Thanks to Bush and Iraq, the Republican coalition that has come to dominate America suffered a huge crash
A GOOD COMMENT
Martin Kettle in Washington
Saturday November 11, 2006
"What happened this week was not complex. It was the crash of the conservative political project begun by Newt Gingrich in 1994 and crystallised under George Bush since 2000. It was the crash heard round the world. It came in the form of a nationwide protest against the Iraq war and Bush's presidency. A new survey of actual voters, conducted since election day by Bill Clinton's former pollster, Stan Greenberg, confirms that Iraq was by far the most important issue that influenced Americans' votes. The divide among those for whom Iraq was the most important issue went 3:1 in favour of the Democrats. That, in a nutshell, explains what happened.
The use of the word crash is important if we are to understand the new situation in Washington. This was not an election in which the traditional Democratic vote finally roused itself to overturn Republican rule. It was an election in which the Republican coalition that has gradually come to dominate America since the civil-rights acts of the 1960s suffered a huge existential hit as a result of Bush and Iraq.
It will take time for this to sink in among conservative Republicans. This election has been a major blow to their self-image and world-view. Like the Thatcherites, they got used to assuming that they were always right and would always be victorious. On Tuesday the voters told them they were wrong. It has taken many false starts for the Conservative party to get back in the game in Britain. Something similar could happen to the suddenly weakened Republicans. But there's nothing they like more than a fight.
And Iraq? Those who expect a sudden sea change may be disappointed. It won't be a 180-degree shift, a senior British Washington-watcher suggests. But maybe a 60-degree shift is now on the cards. The name of the game now is minimising the damage of a lost war. With Democratic approval, American policy has been explicitly subcontracted to James Baker and his Iraq Study Group. But that doesn't in itself solve the problem. The damage of Bush's Iraq adventure has just got bigger, not smaller. It now stretches from the streets of Baghdad and Basra into the heart of the once triumphalist and now humbled Republican party."