In the 1960s, the divide happened on
social issues. Veterans of WWII and the New Deal era were appalled by
the social licentiousness that came from young folks dropping out of
a society which was using them as cannon fodder in a war 10,000 miles
away. Kennedy Democrats became Nixon Republicans, then Reagan
Republicans, and they raised their children to think in the same way.
This thought pattern is now baked-in to
our political debate. Many are unaware of it. The rest are unable to
That’s why we have political crises.
Assumptions become ossified, and an entire generation must be forced,
by events, to look at life anew and change their minds.
In the 1930s, the divided was
philosophical. Veterans of WWI were appalled at the callousness of
Republican leaders, who felt a policy of noblesse oblige and private
action would solve what came to be known as the Great Depression.
(Remember that the 1927 Louisiana flood
was dealt with by private action, under Herbert Hoover, who then rose
from Secretary of Commerce to the White House.) Without knowing
exactly what they were for – just do something – these people
abandoned the Republican Party for a lifetime, and taught their
children to feel the same way.
See the pattern? It has returned, this
time on economic issues.
Wall Street is slowly moving left.
The issue is, in a word, inflation. The
Bush policy of buggering the dollar and exporting inflation is
striking increased numbers of conservatives as crazy. Former
conservatives like the blogger Tim Iacono
are switching sides. Worldwide inflation promotes instability. As
Stirling Newberry notes, Iran is paying less for more military might
today than ever before, thanks entirely to Bush Administration
This uneasiness filters down. The comic to the left is Prickly City, brought
onto my paper’s comic page some months ago to offer a conservative
counterpoint to comics like Doonesbury. It’s written by Scott Stantis
of the Birmingham News.
But a curious thing has happened since
this comic entered my paper. While there are still lame jokes
attacking Howard Dean and Hillary Clinton, most of the commentary has
become bitter, towards the Bush Administration, toward its
conservative enablers, toward neo-conservatives, toward conservatives
in general. (As seen here.)
It’s symbolic of a general de-coupling
in the American public. There is an enormous sense of denial in the media and the government
over what is happening, just as there was 40 years ago
before Republicans swept toward (but not to) power.
But this de-coupling is happening. It
may have already happened.
Fact is the generic ballot’s evidence
is backed by empirical evidence, from conservative columnists
questioning their premises, from lifelong Republicans saying they
will vote Democratic, and from fundraising.
Given a fairly-run election, the question is not whether Democrats
will win but what they will do with that win.
If they are smart they will heed the
wishes of their new troops, emphasizing the need to fight commodity
inflation, to balance the federal budget, and to help shareholders.
Ironically, this is just what Howard Dean’s 2004 campaign promised.
That’s why I first compared him to Barry Goldwater.