The GOP Train to Realignment
by nixgroup, Fri Feb 03, 2006 at 07:02:14 AM EST
I was riding DC's subway the other day and saw why Republicans may well solidify their electoral realignment in the next couple of years.
An advertisement in the subway car was making the pro-life case. I wondered why was this ad up now in January, when abortion is not the issue du jour (even though it never goes away). There was no big media campaign focused on abortion during the month, no big message to get out to the public. The ad, unlike many political ads, was not connected to any one immediate need, no immediate advocacy to change minds for a vote or an election. The only thing I could come up with was that this ad was planting the seed for a longer term, more strategic effort to change hearts and minds on abortion.
The same thing is going on in Spartanburg, South Carolina is going on with homosexuality.
A group called Truth Ministry, an offshoot of the conservative national group Exodus International, put up three billboards off of major highways that read, "Are you gay or lesbian and don't want to be? There is hope for change." Again, there is no immediate, war-room need in January and February to get South Carolinians to take an action. It is true that South Carolina has a gay marriage amendment on the ballot this November, but that is ten months away. The billboards seem to be another effort to plant a seed; to begin changing minds slowly, outside of a campaign atmosphere.
Long-term strategy is what the GOP does well. Rove and others before him have been a marketplace for conservative ideas for decades. They have been building their own media empire, their own grassroots infrastructure, their own think tanks for decades, and all of it since 2000 has been paying off in spades. Right now, the GOP is certainly in some trouble (Katrina, corruption, spending wildly), but don't underestimate the durability of what they have built and that they have a vision. The GOP has the infrastructure in place (the people, the press, the policy, and the PR) to overcome these hurdles.
Overcoming these hurdles can easily usher in realignment, or a generation of GOP rule. This is not to say that Republicans win every presidential or congressional election, but they certainly could sweep most elections. Much has been written on Rove's obsession with the 1896 election that set in motion the GOP realignment until the 1930s/40s. We may be on the cusp of another such era of dominance.
So the key question: can the Democrats stop it?
It's hard to make the case that the train has not already left the station. The GOP been successfully building a national apparatus for so long that Democratic efforts to put a dent in their success may simply bounce off. It's like fighting fire with deadwood. But there is a glimmer of hope. Because progressives have scurried to create their own infrastructure--a hell of a lot of work in the past few years successfully completed at lighting speed--and if the GOP continues to shoot itself in the foot with a dose of scandal, mismanagement, etc., then there is a chance in 2008 to put a monkey wrench in the GOP's realignment opportunity. The key will be for Democrats to continue to adopt a longer term, very strategic approach and cease living in the moment.
What does this mean--to adopt strategy and to stop carpe diem?
1. It means sacrificing special interest agenda for the good of the party.
2. It means everyone, everyone, in the party getting on the same page when communicating through the media.
3. It means thinking outside of the campaign environment and getting progressive ads up in subway cars and on billboards off of highways. Progressive ideas and values should be plastered across this nation at all times throughout the year, not just in election season or when there is a pressing, exigent policy battle on Capitol Hill.
4. It means playing politics, in a rough way. Whoever is a better political player wins. Very simple really.