“The Architect” of GOP Liberalization
Posted by Joshua Price on June 26, 2007
The Republican Party is coming off a widespread electoral trouncing in the 2006 midterms in which it lost thirty House and six Senate seats. The cause for the defeat is simple: the party, mostly at the national level, is systematically moving away from its conservative base. As a result, the national party is sliding to the political center on some issues (i.e. immigration reform) and flat out liberal on others (i.e. out of control spending).
There is an increasing absence of true conservative leadership at the national level of the GOP that can be attributed to three disturbing trends. First, there has been a massive infiltration of so-called “moderates” and “globalists” who are conservative only on defense and fiscal issues, and the unquestioned welcoming of former Democrats who simply switched parties, not for any ideological reasons, but because they stood a chance of winning elections only as Republican candidates. And the Republican Party does not seem to care so long as the newly found candidate is electable-irrespective of whether the candidate has a conservative philosophy. The second reason for the erosion of conservative leadership is due to the rapid increase of political consultants, many of who play both sides of the political aisle in order to make a consistent living. The problem with most of these consultants-even the ones who work only for Republican candidates-is that they take many solid conservative clients and turn them into cookie-cutter, middle-of-the-road candidates focused only on winning, not by sincerely representing constituents, but by pandering to key voting blocs-often compromising their conservative principles. The final reason is perhaps the most disturbing. There appears to be an effort by many party elites and some in the White House to merge politics and policy. Consequently, many bad policies are enacted simply because they are perceived to be politically expedient. Conversely, many good policies are scrapped because of a threatening political climate. This is the primary cause for the center-left policies emanating from Congress and the White House.
Of course there is not just one person responsible for the slide of the GOP. But one man seems to embody the trends taking place in the party, and he wields tremendous political and policy power in the White House and the Republican Party, and his name is Karl Rove.
Rove, who is president Bush’s chief political adviser and deputy chief of staff, is considered “The Architect” of Bush’s two gubernatorial and two presidential campaigns. He is also given credit for the political shift of Texas from mostly Democratic to now decidedly Republican. He is a man who is simultaneously lauded and feared by fellow Republicans, and vilified by Democrats. He has become one of those consultants/strategists who has taken on iconic status. But Rove is interested in being more than just “The Architect” of Bush’s political campaigns. Since the beginning of his political career Rove has been developing a thirty-year plan for a permanent Republican majority. He has sought to achieve this by significantly altering the national political landscape, but in reality he is changing the landscape of the Republican Party at the expense of the conservative base.
Despite his ambitious vision of a permanent Republican majority, Rove never really intended to run for political office himself. Instead he chose to focus on the nuts and bolts of political campaigning-the nuance and meaning of polling, voter registration programs, voter databases, etc. In 1973, Rove did run for the chairman of the College Republicans and was elected “on a platform of inclusion against a more purist conservative” (http://www.cnn.com/ALLPOLITICS/time/1999/08/17/rove.html). This is the first real hint of Rove’s strategy for the party, and his feeling towards traditional conservatives. He, along with Lee Atwater, a long-time Republican adviser and chairman of the Republican National Committee, “advocated a ‘big tent’ platform for the party” (http://www.cnn.com/ALLPOLITICS/time/1999/08/17/rove.html). It is this “big tent” and inclusive philosophy that forms the foundation of Rove’s plans for a permanent majority.
If Rove had no desire to become a politician, how could he realistically enact his thirty-year plan? Enter George W. Bush. Rove and Bush (43) first met each other when Rove was an aide to George H. W. Bush (41) when he was chairman of the Republican National Committee (http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/6596809/site/newsweek/). From that point on Rove and Bush began to develop a long and complicated friendship that has lasted for thirty-four years, and it would turn out to be one of the most significant moments in Rove’s career.
By most accounts, not many political experts and pundits saw George W. Bush as a viable political candidate. In fact, he ran unsuccessfully for a Texas congressional seat. But Karl Rove saw the potential in Bush to become one of the key players in his vision. The two started by shocking many when Bush was elected governor of Texas in 1994. Rove immediately began work on Bush’s re-election campaign with one goal in mind: increase Bush’s margin of victory over his first election (http://www.cnn.com/ALLPOLITICS/time/1999/08/17/rove.html). After Bush’s decisive re-election, he and Rove set their sights on the White house. Rove was about to get his chance to significantly impact the Republican Party and the electorate as a whole.
Rove knew that once Bush was elected president that he would be given tremendous power in the White House. Initially, Rove was given the title of Senior Adviser to the President and Chief Political Adviser. He immediately created the Office of Strategic Initiatives, which according to the White House, “plans, develops, and coordinates a long-range strategy for achieving Presidential priorities. The office conducts research and assists in message development” (http://www.whitehouse.gov/government/off-descrp.html).
After Bush’s re-election Rove was promoted to Deputy White House of Staff-a title that essentially just formalized his power and influence-but it signaled an immediate increase in his involvement on domestic policy. Shortly after his promotion, Rove assumed a large role in the development and communications strategy of Bush’s Social Security reform attempt (http://www.nytimes.com/2005/03/28/politics/28rove.html?ex=1269666000&en=4552e7f428240346&ei=5090&partner=rssuserland). This is one of the main reasons it failed, not because it did not have enough support. It also happens to be one of Bush and Rove’s last true conservative positions on an issue. It was not long after the Social Security debacle that Rove was demoted by having some of his policy oversight taken away. (http://www.whitehouse.gov/news/releases/2006/04/20060419-4.html). Since the beginning of the Bush administration Rove has had, and continues to have-even after his demotion-almost unprecedented influence in the White House (http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/6596809/site/newsweek/). So how has he used his influence to help advance his thirty-year plan?
The Medicare Prescription Drug, Improvement, and Modernization Act of 2003 signaled the beginning of two trends in the White House-overt pandering to targeted voting blocs, and out of control spending. The act was the most expansive overhaul of Medicare since its inception. According to a CATO Institute study released in May of 2005, the drug benefit program “is expected to cost more than $720 billion over 10 years and far more in subsequent years” (http://www.cato.org/pub_display.php?pub_id=3750). This piece of legislation was designed by the White House and Republicans in Congress to make voting gains in the Medicare recipient community. This is the first example of Rove trying to take away a traditionally Democratic issue and exploit it for Republican gain. Unfortunately, instead of offering a conservative solution to the Medicare problem, the White House put forth a plan fit for any big government liberal. What is more, the attempt to pander to many in the senior citizen community by Bush and Rove has basically failed. Republicans have not made any considerable gains in voters over sixty-five.
Even while pandering to senior citizens, Rove and Bush have had their eyes focused on a bigger, long-term voting bloc: Hispanics. Rove is convinced that most Hispanics are Republican by nature. Because many illegal aliens are Hispanic, Rove and Bush have devised a strategy to help secure the legal Hispanic vote and gain millions more in currently illegal aliens who cannot vote: amnesty for the twelve to fifteen million illegal aliens in our country. Rove believes that Hispanics are the key voting bloc of the future, and are therefore essential to his vision of a permanent Republican majority. But yet again, instead of reaching out to Hispanics with a conservative solution to the immigration problem, Bush and Rove are pushing another expensive, liberal piece of legislation designed solely to pander to potential Republican voters. Just as they did with the senior citizens, Bush and Rove have miscalculated the expected gains of the amnesty bill in the Senate. Democrats, not Republicans, will get credit for it, and at the same time, the Republican Party will lose the conservative foundation its built upon.
The GOP has a huge problem on its hand. The party is hemorrhaging supporters and donations, and if the amnesty bill gets passed by the Senate, those Republicans who voted for it and are up for re-election, will be ousted. It appears that the elites in the party have not learned from the disastrous results of last year’s midterms. Those at the national level seem to believe the defeat was due to corruption scandals and the War in Iraq, and they are correct to an extent, but the main reason is that there were no real conservative solutions presented to voters. Rather, Republicans used the Democrat Party tactic from 2004: when your party does not have any solutions, accuse the opposition of not having any either. We need leaders who are truly conservative at all levels of the Republican Party and George W. Bush, Karl Rove, Ken Mehlman, and Mel Martinez are not conservative leaders. If something does not change shortly, Karl Rove will be known as “The Architect” of the destruction of the GOP.