Thanks to National Review Online this morning, I have come across two articles that got me to thinking. The first is a link to Todd Gitlin's Washington Monthly column. Though I disagree with some of his characterizations of GOP and Democrat policies, his assumption of the after-effects of a GOP victory in 2004 at the end is telling:
Many activists, novices and veterans, will despair, or wrestle with despair. They will entertain wild, secessionist fantasies, or claim they're on the verge of moving to old Europe. Morosely, they will remind themselves that Republicans have triumphed after the grandest Democratic-liberal mobilization in decades. They will lack a theory of history that injects them with confidence that, despite defeat, the wheel will eventually turn their way.
So, politics altogether will seem to be blocked. Dropouts will multiply. In this overheated atmosphere, I would not be surprised to see outbursts of political violence the likes of which we haven't seen since the Weather Underground of the 1970s. The commitment to marginality in much of the antiglobalization movement would take on a tang of negative logic. The master argument will sound like this: What else you got, you so-called practical types?
His suggestion is to get better organized, though I fail to see how the left base could be any more organized towards bringing down a sitting President. The other article is by a trio of writers - Dick Armey, C. Boydon Gray and Jack Kemp. It discusses a possible conservative revolution in the works.
The basic theme of their "revolution" is to move more towards a party of big ideas along the lines of the "Contract with America" of 1994 and Bush's recent idea of the Ownership Society. While I value their call for such big ideas, I admit that I fail to see how such will take over as a direct result of this election.
Both articles made me begin thinking about what the true effects of this election will be, politically that is. I think both parties are sitting on a ledge, ready to split. The left is torn between moderates and socialists (frankly, though they prefer the term progressive.) The right is torn between the compassionate conservatism of Bush and the more libertarian elements of the party.
Were Bush to win a second term, it might end up being more detrimental to the right than the left. Bush has no successor. There will be a primary fight in 2008. I discount a so-called "paleo-con" winning any such primary (Buchanan and his ilk are simply not viable candidates anymore) but there will be a cry against the big government policies of Bush. Many of the base on the right are unhappy with the spending of the current Republican controlled congress. There will be a war, make no mistake. There are simply too many conservatives who still believe in a smaller role for the federal government (myself included.)
However, for the left, a Bush victory would most likely not be near as detrimental to their cohesiveness. As the left has done since 2000, they will remain united against a so-called evil (or at least, evil's possible successor.) With Kerry in the White House, they are free to splinter. I think Gitlin makes some interesting points, but I think hatred of Bush trumps any true discussion or argument over policy on that side.
It's an interesting situation. Everyone seems to put so much importance to who wins the White House in 2004. I do not disagree that it holds importance (though not near as much as congressional races), but many fail to see the true implications of a victory for either side. Above is the Bush scenario. What of a Kerry victory?
The right would remain united to thwart a second Kerry term, especially depending on how he fought against Islamic terrorism. The left, however, would be prone to arguing, especially if a President Kerry continued the fight. There are simply too may "anti-war no matter what" types on the left that make up that base. Far more than the religious right makes up part of the GOP base (though I have no figures to back that up - it is only an assumption.)
Point is - both parties are on the brink of either a split or at least an argument over the future of the party. It is not inconceivable to see a third, centrist party result from the mixture. It would not be the first time, and anyone who thinks the current political alignment of either party is set in stone has paid no attention to history.
In the end, I think it is fair to say that conservatives, regardless of party affiliation, will still want to fight a robust war against our attackers, and leftists will still want to fight to end such a war. It will be interesting to see what the after-effects of this current election end up being. For all I know, this entire theory of mine is entirely wrong and nothing will change at all. To be sure, there are plenty in Washington, D.C. that simply want to retain their power regardless and continue to sign pork bill after pork bill. No one ever said politics had to be principled. But I do think there is some validity to the above, and though it may not happen overnight, it will happen. That is all.