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Wednesday, October 06, 2004

The Morning After 

Chuck Todd in the November Atlantic (now a subscription-only website; so subscribe, already) attempts to predict what will become of the party that loses in November: "The recriminations will resemble, in the words of Chris Lehane, an adviser to Al Gore's failed 2000 campaign, 'the scene in the classic western The Treasure of the Sierra Madre when everyone turns on each other and begins blasting away.'"

If you are willing to ignore the fact that The Treasure of the Sierra Madre is not a 'classic western' and contains no scene resembling the one Mr. Lehane describes, the rest of the article is not half bad:
If John Kerry loses the election, the aftermath, like the campaign itself, will become a heated referendum on Iraq—and on whether Kerry took a clear enough position. The left wing of the Democratic Party has held itself largely in check since 2000, directing its anger first at the Supreme Court (for the ruling that gave the Republicans the election) and then at President Bush, rather than at moderates and hawks in its own party. That restraint will collapse. And the rift between liberals and moderates that Bill Clinton (in one way) and George Bush (in another) each helped bridge for a time will once again break wide open. A Kerry loss will most likely also signal the return of the liberal standard-bearer Howard Dean, whose decision to fall in line behind Kerry struck many party insiders as an attempt to rehabilitate his own image. Moderates or New Democrats who supported the war will not be nearly as quick to blame Iraq for Kerry's loss as they will to blame Kerry himself. The clash between the party's two power centers could thrust it back to the prelapsarian period in the 1980s before the arrival of Bill Clinton . . . .

The turmoil in the Republican Party could be even worse. Conservatives seem wholly unprepared for the possibility of a Bush loss. As with the Democrats, repercussions would focus first on the issue of Iraq, and a campaign for regime change aimed at the neoconservatives atop the party's foreign-policy establishment will be swift. Repudiation of those most closely associated with Iraq—Donald Rumsfeld, Paul Wolfowitz, Douglas Feith, and perhaps even Dick Cheney—will arrive from almost every corner of the coalition, from isolationists like Pat Buchanan to internationalists like Chuck Hagel . . . .

The failed strategy behind a Bush loss would be the other obvious focal point: Karl Rove. From the moment Rove learned that Bush had lost the popular vote in 2000, he has single-mindedly pursued the goal of increasing the Republicans' base. As libertarians and moderates have pointed out, doing so alienates Bush from the ever elusive swing voters—and if their failure to come around to Bush is seen as the cause of his loss, the failure will be attributable to Rove. But so far, few Republican insiders believe that a loss will spell Rove's doom. By now too much of the party infrastructure bears Rove's signature to deny him a major role. Many believe he has already chosen a horse for his next race: Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist, likely to be the chief antagonist of a President Kerry.

Should they lose, the Republicans—like the Democrats, if that is their fate—will regroup and return to the tactics of the past. They'll organize behind a single unifying principle: hating the President. And they'll be powered by the kind of Internet-funded activists who came into their own during the 2004 campaign, and whom not even Bill Clinton had to face.

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