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Wednesday, August 11, 2004

Roots 

Sid Blumenthal in the Guardian :
The drama of Richard Nixon's resignation 30 years ago this month has long overshadowed his political achievement. Nixon's criminal White House seemed an aberrant episode rooted in only his pathologies. But Nixon was the father of the modern Republican party.

It was Nixon who created a brand-new coalition of Southern conservatism in reaction to the civil rights movement. He absorbed the Dixiecrat followers of George C Wallace - urban ethnic Catholics and white-collar suburbanites fearful of racial turmoil and the breakdown of law and order and resentful of student protests, assertive women and the loosening of social mores; and he shifted the locus of power in the Republican party from the north-east and midwest to California, the south-west and Florida. Nixon's natural cynicism allowed him to juggle the volatile elements that gelled for Ronald Reagan.

By the time of Nixon's election in 1968, the Democratic coalition had cracked up under the stress of race and Vietnam. Now the Republican party that came to power is exhausted. It has lost political impetus. Its instability, contradictions and anachronisms have been apparent for more than a decade, since Clinton's victory in 1992 . . . .

The party that Nixon built is crumbling. Bush is the candidate of canned talking points and a party whose instincts have become rote and often counterproductive. The "war president" wraps himself in the flag, but the latest code-orange terrorist alert aroused no rally-round-the-flag syndrome; instead, it raised questions about Bush's timing and handling. Rather than campaign on his record, he has challenged Kerry to justify his vote for the Iraq war resolution, and when Kerry explained his reasoning accused him of "nuance". How can Bush change the subject?

With independent voters bleeding away from him, he has taken to stumping with the maverick Republican senator John McCain, his mortal enemy. Can Bush dump Cheney without being seen as desperate and repudiating his entire term? Bush's father owed his political career to Nixon's patronage; now the son is in danger of inheriting the wind.

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