As they arrive in Minneapolis for their convention, Republicans cannot evade the monuments to their misrule. Only a few miles from convention headquarters is the site of the I-35W bridge, which collapsed last summer, killing thirteen and injuring 145, symbol of the Republican drive to “starve the beast” by stinting on basic public investment, rolling back sensible regulation, scorning the very government they were elected to lead. Also nearby is the Larry Craig memorial toilet, symbol of the seamy hypocrisy of those who would enforce a blinkered morality on others, as they flout it privately. In Minnesota hotel rooms a short video, presented courtesy of the Campaign for America’s Future, thanks Republicans “for the memories”: Iraq, Katrina, record home foreclosures, Gilded Age inequality, corporate cronyism, Abu Ghraib, Guantánamo and more.
Eight years ago, the people gave the right the keys to the country. With a GOP Congress, conservatives had the power to govern on their own terms–and they drove the country off a cliff. America is weaker and more isolated abroad, with our reputation besmirched and our influence blunted. They’ve made us the world’s largest debtor, with our dollar debased and our economy dependent on the generosity of foreign central bankers. Three million manufacturing jobs have been lost. George W. Bush and John McCain say the basics of the economy are strong, but most Americans have fared worse, even when the economy grew. The wealthiest 0.1 percent–those with incomes over the $5 million that McCain says one must earn to be rich–have captured grossly disproportionate rewards from the nation’s growth. Corruption and cronyism–Halliburton, Enron, WorldCom, Big Pharma and Big Oil–have plundered billions from our Treasury. The Iraq debacle has squandered more than $1 trillion and counting. Heavy challenges like global warming have been scorned. Our broken healthcare system has deteriorated even further while our civil liberties have been curtailed by an imperial President who disrespects the Republic itself. The right’s failure is complete.
Republicans try to sound hopeful. McCain is running neck and neck with Obama; McCain’s “drill now, drill here” posturing has struck a chord with Americans taxed by high gas prices–even though the Administration’s own energy experts say increased domestic drilling will do nothing to solve our energy needs or lessen dependence on foreign oil. The right is trotting out all the old tricks, braying about “tax and spend” Democrats, inveighing against elitist, arugula-eating liberals, donning once more its mock populist election-year garb.
But this is an addict’s illusion. Reality says the right’s time is over. The smarter ones admit it. “If we were a dog food, they’d take us off the shelf,” concludes Tom Davis, former head of the Republican Congressional Campaign Committee. Republican strategist Ross Douthat concludes that we’re “headed for a period of Democratic dominance, maybe four years, maybe eight or more.”
Republicans have lost the past three special elections. Democrats now enjoy a robust registration edge. More than two dozen Republican incumbents decided to quit rather than fight for re-election this year. Even the corporate moneybags are hedging its bets, donating to Democratic candidates and committees, buying up Democratic lobbyists. As Senator John Ensign, chair of the National Republican Senatorial Committee, puts it, “If you have an R in front of your name, you better run scared.” Indeed, most Republicans are running from the GOP label, acting as if they’ve never met George Bush.