of the candidates each day hugely significant. It's far too early to draw sweeping conclusions about the health of either party; the presidential race, after all, has barely begun. Lots of surprises lie ahead.
This is not an insignificant split. Rush Limbaugh in particular has a reputation in the party as a galvanizing force for the GOP's ascent to power in the 1990s. His following of potentially millions of listeners could hold grudges long after the nomination's decided and a new occupant moves into the White House.
I think this is the key to whether there's a conservative crackup.
In an earlier passage of the article (check the link), Rove mentions that Reagan came to power with a whole new set of ideas on the role of government and American power in the world. After seven years of the G.W. Bush administration, the party is exhausted from trying to hold the fissiparous elements of its coalition together: fiscal conservatives, foreign policy hawks, and social conservatives.
While the size of government as a percent of GDP is lower than during the Reagan years, Bush budget-busters like Medicare Part-D amount to apostasies for conservatives intent to "starve the beast" in the Reagan image.
Not only that, while rank-and-file Republicans continue to support the war in opinion polls, there's a greater sense of political divisiveness associated with the Bush Doctrine and the war on terror than was the case in the 1980s over containment and U.S. nuclear strategy.
As Time suggested last year:
The Iraq war has challenged the conservative movement's custodianship of America's place in the world, as well as its claim to competence. Reagan restored a sense of America's mission as the "city on a hill" that would be a light to the world and helped bring about the defeat of what he very undiplomatically christened "the evil empire." After 9/11 Bush found his own evil empire, in fact a whole axis of evil. But he hasn't produced Reagan's results: North Korea is nuclear, Iran swaggers across the world stage, Iraq is a morass. "Conservatives are divided on the Iraq war, but there is a growing feeling it was a mistake," says longtime conservative activist and fund-raiser Richard Viguerie. "It's not a Ronald Reagan type of idea to ride on our white horse around the world trying to save it militarily. Ronald Reagan won the cold war by bankrupting the Soviet Union. No planes flew. No tanks rolled. No armies marched."Rove should spend some time online for a couple of evenings.
The sense of outrageous betrayal felt by conservatives over John McCain's impending nomination has created almost a bedrock conservative insurgency against the political establishment, the mass media, and the very legitimacy of America's presidential primary system.
Major players on the conservative right are swearing a no-vote against a McCain presidency, by either abstaining from participation, or by pulling the lever for the other side.
This is why I disagree that it's too early to draw conclusions about the future of the GOP, with all respect to the mastermind Rove.
If the conservative base keeps its word and refuses to ally itself with the eventual Republican nominee, there will be a huge, unanchored, and discontented constituency exiled to the fringe of the party system.
There are no guarantees of political reconciliation. The disaffected base could form the genesis of a new third party movement, waiting until perhaps the 2012 election, or 2016 in the case of eight more years of Republican Party rule, to stage a coup d'etat.
This could result in circumstances such as 1912, when Theodore Roosevelt bolted from the party to mount his own Bull Moose presidential bid, ushering in two-terms of the progressive Woodrow Wilson and one of the earliest and most expansive eras of federal regulatory policy in American history.
In contemporary terms, a weakend GOP either this year, or in forthcoming elections, could elevate the Democrats to the country's governing party, and mostly by default. The liberal policy ramifications could be disastrous for American society, its security and sovereignty.
Yet, the 2008 election is no shoo-in for the Democrats and their hard-left, nihilist, surrending netroots hordes.
Indeed, McCain's emerging attractivenesss to the GOP establishiment reflects a pragmatic sense of electability and GOP political primogeniture.
In any case, I think much of the dissent among base conservatives is frankly unhinged (see here and here). But I'm reading time and again how deep conservatives will not sacrifice principle for political expediency.
This is the McCain challenge, then, presuming he prevails in Super Tuesday voting (a strong possibility).
How well with the Arizona Senator moves to heal the deep party rifts that have emerged over this year's electoral season - as well as over the last few years of GOP governmental power - will demonstrate how genuine his claim to superior leadership really is.