4 January 2008:

Michael Tomasky on the Republican Faction, in The New York Review of Books.  

There is no doubt in my mind that Michael Bloomberg would make a great war president, should the need arise. But can he campaign as one? I wonder if he is even asking himself this question as he ponders his next move in what becomes a more interesting in the "interesting times" sense of the famous Chinese curse presidential race every week.

Why, you might ask, am I asking about Mr Bloomberg's ability to fly like a hawk? Because I think that Michael Tomasky, writing in the current issue of The New York Review of Books ("They'd Rather Be Right"), puts his finger on exactly what it will take to put a Republican in the White House next January and all it will take.

The disarray following a loss next year might well embolden the moderate forces to stage a comeback. But suppose the Republican nominee wins next November, a possibility that is not as far-fetched as it may seem, particularly if some development in the Middle East or a national security threat were used to scare voters. No matter what the polls say today, a campaign built around scaring Americans into thinking that the Democrat will not protect them is one that always stands a chance of working, especially if that Democrat is a black man or a woman. Should that happen, there is no credible reason to believe that the neocons, theocons, and anti-taxers will hold any less power in the new administration than they have in Bush's.

As Mr Tomasky writes, the Republican Party is currently nothing but an alliance of the three factions who have taken complete control of GOP apparatus over the past fifteen years, ever since their shared disgust with the moderate Republicans who used to run the party climaxed in the defeat of George H W Bush in 1992. So far as the interest groups that support its policies go, this coalition represents a tiny fraction of American voters. Of the three groups, only the theocons address issues of interest to ordinary voters. But the strength of the Republican Party lies in what it claims to oppose, and in its ability to transform this into a claim to defend. The overwhelming majority of Americans today may be fair-weather supporters of Democratic Party candidates. But what if the weather turns foul?

At the moment, this is shaping up as a single-issue election: whether or not to vote against the Democratic candidate. I certainly wish that the Democrats understood that.

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